The Modernization of Factionalism in Chinese Politics
The informal dimension has always been important in Chinese politics, due to a traditional bias against legalism and favoring the sentimentalization of personal qualities. We contend that it remains so still, albeit in altered form. Rather than being oriented solely to personal or in-group security, factionalism in the context of the more secure bureaucratic environment of the reform era has come to embrace policy goals and material interests as well. Thus, informal politics proliferates, and factional fortunes tend to fluctuate according to the patterns of China's political business cycle. In the post-Mao era the radical reformers led by Deng Xiaoping have favored rapid growth, even at the expense of stability. The conservatives surrounding Chen Yun consider stability the paramount goal, believing that it should override considerations of growth. The synchronization of reform and business cycles, plus the appearance of periodic social movements whenever the growth rate slumps, makes reformers and conservatives vulnerable to charges of mismanaging the economy for their respective policy preferences. As long as the business, reform, and movement cycles coincide, wide policy fluctuations driven by a politics of blame are inevitable.