JCU Welcomes Professor Jian Zhang for a Talk on Governing a Plateaued China

The Guarini Institute for Public Affairs welcomed Professor Jian Zhang for a lecture titled “Governing a Plateaued China: Exploring the Paradigm Shift of CCP State,” on March 7, 2024. The event, which was the fourth this year, was moderated by Professor Enrico Fardella, Associate Director of the Institute. In addition to being the Director of the ChinaMed.it project, a research platform that examines China’s role in the larger Mediterranean region, Professor Fardella holds positions as Visiting Professor at JCU and Associate Professor in the Department of Social and Human Sciences at the University of Naples “L’Orientale.”  

Governing a Plateaued China: Exploring the Paradigm Shift of CCP State
Governing a Plateaued China: Exploring the Paradigm Shift of CCP State

Professor Jian Zhang is an expert in comparative politics and Chinese politics and Visiting Professor at the University of Turin. After earning his Ph.D. in 2007 from Columbia University, he became Associate Professor in the School of Government at Peking University, China. He currently teaches courses on the economy and society in contemporary China at the University of Turin. 

Professor Zhang began the lecture by explaining the dynamic landscape of contemporary China, an imperative step to understanding the shifting paradigms within the Chinese party-state. His talk highlighted the evolving strategies and ideologies employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to maintain stability and power.  

In order to understand China’s plateaued growth, Professor Zhang elaborated on modern trends in reference to China’s rapid economic growth over the past few decades and how it has led to unprecedented development and transformation. However, in recent years, this growth has plateaued, presenting new challenges for the CCP. Professor Zhang emphasized the importance of recognizing this plateaued growth phase as a pivotal moment in China’s socio-political landscape. 

One of the central themes in Professor Zhang’s lecture was the paradigm shift in CCP governance strategies necessitated by China’s plateaued growth. He argued that traditional approaches to governance, characterized by rapid economic expansion and de-centralization of power, are no longer sufficient. Instead, there is a growing emphasis on stability maintenance, social and ideological cohesion, and sustainable development.  

Professor Zhang examined how the CCP is adapting its governance strategies to address the challenges posed by plateaued growth. This includes a greater focus on social welfare, environmental sustainability, and innovation-driven growth. He highlighted the importance of policy reforms aimed at promoting inclusive growth and reducing socio-economic disparities.  

Technology and innovation also play a crucial role in the CCP’s efforts to navigate China’s plateaued growth phase. Professor Zhang described how the Chinese government is investing heavily in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and renewable energy to drive economic restructuring and sustainable development. He analyzed the implications of China’s techno-authoritarianism model for governance and social control. 

The CCP’s legitimacy is increasingly being challenged in the face of decelerated economic growth and social dissatisfaction. Professor Zhang explained how the CCP is reshaping its narrative of legitimacy by emphasizing nationalism, social harmony, and the promise of a “Chinese Dream.” 

He concluded by discussing the role of propaganda, ideological indoctrination, and strict information control in maintaining CCP rule. 

(Joan Cottingham)