Academic journal article China Perspectives

Editorial

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Editorial

Article excerpt

Under Hu Jintao, Chinese authorities have made the building of a "harmonious society" a priority. This was reiterated at the 17th Comunist Party Congress in October 2007, although it was another term, "scientific development" (kexue fazhanguan) that eventually appeared in the amendments to the Party's constitution. In any case, behind the variety of slogans, the basic orientations remain intact. In view of all the fault lines China now confronts, priority is given to a development path of higher quality and sustainability, more evenly spread and better managed. Behind the scenes, the challenge for the authorities is also to continue devising policies that will help them adapt to changes they have themselves ushered in but which could nevertheless weaken their hold on power. Thus, at the current juncture, "harmony" is also essential for a Party concerned over retaining its grip on the country.

This collection of articles is intended as a reflection on major issues raised by the effort to build a harmonious society. The first section deals with issues of a political nature, and evokes contrasting responses. An extensive overview of the situation in China today starts offwith Willy Wo-Lap Lam asking whether it is at all possible to realise the objectives set in the absence of genuine political reforms allowing the weaker sections of the population to defend their interests against the groups grabbing the nation's wealth. On a different level, citizens' political participation is also at the heart of the contribution by Gunter Schubert and Chen Xuelian, who examine village elections, showing these could have a positive effect in terms of social stability and local governance and even boost the regime's legitimacy. The situation in rural China is far from homogenous. Yu Jianrong, doing field work in Hunan on a farmers' resistance movement, analyses how they invoke higher norms and moral values in defence of their rights. The "norms of Chinese harmony" are also explored by Leïla Choukroune and Antoine Garapon in defending the idea that in China today law is a disciplining and moralising tool used to ensure the regime's durability. The theme of morality, as also the often Confucian-sounding official slogans - harmony is a good example - lead to the question of the authorities' attitude towards Chinese traditional culture, especially Confucianism. …

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