Image of Photo of Professor Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard

Politics and governance in China: the party in control?

The China Centre lecture on Thursday 11 November 2021 was delivered by Professor Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard, Professor of Chinese Studies, Department of International Economics, Government and Business, and former Director of the Asia Research Centre, Copenhagen Business School.

Professor Brødsgaard’s lecture addressed the ‘China puzzle’. International measures of governance often give China a low score, yet China’s development record has been outstandingly successful. In Professor Brødsgaard’s view, in order to answer this puzzle, it is necessary to analyse the reasons for the resilience of the Communist Party of China (CPC). This requires an appreciation of the large number of regulations that govern the way in which the CPC operates, and the process through which these regulations are updated and revised in the light of changing conditions. Professor Brødsgaard noted that the composition of the Party has altered greatly over the long-term, moving away from being composed primarily of peasants and industrial workers into one that is far more socially diverse. He pointed out that demand for Party membership is around ten times greater than the supply of places available. It has become almost impossible to move to the highest levels in the Party without a high level of education. Professor Brødsgaard analysed the process of regular interchange of positions between leaders of state-owned enterprises and senior government officials. He termed this system of political economy as ‘ambidextrous’, in that it is able to achieve business and political goals simultaneously.

A wide range of issues was addressed in the Q&A session. They included: comparison of the nomenklatura system in China and the Soviet Union; comparison of the role of large firms in national policy-making in China and the USA; the significance of presidential term limits in political systems; the role of President Xi Jinping within Chinese national decision-making; the relationship between the centre and the localities in government decision-making; the contrast between political decision-making in China and India; changes in the degree of centralisation in political decision-making in China; and the wide range of issues beyond political democracy involved in the concept of ‘human rights’.

Professor Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard 柏思德, PhD, is Professor at the Department of International Economics, Government and Business and former Director of the Asia Research Centre (2003-2016) at the Copenhagen Business School. From 1990-2003 he was Associate Professor in China Studies at the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen. His most recent books include The Communist Party Since 1949: Organization, Ideology and Prospect for Change (with Chen Gang) (Brill, 2019); Critical Readings on the Chinese Communist Party, 4 vols. (Brill, 2017); From Accelerated Accumulation to Socialist Market Economy in China: Economic Discourse and Development from 1953 to the Present (Brill 2017); and Chinese Politics as Fragmented Authoritarianism: Earthquakes, Energy and Environment (Routledge, 2016). His articles have appeared in such leading scholarly journals as The China Quarterly, Asian Survey, Modern China, Governance and Public Policy in China, and China: An International Journal.

Professor Brødsgaard has held visiting research appointments in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and the USA. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore; Honorary Research Fellow, Peking University; Non-resident Senior Research Fellow, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies; and a trustee of Cambridge China Development Trust. He is also on the faculty of the Sino-Danish Center for Education and Research, Beijing. His current research covers state-Party-business relations in China; the nomenklatura system and cadre management; governance and reform of Chinese state-owned enterprises.