The Dynamics of Chinese Politics

The Dynamics of Chinese Politics

The Dynamics of Chinese Politics

The Dynamics of Chinese Politics

Excerpt

The tension between consensus and faction is in large measure the most basic dynamic of Chinese politics. Pulling in one direction is the cultural imperative of conformity and consensus -- within the ranks of the elite there should be only harmony and cooperation, never unseemly competition and disagreements. Yet there is an equal, if not stronger, cultural imperative that pulls in the other direction, which says that security is to be found only in personal, particularistic relations that ensure that one is not just a part of the common herd but that one has special ties with both superiors and inferiors.

In this book we seek to examine the ramifications of this basic contradiction that is the driving force for so much of Chinese political behavior. On the one hand, there is the ideal of unanimity, the principle of collective conformity, of never causing waves or being out of step. On the other hand, there is the irresistible compulsion to find security by seeking out special relationships. The consequence is that behind the curtain of consensus there is an endless process of forming and reforming of clusters and networks of officials, which at times consolidate into fairly coherent factions. Since all Chinese leaders know that this process takes place, those upholding the consensus of the moment tend to be quickly suspicious that others are acting against it, and therefore they are inclined to threaten the others and thereby cause them to do the very things they are suspected of doing.

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