One of the strangest phenomena in today’s China is that a thinker as liberal as Tocqueville has become well-known due to the recommendation of a top leader of China’s authoritarian regime. No matter how one interprets this phenomenon, Tocqueville’s theoretical and historical reflections on democracy and revolution provide a framework to understand how democratic China has been and might be. The democratization of Chinese society as reflected in the diffusion of equality as a value and ongoing individualization is facilitating both centralization and empowerment of the state. The limited and dysfunctional grassroots democracy, the weakness of civil society, and the rise of illiberal political Confucianism present serious obstacles to political democratization in China. However, with the possible failure of statism, political democracy would be an alternative. The fragile but increasing demand for freedom in civil society might contribute to the advancement of a long, unsteady and difficult democratization in China.