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Public Good and Partisan Gain: Political Languages of Faction in Late Imperial China and Eighteenth-Century England

From: Journal of World History
Volume 23, Number 4, December 2012
pp. 841-882 | 10.1353/jwh.2012.0139



This article compares the fictional rhetoric in late imperial China with that of eighteenth-century England to explain how political rhetoricians could justify the existence of ministerial factions at court by representing them as loyal servants of the public good. Yet, historical contingency and different alignments of state and society produced divergent discourses of political authority in China, where faction was deplored, and England, where partisan divisions were increasingly accepted. While limited monarchy and parliamentary governments made English partisanship defensible, Chinese rhetoricians of the Song and Ming dynasties failed to articulate political interests that were independent from the unitary monarchy they served.

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