Democratization in Chinese Terms DRAFT
2017-11-03 publish
339 Views
   “Democracy” (or “Democratization”) is a popular concept in today’s world. As far as China’s politics is concerned, we may find three categories that are operating. The first category pertains to where the concept comes from, which in this paper I would call “democratization in American terms.” The second category refers to what really happens in the actual use of the concept in the discourse of politicians, scholars and media; as I would call it, a mix of American and local (Russian or Chinese) terms in which democracy suggests diversely. For American China scholars, the concept is primarily related to American styled “constitutional democracy,” which can be expressed further in a few more basic concepts such asparliamentary body, rule of law, rights, free election, competitive party system, the mechanism of check and balance, etc. The third category,which I call“democracy (or democratization) in Chinese terms,” rather draw on the idea, “the power of the people, by the people and for the people,” or “minzhu,” albeit it also finds its roots in American tradition but does not make much sense in the discourse of liberal democracy. 

Why is it important to differentiate democracy(or democratization)in whose terms? The reason is that democracy does notmakea coherent and strictly logical set of ideas but heavily dependent on and decisively relevant to the connotations of the word “terms,”which may signify“conditions, language, stipulations, provisos, provisions, and requisites (fundamentals, basics).” Having said these, democracy (or democratization) in American terms advises plainlythatit bein American language and with the American conditions, stipulations, provisions, and requisites (fundamentals or basics). In another word, democracy as discursive concept is defined inalanguage under the American conditions, with American requirements, and out of American fundamentals or basics. In this respect we may consider two forms that democracy (or democratization) is imparted from one party to another party, that is,asAmerican liberal democracy theory and American foreign policy(as area of its practice). No matterit is inliberal democracytheory or foreign policy, democracy (or democratization) in American terms lays bare whose interests that it appeals to:theinterests of the individualseeking unlimited accumulation of wealthas protected by Godandnatural rights and law.American foreign policypursues the same interests of the conceptual individualsby subsuming themunder the concept of national interests.


1. American Liberal Democracy


   John Locke has been considered the father of liberaldemocracy theorythat undergirds the structure of Western democratic states such as the United States.Although the entire liberal democratic political doctrine is not a particularly coherent system,in its development from the 17thcentury to the 18thcentury all the way until it became an American form, the fundamental issue that liberal democracy has made its focus is to justify the individual’s seeking unlimited accumulation of wealth and how it be protected by the government form, which is called a democracy.In this respect, what Locke did was that heset up the goal of the liberalargument:the legitimacy of the individual’slifetime goal toseek unlimited accumulation of wealth andthat s/he beprotected by God in the name of natural rights and natural laws.In justifyingand appealing to a democracy,whichprotectsthe individual’saction toseek unlimited accumulation of wealth, Locke underwent a number of foci in his argument.


(1)Acquiring Unlimited WealthàWar of Men against ManàPerfect Freedom

Thomas Hobbes witnesses human beings as being caught up in a helpless vicious cycle, fromfear of deathin the state of nature that every manas an“enemy to every man,totryingevery means to attain security and avoid war for peace,then toseeking more and more in terms of self interest and power,hence toinstillingfear.Hobbeshas obviouslybeen bothered greatly by the fact that human beings ceaselessly seek unlimited power and wealthand create the terrible situations. Nevertheless, where Hobbes views pessimistically,Locke most desires to implant in the reader’s mind the opposite of Hobbes’s by presenting a view that the state of nature is a condition of perfect freedom as well as of perfect equality. We may surmise the fact by asking ourselves if Locke deliberatelytries todefend seeking unlimited wealth and power in the name of freedom, equality, peace, and nature in order to argue against Hobbes’ conception of the contracted government as absolute power.


(2)Democracy as Protection of Private Property

In addition, Lockealsopresenteda second viewofthe samestate, which runs against his first viewwhilehe arguingthat a government is necessary but not absolute except for a democracy. Here democracy is made plain tosuggest alimited government, which does not infringebut protectsthe individual’srights of private property andthe liberty toseek unlimited accumulation of wealthin the name of natural rights and natural lawsbestowed by God. In this respect,justification ofrevolutiondistinguishes Locke’sliberal democracy, which is, whenthe government fails in protecting the individual’s rights to seek power and wealth, the individual has a right to revolt.Locke giveslegitimacy to the government, or democracy which implements natural laws and natural rights inprotecting privateproperty, but not interfere,while accuse the type of government which has failed in this respect, namely a tyranny which is illegitimate.


(3)Money Allows Unlimited Accumulation 

In justifyingunlimited accumulation of wealthLockestartswith the concept of private property. For him, private property came from the processin whichan individualmixes his labor with propertypreviouslyheld in common in the state of nature.God gives theindividualthe rightto appropriate as much common property as he desires so long as “there is enough and as good left in common for others” and what has been appropriated does not spoil. From a perspective, Locke seems to believe natural law severely limits the amount of private property; from another, however,he has found some way around this limitation,i.e., money does not spoil, hence does not violate natural law. Therefore,one can acquire an unlimited amount of money, hence property, without violating the precepts of natural law.


(4) Checks and Balance:

Following the legitimacy and argument for protection that Locke has so far made of private property and the individual’s unlimited accumulation of wealth, democracy as Locke introduces as “checks and balances” of powers seems plainly understandable. Andmost importantly,it wasLocke’s system that was later the foundation on which the U.S. government was founded. Why should democracy adopt the mechanisms of checks and balances? As Brian Nelson argues, it is indeed implicitly follows a very modern belief that human nature cannot be changed while its effects can be controlled by “scientifically” structuring government. We mayagainsurmise the fact by asking ourselves if Lockehas implicitly promoted that freedom of unlimited accumulation of wealth indicates towards human nature the issue is not to control but to let free. Logically, checks and balances do not contain unlimited accumulation of wealth, hence the not-that-good part of human nature; what the mechanisms do is rather, (implicitly, though) to give rights to human nature but“to avoid this State of War,” which isone great reason of Men’s putting themselves into Society, and quitting (that is, contracting out of) the State of Nature.


(5) Majority Rule

The concept of majority rule may provide a footnote to the separation and checks and balances of power in why the mechanisms are important even when they do not contain unlimited accumulation of wealth, hence not-that-good part of human nature. It is indeed a democracy less in modern sense for Locke’s majority is to be composed of men of property, not the people as a whole. Put another way, separation and checks and balances of power may well be understood as between men of property. This is agreeable to another of his points, liberty is a property right and to have property in one’s person implies the right to think and speak, and act freely. The majority of the majority rule in government is by anyway the minority of society who own property. Liberal democracy often sounds like thatevery oneis and all enjoy naturalrightsof god’s blessing while logics oftennecessarilygives rise toinequalityin empirical experience, forthe justification ofthe rightstocompete forunlimited power and wealthdoes not prevent but rather creates inequality onmostoccasions that are simplezero-sum games, hencethe contradictionsbetween the dominant and dominated, the powerful and powerless, the ruling and rules, etc.In this respect, Locke is less liberal and less democratic than has often been supposed.


(6) GodàNatural LawsàNatural RightsàUnlimited Accumulation of Wealth

The most problematic in both Locke’s setting up the goal of the liberal argument and its later American form is with the assertion of private property and seeking unlimited accumulation of wealth as protected by God and in terms of His natural laws and natural rights God bestowed on men.God, as proprietor of the universe (creatorex nihilo[from nothing]) can givenatural rights andnatural laws, which wesimply enjoy andhave a duty to meet.We may also surmise the fact by asking ourselves if this amounts to the closure of the gate of rationality, which makes impossible further exploration of the issue. The assertion is indifferent to any human suspicion regarding right or wrong, or whatsoever, with its being an ultimate principle, so much so as the questioning of the existence of god, which is self-evident or evident without need of proof and explanation. The assertion is the least convincible to the peoples from non-Christian and non-puritan traditions, particularly as it presents itself as a pure belief and forbidden area to rational questioning and very often in practice is enforced with material and even violent means.


   American liberal democracy takes its bearings from all these above foci of Locke’s argument. It developed from and has drawn on John Lock, then the 18th century liberal democracy theorists David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, and then the 19thcentury John Stuart Mill and Henry David Thoreau, to speak only a number of them. However, “it was the rise of individual rights in the 18thcentury, as protected by the Constitution that has distinguished the United States.” Locke had a huge influence on the composing of the “Declaration of Independence.”Thomas Jefferson expressed John Locke’s democracy theory in this political document of the United States in 1776, proclaiming that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty and thepursuit of happiness. It is worthwhile noting that Locke’s “property” is dropped for substitution of pursuit of happiness, which is certainly understood as material gain and of course unlimited.


2. Democracy as U.S. National Interests


   According to American liberal democracy political thought, the logic of democracy comes from two simple fundamental points, that is,protect but not interfere the individual’srights of private property andthe liberty toseek unlimited accumulation of wealth. Democratization has been plainly believed to be the U.S. national interests in terms foreign policy. Speaking in terms of a domestic democracy, it suggested the U.S. government’s protection of US citizens’ property and acquiring wealth overseas, which is in fact articulated in the logic of liberalism, expansion of liberty, access to overseas markets and free trade;it has been a salient theme in US foreign policy since late 1800s. In terms of foreign policy, obviously, protection and expansion of liberty means to increase individual and national liberty worldwide by realizing free trade with foreign countries.


   Nevertheless, since advancement of US interests and maximization of American prosperity – to speak right to the point, individual American business people’s acquiring wealth overseas – follows other nations’ liberalization of economic policies, which is capitalist, free trade, open economy, and free market economy, this requires the U.S. to expand democracy. Measures of democratic expansion can be, verbally, praising states for increasing freedom (freeing political prisoners) and condemning those for decrease the freedom. It can also be military or non-military interventions to topple dictatorships. There are also in-between methods such as diplomatic initiatives, financial support for pro-democracy political parties, newspapers, labor unions, economic sanctions, and convert operations to destabilize non-liberal regimes. In fact, there were many occasions in which the United States simply placed in power those whom they believe they can control and manipulate for the sake of pursuing national interests, regardless if they were a dictatorship. Also in all cases, the United States would attempt every means to overthrow the socialist government or destroying the popular revolution by intervening in foreign countries since they were considered hundred percent threats to the liberal democratic theory and practice in terms of protectingtheindividual’s interests inseeking unlimited accumulation of wealth.


   Even though it is often said that there were three reinforcing processes: 1) being wealthy makes democracy; 2) democracy may be a necessary condition to become wealthy; and 3) both, it is hard for one to find such successful case except for numerous failures in the third world countries after democracy and market economy was imposed on them.Speaking from the US side, it is clear that democratization as a key component of the logic of liberalism foreign policyis with the purpose of seeking to expand the US national interests, while it is hardly beneficial to the targeted country. Expansion of democracy has been purposefully designed as foreign policy and undoubtedly in American terms and with explicit political structure of hegemonism.


   AsPatric Callahan analyses, the logic of hegenomism rests on two premises, one, American well-being relies on effective international systems in terms of both politics and economy; and two, U.S. leadership is the “drivewheel.” International economic systems have to help American economy grow. The U.S. foreign policy discourse of democratization reflects its desires to have preponderant influence or authority over other nations. It is a zero-sum game; any gain for one party means a loss for others. To make American economy grow, the U.S. needs markets in foreign lands; to make sure access to foreign markets, expansion of democracy have to be assumed in making it happen. To name only a simple example, as Callahan reviews,

In the late 1970s, the Cold War intensified and the logic of hegemonism regained its preeminence. The Reagan administration adopted a foreign policy based on a hybrid of two logics: hegemonism and liberalism, which advocates the spread of democracy and free market economies. Its diplomacy aimed to topple communist governments, including that of the Soviet Union, and replace them with democratic capitalist ones to achieve victory in the struggle with communism.

 

   In this respect, perhaps there could no better articulation as regard what democratization in American terms does indeed mean. The connotations of “American terms”signifying“conditions, language, stipulations, provisos, provisions, and requisites (fundamentals, basics)” in the case of democratization include fundamentals or basics of American economic prosperity (indeed specified as American individuals interests in acquiring unlimited wealth abroad), American political superiority, and the American way (American standard, beliefs and values as the only measurement for good or bad, right or wrong). Hence, in terms of economy, privatization and market systems; and in terms of democratization, what must be to follow isAmerican styled “constitutional democracy,” expressed in the basic concepts such asparliamentary body, rule of law, rights, free election, competitive party system, the mechanism of check and balance, etc.

 

II A Mix of American and Local Terms


   Democratization in a mix of American and local terms has happened in the target countries of democracy imposition. It has been a phenomenon in which the elites, or dissidents in many cases, of the third world countries who address, at least superficially, the interests of their own nation and people in American democratization terms. Political implications of accepting the notion of democratization in American terms have been almost all revealed in the outcomes of creation of inequality, privatization, restructuring and opening of political systems leading to chaos and instability and leaving political and economic operations either under the US control or favorable to the U.S. strategy in global politics, and loosing independence. The practice of liberal democracy in non-liberal tradition has been a failure shown in many nations where the U.S. styled democracy is imposed, particularly as no more striking as the dramatic changes occurring in the former Soviet Union between 1985 and 1991.


1. Russia


   Democratization in a mix of American and Russian (Soviet) terms began in the 1980s, particularly after Mikhai Gorbachev was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. AsWilliam A. Clarkobserves, under Gorbachev the USSR pursued “one of the most sustained and far-reaching reforms in the principles and conduct of foreign policy in its entire e history.”  In that context, mixed up with the democratization in American terms were the major Russian terms, “reform,” “perestroika (restructuring),” “glasnost (openness or, alternatively, publicity),” and “new thinking.” These were three major policy initiatives as regards the realms of economy, politics, and foreign policy that Gorbachev adopted for the his country. Perestroika sought to introduce market elements into the Soviet Union’s centrally planned economy; glasnost opened up public debate and ushered in a new period of candor about the failures of the Soviet system. And “new thinking” sought to an engagement with the West, diminution of Cold War tensions, reduction of military and economic aid to erstwhile allies, and toleration of political change in Eastern and Central Europe. As realizing these terms require a significant easing of East-West tensions, Gorbachev forced through the policies unilaterally.


   Gorbachev broadened the definition of perestroika to include democratization of the country at a CPSU Central Committee plenum in January 1987 and thus unleashed popular forces that he thought would be his allies in the struggle for reform. Of course the intent of the glasnost campaign was not to open up an attack on the legitimacy of the party or its Marxist-Leninist ideology, the democratization of political institutions was not originally intended to end the Communist Party’s leading role, as the campaigns move with passion, the situation as outcomes of these policies’ implementation just did not stop as where it had been intended due to the reason that Gorbachev and his spokesmen attacked the foundations of communist ideology. The attempt to save the socialist system by reforming it never got off the ground. Throughout the country, spontaneous mass movements, arising out of depressed living standards and widespread alienation and disillusionment, challenged government by asking its legitimacy. In Soviet terms, reform, perestroika, glasnost, and new thinking ended with immense failures. As early as 1987 Gorbachev and his reform-minded colleagues encouraged their colleagues in Eastern Europe to join them in the reform programs, that Soviet troops would no longer protect them, hoping that the socialist system there would be salvaged through the reformist activities of “little Gorbachev’s,” the unraveling of the Soviet bloc was just out of control. The demand for liberation from Soviet Union, democratic rights, market-driven economies, and integration with the military, political, and economic systems of the West just went wild. Then what followed up were the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, then the contagion of democratic reform spread to the heart of the Soviet Union itself, and finally the dissolution of the country in 1991. What is the situation in Russia now following up the immense failures of the democratization in Soviet terms? It is a nation, which has fell apart into 15 pieces and currently has 77% of territories owned by the former Soviet, 51% of the overall Soviet population, 60% of the former economic output, and a 90% decline of defense expenditures. Russia has not been able to conduct the foreign policy of a superpower.


   In American terms, perhaps to Gorbachev himself, these were immense victory. In 1990 it was announced that Gorbachev had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions toward ending the Cold War. It was sort of quite sarcastic for a nation’s leader to receive an award for the collapse of his country and victory of his country’s enemy. The United States won its final victory of its over forty years’ containment against socialism. It occupied a position of unchallenged global dominance, its one challenger having left the field of competition and then disappeared. The international system had gone from being roughly bipolar to being unipolar. There was only one center of power: the United States.


   After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many had predicted that the economies of Russia and his near abroad countries would pick up very soon since their adoption of market systems and transition to democratic governments. Unfortunately, however, this has never happened so far. What we see is to the contrary, Russia today is being driven by the distressing economic conditions that have prevailed across the country. The advanced decay of the country’s economy has prevented Russia from commanding great attention from other big powers; to void threat of suspended aid from Western banks and governments, it has to soften tones on the issues – such as NATO expansion, and Bosnia situation, etc. – that it was obviously humiliated by the United States and other Western powers.Popular disillusionment and frustration are perhaps appropriate words in describing the sentiments of Russia as well as the decline of Russian-Western relations.


   In the inception period after the downfall of the USSR, President Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Kozyrev pursued hard to “join the West” as the highest priority of Russian foreign policy. According to Pravda, Russians “have been fed with cock-and-bull stories about the inevitable “rain of gold” from the West to back up Yeltsin’s reforms.” However, economic assistance from the United States proved to be disappointingly smaller than most Russians expected.  In fact, there was hardly a universal appreciation in Russian society of the appropriateness of the Western model, based upon widespread political freedoms and a market-based economy.

Russian foreign policy has reflected what many call an “Atlanticcist” concept, best embodied by Andrei Kozyrev, Russian foreign minister. As, economically and politically, Russia was operating from a position of extreme domestic weakness, and inevitably its declining position impaired its diplomatic effectiveness, Boris Yeltsin found himself under serious attack. In 1993, Pravda chided him, saying, “The role of Washington yes-man is unbecoming of any country, especially Russia, and it inevitably conflicts with national interests.” In late 1993, polls showed that by a 2:1 margin Russians were convinced that the West’s economic advice represented a deliberate effort to weaken Russia. This margin increased in 1995 and 1996; and until January 5, 1996, Kozyrev had been for years assailed for pursuing a foreign policy too subservient to Western interests and was replaced by Evgenii Primakov, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Russia’s foreign policy immediately assumed a more assertive and at times anti-Western posture.


   Seen from democratization in a mixture of American and Russian terms, it was clear that the Russian terms were on the surface while the core, American; the intent had been Russian while the outcomes, American. The debate in Russia has been presenting diverse choices to the nation. Although they could not be seen as clear-cut factions of embracing Western notions (i.e., democratic politics and market economics) vs. their rejection, the trend to justify and identify Russia’s own terms was definite. As many Russian observers argue, the Russian terms (orRussia’s national interests) are “structurally determined by such forces as geography, history, culture, ethnic composition, and political tradition, each of which worked against Russia’s whole sale commitment to the West. Russia should adopt policies that acknowledge its special role as the primary Eurasian power.


   The rise of “Primakovism” in Russian foreign policy suggested that the Russian terms have recognized that Russia’s are not identical to those of the West. Primakov and his colleagues describe themselves as pragmatists and practitioners of realpolitik. For them Russia’s national interests are not subsumed under a Western model. They are distinct and should be pursued separately from those of the West.As Garnett observes,

Russia’s relations with the West have clearly declined over the past few years as a general sobering of expectations has occurred. The Russian economic reforms pushed by Washington and the IMF have been widely condemned in Russia, and significant resentment has developed. Russia has openly criticized US intervention in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq and has opposed what it has increasingly come to see as a conscious policy of NATO encirclement.

 

   The new National Security Concept President Vladimir Putin signed after he stepped in office in 2000 reflected the sober realism of the Primakov school of Russian foreign policy. The statement of a group called “Russian Firsters” is well consistent with Putin’s claim that internal threat is the gravest, “Russianow has to take care of itself, without listening to advice and guidance that has turned out to be less friendly than it seemed.” Putin even stated, when he was Prime Minister Putin Stated in December 1999, “Russia will not soon become if ever, a carbon copy of, say, the United States or England, where liberal values have deep historical traditions. Among us, the state, its institutions and structures, have always played an exceptionally important role in the life of the country and the people.”


   President Putin confronted directly with expansion of democracy in American terms. He stated in response to the foreign criticism of his pressure on freedom of press in Russia, “Is any news media in any country able to assume independence of all people?” As he continued, “Freedom of mass media is a necessity of democratic society. Yet, mass media should be also economically independent, not relying purse and business people. A businessman would take media as a pure tool serving the interest of his group. He spoke to an American correspondent, “If democracy leads to destroying our nation, we do not need that democracy.”

 

2. China


   Chinahas shared with Soviet Union a similar path and a similar mix of democratization in American terms. The similar path may include similar reform policies, similar occurrences during the process of reform, and similar sentiments and sophistication in the 1990s. The reason that China has been more successful than Soviet Union is not a simple story about which had gone first or second between economic and political reform. China has serious internal threats, including ideological and inequality crises. The two crises have been caused by further economic privatization and political democratization, which aims to protect and less interfere in private property and unlimited accumulation of wealth and power acquiring activities, while they are creating more contradictions and instilling fears in society as a whole.


   Gaige(reform) andkaifang(opening doors to the outside world) can be considered “democratization in Chinese terms.” They are the two general policies, which are similar to perestroika and glasnost. Although they are not equivalents to the two Russian concepts, they overlap meaning with them.Gaigeshares the meaning restructure with perestroika; both suggest to substitute socialist planned economic systems for capitalist market economy mechanisms. In this respect, the Chinese phrasejingji tizhi gaige,or economic structural reform, may exactly convey the implication of perestroika. In addition,kaifanghas literally similar meanings of glasnost, but it is less a reference to domestic political reform.Kaifangis more in terms of dealing economic as well as other foreign relations, sharing some points of Gorbachev’s new thinking in foreign policy.


   In reform, China did not have a word close to glasnost. But it did not mean that China was less open in this respect than former Soviet Union. Whereas glasnost suggests openness and publicity, which invited criticism of socialist systems and the mistakes of Stalin, what the reform-minded people in China did was nothing less; their targets were the Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong in the 1970s and many policy issues in the Mao era. Connecting the mistakes of Communist Party’s work with feudalism was popular; an exemplary case in this respect was the six-section TV documentary series entitled “The River Dirge” orHeshang. A phrase, which had a high frequency in the media, wasgai bian guannian, or change traditional value systems, suggesting what was good in the past may have become wrong in the present time. An example was speculation; a person who had been condemned speculation for buying cheap and selling expensive was regarded good deed in terms of promoting economy. Foundations of socialist ideology were at least equally attacked as in the Soviet Union. A very obvious sample was that people who had been encouraged to work for society or serving the people were now told to work for money or make profit. Socialism had been thought to be a system with people’s rule was now advertised as mere development of productivity and technology. 


   What also comparable to the immense failures of Gorbachev’s perestroika, glasnost and new thinking, the collapse of Soviet Union and dissolution of the country, was the student protests in Tian’anmen Square and the violent outcomes. Although decisive military suppression prevented China’s socialist system from being toppled, the political damage China and Chinese Communist Party suffered was immeasurable. The 1989 student protest can be considered the climax ofa mix of American and Chinese terms in which students enthusiastic about the term democracy but had little knowledge what it suggested. However, a great wave of liberal democracy ideas and positive images of the West and the United States came to its dip only in ten years.


   Currently China even shares Russia similar sentiments, which have started since mid 1990s. The say-no literature represented byChina Can Say No, andBehind the Demonization of Chinaexpressedsuspicion, anger, frustration and assertiveness as regards theUSstrategy toward China. As Chinese authors claim, American concepts and values are not absolute standards to measure democracy. They believe the United States uses the norm human rights as an instrument to enlarge its interests; there was an apparent disillusion with U.S. capitalism and democracy. As they understand, U.S. hardly tolerates the rise of another power, has prejudice against non-Western China, and practices containment against China economically, politically, and militarily. The Chinese say-no literature may well reflect the downfall of democratization in American terms but rise in Chinese terms. 


As they claimed, they had become sober-minded; their view of the U.S. more sophisticated.


   As for the different outcomes of reforms in Russia and China, many have commented that the reason for China to have been more successful than the Soviet Union was because the political opening provided by Russia’s glasnost had outpaced the institutional reforms of perestroika and because China only had economic reform but no political reform. In fact the reason could not be a story as simple as which had gone first or second between economic and political reform. The order was not a problem. As I would argue, that China has been relatively successful was firstly because historical and international circumstances provided good lessons for China to learn. The immeasurable political crisis and damage, and the international pressure that the 1989 students protests inflicted, the fall and dissolution of the Soviet Union and East Europe socialist bloc, and the behaviors of the United States toward China since 1990s, all warned China to be alert and cautious in moving every step forward. Secondly, although official propaganda criticized and negated Mao’s cultural revolution in the 1970s, its ideological influence still exists in the people’s mind. In fact, although the Tian’anmen was an event of entirely different nature from that of the Cultural Revolution, both in ideology and form, it could be traced back to the Cultural Revolution for good or bad. Thirdly, perhaps because Cultural Revolution and Tian’anmen, Chinese government appears to be well aware that the spirit of serving the people is still cherished by the people and has tended to employ the discourse in helping social stability. Chinese leaders are very resourceful in articulate their political agenda in terms of the interests of the people. They have been relatively active in introducing government welfare programs and public projects, which have played an important role in maintaining stability.


   However, it doesn’t mean that China can be at ease about social and political crisis. It is apparent that China’s ideology crisis is very unpredictable. That thetalk of democratization in American terms still remains a popular practice among many scholars, even though such discourse has suffered tremendously lack of credibility in Russia, makes a conspicuous sign. The elites still do not understand why important policy issues are chips in chips in political struggles in the United States and why the U.S. seems to have enjoyed intervening in and subverting a China that is pursuing reform when China is not its enemy. As they have tried hard to convey the message to the U.S., China cannot isolate itself from the rest of the world for development; Chin acknowledges that US system is the best at having two parties check each other; China is indispensable for the U.S. to handle regional issues; An opened-up, prosperous, and stable China accords with U.S. interests; The Chinese public does not agree China should sever relations with the U.S.; and a prosperous and strong China would be separate from communist ideology and does not reject democracy. The Chinese need to understand what democracy is in Chinese terms, and how it is distinguished from that in American terms.

 

III Democratization in Chinese Terms


   The following are some fundamental Chinese concepts of politics, which may facilitate an understanding of democracy or democratization in Chinese terms.


(1) Politics:zhengzhi. Intongbian, politics, or “zhengzhi,” a classical word, means appropriateness (also uprightness, righteousness), flow, or “thedaoextends appropriately to all parts of the land, enriching populace’s lives." There are no dualistic woes of the ruling and the ruled, since propriety and harmony is nurtured between them. It lacks a sense of acquiring power, referring more to handling the affairs of the people. The ruler has always been and continues to be defined by his personal character, so to object to the policies that articulate the existing order is to condemn the ruler’s person. Good rulers take care of the people and promulgate good policies.


(2) Rule of Law:fazhi.In the West, the "rule of law" means the law of nature or God, and the contracted law in the form of the constitution serves the law of God, and the rule of man refers to tyranny or violation of the contracted law. But in China, “law” (fa) is rather a specification of administrative guidelines. Those who govern are not understood to be separated from the ruling guidelines, which are supposed to reflect thedaoof society and nature and help maintain harmony. Whereas people in the West fear that the government will infringe on their private rights and so it should be checked, in China, people believe that every government has as its goal taking care of the people’s livelihood. As a result, repudiating existing ruling guidelines suggests the ruler has failed in fulfilling his tasks. Whereas Westerners tend to think they obey laws but not bureaucratic officials, the Chinese sense is that the official cannot be separated from particular personality and conduct. In reality, law (fa) plays a secondary role; it assists in situations in which an individual fails in maintaining a moral and ethical performance. Law is resorted to only to correct by punishment. Invokingfaindicates failure to maintain harmony; andappeals tofain Chinese society have little in common with Western appeals to the rule of law.


(3) Rule of Man:renzhi.Tongbian's rule of man suggests more exactly the rule ofren(appropriate relationship or humaneness) and the rule ofde(virtuous rule).Chinese thought gives preference for the rule of the most virtuously capable; in a social environment, everyone wants to acquire appropriate relationships in all aspects of society for better living. It is common understanding that all rules are conducted by men, and hence, that the critical issue is to get those men who are the most capable of comprehending continuity and correlations, and acquiring and maintaining the harmony of humans and society. The form of politics must not be independent of ethics, orrenzheng(rule of humane correlations)anddezheng(rule of moral virtue).


   Lunli(ethics) anddaode(virtue)literally mean having acquired the way, or in a full sense, having obtained a thorough comprehension of the appropriate and harmonious relationships of society and nurtured sophistication in pursuing, maintaining, and shaping them productively. As it suggests, appropriate and harmonious relationships can never be acquired by competition but requireliandrang(ritual or propriety and receptiveness) as “an enduring yet always malleable syntax through which the human being can pursue refined and appropriate relationships.”The rule of man precludes the psychological fear of tyranny.


(4) Rights:quanli. In atongbiancontext, “right,” orquanli, means propriety and harmony, or the righteous and appropriate location one should find for oneself in the context of community, or say, in the focused locale of relationships. It is not the providence of God or contractarianism; it is a natural tendency or effort through human experience. Such an effort entails realizing one’s own freedom through one’s equality to other individuals who share continuity and correlations within a context. In this case, equality is not defined in terms of property but a full range of conditions and obligations related to the individual as regards his/her appropriate position.


   One finds there is no need to separate governmental powers when intongbianare absent all the structurally preconditioned conceptions in the Western tradition, particularly the rule of man as necessarily tyrannical. In this respect, if seen from the perspective oftongbian, the separation of powers would not work if the rule were indeed tyrannical, since it is operable in reality through powers separated merely in form.


(5) Democracy:minzhu. One can see how different the Chinese read the Western political concept of democracy, by examining the ideas of the relationship between the ruler and the people as correlative and continuous. Some expressions reverberate the Chinese ancient idea of democracy. As Xunzi states, “Nature does not nurture the masses of human beings for the sake of the ruler, but rather in reverse, selects the ruler for the sake of the masses.” As Confucius claims,

“The people regard the ruler as their heart; the ruler takes the people as his body … The holiness of the body determines that of the heart; the damage of the heart happens when there is harm to the body. The existence of the ruler is determined by that of the people; the perishing of the ruler is due to that of the people.”

 

   Zuozhuansays, “The people are the master of spiritual beings, so the sage-king primarily devotes himself to the people, and secondly takes care of the spiritual beings.” As far aszheng(or politics) is concerned, "there is none in which the people are not taken as the paramount end." These phrases all suggest that fundamental Chinese political concepts do not separate leaders from the people, placing them in opposition. Atongbianview of “democracy” (minzhu) preferences content and its harmony with form, over mere form; any form of democracy has to take into account the interest of the great majority of the population in society, particularly the weak and poor, since a state of suffering indicates the failure ofzhengzhi.A democracy,minzhu(“the people’s governance”), is more a concept and practice of the government for the people, of the people, and by the people, which encourages the idea of equality based upon the communal sources of individuality rather than atomistic individualism. It might be said that the Chinese worldview and modality of thinking promote a sort of communitarian form of politics that is seriously at odds with the liberal democratic model.


   The Chinese worldview does not necessarily have the kind of psychological worry about the unsolvable problem of evil human nature, the emergence of tyranny, and hence, establishment of a checking mechanism as solution. Why? This is because the ruler has to be by a morally distinguished person through self-cultivation in the social environment wherein all people pursuit ethic self-cultivation. Apparently,tongbian’s “authority” entailing indispensable moral and aesthetic content has somehow left little room for growth of tyranny. As Hall and Ames maintain,

From its inception, Confucianism has been concerned with the self-cultivation of individuals – preeminently that of rulers and ministers. The Confucian sensibility enjoins the ruler to rule by virtuous example. This can only be possible if rulers are themselves products rather than producers of culture … One cannot rule effectively without presenting himself as a moral leader.

 

   Of course, this does not mean that the modality of Chinese correlative thinking and the Confucian idea and practice of moral self-cultivation is capable of preventing immoral and amoral authority from happening in any moment and under any social condition. But it is often that, in a social environment wherein every person pursues ethical self-cultivation, immoral and amoral persons have to pretend to do good and behave in a deceptive manner if they want to perform evil.Perhaps this is the reason that there are plenty of popular sayings referring to such an immoral scenario, for instance, “gua yang tou mai gou rou” (selling mutton only in name, while what sold is indeed dog meat); and “man zui ren yi dao demanduzi nan dao nu chang” (while one has intention as evil as committing adultery full in the mind, he is claiming himself of being humane, righteous, upright and virtuous). In this respect, it occurs from time to time that distinguishing between one who inadvertantly does something bad and one who is intentionally bad requires a tough and meticulous effort.


   However, as Hall and Ames also observe,there is little evidence to suggest that contemporary China has abandoned any significant elements of its Confucian orthodoxy. The leadership of contemporary China maintains many of the same characteristics that have dominated Chinese government since the Han dynasty – namely, the nation understood as a family, the filial respect for the ruler as father, and the consequent sense of rule as a personal exercise.


   As shown in the discussion so far on the correlative modality of thinking and the differences between the Chinese and Western systems of thought and cultural tradition, thetongbianperspective approaches the issue of Chinese politics in Chinese terms and its account articulates actual and specific historical phenomena in China. Therefore, it is more likely to facilitate a better understanding of the Chinese case.

Roger T· Ames (Roger T.Ames)

Roger T. Ames was born in 1947 in Toronto, Canada. As a professor at the University of Hawaii, an advisor to Nishan Shengyuan Academy, Chairman of the World Association of Confucian Culture Studies and Vice Chairman of the International Confucian Association, he is an internationally famous expert in Sinology. He is a leading figure in Chinese & Western philosophy and is famous in China and abroad for his translation of books such as theAnalects of Confucius,Sun Tzu’s Art of War,Huainan Tzu andTao Te Ching He was the Chief Editor toPhilosophy of the Occident and Orientas well as theInternational Chinese Book Reviewand the author ofConfucian Philosophical Thinking,Thinking from the Han: Self, Truth, and Transcendence in Chinese and Western Culture,Anticipating China: Thinking Through the Narratives of Chinese and Western Culture,the Art of Rulership: A Study into Chinese Political ThoughtandDemocracy if the Dead: Dewey, Confucius and the Hope for Democracy in China. Roger T. Ames once received the guidance of Liu Dianjue and became proficient in classical Chinese, then to one of the most outstanding modern scholars of Classical Studies. In 2013, he was awarded the "Confucius Culture Award" by the 6th World Confucian Congress. Then he won the second "Huilin Prize Award" in 2016.…
+ Learn more

Follow us

  • Download

  • E-mail

  • Weibo

  • WeChat

  • Live Broadcast