This conference is chaired by Elizabeth J. Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University; and Sebastian Heilmann, professor of political science, Trier University, Germany. For over thirty years, China watchers have been forecasting the imminent collapse of the communist political system. Mao Zedong’s death in September 1976 raised early expectations that the communist party-state would not long survive its charismatic founder. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping’s bold economic reforms led to predictions that China’s emerging civil society would soon undo the communist system. The Tiananmen Uprising of 1989, followed by the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, heightened these expectations. Since the 1990s, the much-heralded surge of popular protest and supposed rising “rights consciousness” on the part of ordinary Chinese citizens has further fueled such speculation. For this conference, we will be asking for formal scholarly papers to trace the major continuities and changes in a key policy arena from the period of the revolutionary base areas (and urban underground movement) to the present.