This article examines the range of national experiences of communist rule in terms of the aspiration to ‘overtake and outstrip the advanced countries economically’. It reviews the causal beliefs of the rulers, the rise and fall of their economies (or, in the case of China, its continued rise), the core institutions of communist rule and their evolution, and other outcomes. The process of overcoming a development lag so as to approach the global technological frontier has required continual institutional change and policy reform in the face of resistance from established interests. So far, China is the only country where communist rule has been able to meet these requirements, enabled by a new deal with political and economic stakeholders. The article places the ‘China Deal’ on a spectrum previously limited to the Soviet Big and Little Deals.
The Old Regime army had been battered by serial defeats during the eighteenth century, and was open to proposals for reform. When 1789 came it was not army reforms that spread despair and trauma but the political situation created in the early years of the French Revolution: the assault on privilege, the ambivalent attitude of the king, the crisis of loyalty which this created for the officers, and the gaping void in the army’s ranks caused by desertion, emigration and the ideology of the Rights of Man. The defeats that followed the declaration of war added to despair, and it was only by resort to further traumatic measures—radicalizing recruitment, promoting officers from the ranks, and amalgamating the line army with the new volunteers, and ultimately the resort to Terror—that the fortunes of the army were turned around.