Pragmatic Nationalism and Confucianism: The New Ideology of the CCP
2010, Vol. 2 No. 04 | pg. 1/1
Confucianism was one of the dominant political philosophies of Imperial China. Confucianism’s influence declined throughout the 19th century coinciding with the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Some Chinese intellectuals, like Lu Xun, attacked Confucianism believing it to be one of the sources of China’s failure to modernize. However supporters, like Kang Yuwei, attempted to modernize Confucianism and use it a source of Chinese nationalism. Anti-Confucian fervor reached its zenith during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s with the destruction of important Confucian sites, but it is now seeing a resurgence in contemporary China and its ideas have been selectively adopted within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After Deng Xiaoping began to open up the country in the late 1970s by adopting capitalist ideas, the CCP has sought to find another ideology that complements the Four Cardinal Values put forth by Deng Xiaoping to keep the people unified. Selective usage of Confucianism and nationalist sentiments are the methods the CCP appears to be using to foster a pragmatic nationalist sentiment and serve as the codifying ideology that will allow them to further secure the CCP's right to rule. The CCP leaders and other political elites will need to strengthen centralized authority if the CCP wishes to continue to curb the internal problems of corruption, ethnic discontent, and rising power in local and provincial governments.
Political elites have been working to adopt new ideals as an attempt to offset the damage done by corruption and crony capitalism now that the Party has moved from Maoist socialism. It was a logical choice for the Chinese political elites to look back to Confucian philosophy to keep the people unified under their rule because of its strong roots in Chinese history. Nationalist ideology will have to be careful managed and used by the Party as it could lead to the creation of secessionist movements within the country amongst ethnic minorities or further empower groups like the Falun Gong, which are perceived by the government as threats to their leadership.The Qing Dynasty, which was governed by the Manchu ethnic group from 1644 to 1911, was faced with numerous challenges in the 19th century. The most devastating to the Qing government was the British Opium Wars that lasted through the 1840s and 1850s. The Treaty of Nanjing, after the first Opium War finished in 1843, fostered heavy war reparations on the Qing government and made the island of Hong Kong a crown colony to Great Britian.1 The Treaty of Tianjin further opened up Chinese ports to Western traders, military vessels, and missionaries and to pay two million taels of silver2. These treaties contributed to the internal rebellions within Qing Empire, the most notable being the Taiping Rebellion of the 1850s3 and the Boxer Rebellion in the 1880s and 1890s4.
Confucian scholars in the 19th century originally dismissed the ideas of Western modernization. The Chinese viewed their empire as the center of heaven, and all those outside were considered uncultured barbarians. It was only in the late 1800s that China acted, with great reluctance by the Confucian elite, to modernize and accept Westernization. There were still strong debates within the Chinese elites on whether Westernization would end the Chinese way of life.5
After the Qing Dynasty was dissolved in 1911, there were still those who desired to bring back the monarchy and use Confucian thought as their rationale for ruling the country.6 In 1913 Yuan Shikai desired a restoration of the monarchy, which only further cemented the people disfavor against Confucianism when he declared himself Emperor in 1915. Yuan was highly criticized for this maneuver, one of the more famous attacks from Zhang Shizahao, who published an article, Refuting the Emperor System, in the magazine The Tiger, which was a pro-Westernization publication, comparing Yuan Shikai to Louis Napoleon, who dissolved the French constitution in December 1851 and instituted authoritarian rule.7 He quickly stepped down after the outcry from the people. The military governor Zhang Xun attempted to restore the last Manchu Emperor to the throne in July 1917, but the Emperor abdicated after only two weeks of rule. 8
In 1915, the New Cultural Movement occurred in China. This was a collection of intellectuals who were working towards the goal of modernizing China by the promotion of variety of changes, which included the Romanization of the Chinese language and the further adoption of Western political ideals. Yi Baishi, in 1916 for the New Youth magazine, published harsh criticisms of Confucian ideology. He believed Confucian philosophy was the reason for China’s fall centering on four points- first, Confucius was an advocate for the unlimited authority of rulers, and preferred the rule of man through virtue and morality over the rule of law; second, there was no encouragement of questioning amongst his disciples; this laid a foundation for an orthodox environment and stifled innovation and independent thinking; third, Confucius lacked firm opinions on issues, which left his writings open to misuse and interpretation- Yi Baishi, believed was how elites kept their control over Chinese politics; and lastly, Confucius was more interested in being an official in the state rather than in the preventing autocrats and despots from controlling the political system.9
Chen Duxiu, one of the central leaders to the New Cultural Movement, contended that Confucianism addressed primarily moral issues and had little relevance in modern China.10 Chen was concerned that those who were still advocates for Confucianism would seek a return to the past and re-install the monarchy. Chen continued to call for a complete Westernization of China. During the May 4th Movement of 1919 some academics and students continued to attack Confucianism. The movement arose from the post-war Paris peace conference, in which, the German occupied province of Shangdong, the birthplace of Confucius, was given to the Japanese. Students protested and continued to blame Confucianism as a political philosophy that impeded individual freedom and the national strength of China. Many students and advocates of the May 4th Movement wanted to “smash Confucius’s shop” and turn to “Mr. Democracy” and “Mr. Science”. 11 Though there was dissent amongst the academics Liang Qichao, a prominent Chinese scholar, believed that China’s cultural values and Confucianism were not incompatible with Western conceptions of liberties and rights. He believed that liberty and rights were only a part of moral principles.12
During the Nationalist Government of the Kuomintang, Chiang Kai-Shek considered, The Three Principles of the People, written by Sun Yat-sen, the first President of the Republican China, to be the state ideology. Sun viewed Confucius as an advocate of democracy, and posited that not China, but rather material civilization was behind in political ideas. Sun believed the West should learn from Chinese politics and political philosophy. Sun preferred the use of Confucian ideas of social harmony over the Western philosopher Karl Marx and his theory of class struggle.13
Mao’s China was committed to the removal of Confucian influence. Mao viewed Confucianism as the ideology of the exploitative class and its ideas of social harmony contradicted Marxist tenets. 14 Anti-Confucianism sentiment reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution, when the Red Guards raided and destroyed Confucius’s birthplace and burial ground.15
In 1995 the CCP leaders attended a conference celebrating the 2545th anniversary of Confucius’s birth. Li Ruihuan, who was the chairman of the National Political Consultancy Conference, praised Confucianism for giving the Chinese nation sustained prosperity and that its ideas would bring a stable and cohesive society.16 In 2005, President Hu Jintao launched the ‘harmonious rise’ foreign policy dialogue. This shift, and specifically the use of Confucian language, represented an important move and the Chinese intellectuals took note of it.
Harmony or li is a fundamental concept in Confucianism. In the original teachings of Confucius, the doctrine of li, was seen as the institution to create social order, which for Confucius, one needed to follow the rituals, yi, that governed human life on how to properly act. It was through the following of li that harmony was achieved.17 Second aspect of Confucianism was the idea that harmony was part of the cosmic order of life. Heaven and Earth had to be in alignment for there to be peace. If a ruler was not in harmony with Heaven natural disasters or civil unrest would strike the kingdom18. Lastly, there was idea of harmony as an act of transformation. This was first expressed in the writings of the Neo-Confucian philosopher Mencius, as the concept of Hsing. Mencius believed it be possessed by all human beings, which he saw as the original of moral values and moral norms, which he believed separated us from other species.19 To Mencius, moral life was something that needed to be developed through one’s life in order for a person to overcome internal conflict. One needed to maintain strong internal harmony for in order to have outward harmony throughout the region. Mencius never fully clarified his view on harmony, the best solution to this problem came from the Neo-Confucian philosopher Wang Yang-mind, who argued the harmony was the perfection of good over evil and the working on promotion of goodness within oneself.20
In a Party addresses given in 2003, Zhu Ronji, believed that it was necessary for the Party to have combined the rule of the law with the rule of virtue and that the CCP was achieving such a unison. In 2002, Jiang Zemin affirmed explicitly that the rule of law and rule of virtue were not mutually exclusive but rather compatible. It was through the use of socialist ideology and the merging of Confucian ethics that the current mixed economy within China was consistent with the traditional values of China.21 The legal structure was to be established from the socialist ideology and the ethical system of virtue was compatible with China’s current socialist market economy.22
The Confucian moralistic vision of the world can be found in the speeches of top Chinese leaders. The use of Confucian ideas, most notably that of the word he, which is usually paired with the Chinese notion of He er bu tong, which refers to a desirable person of high virtue, a junzi. Confucius advocated the efforts of individuals to become a junzi, as they would be open minded and tolerant to differences and would bring harmony. 23
Examples of the Confucian ideas in China’s foreign policy principles can be found in speeches, such as, one given by former Party Secretary Jiang Zemin in 2002 to the George Bush Senior Library in Texas, in which he indicated the historical Chinese values were centered on ‘honesty, harmony, and good faith’ in regard to the foreign policy with other nations. China’s Confucian inspired policies was seeking to bring peace and development to all, with harmony as the core principle.24
This speech was important because it is one of the more explicit uses of Confucianism by CCP leaders. Such explicit use of Confucian language has been interpreted as an critique against the US export of its values in the modern world.25. The rhetoric used by Jiang Zemin is commonly seen as a rejection to the imposition of American values after the Cold War. Just as American policymakers could view the rise of China were threatened by the United States, the Chinese in return feel threatened by the United States’ ideological beliefs, which they perceive as a danger to a harmonious relationship between the two countries. 26
In 2006, at the conclusion of the Sixth Session of the 16th Central Committee of the CCP, the Resolution on the main aspects of the construction of a harmonious socialist society, was approved or known as the integrated plan of the CCP for the 21st century27. was debuted, there sections detailing the desire “to build a harmonious socialist society”.28 It was asserted in the 2006 Sixth Session as ‘China’s Harmony Renaissance’ similar to the European Renaissance.29 The Resolution stated that the CCP has the necessary role to foster Inner-Party harmony to promote social harmony within the country.30 The society is envisioned to have a strong socialist democratic legal system, stronger people’s rights, greater rural and urban development, more orderly income distribution, wealth increase for all universally, public services improved, and greater improvements in ideological and moral qualities though the fostering of ‘sound moral atmosphere’ and ‘harmonious interpersonal relationship.31 Wen Zibao reports in 2007 detailed the continued work towards building a harmonious society. In that report, he emphasized that ideological and moral education was necessary for the people. In 2002, Zhu Rongji, implemented the ‘Citizens’ Code of Conduct’ to help encourage the people to follow the virtues of ‘courtesy and honesty; solidarity and friendship; diligence; frugality; self-improvement; and devotion and contribution.”32
Harmony was cited by Wen Jiabao 36 times between 2004-2007.33 During the conclusion of the Sixth Session of the 16th Central Committee of the CCP, on the construction of a harmonious socialist society, harmony was structured into the ideological projects and integrated into the 21st century for the CCP. 34 The resolution emphasized the CCP role in the process, to serve as a model and guide for the promotion of social harmony. By 2020 the society will be characterized by a strong rule of law that will be necessary to keep the country in harmony.35
Huang Shaorung, asserts that Confucian tradition and Chinese Communism is complementary. It shares an emphasis on human centrality and self-cultivation, humane government, and a call for unity of theory and practice.36 David Shambaugh contends that the adaptation of Confucian political culture is step that the Leninist party must take in order to survive. Modern Confucian philosophy and Chinese Socialism synthesized would focus on these characteristics, asserts Shambaugh, - Harmony in Modern Confucianism focuses on these ideas. , Harmony is viewed as being comprehensive and universal. This idea of harmony is comprised of harmony with nature, humans and nature, amongst ourselves, and internally through self-cultivation. Harmony is seen as diversity no uniformity and is seen as a dynamic force.37
In regard to harmony as part of Chinese Socialism: it centers first on the CCP program on the creation of ‘harmonious world’, which it must first work on turning China into a harmonious modern socialist nation. This is defined by a series of political and administrative guarantees to the people and by improving on various economic, social, and environmental issues. In socialism with Chinese characteristics social harmony mixed with scientific development is more important than the Hegelian-Marxist notion of struggle. Lastly, a culture of harmony is needed to foster a strong system of morality for the people.38
The study of Confucian philosophy began to regain in popularity at Chinese universities. To increase the CCP’s soft power, ‘The Confucius Institute’ was launched in over 80 countries with the goal of spreading Chinese language, culture, and literature. This exercise of soft power by the Chinese government to attract people to its cause through the use of morality rather the use of force is one of the core Confucian ideals. 39
One of the areas of concern for the CCP was to ensure the continuation of strong economic growth and to bring more of its people out from poverty. Deng Xiaoping, during his opening of the country, advocated that individuals should gain wealth as evidenced by one of the more famous slogans during the economic reforms, which stated, ‘Getting rich was glorious’. The CCP began to open up its membership to capitalists as well. Such an action would seem a contradiction in the core political ideals of CCP, but there was an understanding that, with strong economic growth, the CCP would continue to keep control over the country. Jiang Zemin stated in 1989, while he was than Secretary General of the CCP, that Confucius was one of China’s great philosophers and the Party should study his ideas and to select the essential ideas to be used to educate the people.40
If one looks at Confucian texts, one finds a strong disdain for profit, and in Imperial times, merchants were among the lower classes. To Confucius, a true gentleman, junzi, was a man of morality while a petty man followed profit. 41 Mencius commented that a king should concentrate his efforts on being benevolent and righteous rather than bringing profit into the city.42 It is not coincidental, now, in the midst of a global recession, as the people are protesting against corruption and greed of local government officials and businessmen, that there government has initiated a strong shift towards the use of Confucianism. The Chinese government is using Confucian philosophy as an attempt to offset the public outrage.
In the Analects, Confucius, spoke that it was the duty of the ruler to rule and the duty of subject to be ruled by the Emperor.43 Confucius believed it was through filial piety where fathers are fathers, subjects are subjects, and lords are lords.44 Everyone had his or her place in Confucian society. The young revered the old and women were to remain subservient to men. Confucian philosophy stressed what we what would today call soft power to win people in place of the use of force. During China’s Imperial past, proper governance was ruled by the notion of dezheng, rule by virtue. Confucian philosophy advised that softer power, to win the hearts and minds of the people, was the proper way a ruler to should rule his kingdom. 45
One of the problems with this resurgence, however, and within the selective use of Confucian philosophy within the PRC is that, in traditional Confucian philosophy, there was no respect for the rule of law. Morality and virtue were to be used to guide people rather than laws and rules to keep people in line through use of force46 If one wanted to be a proper Confucian ruler, his conduct had to be virtuous, as the leader ruled through example. If the ruler was considered virtuous and moral, than it would inspire the rulers servants to carry out their orders; if the conduct of the ruler is poor, then the people will not follow the ruler.47 In modern times, the Chinese government could not ignore the rule of law, as the CCP, has been working towards further integration within the global community.
Some Chinese scholars, like Beijing University professor, Pan Wei, argues that the adoption of rule of law must take precedence over democratization.48 Confucian values and ethics could pose a greater liability than an asset for the CCP. This is particularly accurate given of the core values of Confucianism, filial piety, which centers around honoring one’s parents and loyal the family. Pan asserts that this passage from The Analects, Book 13: 18 which talks about the necessity for fathers and sons to protect each other from prosecution and discovery of crimes they have committed. 49 Is an example of Confucius fostering blind authority to the state and upholds the tradition of corruption amongst Chinese officials.50 One can argue that filial piety was one of the reasons for the CCP to adopt Confucian ideas, as it calls for the people to be loyal to the state. This is just what the CCP wants in order to secure its continued leadership over the country.
One of the core problems that the CCP needs to face is the internal corruption within the Party, because it threatens the government’s plan to create a harmonious society. This is not a new problem for Chinese governments. There has been historical and systemic problem of corruption throughout the Chinese imperial dynasties. During the 18th century Chinese commentators considered official corruption one of the greatest threats to the state as academics and intellectuals consider the same about the corruption in the current CCP regime.
Xu Wenbi, an administrator from Sichuan province from 1764-1768 said,
Wherever corruption manifests itself, there are a hundred stratagems to suck out the lifeblood of the people. How can one imagine that the wealth of the region would not be exhausted in the space of a few years?51
Qian Daxin, a noted Chinese historian during the 18th century, believed that it only takes one corrupt individual to bring the downfall of a dynasty.52 Foreign traders, missionaries, and diplomats all noticed the pervasive influence and consequences of corruption in 18th century China. One observer, James Wilkinson, an English merchant, believed corruption was arising because there was too much focus on material concerns. It had become the goal of most Chinese to get ‘power and riches.’ Wilkinson believed that if these principles were left unchecked dishonesty and corruption would surely spread.53
One of the reason that corruption was systemic in Imperial China, as well as, current China was that use of social networks of mutual obligation (guanxi) by the monarchs and bureaucrats. Guanxi commonly revolved around the use of favors and gifts, not as inappropriate things, but rather expressions of friendship, loyalty, or respect.54 Within the usage of guanxi, it was important to have people remain in one’s debt, and one must be constantly striving to keep people in one’s debt. There were few moral guidelines in guanxi, which regard to proper use of guanxi in order to get things done.
Many peasants and lower class Chinese citizens during the 18th century, like their modern counterparts today, when attempting to report corruption amongst the officials, were met with months or more likely years of red tape and legal setbacks. Even if their case was finally taken to a trial, the odds of a commoner succeeding were very unlikely as they lacked wealth, and status, and did not possess strong guanxi connections.55 Like in modern China, the incentive of government officials to be virtuous or moral, as per Confucian ideology, is met with strong skepticism by the people. Various proverbs from the 18th century still speak true to the condition and problems that China is facing today;
The magistrate is not so dreadful as his servants 56,
Prominence can deter one from virtue, while obscurity can save one from vices.57,
The upright official cannot be altogether rid of rascally subordinates,58,
Officials won’t flog a bearer of presents59/
If you are rich you speak the truth; if you are poor, your words are false. 60
Corruption has always been a problem throughout Chinese history, and in traditional Chinese politics it was seen as one of the warning signs that the ruling dynasty’s reign could be coming to an end and could threaten the government’s goal of creating a harmonious society. The Chinese elites view the West as a threat but they are the sole source of the tools necessary for modernizing and gaining the abilities necessary to become a global superpower. Amongst the Chinese, there is a deep culturally ingrained sense that they are the perpetual victims, in their relations with Western nations61. The Chinese people are still recovering from the humiliation suffered during the Opium War, and as China becomes a rising superpower, the CCP uses the language of nationalism to unite the people. The Chinese government attempts to present themselves to the Chinese people as the inheritors of Chinese civilization.
The notion that China has been lagging behind in the current modernization began to be thought of as the new cycle of victimization for China called – juo hou jiu yao ai da, which was something that Chinese never wants to occur again.62 This inferiority complex on the Chinese psyche is one of key rationales behind the use of ‘pragmatic nationalism’ policies and its call for a ‘peaceful development’ that will supposedly lead to a harmonious rise throughout Asia. The CCP wants to portray China’s rise to the world as nothing similar to that of the Western powers that ruled Asia, rather seeks to lead through example and offering the alternative to the ‘Washington Consensus’. 63
The policies that the CCP elites are currently pursuing differ from those the intellectuals were calling for during the May 4th Movement, which were for China to embrace the West and its ideas, and reject their own culture and philosophy. Rather CCP elites believe that some Western ideas as useful, but China must return to its roots in Confucian philosophy in order for it reassert itself as the dominant player within the region. China needs to be seen again as the ‘Benevolent Emperor’ in Asia that will be there lead and guide the surrounding nations. In order to further rise China needs to make sure that there are proper social institutions, modern technology, and to seek positive relations with the West. 64
With regard to domestic issues the adoption and the use of pragmatic nationalism was a necessary step for the government to keep its right to rule the country. Its purpose is to show the Chinese people that the CCP is still the only political force within China that can lead the Chinese people and instill power, pride, and wealth to China.
Once Deng Xiaoping brought China towards the path of capitalism, there was a large ideological vacuum that still haunts the CCP political elites to this day. It is through the strong economic development and the allowance for individuals to become wealthy that the CCP has been able to keep its control over the country secure, but as the economic recession continues to worsen, it lends further concern that instability amongst the peasants, migrant workers, and students could destabilize the CCP’s control over the country. Social unrest has been on the rise in China since the global financial crisis. China’s exports have struggled with the economic downturn forcing factory closures and protests from the laid-off workers. China’s manufacturing image has also been tarnished by scandals of toxic materials found in their toys and milk became public news. China’s manufacturing sector export to the US has been declined over fourteen percent in 2008.65 Such a significant drop is dangerous for the government, as China’s economy needs exports for it to maintain its current economic growth. The United States is one of China leading trading partners and if it were to start to cut back on its trade with China this will seriously hinder China’s growth.
Sixty-five thousand Chinese factories went bankrupt in 2008, though the stated urban unemployment figures were only 4%, which was lower than the government projection’s of 4.5% these figures did not take into account the job loss of migrant workers, which account for over one hundred and fifty million laborers. The exact number of migrant workers that have been laid off remains unknown. 66 Social unrest has also rose been on the rise after the May 12 Sichuan earthquake; over two thousand people rioted in November of 2008 over the plans to move the city government’s office in the province of Gansu. 67 The Longnan government commented that the riots were caused by “criminal elements,” while Gansu Communist Party Chief Lu Hao stated - that the unrest was incited by only a ‘small minority with ulterior motives’. Lu further suggested that the unrest stemmed from frustration over the post-quake reconstruction. 68 The level of inequality in China continues to grow as the wealth and economic gains have been primarily concentrated in the high growth cities along the eastern coast, while eight hundred million people live in rural areas that have rarely seen the benefits of the country’s economic growth. The government focused on ensuring that the economic growth stays high and will do what is necessary to ensure the internal strife within the country is minimized. 69
According to Jerome Cohen, an expert on Chinese law for the Council of Foreign Relations, it is a common tactic for the government to hire thugs to intimidate protestors and prevent recording of images of the police beating protestors. 70 There has been a clear increase in protests over the past decade in China. In 1994, there were ten thousand protests according to the China’s Public Security Ministry. In 2003 that number reached fifty-eight thousand, and in 2004, there were over seventy-four thousand incidents involving an estimated three million seven hundred and sixty thousand people. Senior Fellow of China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Adam Segal, commented that, those figures were ‘probably underreported’.71 The frustration of the peasants was that the government continues to ignore them and delay their petitions, which will only increase the protests.
The rural unhappiness coupled with the corruption problems, income inequality, taking of land, etc., combining with the large unemployment rate amongst migrant workers and students could cause significant unrest problems for the CCP. The CCP leaders are concerned that a leader from the Falun Gong sect could unite the disaffected population in a mobilized attempt to overthrow the CCP. Segal comments, however, that while the protests are getting larger there is no risk of a group organizing and overthrowing the PRC. 72
The Chinese economy has not been impacted as heavily as other nations by the global recession. Even though the country is facing a drop in exports, and millions of unemployed workers, and college graduates, the economy remains stable. China’s banking sector has largely remained untouched by the global recession. China still has $1.9 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, giving it a strong insurance policy against financial turmoil. 73
There is still strong discussion amongst experts, as to how long China’s reserves will last in the current global downturn. Stagnation could destroy the party legitimacy as the social unrest increases among the jobless migrant workers and college graduates. The strong Chinese economy has been one of core sources from which the CCP to drawn upon to maintain their legitimacy. The economic downturn brings the concern, for the CCP political elites, that the growing middle class could be join the disaffected students and workers. The economic policies that favored the rich have alienated the industrial workers and peasants, which groups were formerly the core social base for the CCP. There were ninety thousand worker and peasant demonstrations recorded in 2008, and it will most likely continue worsen and intensify. 74
Noted China scholar, Minxin Pei, asserts that, the common perception of unrest from workers and college students coupled with a strong leader overthrowing the CCP is not necessarily wrong but rather its an incomplete assertion of what could cause the downfall of the CCP. 75 Pei disputes coalition of the disaffected students and unemployed organizing to over throw the country is highly unlikely to become a reality. This idea fails to take into consideration the CCP capacity for repression methods and the unity amongst the elite.76 The unrest may make it harder for the CCP to govern, but it is not going to loosen its hold on power. The only way there truly could be possibility of impending government collapse would be through a fracturing within the elites.
Since the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Chinese government refined its repressive capabilities. The Chinese police are adept at handling crowd control and dispersions, responding to thousands of riots a year. The government keeps its control through the tactic of “political decapitation”, wherein the secret police arrests protest leaders. This leaves their followers disorganized, demoralized, and powerless. If the economy continues to fuel more riots and unrest, the Chinese government will stick to its methods of control, which have been effective in keeping the CCP reign secure.
The true threat for the Party will have to be its ability to keep the elite in line. Before Tiananmen there was a broad coalition of liberals, conservatives, and technocrats. During the 1980s the liberals and conservatives that were in the party were constantly clashing over the speech at which reform should be undertaken and the overall direction the reforms needed to work towards. These clashes were damaging and paralyzing to the decision making process. After Tiananmen the Party purged the liberals from the government in order to form a technocratic/conservative base. 77
The standardization of procedures for promotions and retirements of officials, lack of strong ideological disputes, and smooth transition of succession between Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao have all contributed to this dominance. 78To ensure there is continued dominance of the Party and little threat from the intelligentsia the Party awards them with political status and perks. It has been extremely successful as now the majority of the members today consist of very well educated bureaucrats and intellectuals.79 The Chinese leadership, in order to keep itself in power, has to balance regional, factional, institutional, and business interests, which are all vulnerable to falling apart. There is also no single individual that has demonstrated strong leadership or vision amongst the upcoming generations.
The resurgence of Neo-authoritarian thought amongst the political elites could represent an attempt by the state to secure stronger centralized authority. Wang Huning, who was an early advocate for the elites’ use of neo-authoritarianism to ensure the CCP control is kept, argued in the 1993 China Development Report, that the weakening of centralized power is attributed to three causes: there was a drop in macro-regulation and control of power by elites in Beijing, a heavily uneven movement of resources to local governments, and the state’s financial capabilities were decreasing.80
These problems would local governments to a significant loss of revenue and a rise in regionalism within China that heavily threatens the CCP goal of keeping social unrest from occurring.81 The only way to counteract these problems was for the government to return to a strong centralized form in order to secure stability within the country and still bring about the necessary social development at low costs to the state.82
In 1996, A Heart-to-Heart Talk to the General Secretary, was published by the Chinese Academy of Social Science, and centered around the loss of control of a central authority with regard to economic decisions. The report concluded that the government needed to return to a strong central authority because, in the Academy’s view, it wanted to prevent the rise the regionalism throughout the country, that will only prove more difficult for the central government to reign in.83 The Academy of Social Sciences warned that the political elites needed to remember that, if left unchecked, the loyalty of the local groups could shift from the state to their local factions. If this were to occur, it would nullify any national policies that Beijing drafts, as the policies would not be implemented at the local level. This problem was likened to what happened in the Yugoslav government. It was suggested that in order to stop the CCP from falling victim to what happened to Yugoslavia, it must have total and undisputed loyalty from the local sectors. 84
The assertions of the Chinese Neo-Authoritarians are correct in that a strong central authority is necessary for the CCP to stave off massive social unrest throughout its society and reign in local and provincial Party members. Wang Shan, in his book, Looking At China through a Third Eye, argued that peasants will be the undoing of the state. He quotes an adage from Chinese history that stat that all of the Chinese dynasties were brought by down ‘roving peasants’ (liumin). It was only though absolute order that CCP was going to keep control over the country once peasants began to cause unrest throughout the country.85
Xiao Gongqing, interpreted China’s problems as stemming from a “development syndrome”86 which he saw as one of the signals that the regime was in a state of decay. As the development syndrome continues to intensify, Xiao believes the central government will be incapable of carrying out nationwide policies as they will be ignored by local administration, corruption will continue to be a problem and only increase; and there will be rises in unemployment from migrant workers. Xiao predicted these problems could bring disaffected intellectuals together with the jobless migrant workers against the economic polarization from the economic boom and the corruption by the local party officials. This could break down the existing order if the regime is too soft on control. 87Xiao believes that CCP is incompetent with the respect to - fighting special interests and criminals. 88 He argues that only through authoritarian control, quanwei zhiyue, will social stability be maintained. 89
The Heart-To Heart paper, the Chinese Academy of Social Science, stressed to the elites that the lack of a cohesive ideology to unite the people would be the greatest threat to the Party’s legitimacy.90\ The use of nationalism and Confucianism is the Party’s solution to that problem. The Party is strongly aware that nationalism is a double-edged sword for the CCP, as it could be used by various elements to overthrow the Party. Nationalism must be carefully used to ensure that it does not inspire minority ethnic groups to mobilize against the state, and it must be therefore be carefully used. It was suggested, by the Academy, that patriotism be used to create a strong spiritual bind for the people. 91 The Beijing Olympics in 2008, is a good example of the Chinese government creating a source of patriotism for the country and unify the people92.
Confucianism has shaken off its anti-modernity image that it held in the early 20th century. Its call for strong morality and ethics to guide decisions is not an un-timed maneuver by the Party, as the economic recession continues to be felt throughout the world. Xiao also asserted this maneuver by the government was best way to rebuild a strong cultural identity to regain legitimacy. Xiao believes that Confucianism can be complimentarily incorporated into the socialist value system. 93A stable society with ordered structure changes seems to be the guiding hand that the CCP wishes to continue with a neo-conservative mindset. It wants to ensure that radicalism of the student protests and radical democratic views of 1989 do not occur again. The fear of political liberalization by the state has only increased upon watching what happened to the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations after the Cold War and the adoption of liberal democratic principles and economic theory.
The CCP political elites are concerned with their declining control over the local politics from central power centers in Beijing and the continued deepening of social instability amongst the population. It is the neo-conservatives belief that liberal democracy offers no proper solutions to these problems and would only weaken the control of the CCP, which is something that would not be allowed to occur by the political elites.94
In the end, the use of nationalism and Confucianism is the pragmatic solution for the CCP to continue to secure their power over the country. The Chinese neo-conservatives are correct in their assessment that the problems they predicted in the early 1990s are occurring now in China and that the CCP will need to balance a strong centralized control of government with respect to the greater autonomy faced by the local and provincial governments. It will be necessary in order for their fight against corruption. But in their attempts to reign in the local and provincial government it cannot come at the cost of economic growth in the country. Pragmatic nationalism will have to be used in order for the country to secure loyalty from that the local party leaders and back towards the Beijing leaders. The CCP cannot risk internal fracturing and regional battles arising while China seeks to assert itself as a model for other Asian and developing nations. The CCP will do what they believe is necessary to limit and contain internal problems to secure its legitimacy and control over the country.
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1.) R. Wood, ‘The Treaty of Nanking: Form and the Foreign Office, 1842-1843’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol 24, May 1996, p.181-186
2.) K. Bloch, “The Basic Conflict Over Foreign Concessions in China,” Far East Survey Vol. 8 no. 10, p. 111-116
3.) J. K. Fairbank, The Great Chinese Revolution 1800-1985, New York: Harper and Row, 1986, p.81
4.) J. Spence, The Search For Modern China, New York: Norton, 1999, pp. 231-232
5.) S. Hu, ‘Confucianism and Contemporary Chinese Politics’, Public & Policy, Volume 35, no. 1, 2007, p. 138
6.) S. Hu pp. 139
7.) Z. Shizao, ‘Refuting the Emperor System’ Jiayin zazhi cungao, 1990, p. 243 in T. Weston, ‘The Formation and Positioning of the New Cultural Community, 1913-1917,’ Modern China, Vol. 24, No. 3, p. 268
8.) S. Hu, pp. 139-140
9.) S. Cai. The Confucian Thinking System, Shanghai: Shanghai renmin Chubanshe, 1982, pp. 268-70 in S. Hu, p 140
10.) Y. Lin. The Crisis of Chinese Consciousness: Radical Anti-traditionalism in the May Fourth Era, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979, pp 56-81
11.) S. Hu, p. 141
12.) H. Ip, ‘Liang Shuming and the Idea of Democracy in Modern China’ Modern China, Vol. 17, no. 4, p. 473
13.)  A.J. Gregor, Confucianism and the Political Thought of Sun Yat- Sen,” Philosophy East and West Volume 31, no. 1, pp. 55-70
14.) R. Solomon, Mao’s Revolution and the Chinese Political Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 140
15.) S. Hu, p. 141
16.) Cao, p. 435
17.) Y. Lao, “On Harmony: the Confucian View”, in S-H Liu, & R.E. Allison (Eds.), Harmony and Strife: Contemporary Perspectives, East and West, Hong KongL The Chinese University Press, 1988, pp. 190-191
18.) Y. Lao, pp. 195-196
19.) Mencius, pp. 131, 164
20.) Y. Lao, p. 203
21.) J. Sole-Farras, ‘Harmony in Contemporary New Confucianism and in Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’, China Media Research, Vol. 4, no. 4, 2008, p. 18
22.) J. Sole-Farras, p. 18
23.) Cao. P. 436
24.) J. Zemin, ‘Speech by President Jiang Zemin at the President George Bush Library 2002/10/28’’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 28/10/2002, accessed 10/5/2009
25.) H.M. Hunt, Ideology and US Foreign Policy, New Haven, CT Yale University Press 1987, p. 85
26.) X. Yan, American Hegemony and China’s Security Threat. Tianjun: Tiajun People’s Publishing House. 2000, p. 45
27.) Resolution on the main aspects of the construction of a harmonious socialist society, Sixth Plenum of the 16th Central Committee of the CPC, http://www.gov.cn/gongbao/content/2006/content_453176.htm in J. Sole-Farras p. 20
28.) J. Wen, ‘Report on the Work of the Government’, Third Session of the Tenth National People’s Congress, 2005 http://english.gov.cn/official/2005-
07/29/content_18351.htm in J. Sole-Farras, p. 24
29.) F.C. Fung, ‘Chinese Harmony Renaissance: What the World Must Know, San Francisco: World Harmony Organization, 2006, p. 8
30.) J.T. Hu, ‘Hold High the Great Banner of the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Report to the 16th National Congress of the CPC. 2002.
31.) J. Sole-Faras, p. 20
32.) J. Sole-Farras, p. 18
33.) J. Sole-Farras, p. 19
34.) J. Sole-Farras, p 19
35.) ‘Communique of the Sixth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee, 2006’, p. 206 retrieved from http://news.hinhuanet.com/english/2006-10/11/content_5191071.htm (unable to access it) in J. Sole-Farras, p. 20
36.) S.R.,Huang, ‘Communicate Heritage: Political and Cultural Similarities between Chinese Marxism and Confucian Tradition’, China Media Research, Vol 2. no. 2, 2006, p. 94-102 in J. Sole-Farras, p. 21
37.) D. Shambaugh, China’s Communist Party; Atrophy and Adaptation, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington, D.C., 2008, in J. Sole-Farras, p. 21
38.) J. Sole-Farras, p. 22
39.) J.S. Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, New York: Public Affairs, 2004, p. x
40.) Chan, A. ‘Confucianism and Deng’s China’ M. Lee & A.D. Syrokomla-Stefanowska (Eds.), Modernization of the Chinese Pasr, Broadway, NSW: Wild Peony, 1993, pp. 16-24
41.) Confucius, The Analects, Penguin Books, London, England, 1972, p. 74 Book IV: 16
42.) Mencius, Mencius, Penguin Books, Middlesex, England, 1970, p. 49 Book 1A:1
43.) Confucius, p. 114 Book XII 11
44.) Confucius, p. 114 Book 12:11
45.) Cao, p. 436
46.) Confucius, p. 63 Book 2:3
47.) Confucius, p. 119 Book 13:6
48.) S. Zhao, Debating Political Reform in China: Rule of Law vs Democratization, Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2006
49.) Confucius, p. 121 Book 13:18
50.) N. E. Park, ‘Corruption in Eighteenth-Century China,’ The Journal of Asian Studied, Vol. 56, no. 4, 1997, p. 975
51.) Park, p. 1005
52.) Q. Daxin, A New Account of Ten Voyages to Cultivate Virtue, N.P. Huangwen shuju, 1799, p. 2:10a-11a in Park, p. 1004
53.) J. Wilkinson, The Pleasing History, London: Dodsley, 1761, p.168 in Park, p. 975
55.) Park, p. 975
56.) A. Lister, ‘Chinese Proverbs and their Lessons,’ China Review Volume 3, no. 3. 1874, p. 134 in Park, p. 975
57.) M. A. Macauley, Account of the History, Science, Art, Customs, Habits, etc. of the Chinese, collected by the Missionaries of Peking. Paris: Nyon, 1776-91, p. 154 in Park, p. 975
58.) Lister, p. 134
59.) Lister, p. 135
60.) J. Doolite, The Chinese: A General Description of the Empire of China and its Inhabitants, Fuzhou, China: Rozario, Marcal, and Co., 1795 p. 484 in Park, p. 975
61.) N. Renwick and Q. Cao, ‘China’s Political Discourse Towards the 21st Century: Victimhood, Identity and Political Power’ East Asia: An International Quarterly, Vol. 17, no. 4, 1999. pp. 111-143
62.) Q. Cao, ‘ Confucian Vision of a New World Order? Cultural Discourse, Foreign Policy, and the Press in Contemporary China’, The International Communication Gazette, Vol. 69, no. 5, p. 434
63.) D. Zhang. On Chinese Traditional Culture’ People’s Daily website www.people.com.cn/GB/wenhau/22226/33178/2469386.html in Cao p. 434
64.) Cao, p. 434
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