Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History & Political Thought, History Concentration (MA)

Committee Member

Meert, Abigail

Committee Member

Hazelton, Andrew J.

Committee Member

Garica, Nilda


Why has the modern Peoples Republic of China not democratized? Since the late 20th century, scholarly consensus has acknowledged a process of waves of democratization occurring globally since the early 19th century, and yet the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has remained mostly unmoved and aloof to these changes. This work seeks to understand why the PRC has not democratized since the opening-up of the nation and its markets under Deng Xiaoping after Mao. To answer these questions on democratic resistance the work highlights the evolving logic of the PRC’s system and its leadership since the 1980s. As I argue, the central focus on stability within the PRC provides insight into Chinese resistance to democracy. To do this the work applies theories of democratization to three important historical moments related to Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong, a once democratic enclave within the nation and its relationship to the driving leadership of each era. What is shown is that the modern PRC’s refusal of democratization revolves around two central factors: the decisions of Chinese elites, who have increasingly sought authoritative control in the name of stability, and the popular indifference of ordinary Chinese citizens, for whom access to political discourse is severely limited and recent economic prosperity has by and large quieted the demand and discussion of Western politics. The findings suggest that the PRC is now less likely than it has been in decades to democratize, and the that the nation has seen the rise authoritarian and centralized control steadily increasing under Xi Jinping to levels that have not been seen since the Maoist era.