Something’s Rotten in America Amid the widespread chaos here in America between riots and popular financial rallies, it might be useful to see how other companies are moving forward. Where better to look than our greatest geopolitical rival: the People’s Republic of China (PRC)?
The rapid rise of the Chinese economy, a vigorous campaign against corruption, and changing geopolitical demands have all created what might be called a legal renaissance in China. Unfortunately for those of us who cannot read Chinese, much of the work of party theorists and university professors in the PRC has yet to be translated.
Other than the English translation from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Qiushi newspaper, it is difficult to find a unified body of the latest Chinese political philosophy. That being said, we still have access to a fairly remarkable body of work from a wide variety of different positions in Chinese political economy.
The aforementioned Qiushi offers translations of Xi Jinpings’ Marxist analyzes, Read the Chinese dream makes available currents of thought as varied as Jiang Qing’s Confucianism and Qin Hui’s liberalism and newspapers like China Daily provide a (limited) insight into the political thought of a multitude of contributors.
One of the most interesting thinkers of the modern Chinese state is the conservative-liberal Gao Quanxi, professor of law at KoGuan Law School of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Gao, in his Political maturity, exposes a theory of liberal order. The central idea of his essay is this: China does not have the historic liberal tradition present in the democracies of North America and Europe, and this hinders the progressive movement in this country.
Gao relates the success of a liberal system to its ability to supplant a given theological or material system through a historical narrative. This historical narrative can be anything from Whig history, American founding tales, French revolution, but it has to be carefully crafted to work. Such a story, once rooted, continues on its own. As successive generations repeat and transmit it, it becomes part of national mythology.
From this stems his criticism of the Chinese liberal movement: he refuses to create such an indigenous historical narrative. Instead, it simply criticizes the dominant CCP regime, while drawing on Western theories of liberalism to argue for negative freedoms (rights of things rather than rights to things).
Gaos’ second point is that a liberal order requires both private economic freedom and public moral justice (similar to the thesis of German economist Wilhelm Rpkes in “A human economy“).
Without a political class willing and able to enact moral law, liberalism cannot function or even emerge as a system in the first place, according to Gao. In this regard, he also sides with Benjamin Constants freedom of the moderns in favor of the freedom of the ancients: advocacy for public rights concomitant with public responsibilities.
This type of liberalism is based on an ideal of Westphalian sovereignty: just as Britain has its myths, China can also create its own, and the citizens of both countries can freely interact in a global market. However, not all Chinese thinkers subscribe to such political idealism.
Totally opposed to Gaos Burkian liberalism is Jiang Shigongs’ authoritarian statism. Peking University law professor and avowed fan of the German jurist Carl SchmittJiang’s thinking centers on how the state (and party / movement) interacts with other actors on the world stage to assert its sovereignty.
Drawing on the aforementioned Schmitts theories of sovereign action and international law, Jiang argues that all world order comes from empires competing for hegemony over small nations and political communities.
It’s important to differentiate this from realism as a model of international business Empires are, after all, much larger than states, and states often bow their knees to such organizations (think members of the European Union bend the knee in front of the European Council).
Westphalia has no role here, except as a transitional stage. Indeed, Jiang’s empires “can be defined more precisely as civilizations that he classifies Europe and China and Islamic and Hindu civilizations as empires with geographic boundaries and coherent goals. Of course, over time these empires (starting with Europe) gave way to the colonialism of nation states and ultimately to the post-war world order we know today.
Jiang considers the United States to be the most modern, and after mid-century Marxist Alexander Kojve, the final embodiment of an empire is a global empire, able to project its will wherever it pleases.
So every conflict the United States faces (with Russia, with China, with the Middle East) is not a clash of civilizations “but rather a rebellion from within. Jiang, critic of the liberal order of the United States, notes the crises the United States faces at home and abroad, and postulates that China should aim to replace the United States as a global hegemon.
Jiang’s worldview is more cynical than Gao’s, steeped in a more controversial tradition of thought, but not for nothing it is Jiang who has the ear of the CCP and Xi Jinping himself.
These dichotomous examples of political thought within the CCP function as a kind of mirror for our own country, paradigm examples for the breadth of options we can consider as we move into the future and face new challenges. new international circumstances.
Sumit Bedi is a first year arts and science school with a major in philosophy. His column, “Through a Glass, Darkly,” airs every other Tuesday.
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