Organized Panel Session
To promote comparative perspectives on Asian communism, this panel brings together scholars of Vietnam, China, North Korea and Mongolia along with a discussant specializing in European communism (Bunce) to examine the trajectories of reform and regime durability in communist Asia. Using a variety of methodologies ranging from surveys and archival research to interviews, the authors collectively examine three factors that have influenced authoritarian persistence: the strength of communist parties, the international system, and legitimacy. Vu and Heurlin demonstrate how the personalized authority of party elites and the timing of elite succession influenced the ability to initiate economic reforms (in North Korea and Vietnam) as well as the ability to repress pro-democracy movements (in China and Mongolia). At the mass level, Schuler’s paper demonstrates that continued party strength allows Vietnam to dominate elections. The international system has also profoundly influenced Asian communism. Heurlin shows that in contrast to China, Mongolia’s dependence on Soviet aid and efforts to solicit Western aid inhibited repression of its pro-democracy movement. In Vietnam, Vu shows that the reduction of tensions with the West facilitated economic reforms, while confrontation with the West inhibited reforms in North Korea. Competition with South Korea and China influenced efforts to maintain legitimacy in the “divided states” of North Korea and Mongolia. Shaw demonstrates that North Korea leveraged its conflicts with South Korea to stoke nationalism, while Mongolia’s closer ideological alliance with the Soviet Union inhibited nationalist legitimacy. Ideological commitments, meanwhile, also influenced economic reforms in Vietnam and North Korea (Vu).