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J OF CHIN POLIT SCI (2011) 16:407429 DOI 10.

1007/s11366-011-9163-1 R E S E A R C H A RT I C L E

The Neo-Communist Regime of Present-Day China


Theodor Tudoroiu

Published online: 23 August 2011 # Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2011

Abstract The first goal of this article is to define the neo-communist regime as a specific type of undemocratic post-communist construct. Three case studies analyzing the regimes led by Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria, Ion Iliescu in Romania, and Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus are used to identify its main characteristics. The second goal is to show that the present-day Chinese regime falls into this category. As such, it does not represent an intermediate or transitional phase. This hard neo-communist regime is the final stage of the Chinese post-communist transition. In the foreseeable future, it will most likely preserve its present characteristics. Keywords Neo-Communist Regimes . Post-Communism . China . Bulgaria . Romania . Belarus

Introduction From Zagreb to Hanoi, the post-communist world has experienced a great variety of undemocratic political regimes. They have been variously labeled hybrid, semiconsolidated authoritarian, soft authoritarian, consolidated authoritarian, hard authoritarian, ethnocratic, ultra-nationalist, and sultanistic. This is by no means a complete list. Furthermore, some of these categories overlap. It is against this background of both factual and theoretical complexity that this article tries to reach two goals. The first is to show that some post-communist regimes can be reasonably labeled neo-communist as they share specific features, the same ideology, and similar links with the communist past. Three case studies picturing the regimes led
The author is grateful to Dr. Stfanie Von Hlatky-Udvarhelyi (Centre for International Peace and Security Studies) and to reviewers of Journal of Chinese Political Science for their helpful suggestions. T. Tudoroiu (*) Centre for International Peace and Security Studies, 307-3125, Boulevard des Trinitaires, Montral, Qubec H4E 2S2, Canada e-mail: tudoroiu@hotmail.com

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by Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria (199596), Ion Iliescu in Romania (199096), and Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus (since 1994) are used in order to identify the essential characteristics of these neo-communist constructs. The second goal is to show that the present-day Chinese regime falls into the same category. As such, it does not represent an intermediate phase in the transition from totalitarian communism to some other possible final stage. This mature, hard neo-communist regime is the very final stage of the Chinese post-communist transition. In the foreseeable future, it will most likely preserve its present characteristics. The following section makes the theoretical portrait of a neo-communist regime. The Neo-Communist Regime of Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria (199596), The Neo-Communist Regime of Ion Iliescu in Romania (199096), The Neo-Communist Regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus present the three case studies. China as a Neo-Communist Regimeanalyzes the neo-communist features of the Chinese regime. The articles findings are summarized and further discussed in the final section.

Neo-Communist Regimes This article is based on the assumption that its potential readers are political scientists familiar with basic notions like democracy, authoritarianism, totalitarianism or communism. To the unlikely lector unaware of the works of Hannah Arendt or Guillermo ODonnell, I will only offer an intuitive description of the difference between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. The former is well illustrated by the blue letters of the revolving billboard suspended in 1974 around the Buenos Aires obelisk: Silence Is Health ([23]: xxvii). The Argentinean military junta was thus expressing the ideal of any authoritarian leadership: avoiding open criticism. The caudillo is happy if people simply accept his rule. An example closer to the subject of this article is provided by Richard Baum in his picture of the present day Chinese Communist Party (CCP): Increasingly, the Party is seen by many groups and individuals in society as largely irrelevant in their daily livesan annoyance to be avoided where possible and endured when necessary (quoted by [48]: 26). For a totalitarian regime, on the contrary, such a situation is clearly unacceptable. To give another Chinese example, the CCP was hardly just an annoyance during the Cultural Revolution as it controlled every detail of public (and, frequently, private) life. Totalitarian regimes are not satisfied with avoiding open criticism. They requireand imposethe active support of the entire population. Millions of starving Cubans and North Koreans have to show unquestionable enthusiasm for their respective beloved leaders. Totalitarianism cannot be avoided where possible. It is an all-encompassing system of control that regiments pupils in Soviet-type Komsomol; youngsters in Nazi Hitler-Jugend; and helps the adults to pleasantly spend their spare time in Mussolini-sponsored Dopo Lavoro sport facilities while ladies socialize within the Nazi Womens League. Paradoxically, totalitarian regimes can only exist in modern societies as modern technology is essential in creating their orwellian mechanisms of indoctrination and control.

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These are well known elements. Much less research has been dedicated to the neocommunist political systems. In fact, neo-communism is a term frequently associated with political parties, not regimes, in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Authoritarian regimes in these regions are seldom assessed as neo-communist because most of them also use ultra-nationalist propaganda in order to legitimize themselves oras in some of the Central Asian republicshave all the attributes of sultanistic regimes. Researchers have also paid little attention to neo-communism as other, more interesting types of regime were created in the post-communist area. They include many hybrid regimes (for a discussion of this term, see [10]), such as Yeltsins Russia ([49]: 67). Other examples are Estonia and Latvia. After independence, these two Baltic states had ethnocratic regimes, neither democratic, nor authoritarian. While local Russian minorities were clearly discriminated against, the rest of the two societies were paradoxically democratic (Oren and Ghanem 2004). In fact, as Henry Hale noticed, in certain cases it is difficult to speak of a trajectory toward or away from ideal-type endpoints like democracy or autocracy ([26]: 134). Many post-Soviet and Balkan states had or still have semi-authoritarian regimes, ambiguous systems that combine rhetorical acceptance of liberal democracy, the existence of some formal democratic institutions, and respect for a limited sphere of civil and political liberties with essentially illiberal or even authoritarian traits ([45]: 3). The growing number of such regimes attracted many researchers, determining them to ignore the more limited domain of neo-communism. This article tries to fill this gap by demonstrating that a part of the post-communist undemocratic regimes can be reasonably labeled neo-communist as they share specific features, the same ideology, and similar links with the communist past. The research uses three case studies: the regime of Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria (199596), that of Ion Iliescu in Romania (199096), and the one headed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus, since 1994. The three case studies are presented in the following sections in order to allow the subsequent comparison with the Chinese regime. At this point, I will only identify the common characteristics that define neo-communist regimes. The first and most evident element is the link between neo-communism and communism. Unless President Hugo Chvez of Venezuela proves otherwise, neocommunist regimes can only exist in former communist states. In 1989, Zbigniew Brzezinski described a 4-phase process of retreat from communism. Progressive liberalization transforms communist totalitarianism in communist authoritarianism which is replaced by post-communist authoritarianism and, finally, by postcommunist pluralism ([5]: 255). Neo-communist regimes are part of the third phase, post-communist authoritarianism. In some casessuch as Bulgaria and Romania this was indeed an intermediate step on the road toward democratic pluralism. But Belarus shows that democratization is not the only possible outcome. The neocommunist regime can turn into a stable political structure that puts an end to the liberalization process and suppresses efficiently any internal contestation. Therefore, it is difficult to generalize the hollowness and bankruptcy of all post-communist authoritarian regimes and to identify this phase as moribund and the precursor to the eventual implosion of communist party-states and their replacement with an entirely new phase, () post-communist pluralism ([48]: 15). Furthermore, the neo-

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communist phase is not necessarily more liberal than the previous one. In both Bulgaria and Belarus, the fall of communism had been followed by a more or less genuine process of democratization. The instauration of neo-communist regimes, in 199495, was a clear set-back that visibly deteriorated the citizens political rights and civil liberties (see Fig. 1; explanations are provided in The Neo-Communist Regime of Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria (199596) and The Neo-Communist Regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus). Therefore, the neo-communist regimes are not necessarily an intermediate step in a progressive process of liberalization that leads to democracy. Yet, it is true that they cannot exist outside Brzezinskis retreat from communism. Basically, the neo-communists (who are in fact un- or slightly-reformed communists) try to stop and, if possible, to drive back the decay of communism. The timing of this reaction is essential. If it takes place early in the process, it will preserve the communist regime itself. To have a neo-communist regime, the decay of the totalitarian system must have advanced beyond the no-return point. In 198889, Videnov and Lukashenka would have tried a communist restoration. Five years later, this was impossible and they had to choose the neo-communist path. This is why the neocommunism can be assessed as an effort to mirror totalitarian communism with more modest, authoritarian means. A good description of this type of regime was made by Emil Constantinescu, Romanias president between 1996 and 2000, in an article published by Le Monde on February 22, 1997: We are not talking about classical communism but rather of a form that is both old () and new because of its goal, which is to preserve all that can be preserved, both in men and structures, of the old regime: as many as possible of the large enterprises, as many monopolies as possible, especially in the areas of energy and agriculture, as many of the political and economic leaders as possible, and as much as possible of an isolationist and anti-Western mythology, ready to halt all openings towards Europe and the rest of the world (quoted by Gallagher 2001: 392).
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Belarus Romania Bulgaria China

Fig. 1 Freedom House political rights and civil liberties average scores for Bulgaria, Romania, Belarus, and China 19902010. (Source: Freedom House [1419])

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This preservation effort is undeniable. From the very beginning, neocommunists try to save (or restore) communist structures, methods, and personnel. The communist-created bureaucratic and repressive apparatus is used to control the country. Under new names, the former communist parties remain in power. The leaders of the neo-communist regimes are always former communist activists. However, they quickly realize that the conditions have changed. Authoritarian instruments cannot equal totalitarian ones. Furthermore, it is impossible to restore the centrally planned economy. The new rulers are therefore facing problems of a completely new type. Under these circumstances, they have to elaborate strategies that have little in common with the classical communist approach. Despite its links with the past, the neo-communist regime creates progressively its own structures, patterns, and peculiarities. The second fundamental feature of neo-communist regimes is their authoritarian character. A web of populism, political favoritism, patronage, intimidation, and disrespect of political rights and civil liberties hampers the functioning of democratic institutions. The judiciary is subordinated to the executive. The Parliament is either fully controlled by the neo-communists and their allies or is stripped of many of its competences. The former communist secret services are reinforced and used to spy, infiltrate, and control opposition groups and political parties. Strictly speaking, the elections might be free; but they are not fair. The regime is in control of the official mass media and makes serious efforts to subordinate most or all private newspapers as well as radio and TV stations. It also forbids or hampers the diffusion of foreign electronic media. The electoral competition is therefore completely distorted, with the ruling party in a position of quasi-monopoly during the electoral campaign. The imbalance is further increased by the usually charismatic figure of the neocommunist leader, by his populist economic policies, by the machinations of the secret services and, if needed, by vote rigging. While this is a universal recipe, two separate categories of neo-communist regimes seem to exist: soft authoritarian (that try to preserve the appearance of a democratic, multi-party political system) and hard authoritarian (which are, de facto, one-party systems). In fact, the soft ones are nothing more than hard authoritarian regimes still under construction. Lukashenka himself headed between 1994 and 1996 a soft regime, but this was only the first step of a more ambitious project. Videnovs rule was simply too short (199596) to reach the desired level. However, its increasingly anti-democratic actionssuch as the anti-NGO campaignsuggest an intended trajectory of Belarusian type. The only relatively stable soft neo-communist regime, that of Iliescu, was due to Romanias dependence on Western financial support and to the ensuing politics of ambiguity (see The Neo-Communist Regime of Ion Iliescu in Romania (199096)). A specific ideology is the third feature of the neo-communist regimes. In the early 1990s, the neo-communists were still dreaming of resurrecting the communist past. Nevertheless, they could not state this openly as, at that moment, communism had very negative connotations both internally and internationally (the only self-labeled communist party that returned to power, the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova, won the parliamentary elections only in 2001). Iliescu, for example, was forced to rename the human-faced communism he was advocating in December 1989 into social-democracy (see The Neo-Communist Regime of Ion

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Iliescu in Romania (199096)). This is why neo-communist parties usually call themselves Socialist or Social-Democrat. It is undeniable that they advocate leftist social and economic policies (see below). But, unlike Western Social-Democrats, they pay only lip service to democracy. As soft neo-communist regimes turn hard, they start to reject openly the democratic values. Lukashenka provides the best example: his anti-democratic discourse became progressively identical to that of the post-soviet Central Asian autocrats. Still, neo-communists make little use of nationalist propaganda. This is rather unusual in the post-communist world. (Ultra-) nationalism was the fundamental element of authoritarian regimes led by Slobodan Miloevi, Franjo Tuman, and Vladimr Meiar. It has also been instrumentalized by many other post-communist strongmen, from Nursultan Nazarbayev to Vladimir Putin. Most of the neo-communists, however, adopted the opposite trend. In a way reminiscent of Communist Internationalism, they preferred to build special relations with Russia. Belarus even concluded a treaty virtually surrendering national sovereignty. The only partial exception is Iliescus regime. While making visible efforts to improve links with Moscow, it also allied itself with two ultranationalist parties hostile to the Hungarian minority in Transylvania. But this was part of its communist heritage: unlike his neighbors, Romanias Nicolae Ceauescu had enforced his Stalinist regime with the use of nationalist (and especially antiHungarian) propaganda. In any case, Iliescus nationalism was marginal in comparison with the neo-communist features of his regime. Overall, the neocommunist doctrine is not as clearly formulated as the communist ideology. This is not the consequence of ideological incoherence; rather, it comes from the fact that neo-communists are forced to conceal their real projects during the soft authoritarian phase. They usually start with a Social-Democrat doctrine that is progressively modified in a way favoring undemocratic trends as well as the preservation of communist elements; the fully developed form is reached only in the hard authoritarian phase. However, as this evolution follows in all cases the same pattern, neo-communism can be easily recognized among the post-communist ideologies even during its early phases. The fourth element further differentiates the neo-communists from their neighbors. It concerns the important role played by neo-communist redistributive social and economic policies in the construction of new regimes. Lukashenkas social market economy was paralleled by Videnovs insistence on the vital social functions of the state sector and his open criticism of capitalism and egotism of the market (see The Neo-Communist Regime of Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria (1995 96) and The Neo-Communist Regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus). While economic strategies were not identical, all three case studies show high levels of official opposition to market reform and especially privatization. This was easier for the leadership in Minsk, as Russian economic support allowed it to eliminate any dependence on Western financial institutions. Bulgaria and Romania depended on International Monetary Funds assistance and were constantly under the pressure of its economic recommendations. Nevertheless, in December 1996 Videnov preferred to jeopardize a desperate attempt to obtain IMF supportimplicitly triggering the fall of his government and the end of his own political careerinstead of abandoning his economic options. This was not senseless stubbornness. The neocommunists were fully aware of the relation between economic liberalization and the

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creation of a new middle class potentially hostile to their monopoly on political power. A strong state sector, on the contrary, was preserving their control of the important part of the electorate working in huge, unproductive communist-type industrial plants. This, together with the personal convictions of the neo-communist leaders, explains the surprisingly similar economic approaches that can be identified in the three case studies. The problem is that neo-communist economic policies lead systematically to serious economic crisis. In order to survive, the regime needs an input of financial resources. Lukashenka has been able to secure it from Russia, which would seldom criticize his undemocratic behavior. But the Kremlin did not have the capacity to provide the same amount of aid to Videnov and Iliescu, who were forced to rely on the conditional support of Western financial institutions. Consequently, the former lost power while the latter could not take his regime beyond the grey area of soft authoritarianism. It can be concluded that the inbuilt lack of economic performance is a major limitation of the normal development of neo-communist regimes. Neo-communisms final feature is the systematic harassment of nascent civil society. In principle, all authoritarian regimes should realize that the civic sector represents the most dangerous threat against their survival, at least in the long term. Surprisingly, most post-communist autocrats became fully aware of this danger only in the wake of the color revolutions. Videnov and Lukashenka, on the contrary, had started explicit anti-NGO campaigns almost 10 years earlier (see The Neo-Communist Regime of Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria (199596) and The Neo-Communist Regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus). Unable to mobilize their population on the basis of a new, aggressive ideology such as ultranationalism, the neo-communists had to pay much more attention to the social mechanisms favoring or menacing their authoritarian project. This is why they were fast in taking measures against the development of domestic non-governmental organizations and the involvement of foreign ones. These measures, however, were different and had diverging results. Lukashenka, taking advantage of his isolation from the West, was able to discourage the development of all NGOs and to represses brutally those engaged in the promotion of democracy. Bulgarian and Romanian neo-communists had to pay the price of their economic dependence on Western aid. Videnov limited his actions to the severing of all links between official institutions and the civic sector (thus cutting the financial support critically needed by the NGOs). Iliescu was afraid to do even that and tried to use the secret services in order to infiltrate and control key non-governmental organizations, as he did with opposition political parties. Both failed to stop the development of the civic sector and were finally overthrown due to the mass mobilization championed by the civil society. Basically, they had entered a vicious circle. Having developed only soft authoritarian regimes, they were unable to suppress the civic sector. In turn, this sector vocally criticized their undemocratic actions and prevented the creation of a hard authoritarian regime. Finally, civil society became strong enough to put an end to the neo-communist system. This confirms the fact that soft neo-communist regimes have to be perceived as a transitory phase. They can evolve toward a hard regime or disappear; but they cannot survive indefinitely under this intermediate form. On the basis of these elements, I will define a neo-communist regime as a postcommunist authoritarian regime preserving or restoring communist structures,

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methods, and personnel within the framework of a specific ideology that includes the promotion of redistributive social and economic policies while avoiding the use of nationalism as the main instrument of political mobilization. Such regimes are fully aware of the danger represented by the development of civil society and do everything in their power to hamper or incorporate it. Depending on domestic and international conditions, they can succeed in this effort and become stable hard neo-communist regimes; or they can fail and disappear. Soft neo-communist regimes represent only an intermediate phase that evolves in one of these two directions. The following three sections present the case studies on which this definition is based. The Chinese regime is then analyzed in order to identify its neocommunist characteristics.

The Neo-Communist Regime of Zhan Videnov in Bulgaria (199596) In the first half of the 1990s, the relative electoral equilibrium between the superficially reformed Bulgarian communists (whose party was renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP) and the pro-democratic Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) led to almost permanent government instability. It was only in the December 1994 parliamentary elections that the BSP succeeded in obtaining 43.5% of the votes. In alliance with two small parties, the former communists could finally create a stable government ([6]: 777). At the same time, however, they initiated a clear return toward Bulgarias communist past [21]. The new Prime Minister, Jan Videnov, used his partys increased influence in order to build a neo-communist soft authoritarian regime. The new government was controlled by the conservative, unreformed branch of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. In fact, the importance of this branch allowed analysts to claim that BSP was a genuine communist party ([32]: 87) and the least reformed of its kind between the Oder and the Dniester([9]: 91). Openly opposed to economic reforms and pro-Western foreign policy, having adopted a platform of a further slowing down of the transition process and a recovery of some aspects of the totalitarian system (ibid.), Videnovs government rapidly took measures presented by Western newspapers under such headlines as Bulgaria in Danger of Recommunisation (Hartmann 1995; [20]: 125). Figure 1 shows the Freedom House quantitative evaluation of political rights and civil liberties in the four countries assessed by this article. A one-to-seven scale is used, with one representing the highest degree of freedom and seven the lowest. 3.0 is the limit for partly free states and 5.5 for not free ones (for further details see [16]). In Bulgaria, the socialist victory was immediately followed by a deterioration of political rights and civil liberties that would last even longer than Videnovs regime. Neo-communism was equally visible in Sofias new economic policies, which were diametrically opposed to IMF and European Union recommendations. In particular, because of their vital social functions, the government supported the state sector and its companies on the verge of bankruptcy ([20]: 131). Foreign policy was openly reoriented toward Russia. Cheap energy imports were presented as a fundamental reason for this move, which in fact allowed Videnov to ignore Western pressure. However, inefficient economic policy and worsening relations with Western providers of financial aid would soon lead to catastrophic consequences.

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The most obvious miscalculation of Bulgarian neo-communists was their overconfidence in the economic component of their doctrine. Unlike Iliescu and his more prudent politics of ambiguity(see the next section), they decided to create an economic system that had in fact quite little in common with Western-style market economy. It was based on a rather simple pseudo-Keynesian chain: inflationary stimulation of state industry, increase of demand, increase of taxation income and a just social security policy as a result ([9]: 1067). Consequently, industry soon collapsed, generating a 10% drop in GDP over 1996 alone. The currency lost 50% of its value in the summer of 1996, and a further nine-tenths in January 1997 ([9]: 99). Between January 1996 and January 1997, the average monthly wage diminished form $118 US to $12 US and the average pension went from $37 US to $4 US ([20]: 130). A social crisis broke out. Strikes, marches and protest meetings (mobilizing up to one million persons) were organized in order to bring down the government. Consequently, in the October-November presidential elections the UDF candidate scored 60% of the poll ([8]: 234). A desperate attempt to obtain IMF support failed because Videnov was not willing to abandon his economic options. He resigned on December 21, 1996, both as prime minister and leader of the party. As the BSP was preparing to designate a new government, peaceful demonstrations were organized by the opposition asking for early elections. Progressively, they became violent. On January 10 protesters invaded the Parliament building. Strikes and demonstrations raged across the country and Bulgaria stood nearer to open revolution and perhaps civil war than at any other time since 1989 (ibid., 2345). Unable to control the situation, the neocommunists gave up and accepted early parliamentary elections. In April 1997, the UDF got 52% of the votes while the BSP was supported by only 22% of the electorate ([6]: 781). This put a definitive end to the neo-communist Bulgarian regime. The anti-neo-communist mass mobilization of 19967 is the consequence of a wider phenomenon: the profound transformation of the Bulgarian society and the impressing development of its civic sector. The diffusion of democratic norms and values progressively challenged the hegemony of neo-communism. For example, the perception of threats from ethnic minorities diminished from 46% in 1992 to 29% in 1998. The preference for an authoritarian leader decreased from 66% in 1992 to 45% in 1994 and to 22% in 1996 ([25]: 100; 34). There was also the rapid development of Bulgarian NGOs. By the end of 1996 Gill [22] evaluated their number at 2,900 and Giatzidis [21] at 6,000. It is true that, as in most CEE countries, only a part400 to 500of these organizations were really active, mainly due to lack of funding. State support was nonexistent; private sector financing was scarce. International organizations were the main source of funding, providing around 95% of NGOs total budget (ibid., 121). Still, the influence of these organizations was continually expanding. Between April 1994 and December 1996, the number of those unconditionally in their favor passed from 13% to 25% while those completely unfavorable diminished from 5% to 4%. The trend was maintained in subsequent years (ibid., 114). The Bulgarian neo-communists did not ignore the mortal danger civil society represented for their authoritarian construction. Immediately after assuming power, Videnov started a systematic campaign against civil society in general and the NGOs in particular. State authorities tended to present all NGOs as a

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nuisance, as amateurs or even as organizations carrying out anti-governmental actions ([21]: 124). Moreover, a number of nonprofit organizations active in civic-education and ethnicminority issues were declared agents of foreign interests aiming to undermine Bulgarian statehood. State employees, including teachers, have been instructedunder threat of sackingto boycott conferences and seminars organized by non-government organizations. Most ministries, by the autumn of 1995, had withdrawn from common projects with nongovernment organizations ([35]: 2930). Nevertheless, these efforts were finally fruitless. It was precisely the mobilization of civil society that led to the definitive end of neo-communists rule in early 1997 (see [9]: 9697). Basically, domestic and international conditions prevented Videnovs regime from going beyond the stage of soft authoritarianism. Consequently, it was unable to adopt the more efficient (and more brutal) measures needed in order to eliminate the civic activism and to stop the democratization process. Two conclusions can be drawn from the Bulgarian case. First, neo-communist economic policies lead to serious economic crisis. The regime is therefore unable to survive without appropriate external financial support. Second, soft neo-communist regimes cannot stop the diffusion of democratic values among their citizens. As the Belarusian example will show, in order to do this they need to evolve into hard authoritarian regimes.

The Neo-Communist Regime of Ion Iliescu in Romania (199096) In December 1989, a series of bloody events led to the replacement of the Romanian Stalinist dictator, Nicolae Ceauescu, by a group of second-rank communist officials headed by Ion Iliescu, a former minister and ex-university colleague of Gorbatchevs [7, 12, 50]. Ceauescus sultanistic rule was replaced by a neo-communist soft authoritarian regime that lasted until 1996. Iliescu was not a brutal, fully-fledged dictator. He imposed a limited authoritarianism that sought to uphold the appearance of formal democracy. Yet, he did not restrain from using brutal force to suppress protest movements. Mass-media and especially state television and radio were under strict control. There was no truly independent legal system. No less than nine secret servicesin fact, unreformed former departments of Ceauescus infamous Securitatewere used to spy, infiltrate, and control opposition groups and political parties as well as the civic sector. Blackmail and intimidation of politicians and journalists were common. National minorities were persecuted [6, 31, 56]. The ruling partysuccessively called the National Salvation Front, the Democratic National Salvation Front, the Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the Social Democratic Party (see [6]: 8457)was in fact the unreformed Romanian communist party. In early 1990 its ideology was supposed to be close to humanfaced communism. Later, some confused Social-Democrat orientation was claimed. When, after the 1992 elections, it lost absolute majority in Parliament, political support from another neo-communist and two ultra-nationalist parties was accepted.

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This reinforced neo-communist and ultra-nationalist trends of what had already been a regime hostile to liberal democracy, market economy, and pro-Western foreign policy [6, 33, 56]. However, the neo-communist character of the regime remained unchallenged. The nationalism was used for purely tactical goals. Figure 1 shows the Freedom House quantitative evaluation of the desperate state of political rights and civil liberties under Iliescus rule. It is true that, in comparison with 1990 (when the country simply belonged to the not free category), the following years showed some improvement. But Romania remained partly free until the fall of Iliescu. Neo-communist orientations were equally present in the governments economic policies. Constant efforts were made to hamper the development of the market economy and to facilitate the survival of a large state-owned sector. Ironically, this had the direct consequence of deepening the economic crisis that, in turn, increased dependence on Western financial aid. This forced Iliescu to adopt the so-called politics of ambiguity [51]. Clearly authoritarian practices were constantly accompanied by pro-democracy statements. The creation of a special relation with Russia was hidden under the appearance of maintaining good relations with the West. And the authoritarian regime had to maintain its soft character, which in turn made impossible the control of the diffusion of democratic values. This eroded the support for undemocratic ideologies in a way strikingly similar to the Bulgarian case. The vote for neo-communist parties in legislative elections (Chamber of Deputies) diminished from 66.31% in 1990 to 30.75% 1992 and to 21.52% in 1996 ([6]: 8768). The perception of threats from ethnic groups and minorities decreased from 60% in 1992 to 32% in 1996 ([25]: 100). In the words of Romanias new President, Emil Constantinescu, the popular mentality has changed a great deal in the past 7 years. People are ready for real change and reform and are prepared to bear the costs ([60]: 42). The change was most visible at the level of the civil society. Inexistent in 1989 and unimpressive in 1992, it had rapidly expanded afterward ([55]: 9). By 1996 there were no less than 8,000 NGOs. It is true that only about 200most of them Western-financedwere very active ([56]: 409). But analysts constantly emphasize the impressive dynamics of Romanias new civic sector and its active role in monitoring the respect of democratic principles and the development of democracy as well as in critically emphasizing elements of continuity between the totalitarian past and the neo-communist regime ([42]: 166). The general progress of democratic norms and values and the mobilization led by civil society determined the total defeat of Iliescu and his party in the 1996 general elections. The neo-communist regime came to an end. Democratic political forces resolutely oriented Romania toward a pro-democratic, pro-Western trajectory. The neo-communists themselves realized the irreversibility of the change. It was clear that the support for an undemocratic regime was now insignificant. When the 2000 elections brought them back in power, they carefully avoided anti-democratic and anti-Western moves. In 2004 Iliescu even succeeded to secure Romanias accession to NATO, which he had opposed 10 years later. It was an implicit recognition of the neo-communisms failure that confirms the conclusions drawn in the case of neighboring Bulgaria. On the one hand, less aggressive neo-communist economic policies determine a longer lifespan for the regime. But they still generate economic crisis and implicit dependence on foreign financial support. On the other hand, soft neo-communist regimes are unable to stop the diffusion of democratic values and the

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progressive erosion of their monopoly on power. As the following section will show, such regimes have to become hard neo-communist in order to survive.

The Neo-Communist Regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus Under its first leader, Stanislau Shushkevich, the newly independent Belarus showed some signs of liberalization. In 1994, however, Alyaksandr Lukashenka (Lukashenko is the Russian form of the name) became president. He rapidly built what is considered the most autocratic regime in all of Europe. In a November 1996 referendumwhich is frequently compared to a coup dtatthe Constitution was amended to establish a truly super-presidential system ([46]: 210). Lukashenka obtained the right to dissolve the parliament and rule by decree without parliamentary approval. He was able to select the majority of the judges of the Constitutional Court, to control the recruitment and appointment of government officials at both central and regional level, and to establish state control of the media. Independent newspapers were shut down. Some survived only being printed abroad ([47]: 67). Only pro-Lukashenka official parties were allowed into the Parliament elected in 2000, 2004 ([44]: 223), and 2008. Members of the opposition were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted arbitrarily. Non-governmental organizations have suffered from persistent administrative and financial harassment ([47]: 67). Figure 1 provides a quantitative assessment of the terrible situation of political rights and civil liberties in Belarus. The Freedom House score started to worsen immediately after Lukashenkas election as president. It stabilized at six (seven represent the extreme case of total lack of freedom) for 8 years before worsening even more in 2004, when it reached the present stable level of 6.5. The creation and consolidation of this hard authoritarian regime was possible due to the economic and political support of Russia. The Belarusian neo-communists went much farther than Videnov in rejecting market reforms and maintaining a strong state-owned economic sector. Under the official designation of social market economy, they control an economic system featuring administrative controls on prices on a vast scale; subsidies on products or enterprises representing almost 20% of the GDP; and the lowest private share in GDP among post-communist countries (25% in 2006) ([44]: 2246). Unsurprisingly, the government in Minsk soon faced major economic difficulties. But Bulgarian-type collapse has been avoided due to Russian subsidies representing around 10% of the Belarusian GDP ([59]: 457). On its side, the Kremlin has good reasons for providing economic and political support. In exchange, it secured the control of a very important geostrategic position. The Belarusian ally gives Russia a stronger military and strategic position in Central Europe and it increases Moscows capacity to put pressure on Ukraine. Furthermore, it controls the shortest transport routes for Russian raw materials, particularly oil and gas, to Western Europe and Kaliningrad ([29]: 133). The convergence of Belarusian and Russian interests was so important that, in the second half of the 1990s, Lukashenka seriously envisaged a union of the two countries as he intended to become the leader of the new federation after Yeltsins retirement ([59]: 457). However, the situation changed fundamentally when Putin became president. Rivalry between the strongmen in Minsk and Moscow (see [29]: 132) progressively

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reduced Belarusian enthusiasm for a common state. Economic disputes emerged ([58]: 87; [37]) and the bilateral relations began to be marked by ups and downs. In the summer of 2010 the Kremlin even initiated a short-lived media war (The Economist July 27, [53]). Yet, by December 2010 friendship had been restored: president Medvedev supported openly Lukashenkas victory in the rigged presidential election despite the brutal suppression of the ensuing protest demonstrations (The Economist December 29, [54]). There are periodical quarrels but Moscow is unwilling to alienate a valuable ally and remains Lukashenkas reliable supporter. In response to Western pressure to democratize, Belarus severed most links with the OSCE, the European Union, NATO, the US, and many European states. This reduced drastically Western leverage on the government in Minsk. Equally important, the countrys isolation hampered the diffusion of democratic values. The quite impressive degree of popular support for Lukashenka is also favored by specific social circumstances. 63.7% of the electorate are over the age of 40. They were educated in the pre-Gorbachev period, regret the fall of the Soviet Union, and have little natural affinities for change and Western influence. This ageing, conservative electorate is very receptive to the neo-communists depiction of Belarus as an oasis of economic stability. Due to Russian subsidies, the population has generally been protected from dramatic changes, shock therapy, the presence of oligarchs, mass privatization, and high prices for amenities such as housing, heating, and food ([41]: 3523, 362). Serious socio-economic crises in other CIS republics as well as limited and distorted information provided by state controlled media further increase their fear of change. A 2003 national survey showed that the leading majority associates democracy with crisis and complete anarchy and other negative qualifications. Furthermore, between 1998 and 2003 the number of subscribers to more authoritarian policies clearly increased from 36% to 49%. About two-thirds of the population stated that they did not care who was in power, as long as the situation improved ([46]: 2267). The situation and the dynamics of societal change are therefore opposed to those of Videnovs Bulgaria and Iliescus Romania. In addition, the regime discourages the development of non-governmental organizations and represses all NGOs directly or indirectly engaged in the promotion of human rights. To give just an example, following the adoption of new legislation in December 2005, organizing or participating in an activity of an unregistered NGO became a criminal offence which carries a prison sentence of up to 2 years. As registering a non-governmental organization in Belarus is extremely difficult, the new measures further increased the already high capacity of the authorities to obstruct, harass and intimidate civil society activists, many of whom have been fined and imprisoned [2]. Obviously, this hampers the development of Belarusian civil society. Western governments and NGOs have tried to help change this situation by financing democracy-building activities [4]. Yet, the external support for the development of the civil society could not overcome the unfavorable local conditions and the regimes repressive policies. The ensuing weakness of the civic sector and very limited diffusion of the democratic values explain why the majority of Belarusians remain favorable to the neo-communist leadership. The case of Belarus shows that a neo-communist regime can overcome all challenges and turn into a stable, long lasting political system. Unlike his Bulgarian and Romanian colleagues, Lukashenka was able to use Russias support in order to

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avoid the economic crisis generated by his neo-communist economic policies. As his regime rapidly became hard authoritarian, it also succeeded in suppressing the development of the Belarusian civic sector and eliminating the perspective of any democratization process. For an external observer such as the Chinese Communist Party, the neo-communist regime in Minsk can be a very useful model.

China as a Neo-Communist Regime Despite the dismantlement of the totalitarian system and of the centrally planned economy, China remains under the full control of the Communist Party. The communist doctrine has considerably evolved but has not been replaced by a completely different ideology such as ultra-nationalism. And the political system mirrors President Constantinescus description of the Romanian neo-communism: We are not talking about classical communism but rather of a form that is both old and new (see Neo-Communist Regimes). Consequently, China seems to have clear affinities with other neo-communist regimes. A more detailed analysis can only confirm this first impression. In Neo-Communist Regimes I presented the five characteristics of a neo-communist regime. They are (1) the link with the communist past, (2) the regimes authoritarian character, (3) a specific ideology, (4) redistributive social and economic policies, and (5) the systematic harassment and control of the nascent civil society. The rest of this section will show that these elements represent the key features of the present Chinese regime. 1. Link with the Communist Past The assessment of neo-communist regimes in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union starts frequently from the fact that they are not the democracies they usually pretend to be. In China, the situation is different: in many cases, the analysis starts from the fact that the present political system is no more the communisti.e. the totalitarianregime it used to be. Indeed, descriptions of the present Chinese political system range from a hybrid of state socialism and private capitalism to a repressive and pathological adventure of bureaucratic capitalism and market Stalinism that blends the worst elements of both worlds ([39]: 56). Since Deng Xiaopings 1978 Practice is the Sole Criterion of Truth campaign, China witnessed a series of reforms leading to the virtual dismantlement of communist totalitarianism. The principle of get rich first, adopted in the 1980s, was pushed to an extreme during Jiang Zemins tenure as General Secretary of the CCP (19892002) and President of the Peoples Republic of China (19932003). GDP growth became the single most important performance indicator for local government officials ([63]: 2). Jiangs 2001 new policy, the Tree Represents, put an end to the proletarian character of the Communist Party by encouraging the recruitment of entrepreneurs and intellectuals from the private sector labeled as representatives of the advanced productive forces. The Three Represents indicated a radical shift in party philosophy, party composition, and party orientation as they replaced the major elements of egalitarian communism with the new principles sanctioning full marketization, private ownership, and the circulation of assets ([48]: 1123).

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Reforms continued under Jiangs successor, Hu Jintao. In 2004 the principle of protecting the private property was written into the constitution. The Property Law of China was finally approved in 2007 ([34]: 48; for an analysis of the ideological change see [34]: 449; [48]: 111127; and [36]). In fact, on the economic side the old three major elements of socialismthe planned economy, public ownership, and the distributional principle of each according to his workhave been completely eliminated ([48]: 113). The Communist Party also abandoned the total control of Chinese society, allowing and sometimes even encouraging the development of civil society elements (see below). Its traditional instruments of controlpropaganda, coercion, and organizationhave all atrophied and eroded considerably. Globalization and interaction with the outside world have further undermined the partys dominant position ([48]: 34). Richard Baums assessment of the CCPs irrelevance for the daily life of many Chinese citizens, an annoyance to be avoided where possible and endured when necessary (see Neo-Communist Regimes), perfectly describes the present situation. All these are fundamental changes. However, the link with the communist past continues to be obvious. China is clearly preserving much of its communist structures, methods, and personnel. The country is ruled by the same party that uses the same state bureaucracy, military, and secret services. The party-state apparatus is unchanged. Moreover, the preservation of the communist label shows that the regime assumes openly its relation with the communist past. 2. Authoritarian Character As already stated, the picture described in the previous paragraph is hardly that of a totalitarian regime. Still, China did not become a democracy. It remains a one-party, authoritarian regime. Political rights and civil liberties have disastrous levels. As Fig. 1 shows, Chinas Freedom House score stabilized since 1998 at 6.5. Seven is attributed to states where political rights are absent or virtually nonexistent as a result of the extremely oppressive nature of the regime and where is virtually no freedom. An overwhelming and justified fear of repression characterizes these societies [16]. It is true that there is a slight improvement by comparison with the 19891997 period during which the average was 7 (as it had been during the Cultural Revolution). But between the end of the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen events (19771988), the Freedom House score was 6 [14]. This means that the present level of political rights and civil liberties in China is worse than during most of the 1980s. It is difficult not to compare this strange situation with that of Belarus, where Lukashenkas regime is more oppressive than the Soviet Union in its final years. The conclusion is obvious: like its counterpart in Minsk, China ceased to be a totalitarian country. But it continues to be ruled by a hard authoritarian regime that has done nothing to improve the political rights and civil liberties of its citizens. In fact, most of the CCP discourse on democracypresented by official propaganda in relation with the concept of Democracy with Chinese Characteristicsrefers largely to within-system or intraparty democracy that promotes freer discussion and collective decision making inside the CCP ([48]: 120). The overall political system is excluded and remains fully authoritarian.

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3. Specific Ideology The third element of a neo-communist regime concerns the ideology. The new Chinese communist doctrine is obviously different from classical communism. Still, the communist heritage cannot be denied. Furthermore, its evolution is reminiscent of other neo-communist ideologies. It is true that the initial soft authoritarian step is missing. This is due to the fact that China did not experience a catastrophic fall of the totalitarian regime followed by a brief period of democratization. Hard authoritarianism directly replaced totalitarianism. Consequently, there was no pseudo-Social-Democrat episode. The transformation of classical communism stopped at a stage similar to Iliescus December 1989 human-faced communism. From the very beginning, its antidemocratic character could be compared with that of Lukashenkas post-1996, mature regime. Another difference is Beijings use of nationalism as a source of political legitimacy. However, the Chinese regime is seldom assessed as mainly nationalist. Rather, the use of nationalism has the same tactical role as it did in the case of Iliescus Romania. It is interesting to note that the Chinese post-totalitarian regime follows the same patterns as its East European equivalents in adapting the communist heritage to the new authoritarian environment. In a revue of the literature on the Chinese Communist Partys future, David Shambaugh identified pessimists and optimists ([48]: 2538). The former see the Chinese political system as embattled and endangered (ibid., 25). Sooner or later, the CCPs inability to solve growing socio-political problems will lead to regime change. The latter, however, argue that the Leninist institutions in China remain strong and are undergoing a reinstitutionalization that will allow the survival of the present authoritarian regime (ibid., 33). Shambaugh himself shared this opinion and convincingly demonstrated that the CCP carefully studied the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR and took measures to reinvent itself and sustain its role indefinitely (ibid., 104). Ideological change is paralleled by complex organizational reform categorized by Andrew Nathan in four clusters: succession processes, meritocratic promotions, bureaucratic differentiation, and improved channels of mass participation and appeal (see [43]). Besides ideological and institutional adaptation to the new, posttotalitarian conditions, other elements are used to ensure the regimes survival. On the one hand, there are two generally admitted sources of legitimacy: the economic growth and the already mentioned use of nationalism. On the other hand, one should not ignore the importance of the intimate relationship between the communist leadership and the state bureaucracy ([24]: 54). All these elements seem to allow the CCP to strengthen its rule and remain in power as a single ruling party ([48]: 3). 4. Redistributive Social and Economic Policies The fourth main feature of a neo-communist regime is illustrated by the redistributive social and economic policies advocated by Videnov, Iliescu, and Lukashenka. At first glance, China totally lacks them. Under Deng and Jiang, the previously existing policies of this nature were simply dismantled. Wild capitalism took their place: if Marx could see Guangdong today he would die of anger ([39]: 9). Yet, the Chinese communists became aware of the fact that

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increasing social injustice could delegitimate their rule. The ensuing agile, responsive, and creative party effort to relegitimate the postrevolutionary regime was coordinated by Hu Jintao ([30]: 406). Its key element was the concept of Harmonious Socialist Society. It was first mentioned officially in November 2002, defined in 2004, and proclaimed as the driving ideology in 2005. A target date (2020) and specific objectives and tasks were announced in October 2006 ([52]: 1401). The Harmonious Socialist Society is a complex ideological construct whose analysis goes beyond the scope of this article (see [27]: 148150, [52]: 1402). Yet, one of its key elements is promoting social equity and justice. The goals to be reached by 2020 include the emergence of a reasonable and orderly income distribution pattern (my italics) as well as the establishment of a social security system covering both urban and rural residents [61]. Of course, this is much less than what Videnov and Lukashenka advocated. However, it is close to what Iliescu promised (and considerably more than what he actually delivered). Hu Jintao and his team rejected a Videnov-type approach because it leads systematically to serious economic crisis that creates a permanent dependence on external financial support. As they have carefully studied the other post-communist experiences, the Chinese communists were fully aware of this danger. They also knew that in Eastern Europe the redistribution and opposition to market reforms were not a goal in themselves. Rather, they were a way to prevent the process first described by Lipset: the economic development modifies the social structure in a way favorable to the growth of the middle class. In turn, this leads to a change in the political culture that supports democratization and democratic consolidation (for a recent update of this theory, see [1]). Consequently, the Chinese regime adopted an original solution. It decided to put in place only limited, Iliescu-type social policies. At the same time, it continued to encourage economic development (thus avoiding a Videnov-style collapse) while inhibiting its effects on the development of democracy. In a comparative study of economic development in the Sunan and Wenzhou regions, Zhang Jianjun identified two strikingly different regional development patterns. In Sunan, local government played important entrepreneurial roles in rural industrialization and collective ownership was predominant. Consequently, power has been concentrated in the hands of the local state and elites. In Wenzhou, people/ entrepreneurs are the main force driving development, so private business is the dominant ownership form; power is more dispersed. These different power relations determined opposite policies in the privatization of collectively owned enterprises: manipulated privatization in Sunan and relatively transparent privatization in Wenzhou. This led to the creation of different class structures in the two regions. Entrepreneurial-initiated development in Wenzhou produced more economic equality and a flat class structure while government-led development in Sunan created more inequality and a polarized class structure due to the government control of business opportunities. Today, Wenzhou is characterized by vibrant grass-root democratic practices, represented by competitive village elections and various bottom-up associations. In contrast, authoritarianism still prevails in Sunan, manifested by controlled village elections and government organized business associations ([62]: 34).

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Consequently, rapidly developing China does not have a homogenous society progressing toward a Western-type class structure that can only lead to middleclass triggered democratization. The Sunan pattern suggests that at least in a part of Chinas regions, economic development does not create a social environment favoring democratization. In other words, unlike the East European neocommunists, the Chinese regime found the way to ensure its survival without adopting counter-productive economic policies. This is indeed a key difference from the normal neo-communist pattern. Yet, even among communist countries there were atypical economic experiments such as the very liberal policies adopted by Titos Yugoslavia. Despite their incompatibility with the economic approaches of other communist states, they did not radically modify Yugoslavias communist character. Present China might have original economic options and plans for only limited social policies. Still, this is not enough to counterbalance the many similarities it shares with other neo-communist regimes. 5. Systematic Control of the Nascent Civil Society The fifth feature of neo-communism is the systematic control of the nascent civil society. Socio-economic development can endanger an authoritarian regime in the long run. The development of civil society, on the contrary, has immediate consequences. Videnov and Iliescu lost power as a result of civic mobilization. A similar process took place during the Colored Revolutions. As it was shown in Neo-Communist Regimes, neocommunists are more sensible than other authoritarian leaders to this danger. Unlike the promoters of ultra-nationalism, they do not have an aggressive ideology able to mobilize the society and legitimize their undemocratic actions. Being aware of this vulnerability, they take systematic action to hamper the development of civil society. Post-totalitarian China has witnessed the explosive growth of the number of non-governmental organizations. In 1989, there were 4,446 registered civil organizations ([28]: 162). In 2005, the number of NGOs wasaccording to the Ministry of Public Affairsclose to 280,000 ([38]: 10). Other sources claim that non-governmental and nonprofit civilian-run non-enterprise units reached 700,000 in 1998; while in 2005, there were more than 310,000 officially registered civic organizations above county level ([34]: 50). Some estimates for 2005 also take into consideration organizations that are not officially registered and put the total number of NGOs at 3 million (ibid.; [38]: 10). However, it is not certain that this growth is indicative of a genuine democratization potential. The development of the Chinese NGOs is in fact controlled by the communist authorities. The post-totalitarian state is retreating from many domains of socio-economic life and needs a substitute. Therefore, it has encouraged the creation of NGOs in the economic sphere, in the field of social welfare, and in the domain of social development. Still, all these NGOs basically serve the governments interest: they are helping hands, rather than autonomous organizations ([63]: 3). Jean-Philippe Bja goes as far as stating that the present system reserves to the CCP the right to create NGOs which represent society ([3]: 83). Consequently, while non-governmental organizations are being encouraged to play a greater role in areas such as poverty

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reduction, charity or environmental issues, their influence is virtually absent in sectors related to religious issues, ethnicity, and human rights ([63]: 34). This is easily ensured by the bureaucratic mechanisms regulating NGO activity. In China, all associations have to register with the government and must have a state organizational unit as its supervisory organization. ([11]: 523). Furthermore, only one association is allowed for each sector or area of social life (ibid.). A new NGO cannot be established if in the same administrative area there is already an association doing similar work. NGOs are also prevented from developing an extended organizational network as they cannot establish regional branches. Moreover, the government forbids the formation of associations that might challenge it politically or could weaken its control over society ([40]: 901). Overall, there is a visible structural weakness in Chinas civil organizations, including the inability to grow and expand, a shortage of funds, low capacity, low efficiency, and poor internal management ([28]: 163). The only possible solution, international support, had to be discarded when the Color Revolutions of Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan generated a great deal of alarm, fear, even paranoia in China ([48]: 91). Precisely because one of the main causes of their success was Western support for the development of local civil society, the government in Beijing became openly hostile to any external assistance for Chinese NGOs. An example is the 2005 visit of George Soros, president of the Soros Foundation and Open Society Institute. Upon arrival, he found that his lectures and meetings had been cancelled while the domestic Chinese media were forbidden to report on the visit (ibid.). However, the CCP has tolerated and even encouraged the development of nongovernmental organizations. The CCP has attempted to incorporate the civic organizations into the formal and informal structure of the party-state apparatus and integrate their participation in the conduct of public affairs and service delivery in achieving the goals of redistributive social and economic policies [13, 57]. The overall effect, however, is the same as in Belarus as the authorities succeed in almost completely annihilating the NGOs ideological autonomy. The development of Chinese civil society has been manipulated in a way that makes it unable to bring a major contribution to the democratization of China, at least in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the present Chinese political system shares the characteristics of the three East European neo-communist regimes presented in the previous sections. The differences due to its different genesis are limited. China follows the regular trajectory of a Belarus-type, hard neo-communist regime in terms of communist heritage, authoritarianism, ideology, prevention of pro-democracy socio-economic development, and control of the civil society. As the following section will show, the main consequence of this situation is the predictable stability of the Chinese regime.

Conclusions Against the rather diversified landscape of undemocratic post-communist regimes, neo-communism represents a special category. It preserves or restores

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communist structures, methods, and personnel in the framework of an authoritarian political construct whose ideology usually includes the promotion of redistributive social and economic policies and avoids the use of nationalism as the main instrument of political mobilization. The coherent efforts to hamper or stop the development of civil society represent a typical feature of these regimes. It is the success of these efforts that determines the evolution toward and the survival of hard neo-communist political systems. The soft regimes, unable to control the growth of the civic sector, are sooner or later overthrown due to the general mobilization championed by the civil society. Bulgaria, Romania, and Belarus have experienced neo-communist regimes. While not analyzed in this article, 20012009 Moldova can provide another example. In a different sub-region of the post-communist area, China is ruled today by a regime that belongs to the same category. Its only atypical element concerns the weak point of its East European counterparts: Beijing rejects economic policies that include the opposition to market reform. This opposition, intended to avoid the creation of a strong middle class favorable to democracy, leads to economic crisis and dependence on foreign financial support. The careful scrutiny of the communist and neo-communist East European experience made the Chinese leaders aware of and hostile to such dependence. They preferred an economic approach ensuring both economic viability and a pattern of socio-economic development fully compatible with their undemocratic regime. An original solution was also adopted with respect to the development of civil society. NGOs have actually been encouraged, but within a system that controls their development and suppresses their ideological autonomy. This prevents the non-governmental organizations from performing the political functions normally ascribed to civil society. Consequently, they are unable to mobilize the Chinese society against the authoritarian regime. Despite these original options, Chinas political system is strikingly similar to those of Videnov, Iliescu, and Lukashenka. Furthermore, Chinas neo-communist regime is a hard one. It is not threatened by the domestic and international vulnerabilities that led to the demise of the Bulgarian and Romanian regimes. Internally, it benefits from the uncontested control of society, which it inherited from the totalitarian regime without the delegitimizing parenthesis of a democratic episode. Internationally, it has a strong position that makes external pressure to democratize totally inefficient. Basically, the regime is similar to that of Belarus. But it is more stable as it has no need of foreign economic support and, consequently, it is immune to external factors. Many analysts see the present Chinese political system as an intermediate phase in the transition from totalitarian communism to different possible final stages. The view of this article is that the transition is in fact over. It is now a stable, hard neocommunist regime that has fully developed its ideological and organizational structures and patterns. Furthermore, it is not confronted by any major challenge. As long as it controls the development of the civil society and is able to avoid patterns of socio-economic development favoring democratization, at least in the medium term, the neo-communist regime would be able to preserve its present characteristics as well as its uncontested control over China.

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