Hegemonic projects: Interventions on the Politics of Communist Elite Legitimation in China, 2008-2015

Andreas Møller Mulvad

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch


This dissertation examines how China’s Communist Party (CCP) remains in power even as Chinese society is becoming increasingly unequal in the era of capitalist reforms. It hence investigates a classical problem in politics - how state elites legitimate their rule – in a contemporary Chinese context. Building on a theoretical framework inspired by the British state theorist Bob Jessop, it is argued that to understand legitimation processes, we must combine two perspectives: first, how are social forces beyond the state involved in influencing the agenda of the state elite, and second, how is the state elite responding to such societal pressures. On this basis, the dissertation addresses, through a set of empirical studies, how Chinese intellectuals and the CCP leadership are involved in the contested production of competing ‘hegemonic projects’ designed to create a popular common sense about what kind of socio-economic and political development is desirable for China.

The dissertation posits that one key debate on how the CCP should legitimate itself took the form of ideological competition between two local development models in ‘statist’ Chongqing and ‘liberal’ Guangdong between 2008 and 2012. However, drawing on conversations with a range of prominent Chinese intellectuals it is also argued, against a dominant view in the literature, that hegemonic visions for China’s future do not necessarily fall into either a liberal or a statist camp. Rather, we should disentangle disagreements on a capitalism vs. socialism axis from a popular democratic vs. elitist axis to understand the ideological terrain in which the CCP leadership must navigate.

Indeed, the dissertation argues that since 2012 the Xi Jinping leadership has begun to articulate a new hegemonic project, which combines selected legacies of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong in the hope of legitimation: Xi has promoted deeper market reforms, more rule of law, Chinese cultural tradition instead of democratisation – but also the revival of charismatic legitimation and a Maoist ‘Mass Line’ understanding of Communist virtue. The dissertation, finally, discusses how this emerging ‘Xiist’ hegemonic project of consolidating a capitalist and paternalist social order could come under challenge from social movements of the peasantry and/or the working class.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKøbenhavn
PublisherKøbenhavns Universitet
Number of pages588
ISBN (Print)9788773937815
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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