California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

Author of the Month: Teresa Wright

Published: July 10, 2017

Party and State in Post-Mao China

Teresa Wright, chair/professor, Political Science

Published in 2015 by Polity Press, the 195-page paperback argues that the Chinese Party-state has maintained power thanks to its careful safeguarding of some key communist and authoritarian characteristics while simultaneously becoming more open and responsive to public participation. “It has fulfilled the necessary functions of a stable governing regime: satisfying key demographic groups and responding to public grievances; maintaining economic stability and growth; and delivering key goods and services without any real reduction in CCP power and influence,” said Wright. “Party and State questions current understandings of the nature, strengths and weaknesses of democracy and authoritarianism.” Wright describes a key paradox of modern China. How can a regime be authoritarian and, at the same time, legitimate in the eyes of many Chinese? Many outside observers consider repression to be the main source of Communist Party staying power. Wright tries to show how producing economic growth and political order, providing necessary goods and services and addressing the changing wants and needs of an evolving society are part of the solution to the puzzle of stable authoritarianism in China. “I think the current regime has done quite a good job of managing the economy,” she said. “In terms of providing goods and services, I found a more mixed outcome. In some cases, it is doing a good job. In other cases, it is not. That is especially true of areas the regime has privatized, like health care and higher education.” Much of the verdict on modern China depends on how democracy is defined. “If you take a broad definition, that a democratic government satisfies the desires of the people, then a government can be democratic without elections. Look at the governments that do have elections but still do not do what their people want. What is more important? The procedure of democracy or the

Charles Harper Webb book image

outcome?” Wright also is the author of Protest and Peril: State Repression and Student Protest in China and Taiwan and Accepting Authoritarianism: State-Society Relations in China’s Reform Era. She did her undergraduate work at Santa Clara University, in San Jose, where she majored in political science and minored in history. She went on to UC Berkeley, where she received her M.A. in political science in 1989 and her Ph.D. in 1996. The Topanga Canyon resident joined the university in 1996.