The second article is from a research scholar, Han Zhu. He pointed out that China’s modernity drive is not just recent phenomena. It has been shaped by the long history, though nation building and the concept of sovereign nation started in the late Ching dynasty. Good governance has always been one of the main characteristic of Chinese model, since ancient time. Thus the mandate to govern does not come just from one time act of going through election process, but through long-term good governance.
The 30 years of reform and opening-up in China cannot be separated from the past 100 years of social development any more than they can be divorced from its 5,000 years of history. The past three decades should be seen as a continuing process of modernization in the conceptualization of the “China model”, which differs from the “Western model”.
The China model has been shaped in three stages. The social revolution in nation-building started in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), resulting in political independence and sovereignty. A wartime economic system was adopted after 1949 to obtain full international recognition and strengthen national defense. And finally, in 1979, people’s livelihood was made the top priority.
All these are part of the logical progression of China’s pursuit of modernization in the past century.
The China model acquires its characteristics from more than a century of economic, political and social reform and mirrors the country’s 5,000-year history. In other words, the China model reflects the special vitality of Chinese civilization.
The model’s characteristics can be broadly divided into three groups: rational practicality, populism and good governance based on public will.
The first characteristic follows the tradition of practical rationalism, an all-embracing but selective fusion of cultures. Since the Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220), Chinese society has assimilated different schools of thoughts, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Legalism, Monism and other philosophies.
It sifted the beneficial aspects of heterogeneous (even foreign) cultures and then converted them to suit the realities of society, which can loosely be called Sinofication. It is this ability that plays a central role in the China model. And unlike Westernization, it is an internalizing process.
The second characteristic, populist tradition, is the pursuit of equality between the rich and the poor, which has shaped social and economic development from the early periods of history. The fall of the feudal Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) was caused by civil wars among vassal states, and true civil society took shape during the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han dynasties.
Historically, the populist aim was prosperity and equality for all. While China’s modernization was built on civil revolution, it was strong populist power that spurred the country’s economy, and prevented the market from enjoying a free rein and society from being divided into extremely rich and poor sections . No wonder, prosperity-for-all has become the most powerful driving force in recent years.
The third characteristic is good governance, in which the political legitimacy of the ruling party and the government does not come from one-time election but from long-term good governance.
Objectively speaking, great public pressure has always accompanied the entire process of administration in the Chinese political model. At both the central and local government levels, political legitimacy depends on public mandate – an indispensable process in every concrete decision and action.
This is totally different from Western governments, which are mostly invested by a periodic polling process. In the West, democracy is reflected only at the time of elections, but in China democracy has to navigate the entire process of administration, which puts enormous continuous pressure on the government. Under such pressure, the government has to take responsibility for all social problems or lose its political legitimacy.
From the perspective of social development and government responsibility, this model has obvious advantages. It is only through understanding these three factors that one can fully comprehend the degree of satisfaction of Chinese people toward the speed and direction of the current development process, which is reflected in polls conducted by organizations such as the Pew Research Center.
To understand the universal significance of the China model, it is necessary to distinguish between its universal significance and the model itself. It simply means that the China model can be used as reference, not copied.
Thus, its universal significance is in its influence on similar late-developing countries, most of which are not part of the West, and that it can be used as a reference model for other countries still developing their own models.
The author is a research fellow of the Sinolizing Research Center.