As a nation makes the transition from communism to democracy or another form of authoritarianism, its regime must construct not only new political institutions, but also a new political ideology that can guide policy and provide a sense of mission. The new ideology is crucial for legitimacy at home and abroad, as well as the regime’s long-term viability. In The Return of Ideology, Cheng Chen compares post-communist regimes, with a focus on Russia under Putin and post-Deng China, investigating the factors that affect the success of an ideology-building project and identifies the implications for international affairs.
Successful ideology-building requires two necessary—but not sufficient—conditions. The regime must establish a coherent ideological repertoire that takes into account the nation’s ideological heritage and fresh surges of nationalism. Also, the regime must attract and maintain a strong commitment to the emerging ideology among the political elite.
Drawing on rich primary sources, including interviews, surveys, political speeches, writings of political leaders, and a variety of publications, Chen identifies the major obstacles to ideology-building in modern Russia and China and assesses their respective long-term prospects. Whereas creating a new regime ideology has been a protracted and difficult process in China, it has been even more so in Russia. The ability to forge an ideology is not merely a domestic concern for these two nations, but a matter of international import as these two great powers move to assert and extend their influence in the world.