Making sense of participatory politics within China’s one-party system
This chapter examines key perspectives on the state of contemporary China’s political development and its prospects for the future. It considers democratisation and corporatist theories, which are commonly used to explain participatory practices both in China and more broadly in one-party regimes, to test their applicability to non-electoral participatory reforms in China. The analysis concludes that these theoretical perspectives fail to fully account for the practice of non-electoral participation and that an alternative theoretical framework is required to more accurately capture the sources, role, and implications of public participation in contemporary China. The chapter then examines the concept of state building and the related literature, concluding that public participation and state building do not necessarily contradict each other, nor are they necessarily sequential, as commonly argued. This opens the space for an alternative conceptual approach that draws a distinction between access to and exercise of power, and which points to the inter-dependence of the state building agenda and the expansion of participatory politics in contemporary China.