Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Political Science

Advisor

Forrest Colburn

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics

Keywords

Democratization, China, Middle Class, Class Fragmentation

Abstract

Contrary to the prediction of modernization theory, the vibrant Chinese economy and its growing middle class have not brought democratic change to the authoritarian country. This work sheds light on the puzzle of the absence of democracy in China despite a fast-growing middle class. The study argues that the key to explaining the middle class’ inert political behavior is to be found in its fragmentation. It is necessary to disaggregate the political, economic, and social positions of different subgroups of the Chinese middle class—government officials and party cadres, private entrepreneurs of small or medium businesses, professionals, and white-collar employees—and the tension among these subgroups. These groups have different interests and so different attitudes toward democratic change. Moreover, the state has astute ways of managing these middle-class subgroups, and that, too, plays an important role in hindering political activity.

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