SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Why China Should Democratize (and sooner rather than later)

Professor Joseph Wong
Professor Joseph Wong (Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto)

Date: 18 January 2021Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 18 January 2021Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Webinar



The conventional wisdom is that democracy will arrive in China – if it ever arrives – only after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime collapses. In this scenario, democracy emerges from the ashes of collapsed regime. Yet, there is a robust pattern of democratic transition in Asia (and elsewhere) in which strong, not weak, authoritarian regimes pre-emptively lead the process of democratization. Drawing on other examples in the East Asia region, notably Taiwan, Dan Slater and Joseph Wong refer to this as “democracy through strength.” In this scenario, authoritarian developmental regimes, which have accumulated “strengths” over time, concede democracy in order to preserve its hold on power. They lead transition with “confidence.” Conceding democracy is not tantamount to conceding defeat. Professor Wong argues the CCP should consider democratizing sooner rather than later, to usher in democratic reform in China, and importantly, for the regime to maintain political power. The CCP should have confidence. He will also discuss, however, why this is an unlikely path the ruling regime in China will take.


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Why China Should Democratize (and sooner rather than later)

About the speaker

Joseph Wong is the University of Toronto’s Vice President, International. He is also the Roz and Ralph Halbert Professor of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, and a Professor of Political Science. He was the Director of the Asian Institute at the Munk School from 2005 to 2014, and held the Canada Research Chair in health, democracy and development for a full two terms, 2006 to 2016. Wong is the author of many academic articles and several books, including Healthy Democracies: Welfare Politics In Taiwan and South Korea and Betting on Biotech: Innovation and the Limits of Asia’s Developmental State, both published by Cornell University Press. He is the co-editor, with Edward Friedman, of Political Transitions in Dominant Party Systems: Learning to Lose, published by Routledge. Wong’s articles have appeared in journals such as Annual Review of Political Science, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Politics and Society, Governance, among many others. Professor Wong’s current research focuses on poverty and innovation. Professor Wong is the founder of the Reach Alliance at the University of Toronto. He is also collaborating with Professor Dan Slater (Michigan) on a book about Asia’s development and democracy, currently under contract with Princeton University Press. Professor Wong is also writing a book for the Cambridge University Press on the political economy of the welfare state in East Asia. Professor Wong teaches courses in the department of Political Science, the Munk One program and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. Wong was educated at McGill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


This webinar will take place online via Zoom. Click here to register.

* The webinar will also be live-streamed on our Facebook page for those that are unable to participate via Zoom.

Chair: Professor Steve Tsang (Director, SOAS China Institute)

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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