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Holding Tight and Not Letting Go: The Mechanisms of ‘Rigid Stability’
By Yu Jianrong


IN MY previous research, I have used the concept of “rigid stability” to describe present-day China’s state of stability,1 one created on the basis of the exclusive and closed nature of government power. The objective of this rigid stability is complete social calm, achieved through state violence and the control of ideology and all forms of social organization. According to this view of stability, all forms of opposition, including demonstrations and strikes, are acts of disorder and chaos to be suppressed or struck down through any and all available means.


Rigid stability lacks dynamism and scalability, and is without buffer zones. During critical moments, rulers are thrown into a state of high alert and tension, and they use every resource to sustain “dictatorship.” Ultimately, due to the steady piling-up of unsupportable social and political costs, this situation will lead to the disintegration of political rule and the breakdown of social order.


Rigid stability, then, is a form of stability that is totalitarian and closed, and is guaranteed through the threat of violence. While it may be able to restrict the political demands of a population, it cannot effectively establish the legitimacy of political power and its responsibilities. In order to preserve the total stability of society, top national leaders constantly exert pressure on local governments. This approach, which can best be translated into English from Mandarin as “stability preservation by means of pressure,” is the operating mechanism of rigid stability. Therefore, clearly grasping the reasons, principal characteristics and implications of “stability preservation by means of pressure” can help us further understand the basic nature of “rigid stability.”


For rulers, stability is always the ideal objective and state of affairs. In China traditionally, emperors pursued the ideal of a flourishing nation in which the people lived at peace as an ordered and harmonious whole. If the courtiers could sit idly on their hands in the imperial hall, and if the public outside had only praise on their lips, then all was right under heaven. From our written history we may deduce a logic and reasoning (such as that we read about in the Chinese classic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms), in which “unification follows prolonged division, and division follows prolonged unification.”


In fact, order has predominated throughout Chinese history. Owing to various factors in the modern era, however, the traditional pattern of the ordered and harmonious whole has come under threat, and now, past the clamor of revolution and war, it seems that stability is little more than a distant memory for the Chinese. By means of revolution, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established the basic conditions for stability. And yet, from the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 to 1978, several major events undermined stability, and instability substantially increased.


After China took the path of economic reforms, Deng Xiaoping summed up the lessons of history by saying: “Our experience of the Cultural Revolution has already shown that chaos cannot lead [a country] forward, only back. It is only through order that we can move ahead.” Stability, he added, was “an essential precondition and guarantee of our project of socialist modernization.”2 It was in the midst of the political storm of 1989, however, that Deng made his position on stability patently clear. “China’s problems require stability before all else,” he said. “Without a stable environment, nothing whatsoever can be accomplished, and that which has been achieved will be lost.”3 This concept of “stability before all else” or “stability as the overriding priority” has influenced the reform process ever since, and stability itself has become an important objective of political power, as well as an important criterion for evaluating the political performance of officials. The combination of stability as the overriding priority — and as an official evaluation criterion — and authoritarian political power has hardwired a political logic of pressure throughout China’s current political system.


First, the totalitarian state with Chinese characteristics dictates that social stability can be preserved only through mechanisms of pressure.


The current political structure in China might be characterized as centralist, and yet, at an operational level, local governments amend or adapt central policies in pursuit of relatively independent interests. There are two major distinguishing characteristics to be found in any centralist system: 1) Relative to local governments, power is principally concentrated at the center; 2) Relative to society, the government monopolizes political power. On the surface, China’s political system exhibits these characteristics. If you carefully scrutinize the exercise of political power in China, however, you find that this centralized power that superficially seems so formidable is in fact negligible as a part of political life at the local level. In the political life of a county, for example, the principal actor is the party. And while, formally speaking, the local party secretary is a representative of the central party, in practice he is the one who holds and exercises real power at the local level. Institutionally, the power of county-level government leaders is vested partly by the central government and partly by their election through local people’s congresses, which means in principle that their power should be checked and monitored from both above and below. In actual practice, however, county leaders avoid scrutiny altogether.4


Rong Jingben and his research team have used the term “pressure system” (or yali tizhi) to describe the basic character of the modern Chinese political system and to explain the mechanics of how local power is governed by political power concentrated at the center.5 Rong’s “pressure system” describes one aspect of the exercise of Chinese politics that is actually quite easy to observe — the mass movement governance of the Mao Zedong era, which was achieved through the application of pressure from the central party downwards through each successive layer of the bureaucracy. On a number of crucial issues, including economic development, family planning and fighting crime, the mass movement governance style has been retained to a substantial degree in the post-Mao era, manifested in the downward application of political pressure. From a conceptual standpoint, however, the idea of the “pressure system” overemphasizes the top-down nature of the exercise of pressure and pays insufficient attention to the application of pressure in a bottom-up fashion. Moreover, while the “pressure system” theory does note the intensification of political pressure as it is applied through each successive layer, its concern is with this intensification as it is manifested in a top-down fashion. The theory seems to assume that this increasing pressure must be borne ultimately by those down the line.


I believe that in order to gain a more comprehensive and dynamic grasp of the actual workings of China’s political system, we must pay more attention to two relatively concealed but possibly more crucial aspects — the first is the bottom-up exertion of pressure in the exercise of Chinese politics, and the second is the rebounding of top-down pressure on the original source of pressure, namely the central government, through direct and non-violent pressure exerted by the public. The downwardly exerted pressure of the central party and government is ultimately shifted back, not dispersed or extinguished. Moreover, as pressure is ultimately revisited on the central party-state, we can therefore say that the ultimate point of pressure remains the center itself. These two aspects of the exercise of pressure were not obvious in the Mao Zedong era, and perhaps did not even exist. In the post-Mao era, however, they are salient, and they are becoming more so. In order to preserve the legitimacy of the central party’s political power and solidify the party’s rule, the use of stability preservation by means of pressure has become the practical choice.


Over the years, an aggressive propaganda campaign has consistently reinforced the need to maintain stability. This has been especially true in the reform era, as the political propaganda of “stability before all else” has become the CCP’s most critical measure of the success or failure of reform and of public support. Stability, in fact, has been the principal marker of political legitimacy in China. And as stability gradually ebbs away, resorting to high-pressure tactics to sustain rule has become the most direct and effective option. These high-pressure tactics cannot be used over the long term, however. If they are, this amounts to drinking poison to quench one’s thirst. High-pressure tactics may be a necessary choice in extreme situations, but things must ultimately return to normal. If high-pressure tactics are employed to preserve stability under ordinary circumstances and at the slightest provocation, without any thought given to the costs, there will be consequences.


This is even more crucial under the present Chinese system for the transfer of power. China’s leaders are changed out every few years, leaving them much more inclined to suppress tensions in order to maintain the status quo during their tenure than to address underlying tensions at their source. This logic is most conspicuous at the local level, where many officials lack a sense of obligation to the public, and have neither the courage nor the drive to resolve tensions. Problems are either shoved aside or kept under wraps — whatever ensures they do not get out of hand and affect a leader’s political standing.


It is virtually impossible, therefore, for most officials to view social tensions with detachment. Even less are they able to recognize that social conflict is a mechanism for the release of social and political pressure. They view stability as paramount, and they will spare no cost to preserve stability. In many local areas in China, the work of stability preservation has resulted in a more or less permanent state of tension between government efforts to preserve stability and actions to defend popular rights. Under enormous bureaucratic pressure, local governments make it a firm objective to have “zero petitioning” by citizens to redress their grievances. On the other side of the equation, when citizens find that their rights have been violated, they have little choice but to break the rules and resort to unconventional means of voicing their grievances, resulting in more conflict and tension, and further rattling the nerves of local government leaders.


Stability preservation by means of pressure is a product of present-day China’s rather unique political ecology, and it is at odds with normalized politics. By analyzing its principal characteristics, we can better recognize its basic nature and shortcomings, and work toward a truer and more long-term stability.


Firstly, stability preservation by means of pressure has as its focus and emphasis the handling of matters after the fact, which always trumps prevention at the source. Documents from the CCP’s Central Committee may stress again and again the need for prevention and resolution of problems at their origins, but the facts suggest that an opposite logic is operating at the local level. One very important reason why mass incidents such as protests and riots happen is that the basic work of prevention and governance has not been done sufficiently at the source.


Take, for example, the case of the Weng’an riots in Guizhou, which have received much attention from political theorists in China. On the afternoon of June 28, 2008, a group of people gathered outside the offices of both the county government and the county police to express their anger at an official autopsy report on the death of a female high school student, as some alleged the involvement of the son of a prominent local official, whom they believed had been shielded from responsibility. According to the official reports that followed, certain “masses unaware of the facts” attacked the offices of the local police, the local government and the local party committee, and “a few illegal elements” engaged in looting and destruction, resulting in damage to buildings and several vehicles.6


Only later, when the causes of the incident had been explored, did it become clear that there had been many early indications that a large-scale mass incident in the region was a strong likelihood. According to an investigation by China Comment, an important CCP journal, Weng’an is an area of abundant mineral resources. In recent years, social and economic development in the area has been rapid, but a number of problems and tensions have cropped up in several areas, including compensation for eviction and relocation, the demolition of unauthorized properties, the privatization of state-owned enterprises and disputes over mineral rights. More than 20 appeals for redress of grievances through the government petition system, which theoretically allows people to make the case for their own rights and interests directly to designated officials, had been backlogged.7


Issuing a report to his superiors on the handling of the incident, Guizhou’s top leader, party secretary Shi Zongyuan, subsequently pointed out that while the apparent catalyst for the riots had been the dispute over the circumstances of the student’s death, the deeper causes concerned injustices over such issues as mineral resource exploitation, eviction and demolition, and resettlement measures for displaced populations. Put another way, a history of shoddy governance by authorities in Weng’an, and the failure to deal with the root causes of disaffection, had resulted in a wave of popular anger that ultimately spilled over into a large-scale mass incident.


Secondly, stability preservation by means of pressure places its emphasis on the grass-roots levels of society, and stresses combat and confrontation. In China today, the five-tier governance system comprising central, provincial, city, county and township, is increasingly unsuited to the demands of social governance and the development of the market economy. This is the case particularly as deepening reforms increasingly expose deep-seated social problems and bring hidden tensions to the surface. There is clearly an urgent need, therefore, to raise the capacity of lower-level governments to maintain social order.


There is an old saying that goes: “If the grass roots are not held firm, the earth will shift and the hills will stir.” But just as there are too many layers in the governance structure, the policies of the central party-state must also be filtered through layer after layer, and by the time they reach the lowest levels they have already become seriously warped, losing all their original potency. This is why ordinary Chinese are in the habit of saying, “The policies of the central party are good, but they have a way of changing down below — like a wry monk misquoting the sutras.”


In order to remedy the progressive loss of information as it passes through successive layers of the bureaucracy, the central party leadership has used various means to strengthen direct ties with governments at the grass roots. They have invited county-level party secretaries to the capital for training on a rotational basis, for example, and they have invited experts in relevant fields to offer local officials knowledge and training on stability preservation, including on how to deal with mass incidents. It is especially important to note, however, that training is less and less concerned with the theoretical and increasingly about researching and employing various technical and practical means to handle social unrest.


Thirdly, stability preservation by means of pressure has warped the evaluation of political performance. In China, evaluations of the political performance of lower-level officials made by their bureaucratic superiors are an important means of deciding appointments, advancements and dismissals. Political evaluations now take on a number of accounts, including economic, political and social factors. And certain performance goals are also subject to “single-vote veto” (or yipiao fojue, meaning officials must meet defined targets for given areas or else face dismissal).


This means that local officials are continually under enormous pressure. Hebei Province, for example, is in the process of setting up a system of records for leadership work performance, summarizing the party and government leaders at all positions and levels. Evaluations of stability preservation work are to be included in these records, which will be linked directly to the overall evaluation, to posts and advancement, and to commendations and penalties. For those areas where major problems, such as mass petitioning or protests affecting stability, occur, the “single-vote veto” will take effect and the official responsible will be removed.


In order to accommodate this daunting priority, local officials often resort to such methods as a “people’s war” and “mobilizing the masses,” using local media or other means to broad-brush ordinary petitioners with legitimate grievances as enemies of order. For the officials, the result of this is that they have neither the time nor the energy to do any real work. They spend their days bogged down with the task of dealing with the lingering threat of the “single-vote veto.”


Where the petitioning system is concerned, the central party has emphasized the need all along to defuse tensions at the grass roots level in order to minimize social pressures and related work bearing down on Beijing, the provinces and the cities, and they have steadily sent down orders that hold officials to certain targets in the control of petitioning activity. Facing pressure from the central party, local governments most often do not attempt to resolve problems, but instead suppress petitioners by intercepting, detaining and fining them, packing them off to re-education through labor, or giving them summary criminal sentences.


It is not necessarily true that local governments are uninterested in resolving the underlying issues. In fact, there are many problems that local governments are simply incapable of solving — and still others that governments at no level could solve.8 Local leaders are often sandwiched between impossible forces. From the top they get pressure from the central party and their government superiors, and if they stumble in the face of mandates like those on stability preservation, achievements in other areas will be swept aside. From the bottom, they must deal with a knot of problems arising from the population — and as everyone knows that you must make a big stink if you hope to get real results, so the more that local officials enforce stability the more restive the public becomes.


Finally, stability preservation by means of pressure is high-cost and expends a great deal of energy. So-called stability preservation work has resulted in the creation of new departmental interest groups. In many cases, local governments, responding to pressure from above, devote enormous economic resources to stability preservation. While no reliable figures are available for the costs of stability preservation work nationally, partial numbers from local areas suggest expenditures on stability preservation are growing annually by double digits, and that spending on stability preservation is generally equal to or surpasses public welfare spending.


More recently, “stability preservation offices” (or weiwen ban), have been set up at the central, provincial, city, county and township levels throughout China, and even inside major enterprises and government-sponsored institutions. According to public figures, the southern city of Guangzhou, spent 4.4 billion yuan ($644 million), on stability preservation in 2007, much more than the 3.5 billion yuan it devoted to social security and employment.9


The routine interception of local people petitioning in Beijing and other major cities for relief and restitution has already placed an enormous economic burden on local governments. During the 17th National Party Congress, held in October 2007, the CCP instituted a stability preservation policy of “zero entries into Beijing.” One county in Hebei Province organized a 25-member team to intercept petitioners in the capital and return them home during the period between Sept. 28 and Oct. 25. The team comprised the county’s deputy party secretary in charge of petitioning, the county secretary of the politics and law committee and additional personnel from the office of letters and calls, the courts, the prosecutor’s office and the local police. In this county, four townships with petitioning populations also dispatched two to three personnel each to the capital to handle the interception and return of petitioners, bringing the total number of anti-petitioning personnel from this county alone to 36.


Making a conservative estimate, we can suppose that roughly 5,000 anti-petitioning personnel from Hebei Province were deployed in Beijing during this period. There are about 10 provinces in China that, like Hebei, have rather large populations of petitioners traveling to Beijing in the hope of having their cases heard. When we add other provinces and cities, we can suppose that something like 100,000 anti-petitioning personnel from all around the country were deployed in Beijing before and during the 17th National Party Congress. For governments at the grass roots levels, it is no small expense to send all of these personnel to Beijing to intercept petitioners.10 A lower-level official from Shandong has said in this regard: “When we receive orders from up top to go and intercept people, quickly sending two or three people can cost us 10,000 or 20,000 yuan all at once.” In some cases, the money devoted to rounding up a single petitioner would be sufficient to resolve the underlying grievance.11


As a concept, stability should be seen in broader terms, referring more to basic order, and to stability in terms of institutional frameworks. Stability should not be taken to encompass all tensions that emerge in society and in everyday life. Within China’s political ecology, however, stability overrides all other priorities. For the sake of stability preservation, even actions that upset economic development or cause great public inconvenience are acceptable. Of course, there is a place for social stability as a priority for government leaders, but when the notion of “stability before all else” becomes a political goal in and of itself, without thought to cost or consequence, then the methods of stability preservation have clearly become warped.


Today, the means of social control employed by the government is reductionist and absolutist, either this way or that, black or white, with no grey areas and no room for negotiation. Any assertion of one’s own rights or interests as a group or individual is seen as a destructive challenge to social stability and order. Many of the so-called “mass incidents” that occur in China today are simply cases in which farmers, workers, city residents or other groups are petitioning or demonstrating in order to voice their own interests. These actions are not directed at the government, per se, and the government is more often seen as a neutral party or intermediary. But the government defines these acts as threats to social stability, and in order to preserve social stability, governments at various levels, and particularly at the grass roots, have little choice but to respond with various stability preservation actions.


Using high-pressure methods to preserve social stability may be effective in the short term, solidifying the support of those who hope to sustain authoritarian rule and maintain the status quo, and it might also win the approval of ordinary members of the public who simply hope to live in peace. Stability preservation by means of pressure carries with it enormous risk, however, and if problems occur and brute-force tactics are used to resolve the situation, it is difficult to avoid trampling on citizens’ legal rights, which leads to further disillusionment and loss of public support.


Stability preservation by means of pressure is premised on the assumption that present and short-term needs trump medium to long-term considerations. If it’s the head that hurts, it’s the head you treat. If it’s the foot that hurts, it’s the foot you treat. Therefore, looking to the future, stability preservation by means of pressure cannot ensure sustained and long-term stability, nor can it truly satisfy the public’s demand for peace and stability. On the contrary, it may generate new forms of instability. It is indeed drinking poison to quench one’s thirst.


On a more practical level, stability preservation by means of pressure places officials at the grass roots level in an impossible position. Higher-level authorities, including the central party and provincial power centers, define stability preservation as an important criterion and indicator of political performance in order to check wayward governance by local officials. Not only do these checks fail to serve their intended purpose, but they also go further in creating a warped evaluation system in which stability preservation must be the overriding priority for officials at the grass roots, particularly during “sensitive periods” in which important political meetings or international events, such as the Beijing Olympic Games, are being held. Their political nerves frayed, these officials keep a white-knuckle grip on stability preservation work.


For some time now in China, stability concerns have been blown out of all proportion, and the prevailing attitude is one of “holding tight and not letting go.” Strikes, group conflicts and other incidents invoke fear and set local officials permanently on edge. Not long ago, a township leader in Hebei Province sent me a text message describing the extraordinary pressure he is under. He wrote: “We face extreme pressure on stability preservation for petitioning activities. If just one petitioning case makes it to Beijing or to the provincial government, we’re dismissed. How simple do you think it is to get anything else done? I’m not exactly old, but ever since the security measures surrounding the Beijing Olympics, my blood pressure has gone up and I suffer from excessive external heat. Petitioning is our prevailing climate, particularly now with certain petitioners wanting to make an impact, and even more inclined to make a fuss during sensitive periods. You’re the expert. Do you think such a situation could possibly take a turn for the better? Officials at the grass roots level are about to be crushed under the pressure. Ah!”12 This gives just a sense of the pressures facing lower-level officials, who “can’t carry those above, and can’t control those beneath.”


Aside from these issues, stability preservation by means of pressure inhibits local economic development and negatively affects the betterment of public welfare. In recent years, expenditures nationwide on stability preservation by local governments have risen by leaps and bounds. China’s internal security budget will reach 514 billion yuan this year. According to the “2009 Law Enforcement Budget and Budget Draft Report for 2010,” China’s spending on public safety increased by 16 percent last year, and is expected to increase by 8.9 percent this year, a larger increase than for military and defense spending, and a total budget roughly equal to that of national defense.13


Stability preservation by means of pressure not only increases the budgets of local governments, but also means local officials must devote the bulk of their time and energy to stability preservation and cannot turn their focus to economic development and public welfare. This goes entirely against the idea of creating a government that looks to the public interest and the general well being of the people. It also runs counter to the political promise of a “service-oriented government” that has been so loudly touted by the party and the government in recent years. Naturally, these budget burdens fall ultimately upon taxpayers and not on local officials themselves. Over the long term, these additional expenditures on stability preservation will not only have a negative impact on economic development and the improvement of public welfare, but will also intensify public questioning of the government’s legitimacy.


Most serious is the way stability preservation by means of pressure conceals social problems, making it difficult to find real solutions. This results in the long-term accumulation of social tensions. Under China’s current political system, pressure is transmitted in a top-down manner. But if tensions within the population persist and are not adequately addressed, this pressure will rebound and be redirected to the higher leadership in the form of rights defense actions that try to break through the layers of bureaucracy. The result would be a vicious circle in which “the central party pressures the local governments, the local governments pressure the people, and the people pressure the central party.”


For these reasons, if no consideration is given to the transition to democratic governance, if the only consideration remains the perpetuation of one-party rule, if political reforms are not undertaken, if only coercive measures can be taken to deal with social problems, if no trust is given to the law, if we can only “talk about politics” while we practice autocracy (renzhi, or “rule by man”) — well then, aside from exerting pressure through layer after layer of this pressure system, what other means do we have? Stability preservation by means of pressure is not sustainable over the long term, and if a day comes that something cannot be suppressed, then by that time the price of carrying out democratic reforms will be even greater. Looking back over the ebb and flow of thousands of years of China’s history, it’s clear that no ruler was ever able to maintain peace and order while avoiding, burying and glossing over tensions in society, and many dynasties ultimately fell as accumulated tensions finally erupted. Moving actively to resolve social problems, release social pressure and carry out democratic reforms, thereby enhancing the legitimacy of rule, is far preferable to carrying out reforms only under pressure.


The existence of social tensions does not necessarily point to instability in society. In an increasingly open and democratic nation, maintaining true stability requires new ideas and new methods. In my view, changing this system of stability preservation by means of pressure, and moving from rigid stability to resilient stability, from static stability to dynamic stability, and from the passive preservation of stability to active “stability creation,” is of utmost urgency.


First, rigid stability must be transformed into resilient stability. This will require a number of systemic reforms and institutional developments, as well as carrying out a whole series of social reforms. Among these, the most important is the building of a fair and equitable system for the allocation of social benefits, so that the benefits of economic development can be enjoyed by all segments of society. In order to transform the present system of bureaucratic pressure, politics must be decentralized at the county level. Through a process of judicial reform, national legal authority must be established at the county level, the goal being to establish democratic self-governance on a foundation of bureaucratic and political decentralization — this in order to resolve authoritarian political defects and create resilience within the political system.


At the same time, the government at the national level should fully satisfy the desire of the people to participate in state affairs, and should work actively to ensure orderly political participation by citizens, as should be their basic political right. Improving political mechanisms, really and truly actualizing citizens’ rights under a constitutional system, and working the expression of citizens’ rights and interests into that system, is the most effective guarantee of long-term national stability.


Second, static stability must be transformed into dynamic stability. The political scholar Yu Keping has described the difference between static and dynamic stability by noting the restrictive nature of the former. Static stability, for example, is about preventing the expression of grievances by ordinary people where they exist, its primary means being obstruction or restriction. By contrast, dynamic stability is about the expression of grievances, which can then be acknowledged and addressed institutionally. It is about clearing away obstructions.14


Social stability in China today is what might be characterized as classic static stability, achieved principally through pressure and obstruction. The public’s consciousness of its rights is gradually awakening, but no adequate mechanisms are in place for the expression of public interests. The public has a weak capacity for negotiation, and those with power and money often infringe upon its interests. Under this situation, the popular sense of injustice and having been stripped of one’s rights could be a factor creating social instability. Therefore, changing the present system of stability preservation by means of pressure necessitates the creation of adequate mechanisms to allow the expression and resolution of rights claims — essentially, a social safety valve that allows citizens to voice their demands and unleash resentment in society before it can reverberate and have a “butterfly effect.”


Finally, active “stability creation” must take the place of passive stability preservation. This means breaking through the simplistic thinking behind the notion of stability as the overriding priority, and changing the idea that stability is something to be purchased at whatever cost. Breaking through this thinking requires a new way of thinking, which can be summed up in this way: facing mass incidents in China today, our society must be rational, our leaders must be wise and our researchers must show character. In a sensitive time of social tension, we need more than wise leadership. We need even more urgently a new way of thinking about stability that accords with our stage of social development. As they deal with massive problems concerning public interests, government leaders must be fair and just, dealing with issues reasonably and quickly, not half-heartedly, and they must not abuse their positions of power. The result of actively resolving social tensions and other factors of instability at their roots will be “stability creation.” At the same time, however, the steadily increasing social tensions in China cannot be dealt with through economic reforms alone. They must be resolved and controlled without delay through political reforms.


Yu Jianrong is Director of the Center for the Research of Rural and Social Problems at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This article was translated from Mandarin by David Bandurski.




1 Yu Jianrong, “From Rigid Stability to Resilient Stability: An Analytical Model for Social Order in China” (Cong Gang Xing Wen Ding Dao Ren Xing Wen Ding: Guan Yu Zhong Guo She Hui Zhi Xu De Yi Ge Fen Xi Kuang Jia), Study and Exploration, May 2009.

2 Deng Xiaoping, The Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping (Deng Xiaoping Wen Xuan), Vol. 3 (People’s Press, 1993), p. 322.

3 ibid., p. 286.

4 Yu Jianrong and Li Lianjiang, “The Next Stage of Political Development: Political Reform at the County Level” (Zheng Zhi Fa Zhan Xia Yi Bu: Xian Zheng Gai Ge), Leader, Vol. 18.

5 Rong Jingben et al., Revisiting the Transition from a Pressure-Style System to a Democratic Cooperative System (Zai Lun Con Ya Li Xing Ti Zhi Xiang Min Zhu He Zuo Ti Zhi De Zhuan Bian), (China Translation Press, 2001).

6 Sun Haitao, “Notice on the June 28 Weng’an Incident from the Office of the Guizhou Provincial Police” (Gui Zhou Sheng Gong An Ting Tong Bao Weng An 8.28 Shi Jian), People’s Daily, July 2, 2008.

7 Sun Aidong, “China’s Recent Outbreak of Mass Incidents: Warning Bells for Governance at the Lower Levels” (Zhong Guo Jin Qi Qun Ti Xing Shi Jian Tu Fa: Qiao Xiang Ji Ceng Zhi Zheng Jing Zhong), China Comment, Aug. 13, 2008.

8 Yu Jianrong, “The ‘Petitioning Paradox’ and the Way Out” (‘Xin Fang Bei Lun’ Ji Qi Chu Lu), Southern Window, August 2009.

9 Hang Honggang, “Moving from Rigid Stability to Resilient Stability” (Cong Gang Xing Wen Ding Mai Xiang Ren Xing Wen Ding), Time Weekly, January 7, 2010.

10 Yu Jianrong, “Who is Bearing the Costs of Stopping Petitioners?” (Shi Zai Cheng Shou Jie Fang De Cheng Ben), Phoenix Weekly, 2008, Vol. 20.

11 Cheng Honggen, Fan Chunsheng and Zhang Xiaojing, “Stopping Petitioners Once Costs More than Ten-thousand, Why Isn’t This Used to Pacify Them?” (Jie Fang Yi Ci Hua Fei Shang Wan, He Bu Yong Lai ‘An Fu’ Shang Fang Ren), China Comment, Jan. 14, 2007.

12 Yu Jianrong, “Thoughts on the System of Responsibility for Petitioning” (Xin Fang Wen Ze De Zhi Du Fan Si), Southern Metropolis Daily, March 11, 2010.

13 “New Thoughts on ‘Stability Preservation’: Institutionalizing the Voicing of Interest and Realizing Long-term Peace” (‘Wei Wen’ Xin Si Lu: Li Yi Biao Da Zhi Du Hua), Southern Weekend, April 14, 2010.

14 Yu Donghui, “Yu Keping Speaks About Chinese Democracy: The Resolve for Promoting Local-level Democracy Has Not Changed” (Yu Ke Ping Tan Zhong Guo Min Zhu: Tui Dong Ji Ceng Min Zhu Jue Xin Bu Bian), China News Service Online, April 16, 2007.

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    Social Issues — Social stability in China can at present be characterized as “rigid stability,” and it is maintained through a system of pressure applied by various levels of government aimed above all at preventing social unrest. Leading Chinese researcher Yu Jianrong analyzes that system and argues that to achieve true stability, China must fundamentally transform its approach to achieving and maintaining social order.
    Published: Jun 20, 2010
    About the author

    Yu Jianrong is Director of the Center for the Research of Rural and Social Problems at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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