Contemporary Chinese Political Thought: Debates and Perspectives

Contemporary Chinese Political Thought: Debates and Perspectives

Contemporary Chinese Political Thought: Debates and Perspectives

Contemporary Chinese Political Thought: Debates and Perspectives

Excerpt

During the past two decades or so, China has been emerging into the limelight of global economics, global science, and global politics. Having been consumed for nearly a century by the strains of internal and external troubles, the Asian giant is at long last assuming its rightful place in the global community of peoples. Yet, behind staggering growth rates and levels of productivity, something else at least equally impressive is happening: the steady burgeoning of Chinese intellectual life and its solid integration into the global market of ideas and philosophical arguments. For political pessimists, this intellectual emergence is only another steppingstone in the direction of a looming “clash of civilizations.” From another, more hopeful and dispassionate angle, the same development is able to lay the groundwork for a genuine dialogue between the “East” and the “West,” a dialogue conducive to a mutual learning process and a loosening of rigid ideological positions. Ever since the onset of the Cold War, political thought in the West—especially in America—has been in the grip of liberal individualism and neoliberalism, with its accent on private autonomy, profit making, and public deregulation. On the other hand, roughly since the same time, China has experienced the fortunes and misfortunes of political and economic collectivism, sometimes abetted by a heavy-handed traditionalism disdainful of individual freedoms. Under these circumstances, a genuine encounter between “East” and “West” carries with it the prospect of greater mutual attentiveness and a dismantling of ideological straitjackets.

The present volume brings together essays by Chinese intellectuals written (with one exception) in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The arguments of the writers, of course, are not advanced in a vacuum but make sense only when seen against the background of Chinese history, especially developments in the past century. By and large, Chinese intellectual life in recent times has been dominated by a dialectic of radically opposed positions: anti-Westernism and pro-Westernism— . . .

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