In the summer of 1981 the People’s Republic of China has reached a crucial stage in its development. In the space of less than five years changes have been introduced which are remarkable in their scope and, potentially, in terms of their long-term impact on the political life of a nation of 1,000 million people. At this juncture China’s political system gives the appearance of resembling the more ‘mature’ industrialized states in the socialist world. It would be foolish to write of ‘the end of ideology’, but in China ‘Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought’ is now being ‘creatively applied’. The political process is far more open than it was, and is much more institutionalized. The leading bodies of both Party and state meet frequently, and their deliberations are given considerably more publicity in the offficial press. The days when the late Mary Wright, the distinguished sinologist, described the People’s Republic as ‘a journalist’s paradise and a scholar’s nightmare’ may at last be ending. And the introduction of more regularized procedures has important implications for leadership change.