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date: 18 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to monopolize political power against what are conventionally understood to be powerful odds against authoritarian survival: rapidly growing commercial and middle classes, official venality, social instability, and the demonstration effect of regime transition in former socialist countries. How has China’s party-state managed to redefine itself while presiding over one of the most successful cases of economic development? This chapter builds on insights derived from historical institutionalism and proposes that the concept of “adaptive informal institutions” may elucidate the causal mechanisms underlying party-state resilience. The case of China demonstrates that adaptive informality may facilitate reforms that revitalize state institutions on the verge of anachronistic irrelevance and decay. The party-state’s institutional adaptations for channeling political participation fall short of formal transition to democracy, but they provide a certain degree of stability in an otherwise volatile social and political climate.

Keywords: China, historical institutionalism, party-state resilience, state institutions, adaptive informal institutions

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