Student Research Projects

Does Chinese Gradualism Obstruct or Promote Long-Term Democratization?

Student James Kerr
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Political Science
Course POLS 499: Senior Seminar


In the post-Mao period, gradual economic reforms have moved China towards a market economy. These incremental changes resulted in a highly stable and successful Chinese economy. Many scholars assumed that the shift to a market economy combined with China’s economic stability would lead to democracy in China. When it failed to emerge, these scholars wondered why. I hypothesize that gradualism in China is not in opposition to democracy, but rather that democracy is slow in coming. Gradualism has left China more democratic then it has been in the past. I also intend to show that economic factors alone, such as a move towards capitalism, do not necessarily lead to democracy, but that social factors must be accounted for as well.