Retrofitting Leninism: Participation without Democracy in China

Retrofitting Leninism: Participation without Democracy in China
Retrofitting Leninism explains, through the lens of China, how open governance and modern information technology come together to sustain a tightly controlled but socially responsive system of authoritarianism.

When closed authoritarian regimes reform and open up, they often fail, most eventually breakdown. The People's Republic of China stands as a notable exception. How has the ruling Chinese Communist Party maintained power throughout decades of reform and rapid development? Drawing inspiration from the CCP's Leninist origins, Dimitar Gueorguiev offers a novel and empirically grounded explanation. The key to the CCP's staying power, he argues, is its ability to integrate authoritarian control with social inclusion - a combination that is being facilitated by modern telecommunications technology. Relying on statistical data, media reports, and a series of original opinion polls, Gueorguiev explores how public input feeds into political oversight and policy planning. To unpack how public preferences are acquired, processed, and prioritized, he analyses bottom-up representation and coordination in local Chinese legislatures. Finally, to evaluate the impact of inclusion, he shows that public engagement contributes to both policy stability and public satisfaction. Although public inclusion is instrumental to the CCP's hold on power, Gueorguiev underscores that "inclusive authoritarianism" greatly depends on the voluntary participation of Chinese citizens, which is far from guaranteed. A trenchant exploration of the Leninist model today, Retrofitting Leninism will reshape our understanding of the authoritarian approach to government and its prospects for the future.


Dimitar Gueorguiev


Oxford University Press



Publication date

1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021


Social Sciences


National politics