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Kang Xiaoguang Confucianization: A Future in the Tradition W HITHER CHINA? This question has engaged the attention of China and the world in modem times, and it is all the more urgent and pressing today. Two dominating opinions have taken shape around this question. One holds that the status quo cannot possibly go on for long; the other that China should and certainly will be further “Westernized.” But there has appeared a third voice in China in the twenty-first centuiy— ’’Confucianization,” which declares that China’s future should emerge from its tradition and should be constructed in accordance with the spirit of Confucianism. Why should Chinabe “Confucianized”ratherthan “Westernized”? An answer to this question must address four issues. First, it needs to make clear why the status quo cannot and should not continue. Second, it must show that the competing solution, liberal democracy, has noth­ ing to recommend it. Third, it must put forward its own solution. Fourth, it must demonstrate that its own solution is feasible—that, in other words, benevolent government is not merely utopian. This article is an attempt to answer this central question. I. JUDGMENT OF THE STATUS QUO The study of history is the best way to understand of the status quo, but there is no need to go back too far. For our purposes, it will be enough to go back to 1978. Here, I wish to give a brief summary of China’s reform process over the past nearly three decades. social research Voi 73 : No 1 : Spring 2006 77 Institutional Changes Deng Xiaoping conceived many of his ideas on reform in the 1960s and the 1970s. These ideas reflected Weber’s rational logic, instead of liberal democracy. It should be borne in mind that Deng Xiaoping was a pragmatist who put his ideas into practice once he was in power. In a word, Deng was a communist, in pursuit of the “self-improvement of socialism.” He did not wish to totally deviate from the tradition of the Chinese Communist Party. But, of course, his reform went much further than he had expected. In China’s reform, the greatest pressure comes from the economic sector.With Western examples setting a baseline, those in power need to demonstrate their achievements in economic growth to the governed so as to legitimize their rule. After more than 30 years of cold war, a “common understanding” has been gradually acknowledged that a market economy is better able to promote economic growth than a planned economy. Thus, Deng Xiaoping’s reform was directed mainly at the economic sector. Of course, he also launched a series of reforms in the political and social sectors. The market economy reform has indeed led to economic growth in China. In turn, this surprisingly high growth rate over 20 successive years has truly supplied the Communist Party with “legitimacy based on economic achievements.” This is also a decisive contribution to the political stability of China. Butthe impactofmarket-oriented reform is byno means restricted to the economic field! The Chinese political system has also undergone significant changes with the market economy gradually replacing the planned economy. The first indication of this political change is that China has turned from a totalitarian state to an authoritarian or a posttotalitarian state. One of the substantial changes is that the govern­ ment is no longer controlling all economic activities—that is, society’s most important activities (economics) and most important resources (wealth) have gradually escaped government control. This is extremely important, and one can never stress it too much. Separation of the state from society begins to emerge with the separation of economic activi­ ties from the government. Furthermore, China’s social formation has 78 social research also changed significantly. Now family life and the personal activities of individuals are no longer under the complete control of the govern­ ment as was the case in the Mao Zedong era. Nowadays, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will generally leave you alone ifyou do not chal­ lenge its authority. Even ifyou do, it will still leave you alone unless you openly challenge it in the public sphere. The CCP has turned to passive defence from its previous active...


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