Democratic centralism, the core and the stabalization of the Chinese Communist Party in the reform era

A Research in Progress seminar with Brandon Sommer
Assistant professor

Dr Brandon Sommer

Thursday 23 Mar 2023, 13:00 - 14:00
Spoken Language
Room 3.42
International Institute of Social Studies
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Brandon Sommer

In this Research in Progress seminar, recent PhD graduate, Dr Brandon Sommer investigates the literature on democratic centralism and its role in understanding Xi Jinping's China.

Dr Brandon Sommer interrogates the re-emerging literature on democratic centralism in China (Thornton, 2021).

This literature argues that it is a key concept in understanding Xi Jinping’s China, especially emphasizing the centralist aspects of the concept.

However, democratic centralism has existed since the earliest days of the founding of the Communist Party in China. Sommer will trace the role of democratic centralism in the Maoist period and then argue how and why it re-emerges under Deng Xiaoping. Specifically, how and why Deng begins to understand the complementarity between democratic centralism and the core, as one ultimate decision maker.

This nexus between democratic centralism and the core comes to have causal efficacy over the key institutions from which the nexus operates, namely between the Politburo and the Central Military Commission. In fact, in this configuration, democratic centralism is a key factor that stabilizes the political regime. I then trace the implication of democratic centralism under Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and ultimately Xi Jinping.

He concludes by explaining why democratic centralism is a central concept in understanding China today.

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The Research in Progress seminars are intended to provide an informal venue for presentations of ongoing research by ISS scholars and other scholars from the wider development studies community.

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