China can gain edge by refuting Western rhetoric

By Zhang Weiwei
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 18, 2012
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China Can Win
Written by Song Luzheng
Red Flag Press, 2012, pp 244

China's rapid rise has provoked a variety of different interpretations. However, there are few international political systems to compare it with, and even fewer through which it could be interpreted well. Mr. Song Luzheng's book "China Can Win" is no doubt one of the top analyses of its kind. This book lays out many exclusive insights and a clear perspective in distinguishing Western systems and the Chinese pattern, revealing the deep-seeded reasons for why the West is in decline and China will continue to rise.

Song has lived in both Eastern and Western countries for extended periods; as such, he has a profound understanding about what the saying "culture is the mother of political system" means. Regarding the reform and evolution of China's political systems, Song points out the first essential factor is a nation's cultural traditions. He argues that China's political tradition for thousands of years has been to have only one political center. Once multiple political centers appear, the nation will become fragmented, he says, consequently leading to the suffering of the Chinese people. Tragic and painful historical memories have become a collective consciousness of Chinese citizens. As such, this political tradition will be the basis of whether future political reform in China can succeed or not. This is the starting point – the core of China's political reform.

Due to hegemony of political rhetoric accumulated by Western countries over hundreds of years, the Western model is still seen as the compass for China's political reform by many Chinese people. Song largely rejects this outlook, examining the subject from three different aspects:

Firstly, looking at the process of various nations' democratic transformations throughout history, the price has been exceptionally high for political change: history is filled with social turbulence, civil wars, violent revolution, and the return of dethroned monarchs. If China uses the West as a model for its reform, an analysis of Western history will speak for itself in terms of what it would bring to China.

Secondly, from a realist perspective, when a nation still doesn't have a firm self-identity as a people, attempts at democratic reform can easily lead to nation's split. The dissolutions of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia are such example. What's more, even Western nations that have established stable and mature democratic systems still face challenges in finding effective ways to unify their countries. China has a long tradition of great unification, but "Chinese people" is a relatively new concept which was born only a century ago. Separatism still threatens the nation's unity. It is not an exaggeration that China would dissolve if the government follows a Western approach towards democratization.

Finally, Western nations established the mature democratic systems step by step, like a seed grows into a tree. If we count the UK's Glorious Revolution in 1688 as the starting point, it took the UK over 200 years to see the emergence of political parties and then the full implementation of the democratic practice of general elections. Other developed countries like the United States and France had a similar evolutionary process. While these countries' political systems evolved, they also underwent market reforms, religions' secularization, cultural diversification, as well as establishment of a nation state, civil society and legal system. However, after the Western world finished its democratization, this long-term process has never happened again. All later transformed countries adopted sudden or even shock approaches to transplant the Western democratic values. The cost of this radical democratization for those countries was extremely high.

Taking these points into account, Mr. Song's conclusion is China's political system reform has no precedent to follow. China can use Western history as a reference point, and as a guide post for certain innovations, but it cannot copy the Western model. He further points out that China's current system is the result of a long-term internal evolution based on its political and cultural traditions.

For thousands of years, Song argues, China has had only one political core, recruiting top talent from around the country to serve in the government. China's classic model for power transition is the "abdication system". In modern times, the national talent recruitment has been applied at all levels of power in the government, including top positions. Modern power transitions today favor the "abdication" tradition, but at the same time, abandon the system of lifelong leadership. So now the model features: one party rule, nationwide recruitment, long-term cultivation, age limits and regular power transitions.

In comparing the three major civilizations of the world: Western Judeo-Christian civilization, Islamic civilization and Confucian civilization, Song arrives at a very creative conclusion: Western countries change leaders and ruling parties regularly; China changes its leaders regularly but doesn't change the ruling party; while Arab countries neither change party nor leaders.

In the current global climate, China's model is the best, Song argues, reason being that if a system wants to operate smoothly, it should not only have flexibility, but also have continuity. The Western model has the flexibility, he says, but it doesn't have continuity – the inauguration of a new administration can potentially usher in radical policy shifts. In contrast, the Arab model has continuity but lacks flexibility, causing its system to become too rigid. This is precisely why the West has gone to economic recession while Arab societies linger in turmoil. China, in comparison, seems like a paradise on the Earth, and is becoming an unstoppable global influence. If China's system was more like its Western or Islamic counterparts, what would the world be like today?

The scale and momentum of China's rise are unprecedented in human history. As long as we continue to walk on our own path to success, our prospects are very bright. The most worrying thing we need prevent is the prevalence of Western rhetoric, which will result in political chaos and economic disorder. In fact, Western countries today are in crisis and are in no position to lecture China. Song Luzheng's "China Can Win" is a great book that can help Chinese citizens see through the limitations set by the Western propaganda and explore how China can completely surpass the West.

The author is a senior research fellow at the Chunqiu Institute, and author of the book "China Wave".

The article was originally published in Chinese, and translated by Zhang Rui.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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