Rapid economic growth in China over the last four decades has failed to bring about democratization. Instead of undergoing evolutionary liberalization, the Leninist party-state has in recent years reverted to a form of neo-Stalinist rule. China’s experience may appear to contradict modernization theory, which links economic development with democracy. A closer look at this experience, however, shows that democratizing a post-totalitarian regime is far more difficult than democratizing an authoritarian regime because post-totalitarian regimes, such as the one dominated by the Chinese Communist Party, possess far greater capacity and resources to resist and neutralize the liberalizing effects of modernization. However, the medium-term success of these regimes may only ensure their eventual demise through revolution. The socioeconomic transformation of societies under post-totalitarian rule empowers social forces and greatly increase the odds of revolutionary change when these regimes undergo liberalization, as shown in the former Soviet bloc.