Editors Vivienne Shue and Patricia Thornton introduce the purpose of To Govern China as explaining how the Chinese polity is being governed. Readers expecting a reboot of fragmented authoritarianism will be disappointed.1 The editors and contributors do not propose a new model of centralized governance under Xi Jinping, but instead use metaphors like “circus” and “braided rivers” to explain the practice of governance in China. Shue and Thornton advocate understanding Chinese governance as a practice, rather than a set of institutions, patterned by “kinetic fluidity and the simultaneity of their performance” (p. 18). The supporting chapters then provide a “scan … of the operative range of governing practices” (p. 14).

The innovative nature of this volume derives from two departures from existing literature: focusing on practices rather than institutions and studying these practices outside of “transitology” (transition to democracy) without the bias of assuming authoritarianism is constantly under threat...

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