The Taiwan-China Connection: Democracy and Development across the Taiwan Strait, and: Mass Politics in the Peoples Republic: State and Society in Contemporary China (review)
- China Review International
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 1997
- pp. 480-484
- Additional Information
48o China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997© 1997 by University ofHawai'i Press Tse-Kang Leng. The Taiwan-China Connection: Democracy and Development across the Taiwan Strait. Transitions—Asia and Asian America. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996. xiv, 157 pp. Hardcover $59.00, isbn 0-8133-2982-5. Paperback $16.95, isbn 0-8133-9006-0. Alan P. L. Liu. Mass Politics in the Peoples Republic: State and Society in Contemporary China. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996. xiii, 251 pp. Paperback $19.95, ISBN 0-8133-1334-1. The stated aim of this book is to analyze mass politics in China from 1949 to 1994 and seek to prove that public opinion, which has greatly influenced the decisions and policies of the state, has long existed in authoritarian China. In doing so, the book provides a theoretical framework for and an overview of the interaction between the Chinese Communist Party and the country's major social groups. According to Liu, four major groups constitute the sources of Chinese public opinion : peasants, workers, educated youths, and minority nationalities. Liu contends that this line of inquiry has not received due attention from sinologists, and he opines that "it is thus time to inquire into the cultural, political, social, [and] economic roots of Chinese mass behavior" (p. 2). The theoretical/analytical framework and conceptual issues are dealt with in chapter 1. Liu identifies three factors that affect Chinese public opinion: the Party-state structure, the segmented Chinese social structure, and an environment of conflict. His framework starts with state policies that create social tension among the four major groups, leading to collective protest or intermittent social action. These reactions are met by strong state repression, and collective protest finally settles on amorphous social action, eliciting further feedback from the state. Conceptually, Chinese public opinion can be dichotomized into the general and the specific. General public opinion refers to the public's reactions to controversial state policies that affect their daily lives, while specific public opinion is die equivalent of a social movement. General public opinion is characterized by amorphous social action and a long period of resistance. It is undifferentiated from productive daily conduct, negative in character, and focuses on fewer of the basic issues dealing with subsistence. Specific opinion, on the other hand, is unconventional , spontaneous, and evokes powerful state repression. Social groups have to employ the existing ecological units ofvillage, marketplace, and other public places as rallying points. Social groups are analyzed according to three concepts: solidarity, includedness (i.e., whether the state is willing to grant a share of the surplus of society's total products), and modal reaction. In terms of solidarity, the ethnic minorities Reviews 481 ofTibetans, Muslims, Mongols, Uighurs, and educated youths are rated high. Peasants and small tribes from Southwestern China are unorganized and thus low in solidarity. In the middle of the spectrum are the workers, who have an indeterminate propensity for association (p. 19). As for includedness, the workers have been courted since 1949 and given high social status, while peasants are marginalized . Similarly, ethnic minorities are not included in the Parly's scheme of socialist construction. The status ofthe educated youths has been indeterminate. In terms ofmodal reaction, both educated youths and cohesive ethnic groups resort to movements to articulate their interests, while all other groups rely on amorphous social action. Essentially, Liu sees the relationship between the state and these social groups as one ofconflict. Chapter 2 details how the peasants have steadily become alienated from the state over time. Their persistent opposition to the state arises from the latter's policy of marginalizing agriculture. Marginalized and pauperized, peasants act as a class and can potentially bring the stability of the state into question. A wide variety ofpeasant reactions against discriminatory policies can be discerned: dissimilitude , dissent, counterrevolution, migration, rebellion, amorphous social action , religious movements, and so forth. For instance, long-term resistance and occasionalism (i.e., reverting to their old way of farming) were their main responses to collectivization and die Great Leap Forward. Chapter 3 discusses the worker/state relationship. In the Mao era, workers were considered a true proletariat and enjoyed privileged status. They were soon...