Abstract

Relying on the historical record and research on transitions from authoritarian rule, this essay questions the continued prospect of one-party rule in China. The fall of one-party rule generally occurs in two phases: a prolonged period of decay, followed by rapid breakdown. Like other autocratic regimes, China’s Communist Party will find its survival imperiled as the country enters the upper middle-income, or “transition” zone, where most non-oil autocracies have historically fallen. Compounding this, China exhibits many of the key symptoms of regime decay. These factors suggest that regime breakdown will occur, and will likely proceed via “refolution”: limited initial reform, followed by revolution.

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