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Legitimacy in the Deng era in China: a critical reappraisal
journal contributionposted on 1991-01-01, 00:00 authored by H Baogang
Discussion of legitimacy in Soviet-type regimes requires qualification when applied to China, where the political rulers need the legitimacy provided by pro-government intellectuals, and where intellectuals demand autonomy and independence for their social position. Since Tiananmen the traditional role of the scholar-official who defines what is proper in matters of legitimacy has become more confrontational. The view that the issue of legitimacy is more important in the relationship between leadership and administrative personnel than between leadership and masses also requires qualification in the Chinese case, where mass legitimation retains its salience. As concerns the relationship between ideology and legitimacy, the chief problem is the interplay between structure of power and legitimacy doctrines, and between new and old forms of legitimation which relate to the goal of political development and political democratization. Deng's move towards legal-rationality as a basis for legitimacy is impressive but flawed: power in Deng's day still resides in the person of high officials and not in their office or in institutions. © 1991, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.