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Despite the gradual growth of cultural pluralism (although not necessarily political pluralism) in China, according to political scientist Andrew Nathan, even though the liberals, those who wanted more liberalization and economic freedom, and conservatives, those who were against such stand on the left by Western standards, they both want big government and egalitarianism.

The liberals wanted government to fight privileges with more economic and political reform, and the conservatives wanted government to protect citizens' welfare with less reform. Many also wanted government to fight inflation, corruption, crime, bureaucracy, inequitable income distribution, and inadequate government investment in education, as well as inadequate jobs, poor quality and crowded housing, shoddy goods, environmental pollution, etc. A substantial number of people explored the weakness of government in the traditional realms of government responsibility. Their agenda is called the "Tiananmen Agenda" since these issues were fought for by student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in May 1989.

Those who were concerned with the issues of daily life (the Tiananmen agenda) and the reform agenda are largely young, male, urban, and educated, while those who leaned toward the economic welfare agenda were largely older, rural, and female. The ideological divide was similar to that in the West: these groups represented the winners and losers of reform. Reform dissolved the commune and the limited social benefits associated with it.

Nathan's conclusion regarding future Chinese politics is interesting: "This urban-rural gap may likely shape the future of Chinese politics. Deng's reform may thus have bequeathed to China not only a soft transition to the market but also the beginnings of relatively clear, institutionalized, interest-based cleavages that can either shape a post-Deng authoritarian corporatist structure or undergird a democratic party system if one should emerge" (Andrew Nathan, China's Transition, Columbia University Press, 1998, chapter 12.). Nathan's conclusion is insightful, not only because it points to the continued urban/rural divide that may have sharpened due to the newly introduced market economy, but also because it highlights a possible alternative to political liberalism--interest group politics within the framework of the Communist Party leadership. The Maoist political lines may perhaps leave no trace behind ten or twenty years from now, and the Communist Party may continue to focus on economic development while not permitting direct criticisms against it, much like the governments of Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan a decade ago. On the other hand, the Communist Party of the future may begin to seriously address the grievances and complaints of people as they gain greater access to the state through the formation of interest groups, perhaps not just one urban and one rural group, but many subdivisions within each of these groups (e.g., various urban groups, such as the private entrepreneurs or the unemployed workers).


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