Drawing on the work in my dissertation, I have prepared two book manuscripts.
The first project, “Cleaning Up the Revolution: Elite Power Struggles after Stalin and Mao,” project asks the question: how do leaders win power struggles in Leninist regimes? Many political scientists emphasize the importance of institutions in such regimes. Such institutionalization allegedly provides a mechanism for distributing patronage and debating policies, stipulates rules that delineate a group that selects the leadership, and prevents the military and secret police from playing a special coercive role. This book manuscript instead argues that the defining feature of one-party states is weak institutionalization. Power struggles are therefore determined by prestige and sociological ties, the manipulation of multiple decision-making bodies, and politicized militaries and secret police. Leaders with legacies as successful warfighters are especially capable of dominating such systems. Institutionalization can only explain why elites do not pointlessly and unnecessarily violate ambiguous rules, losers rarely defect from the party or resist decisions after suffering defeat, and the coercive organs never blatantly wield force against united civilian leaders. These arguments are based on a theoretically rigorous examination of the power struggles fought by Nikita Khrushchev and Deng Xiaoping.
The second project examines Chinese elite politics before and after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. This time period presents two empirical puzzles that have important significance for how we think about state violence and democratization. First, why did the People’s Liberation Army use force against protesters even though a majority of the party, state, and military leadership opposed such an action? And second, how and why was the reform process restarted in 1992 by Deng Xiaoping, a man who held no official positions and was the main supporter of the crackdown in 1989? With regards to these two issues, many political scientists would assume that debates within the elite about how to preserve China’s authoritarian system were shaped by concerns over wealth aggregation in society. However, newly available evidence suggests a radically different answer – the key factors explaining the outcomes of 1989 and 1992 were Deng Xiaoping’s somewhat idiosyncratic views about the nature of Chinese society and his special authority created by historical legacies.