The rapid demise of Soviet-type regimes seems to confirm that communist ideology is either resistant to change or, when it does change, changes totally, and that the belief factor is extremely weak or non-existent in these previously self-avowed ideological systems. But what about the Chinese case where ideology has survived and has entertained major empirical reforms? This article seeks to argue that it is possible to retain the conception of ideology as a belief system and incorporate it into an interpretation of its role in the demise or maintenance of Soviet-type regimes. An adapted, but still centrally sanctioned, doctrine can contribute both to policy innovations and to the maintenance of ideological hegemony and political stability. Conversely, the failure to manage ideological change and the corresponding loss of ideological hegemony in a Soviet-type regime can contribute significantly to the breakdown of its moral and political authority. These points will be illustrated with a survey of leading Chinese discussions on the nature and role of ideology, ideological change, and the role of ideology in empirical reforms. These discussions show how the Chinese regime has steered a middle course, against conservative opposition to change on the one hand and liberal challenge to the system on the other, leading to successful reform communism.

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