Engineering Stability

Rebuilding the State in Twenty-First Century Chinese Universities

Subjects: Asian Studies, China, Political Science, Governance
Paperback : 9780472057054, 240 pages, 14 figures, 5 tables, 6 x 9, November 2024
Hardcover : 9780472077052, 240 pages, 14 figures, 5 tables, 6 x 9, November 2024
Open Access : 9780472904679, 240 pages, 14 figures, 5 tables, 6 x 9, November 2024
See expanded detail +

How can a state reinvent itself to survive?

Table of contents

Chapter 1: The Compromised State and its Reinvention
Chapter 2: Concentric Circles: The Institutional Infrastructure
Chapter 3: A Torrent of Encounters: The Significative Infrastructure
Chapter 4: Shaping Public Life the Regulatory Infrastructure
Chapter 5: Nurturing Compliance: The Incentivisation Infrastructure
Chapter 6: At the Perilous Moment: Critical and Sensitive Periods
Chapter 7: Conclusion


While the processes of founding a new state or constructing a new political order after a transition have been well-studied, there has been much less attention to how regimes that survive major political crises purposefully reinvent a post-crisis state to respond to updated concepts, new circumstances, changed social demands, and a realigned elite consensus. In Engineering Stability, Yan Xiaojun examines the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to reassert control and restore order on university campuses in the post-Tiananmen era. Since prominent national universities serve the nation-state as training grounds for the country’s future political, economic, and cultural elites, public life on university campuses has immediate political relevance. 

Drawing on rich materials gathered from in-depth field research in China during the Xi Jinping era, Engineering Stability invites scholars of comparative politics, state theory, contentious politics, and political development to rethink and reimagine how what Yan calls “a compromised autocratic state” is rebuilt within and from itself after overcoming a traumatic moment of vulnerability. The book further details the four types of infrastructure — institutional, significative, regulatory, and incentivizing — that state rebuilders need to overhaul, and looks into the campaign of state rebuilding in post-Tiananmen Chinese universities and its implications for our understanding of politics in general.

Yan Xiaojun is Associate Professor of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong.

“Grounded in original and thought-provoking fieldwork, Engineering Stability sheds new light on party-state policies and practices related to the experiences of university students in contemporary China.”

- Teresa Wright, California State University, Long Beach

“This is an excellent book on university campuses in contemporary China, seen as a laboratory of how the Chinese Party-State has rebuilt itself after 1989. Yan poses a compelling argument about the impairment of the Chinese state in the wake of 1989 and how this crisis shaped its reconstruction.”

- Jérôme Doyon, Sciences Po