Author (Your Name)

Haolu Wang, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Walter Hatch

Second Advisor

Ariel Armony


Recent years have seen an emerging civil society in an authoritarian China. The authoritarian embrace of civil society challenges the conventional wisdom that civil society is closely linked to democracy. In Beijing, the rhetoric of civil society linked less to democracy than to modernization. However, does civil society development have any impact on democratization in authoritarian regimes? The thesis tries to provide a tentative answer by studying civil society and democratization in post-Mao China. As a result of economic development and political reforms, gradual political liberalization has marked a shift of state-society relations that gives rise to a certain degree of democratization and a growing civil society. The thesis uses a statistical correlation study to examine the relations between grassroots democratization and civil society development. The study concludes that civil society development may have contributed to democratization at the grassroots level but not on the national level. The impact of civil society on democratization depends on the political structure of the state and will remain limited unless the government allows for further state-led democratic openings.


China, Civil Society, Democratization, Authoritarian regimes