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137. Transformations under Xi: A Critical Perspective on Political Change in China

Fri, March 17, 3:00 to 5:00pm, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, 2nd Floor, Wentworth

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


The rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping has thus far been marked as a definitive shift from the previous era. Scholars and commentators have drawn attention to changes in civil society, the media, and centralization of power. A deeper look at state-society relations over the past three years, however, points as much to innovations or upgrades as to persisting continuities in China’s mode of governance. This panel explores present-day state-society relations under President Xi by analyzing the critical spheres of security, law, anti-corruption campaigns and the media. The papers highlight the latest political innovations in how policy is being implemented drawing on grassroots analysis, as well as on top-down perspectives. They illuminate the long-standing governance realities, including uneven enforcement at the local level, the contestation between creative societal actors and coercive enforcement agents, and the bureaucratic tensions that often produce conflicting signals and incoherent responses. Taken together, the papers demonstrate that Xi’s transformation is not to be overestimated. They also make the case that scholars should pay as much attention to non-change as they do to change in order to understand China’s complex political climate.

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