The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century

Book talk by Stein Ringen, University of Oxford

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Stein Ringen presents his book The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century. The Chinese political economy is like no other system known to man, now or in history. This book explains how the system works and where it may be moving.

- What are the intentions and priorities of the Chinese leaders?
- What kind of leader is Xi Jinping, where is he leading China and how radically is he changing the regime?
- How strong is the Chinese economy and how fast is it growing?
- How does the socialist market economy work?
- How is the apparatus of the party-state made up and how does it work?
- What is the balance of pragmatism and ideology?
- Is a new ideological foundation in the making?
- What are the means of dictatorial control?
- Is there a ‘totalitarianism with Chinese characteristics’?

Drawing on Chinese and international sources, on extensive collaboration with Chinese scholars, and on the political science of state analysis, the author concludes:

- Under the new leadership of Xi Jinping, the system of government has been transformed into a new regime, radically harder than the legacy of Deng Xiaoping;
- China is less strong economically and more dictatorial politically than the world has wanted to believe.

Stein Ringen, a Norwegian political scientist, is emeritus professor at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, where he from 1990 held the chair in sociology and social policy, and an affiliate of St Antony’s College, Oxford. He started his academic career as a junior fellow at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and was subsequently Professor of Welfare Studies at the University of Stockholm, senior research scientist at the Norwegian Central Bureau of Statistics, and adjunct Professor at Lillehammer University College. He has held visiting professorships and fellowships in Paris, Berlin, Prague, Brno, Barbados, Jerusalem, Sydney, Hong Kong, and at Harvard University. He has been Head of Research in the Norwegian Ministry of Public Administration, Assistant Director General in the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, a consultant to the United Nations, and a news and feature reporter with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. He is a visiting professor at Richmond, the American International University in London.
His books include What Democracy Is For (Princeton University Press, 2007; Chinese version published by Xinhua in 2012), The Korean State and Social Policy (co-authored, Oxford University Press 2011), The Possibility of Politics (Oxford University Press, 1987 and Transaction, 2006), and Nation of Devils: Democracy and the Problem of Obedience (Yale University Press, 2013, the Chinese version of which, by CITIC Publishers, is currently ‘suspended’ by the censors).

Feel free to check out Stein Ringen's blog at

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies

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Duration: 01:25:15


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Published: Thursday, March 9, 2017