Economic Development and Political Liberalisation:
: An Inevitable Relationship? The Case of China

  • Maria Mouskou

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


In this thesis I look at modernization theory and the relationship between economic development and political liberalization. I focus my analysis on China and I investigate a recent argument that seeks to explain why China's economic development has yet to lead to democratization. This argument asserts that authoritarian regimes are able to suppress political opposition while promoting growth by controlling "coordination goods." However when I investigated the control of Chinese Internet, I discovered that despite the Chinese Internet system being porous, Internet users maintain a sense of self-censorship and do not bypass the government established limits. By looking at Internet users' demographics and their social environment I demonstrate the analysis suffers from deterministic rationalization and a tendency to explain rather than understand. Embedded in a structural explanation of political change, these types of analyses assume the identity and thus the behaviour of people. Even though they claim to explain the weakened link between economic and political liberalisation, they bring with them the fundamental assumptions of modernization, which amplifies the role of economic development at the expense of human action. At the end, their explanation only serves to strengthen the modernization theory as it only tries to give excuses to the delayed development of a democratic political system as stipulated by the deterministic character of modernization. As a result, instead of seeking to understand the underlying forces in play they only explain why X has not yet led to Y without contemplating the possibility of X leading Z and not Y. By exposing the blind spots of these analyses and exemplify their rigidity, I suggest that it is time to break away from conventional wisdom and start looking at other possibilities.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorMike Williams (Supervisor)

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