Open Journal of Political Science
2011. Vol.1, No.1, 1-9
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ojps.2011.11001
China’s Sui Generis plus Oxymoron*—Its Justification
Shaocheng Tang
National Chengchi University, Institute of International Relations, Chinese Taipei.
Received July 18th, 2011; revised August 5th, 2011; accepted August 15th, 2011.
In recent years, China’s overall performance stood out extraordinarily. Although the PRC is not only a socialist
but also a developing country, it still has offered financial relief to European countries. None of Beijing’s leaders
has been directly elected by the people, but most of them have been proven to be competent. Does this mean that
the “Beijing Consensus” has taken over “Washington Consensus”? Given China’s vast population and its unique
geographical environment and historical development, compared to European countries, China is sui generis. In
the traditional Confucianism, benevolence () is a virtue which human beings are born with, while the Western
world is rooted deeply in the Christian culture of “original sin”. As a result the rule of virtue in China contrasts
the rule of law in the West, harmony vs. contradiction. China’s “socialist market economy” and “Three Repre-
sents” are typical oxymorons but with great success. Since the implementation of a “socialist market economy”
in 1992 there has been much more market economy than socialism. Currently, political, social and cultural
sectors are lagging behind. Therefore, the gap between the rich and the poor must be reduced efficiently.
Nonetheless, the corruption problem remains as another serious and important issue for the CCP. Without
independent anti-corruption authorities, it would be extremely difficult for them to tackle this problem. For the
time being the Mainland has to count on the leadership to set examples for others.
Keywords: China, Sui Generis, Oxymoron, Value , Leadership, Socialism à la Chine
In recent years, China’s (PRC) international status has been
constantly rising, especially since the outbreak of the global
financial crisis in September 2008. Despite constant local small
scale riots in the rural areas of the Chinese hinterland, pollution,
corruption and human rights-abuse charges from the West,
China’s performance stood out extraordinarily in both domestic
and international affairs.
Notably, the PRC is not only a socialist but also a developing
country. But the Chinese government, with around 4000 USD
in terms of GDP per capita, is in the position to offer financial
relief to European and other countries e.g. Iceland and Spain etc.
which have more than 30,000 USD per capita. How is this pos-
Moreover, none of the leaders in Beijing has been directly
elected by the people. But in terms of governance capability,
leadership and the general image of the government, Mainland
leaders proved to be no less competent in any way than those in
the West. Hu Jintao’s popularity has ranged between 80% -
90% in recent years (Global Leadership Poll, 2008; Michael
Chang, 2007). Compared to George W. Bush, Barack Obama,
Nicolas Sarkozy, Naoto Kan of Japan, Lee Myung-bak of South
Korea, Ma Ying-jeou of the ROC, does this phenomenon
present a subversion of the Western democracy?
When former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called
an end to the 1989 “Washington Consensus” in 2009, will the
“Beijing Consensus” soon take its place?( Ramo, 2004; Halper,
2010; )1 Within this context, will “China model” jeopardize the
interests of Europe and the United States? Does this indicate a
conversion from the “white man’s burden” to “China’s respon-
sibility” (Robert Zoellick, 2007)? Could this present a chal-
lenge to the West? When Pax Sinica prevails, will Pax Britan-
nica and Pax Americana decline (Jacques, 2009; Zakaria, 2008;
Jekins, 2010)?
From Taiwan’s perspective, since the 1980s, Taiwanese
enterprises have invested over $300 billion in the Mainland.
Currently, the Mainland is Taiwan’s biggest trading partner, the
cross-strait trade accounts for 40% of Taiwan’s overall foreign
trade.2 Now the ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework
Agreement) signed between Taipei and Beijing is effective
since January 1, 2011, Taiwan’s economic dependence on the
Mainland is about to increase. A kind of “Community of fate”
(Schicksalsgemeinschaft) between the two sides is taking shape.
Therefore, the Mainland’s stability and development are
absolutely crucial and even vital to Taiwan. This article tries to
1“Washingt on Consensu s”was a reform pack age regard ing fis cal, trade an d
development policies promoted for Eastern European and Latin American
states by IMF, World Bank, and the US. Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
G20 Will Pump Trillion Dollars Into World Economy. Sky News. 2 April
4115254629 “Beijing Consensus” was first used by Joshua Cooper Ramo in
his same title book. The first guideline involves a “commitment to innova-
tion and constant experimentation.” Secondly, the sustainability of the
economic system and an even distribution of wealth, along with GDP, are
important indicators of progress. Thirdly, policy of self-determination, keep
the superpowers in check and assure their own financial sovereignty. Stefan
Halper calls the China model “market author itarian model”.
299 年 7 月份兩岸貿易情勢分析,Situation of cross-strait trade on July
*Oxymoron is an epigrammatic effect, by which contradictory terms are
used in conjunction, e.g. wise fool or living death. Shen, Yeshayahu (1987),
“On the structure and understanding of poetic oxymoron”. Poetics Today 8
(1): 105-122.
determine reasons for some significant aspects of China’s status,
values, practices, performances and challeng e s .
Sui Generis
Lately, there is a popular jingle spreading around academic
circles in Beijing:3
“In 1949 socialism saved China,
In 1979 capitalism saved China,
In 1989 China saved socialism,
In 2009 China saved capitalism.”
In 2010 the PRC successfully kept its economic growth rate
at 8.6% through expanding its domestic demand and earned a
foreign trade surplus of $183.1 billion.4 As of in March 2010
China held a foreign reserves totaling 3.44 trillion.5 According
to recent Forbes magazine report, there are 1,011 billionaires in
the world and 64 of whom are from China.6 In September 2010,
China became number one holder of US state bonds, worth
$883.5 billion, which exceeding Japan’s $865 billion. In June
2011, China increases its US bonds to $1.165 trillion.7
In November 2010, Forbes put Hu Jintao on the top of its list
of the 20 most influential persons in the world, ahead of
President Obama.8 2010 the PRC has already surpassed Japan
and became the world’s second largest economy just next to the
U.S. The Mainland has been pushed to the center of the world
stage, however, apparently it is not yet ready for that position.
Despite the financial crisis, the United States remains the
world’s single superpower with its GDP ($14 trillion) three
times as that of China.
China’s vast population, coupled with its unique geographi-
cal environment and historical development, China actually can
not be regarded as a common state on a European scale, but
should be seen as a special world state (Weltstaat). This sui
generis in the world has its uninterrupted five thousand-year
history and a great capability to assimilate other ethnicities as
well as a rather strong national consciousness (in contrast to
nationalism) (Fairbank, 1992; Peterson, 2002; Gellner, 2009;
Musgrave, 1997). It is one of world’s oldest empires, compara-
ble to the ancient Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the
Persian Empire. All of these Empires collapsed long ago, but
the framework of the Chinese Empire remains.
Take China’s population. The most populated EU-nation is
Germany, with a population of 80 million it is no more than
that of the Sicuan Province. The other big nations have the
population of two or three provinces, such as the United States
and Russia. In addition, more than 90% of the 1.3 billion
Mainland people are Han Chinese, the rest come from 55 ethnic
minorities which account for only less than 10%. But the mi-
norities occupy half of the land, while agricultural population
accounts for about 50% of the total population (in comparison
with only about 2% - 5% in European countries). Moreover, the
Mainland’s coastal areas are more progressive in contrast to the
vast and backward hinterland.
For centuries China has developed the pattern of
Sino-centrism with a radial symmetry (actinomorphy) between
the big Chinese Empire and other small nations around it. Su-
zerainty was the essence of their separate bilateral relations in
stead of equality of nations and sovereignty. Then in the 1840s,
China learned about the international law and the concept of
sovereignty, also suffered disgrace and humiliation at the hands
of the gunboat diplomacy of the West. In 1820 China had
shared almost 1/3 of the world GDP. But in 1950 China’s share
has shrunk to 3%.9
But since 1949, the CCP has eliminated all traces of the West
in the PRC and leaned on the then Soviet Union to create a
Chinese style communist state. But this cooperation between
Beijing and Moscow lasted only 10 years as the Soviet advisers
suddenly withdrew from China in 1960. After two decades of a
“policy of self-reliance,” the “reform and opening policy” was
initiated in 1978 and the influence of the West reentered China.
Since the 1990s, as the post-Cold War atmosphere spread
around the world, Asian values rose in East Asia along with the
traditional Confucianism.
China exported revolution from the 1950s until the end of the
1970’s and then commodities since the 1980’s. Could it now
start to export its values? Could the value of Confucianism
become an alternative to the Western values?
Values: Confucianism
The fundamental difference between the traditional Chinese
and Western values lies in different basic perceptions of human
nature. In traditional Confucianism (Yao, 2000; Ivanhoe,
1996)10, benevolence () is a virtue which human beings are
born with. The doctrine of good human nature (性善) is the
main ideological trend in Chinese culture (Watson, 2003).11 The
rule of morality as Confucius describes: “ruling by law, gov-
erning by punishment, losing sense of shame, ruling by moral-
ity, governing by etiquette, maintaining a sense of shame and
standard” (道之以政,齊之以刑,民免無恥。道之以德,齊
之以禮,有恥且格。論語,為政篇). In fact, all true
3中國一甲子的回顧,Review of China’s six Decades =6 08 74 2&f o ru mid=0 &g
4中國2010年全年貿易順差1831億美元, og/JaguarCSIA/162 13 91 5;去年中國經濟成長率
5中國外匯存底破3兆 創新高
http://www.worldjour n m/view/aCh i n anews/12 79 8260/article- %E4 %B
6福布斯 2010 年富豪榜中國大陸 64名富豪名單,2010 Forbes Rich List
64 are from China
http://www.zwbk.o rg/ zh-tw/Lemma_Show/25 68 .asp x
7美国之音网站日前发表文章,题为《中美因中国持有美债而共 生 ”》;
美債降級,中國損失有多大? / KDYNS2D9Z5LLA.shtml?c=d et
8Gallery: #1 H u J intao Power f ul People - F o
9“China & World GDP, <http://i>.
10Xinzhong Yao, An Introduction to Confucianism (Cambridge: Cam
University Press, 2000); Ivanhoe, Philip J. “Self-Cultivation in Early Con-
fucianism,” Francis Seaman Visiting Scholar Lecture Series, Philosophy
Department, University of Idaho, 26 April 1996.
11Although another Confucian philosopher Xunzi (荀子, 313 BC-238 BC)
believed, just counter to that of Mencius, man’s inborn characters are evil
and need to be curbed through education and ritual. His thought can not be
treated as main stream of the Chinese tradition. Daniel A. Bell, China’s
ew Confucianism (Princeton University Press 2007).
S.-C. TANG 3
education is to awaken consciousness of pupils to undertake
self-study and self-discipline. The top-grade man is the one
who is able to keep himself under control in order to be his own
master. Those who can not control themselves will have to be
controlled by others.
As for the Western world, which is rooted deeply in the
Christian culture of “original sin”, the doctrine of good human
nature can hardly develop e.g. Thomas Hobbes’s (1588-1679)
discourse of “war of all against all” (bellum omnium contra
omnes).12 This kind of thinking has a profound impact on the
modern western state philosophy. Therefore “the rule of law”
has always been upheld in the West where contract theory
(John Lock, 1632-1704; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778)
(Kary, 2000)13 is actually a manifestation of self-governance of
Private Law. In the end even the legitimacy of the State has to
rely on contracts (Bolton/ Dewatripont, 2005; Martimort, 2008).
In the view of Confucianism, the major flaw in the rule of
law is that the strong has the right to interpret the contract and
can bully the weak e.g. Herbert Spencer’s (1820-1903) “Social
Darwinism” (Hawkins, 1997). This idea added fuel to capital
colonial imperialism which combined with liberalism and
individualism. These ideas deepened the internal contradictions
of the Western world through their own struggles e.g. between
bourgeoisie and aristocracy, working class and bourgeoisie etc.
and consequently the people of the non-Western world had to
suffer from colonization. When the imperialist powers began to
colonize the other continents, they used the Bible to expropriate
for land and resources.
“Benevolence” is the Confucian ideal of the highest character.
It’s not abstract or distant, but is exercised in the daily life of
the Chinese. It teaches that people should handle their
relationships properly in order to build a harmonious society.
The Western liberalism, viewed from the point of Confu-
cianism, is tangled in individualism and puts too much
emphasis on individual freedom. As a result, the strong bullies
the weak.
In contrast, the Confucianism has always advocated being
“strict with oneself and lenient towards others, blames will be
far away”(躬自厚,而薄責於人,則遠怨矣,衛靈公,
15-14). The rights of others should be respected and not
squeezed, even if there are chances to do so. Only as such, one
could be an honorable gentleman. As for rights, sometimes
deliberately giving up an idea would reveal the self-restraint of
a virtuous person. This is the reason that Neo-Confucianism can
ease the excessive sense of right.
Confucianism has already contributed a lot to strengthen the
liberalism in Europe since the 17th century. Immanuel Kant
(1724-1804) asserted that humans are rational and therefore
each person is his own purpose (Selbstzweck, end in itself,自我
目的) and can not be used as a tool. In fact, Gottfried Wilhelm
Leibniz (1646-1716), Christian Wolff (1679-1754) et al. were
very much influenced by the then Neo-Confucianism, and their
rationales were the basis of Kant’s transcendental idealism
(Perkins, 2004; Palmquist, 1954; Shen, 1985; Zhu, 2005; Li,
2006; Fuchs, 2006).14 Kant’s ethic of “categorical imperative”
(定言令式) is similar to the virtue of humanity of Confucius
(WENZEL, 2006; AXINN, 2006).
Furthermore, the relation between humans and nature is also
important. Over the past three hundred years, the constant
pursuit of wealth through colonial imperialism resulted in
over-exploitation and serious damage to the environment. After
World War II, the non-Western countries also strove to catch
up, affecting the global climate even more severely. Neo-
Confucianism asserts that humans and nature are not separable.
How could one dare not to cherish materials and lives (民胞物
)! Therefore, any exploitation of nature also had its inherent
limitations. This can only be reached by the “self cultivation”
ability of Neo-Confucianism based on the self-improvement of
In “Li Ji, Li Yun, Da Tong” (禮記,Book of Rites,禮運大
同,Chapter of Great Harmony) Confucius describes the
“Utopia” of Chinese intellectuals on equal rights of people with
socialist elements.15 In fact, Confucius stressed that “inequality
is more dreaded than scarcity” (不患寡而患不均). Protect the
rights of survival and development, take care of the interests of
all people so that they can get what they want and contribute to
social harmony and stability.
In regard to the Confucian principle of group priority, family
or clan takes the center stage and then is expanded to country
and the world. Especially the “Da Xue” (大學The Great
Learning) promotes the virtues of reciprocity. If necessary,
personal interests could be sacrificed for the good of group
interests. The combination of legitimate interests of the
individual with the common interests of society is in contrast to
the Western binary thought of individual and group.
In the view of Confucianism, the principle of interaction
14Franklin Perkins, Leibniz and China: A Commerce of Light. (Cam
University Press, 2004); F. Nietzsche even called Kant the “Chinaman o
Konigsberg”, Steve Palmquist, HOW ‘CHINESE’ WAS KANT? The Phi-
losopher, Volume LXXXIV No. 1. Kan t also called Conf ucius “the Chinese
Socrates”, Helmut von Glasenapp, Kant und die Religionen des Osten
(Kitzingen: Holzner, 1954): 89; 沈福偉,中西文化交流史(上海:上海
人民出版社,1985). 448-450 Shen Fuwei, The History o
Sino-Western Cultural Exchange (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing
House, 1985). :448-450;朱謙之,中國哲學對歐洲的影響(上海:上海世
紀出版集團,2005)219-353, Zhu Qianzhi, The Influence of Chinese
Philosophy on Europe (Shanghai: Shanghai Century Publishing Group,
2005) 219-353 ; Li Wenchao/ Hans Poser, Leibnitz’s Positive View o
China, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Volume 33, Issue 1, 17-33, March
Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Volume 33, Issu e 1, 2006, 35-49.
“When th e Great P rinci ple p revai ls, the wo rld is a Co mmon wealth i n whi ch
rulers are selected according to their wisdom and ability. Mutual confidence
is promoted and good neighborliness cultivated. Hence, men do not regard
as parents only their own parents, nor do they treat as children only thei
own children. Provision is secured for the aged till death, employment for
the able-bodied, and the mean of growing up for the young. Helpless wid-
ows and wid owers, orphans and the lonely, as well as the sick and th e dis-
able, are well car ed for. Men hav e their respectiv e occupatio ns and women
their homes. They do notlike to see wealth lying idle, yet they do not keep
it for their own gratification. They despise indolence, yet they do not use
their energies for energies for their own benefit. In this way, selfish schem-
ing are repressed, and robbers, thieves and other lawless men no longe
exist, and there is no need for people to shut their outers. This is called the
Great Harmony (TA TUNG). .tw/sys/S M_theme?page=4 55 58 92 d .
12“Thomas Hobbes,” The Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 281:
British Rhetoricians and Logicians, 1500-1660, Second Series, Detroit:
Gale, 2003, pp.130-144; Leviathan, Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview
Press, 2002.
13Although Hobbes (authoritarian monarchy), Locke (liberal monarchy) and
Rousseau ( l iberal rep ub l i can i sm) have di f f erent id eas o n Social Con t r act t h e
author wants to underscore only the Contract and the rule of law itself in
order to distinguish them from the Confucius rule of virtue.
between countries is to do your own job well. Whether and how
countries would like to associate with others should be left to
their own decisions. Therefore, since ancient times, China has
always been faithful to others. In other words, treat others
faithfully and demonstrate honesty to all. Even forgiveness is a
way to demonstrate se lfle ssness.
If all foreign policies could originate in the ideology of
benevolence, all countries would be benefited. Hence, there is
no reason for others not to have good relationships with China.
In contrast to Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), admiral
Zheng He (鄭和, 1371-1433) made seven voyages reaching as
far as Eastern Africa (Menzies, 2002 & 2008; Ptak, 2007;
Zhang, 1992; Zhu, 2003). But he never occupied any lands or
founded any colonies, only supported the weak and eliminated
piracy to uphold international justice.
In fact, the traditional Chinese benevolent politics could help
maintain the basic principles of peaceful relations among
nations with mutual respect and mutual appreciation. Thus, it is
wise to respect the history and culture of each country. Being
human, everyone is the “essence of heaven and earth” (天地之
) but born in different places. Therefore, each nation has
created its own customs and values. It is believed that if the
Chinese had been born in Africa, Chinese history and culture
would not be better than what is found in the African nations.
Therefore, conviction in human faith is undoubtedly a
necessary condition for the ideal world. To create long-term
peaceful coexistence in the international society, the status quo
of all countries has to be respected.
According to Confucianism, every country is its own master
and may choose its own way of life. Western countries
experienced during the Enlightenment that the emerging
bourgeoisie could break out of the paternalistic regime. As Kant
indicates, the so-called “patriarchal power” is the most
dictatorial regime ever, and always treats people as their
children in the belief that they do not know what is good to
them. The contemporary democratization of the Western
countries, in fact, is the process of casting aside the
“paternalistic regime” (Demenchonok, 2009).16 But paradoxi-
cally, the Western countries always treat the non-Western
countries as “children” for their own good (white men’s
Now China’s rise is clear evidence showing that a non-
Western nation is perfectly capable of pursuing its own way of
life without any guidance from the West. If China can do it,
why not other non-Western countries? Importantly, each
country should refer to its own realistic circumstances to decide
their own future.
Over the centuries, the international exchanges have been
affected by Western colonial imperialism. If these exchanges
only concentrate on “profit”() rather than “justice”(), the
result would be the strong bullying the weak and majority
intimidating minority. Within this context the common valid
moral principles of Confucius could be a remedy.
That is to view other countries as his own and the world as
one family. China although, since ancient times, was deemed to
be the “Celestial Empire” (天朝), rewarded generously by all
its tribute states. This is the so-called “thin in thick out” (厚往
薄來). China never interfered in the internal affairs of these
states or imposed values on them unless requested. On the
contrary, many vassal states envied China and sent envoys to
do business and acquire knowledge (為政以德,譬如北辰,
居其所而眾星拱之).17 For the reconstruction of a fairer and
more equitable international order, can Confucianism be a
In summary, all values and ideologies have their own origin.
Whether those of the West can be applied to China as they are a
great challenge? Comparing to the former Eight-Nation
Alliance (八國聯軍) in 1900 that invaded China to quell the
Chinese Boxer Rebellion and the G8 of today, there is only one
difference. The countries in the Eight-Nation Alliance are:
Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, the United States,
Japan, Russia and Italy. Only Austria is replaced by Canada in
the G8. According to their understanding, great powers become
hegemonic. Whether China will also fall into this pattern
remains to be seen. Judging from China’s tradition and its
current performance, things look to be quite different.
Personalities: More Domestically Made
Comparing the politicians of the ministerial level between
the two sides of the Taiwan Strait reveals great differences.
Take Taiwan’s current Wu Dun-yi (吳敦義) cabinet of 27
ministers. 16 of them have PhDs and 10 of them were educated
in the US.18 In the Mainland, among the current 36 ministers
there are only 8 with PhD, and seven of those were locally
educated. Altogether there is only one minister in the PRC’s
central government with US background.19 Notable is also the
fact that most of these Mainland ministers obtained their
degrees after they had already started working in the govern-
Take President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as an example. He
graduated from a university in Taiwan before he got his PhD in
the US.20 His first post in the government was as Deputy
Secretary of the President and then he took posts as KMT
Deputy Secretary-General, Council, Minister of Justice, Taipei
Mayor until he was finally elected as President in 2008. Now
let’s take a look at Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).21 After graduating from
university he first worked as a local staff in one of the local
branches of Ministry of Water Supply and Electricity before he
assumed the post of deputy secretary of Party branch, secretary
17“He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared
to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards
it.” (論語,為政篇) The Analects, Chapter of Politics, yu/03/n-137 303.html.
18 中華民國行政院,Executive Yuan of the Republic of China,
18 中華人民共和國國務院,State Council of the People’s Republic o
20 中華民國總統府,Presidential Office of the Republic of China,
21 中華人民共和國主席,Pres ident of the People’s Republic of China,
16“Kant strongly opposed moral utilitarianism. Similarly, his philosophy o
law was developed with systematic criticism of political paternalism (which
is the flip side of dependence). Kant developed his definition of individual
freedom in opposition to authoritarian paternalism, utilitarian arbitrariness,
and the “despotism of paternalistic benevolence.” In contrast to paternalism,
Kant elaborates a concept of autonomy, distinguishing its three varieties:
moral, utilitarian, and civic. The opposite of paternalism is the rule of law,
which is the basis for civil society. The rule of law is granted by three types
of legal norms: human rights, legal guarantees of social equality, and de-
mocratic rights (or the rights of an active citizenship).”
S.-C. TANG 5
of the Communist Youth League of Gansu Provincial Commi-
ttee. After serving as the first secretary of the Communist
Youth League Central and party secretary of Guizhou and Tibet,
he returned to the central government.
Hu serves as current President of the PRC and Chairman of
the CCP after serving for several years as deputy of these posts.
The same goes to the comparison between the Major of Taipei
and the Major of Shanghai. Therefore, Taiwan leaders have
better knowledge of foreign affairs and foreign language skills,
but lack grass-roots experiences and can not receive the vox
populi well enough to accommodate their needs. Mainland
leaders, on the contrary, have more complete political practices
from the bottom to the top, but lack foreign experiences.
Moreover, among previous generations of CCP leaders, there
are only few college graduates. Now the situation has been
upgraded. The current fourth-generation leaders are mainly
students of natural sciences, e.g. Hu Jintao’s major is water
conservation engineering and Wen Jiabao’s (溫家寶)22 is a
geologist. But the upcoming fifth generation is full of students
of social sciences, e.g. vice Chairman of the PRC, designated
heir of Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping (習近平) has a PhD in law and
vice Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) has a PhD in economics.
Systems: Oxymoron
For various reasons there are complex and diverse forms of
democracy in the world. The differences between Western-style
democracy and Marxist Leninist-style democracy are especially
large. Many scholars in the West do not distinguish between the
significance of the same term having different origins e.g.
democracy and human rights. We are all familiar with the core
value of Western democracy, but the socialist democracy arises
after the socialist transformation of society can only mean a
proletariat dictatorship.22 Because, at least theoretically, all
other counter-revolutionary forces have been eliminated, the
people in a socialist country can not, but support their
But in China things have changed. In the 1980’s, Deng
Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) idea of a “socialist market economy” is
nothing, but a selective synthesis of the advantages of market
economy and socialism by way of Aufhebung. Socialism à la
Chine is critical and can inherit the good traditions of liberalism
such as fair competition and independent personality etc. But it
must refer to the actual situation in China and its traditions to
modernize the country.
Furthermore, in 2004 the “Three Represents”(三個代表) was
written into the PRC Constitution.24 Accordingly, the capitalists,
now known as “private entrepreneurs” have also joined the
CCP and become a “representative of China’s advanced social
productive forces”. Now the two actual opposing forces,
proletariats and capitalists start working together, which can
indeed be regarded as a special characteristic of Chinese
socialism. Besides the “Three Represents” stipulates that the
CCP represents the direction of China’s advanced culture.
Moreover, the “Three Represents” also indicates that the
CCP is the “represenative of the fundamental interests of the
overwhelming majority of people”, which also shows that the
CCP, which used to be led by the workers and peasants, is
becoming an all people’s party (Volkspartei, comparable to the
Godesberg Program of Germany’s social-democratic party,
SPD in 1959?). However, the CCP still upholds the “Four
Persistence”(四項堅持)25, which serves as the most important
pillar of China’s socialist system. Therefore, in principle, the
CCP one-party rule is self-guaranteed. Now, the greatest
challenge facing the CCP lying ahead is how to maintain
long-term rule. Are “socialist market economy” and “Three
Represents” typical oxymorons?
Policies: Socialism à la Chine
Since the “Reform and Opening Policy” in 1978, the “So-
cialist Market Economy” has generated an annual economic
growth rate of around 10%. It is a successful experiment in the
co-operation between major public enterprises and its supple-
mented private enterprises under the rule of democratic central-
ism (in contrast to the Social Market Economy of Germany’s
Ludwig Erhard) (Zhou, 1999). It’s surely another special char-
acteristic of the Chinese political economy.
Thereafter, could the increasing proportion of the private
sector change the economic base? Will this affect the transfor-
mation of the super structure? This Chinese experiment could
present another challenge to the Marxist theory on the relation
between the economic basis and upper structure in the long run.
Thus, the socialist ideologies of the West will all be sinicized
when they are adopted by the Chinese. This unique “socialism
with Chinese characteristics” gives the CCP a lot of room to
maneuver in its development.
In 1985 Deng Xiaoping, the main architect of China’s
economic reform, initiated a policy to let part of the people to
become rich at first. This policy has proven to be very effective,
but it also has a serious downside. It is true that since the year
2000 some people living in coastal areas et al. have reached the
level of “Xiaokang” (小康) (Deng, 1994; Hu, 2007)26, but at
the same time the gap between the rich and the poor also
between people living urban and rural areas has widened as
well as economic and social differences have increased.
Therefore, beginning in 2004, the establishment of a
“socialist harmonious society” was implemented since 2004 by
the CCP and the scientific concept of development was written
in the statute of the 17th CCP Party Congress in 2007.27 In the
upcoming People’s Congress in 2011, the 12th Five Year Plan
22 中華人民共和國國務院,State Council of the People’s Republic of China,
22In accordance with Mao: workers, peasants, urban petty bourgeoisie and
the national bourgeoisie, On People’s Democratic Dictatorship, 1949. 论
人民民主专政——纪念中国共产党二十八周年(1949 620日),
On People’s Democratic Dictatorship - to Commemorate the Twenty-Eighth
Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (June 20, 1949) mmzz z.h tm.
24 三個代表重要思想,Important Thoughts of the Three Represents,
26 四項基本原則,Four Basic Principles, These are: 1. Uphold the socialist
road; 2. Adhere to the dictatorship of the proletariat (the people’s democ-
ratic dictatorship);3. Uphold the leadership of the Communist Party; 4.
Upholding Marxism-Le ninism, Mao Z edong Thought.
26 Xiaokang originated from Confucianism is to describe a basically stable
and sufficient society and is currently defined by the UN Food and Agri-
culture Organization as having an E ng el’s coefficient of 40% - 50 %.
27 構建社會主義合諧社會,Const ruc t soc ia list ha rm onio u s socie ty ,
will concentrate on balancing the industrial development
between costal and rural areas, medical care systems, housing
problems and cultural industries etc.28
Domestic Performances:
Competence & Consolidation
Because of the ban on forming new political parties, the
Mainland’s internet has become the most important democratic
platform.29 All political leaders, from central to local levels,
must pay attention to the opinions expressed on the internet
because “water can carry a boat, but also can capsize it” (水可
載舟亦可覆舟), as the old Chinese saying advises. This is a
special way of communication between governments and their
people. When local unrest occurs, can censoring of media
reports be helpful to stabilize the society? Will riots between
different ethnic groups escalate when actual reports are shown
on daily television? During the Iraq War, the US government
has also done the same.
Currently the Chinese government has demonstrated its
competence in handling crises, e.g., SARS in 2003 and
organizing mega activities, e.g., the Olympic Games in 2008
and the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. Also in aerospace
engineering, the Chinese government has made great progress.
In China the party has the upper hand in the government. How
can a political party—CCP is the largest political organization
in the world with 80 mi llion me mbers – equivalent to the whole
population of Germany-function? To assemble all party
secretaries together from Hu Jintao down to the village level,
there are altogether one million. In particular, given the massive
regional, economic and ethical differences within the Mainland,
democratic centralism with partial political reform seems to be
necessary for the time being.
In the last decade, Shanghai has completed nearly one
subway per year. The rapid construction of a continent-wide
rail and automobile transportation system is even more amazing
because the relevant provinces can link all the roads together
under central coordination. Moreover, in 1984 Deng Xiaoping
had been able to disarm more than one million soldiers in a
relatively smooth way.
Once the Mainland eliminated political strongman, personal
rule had been bound to fail, establishing the rule of law was
unavoidable. In the 1990s Deng Xiaoping designated not only
Jiang Zemin (江澤民) but also Hu Jintao with the aim of
protecting the perpetrators of the 1989 Tienanmen Square
incident.30 Currently the fifth generation’s succession is
emerging. Xi Jinping is now Vice President of the PRC and
also CCP Vice Chairman of the Military Committee. Xi can
also make the best use of his position to get familiar with ma jor
political practices and train cadres for a smooth succession.
Therefore, in general, the continuity in the CCP’s overall
policies can be expected.
International Performances:
Chinese Marshall Plan?
Take the Mainland’s foreign trade and aid policy. In 2009
China had a huge trade surplus with EU (186.3 billion USD)
and US (226.8 billion USD),31 but China’s overall trade surplus
amounted to only 196 billion USD in the same year.31 In other
words, the $200 billion plus which China earned from
industrial nations was spent in the rest of the world, mostly in
developing nations. Moreover, in 2006, China canceled $10
billion of Africa’s debt. In 2009 China invested about $1.36
billion in Africa, and agreed to provide $10 billion in
low-interest loans, plus $1 billion to assist small and medium
enterprises in Africa without any strings of linkage. Isn’t that a
kind of balancing act between the rich and the poor in the world
by the Chinese?
This year the Mainland has bought 400 million in Spanish
bonds. During Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Europe in October
2010, he also promised to purchase Greek bonds, and offered
them a $5 billion loan to order Chinese vessels in order to help
bail out Greece from its financial crisis. However, European
countries expressed dissatisfaction over China’s support of the
totalitarian rule in African countries, which contradicted with
Beijing’s policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of
other countries.
Beijing’s leaders believe that their greatest contribution to
the world (1/4 of the population) is to do their own job well.
Since the global financial crisis, China’s 8.6% growth in 2009
serves as one of the major pillars to support the global economy.
According to UNO, the Mainland’s contribution to the world’s
economic growth rate was 50%.33 While EU exports to other
countries in that year dropped significantly, its exports to the
Mainland rose 4%.34
So far, the Chinese government has made great efforts to
help bail out Iceland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other
countries. China has also promised to provide further financial
31 EU-China tra de in facts and figures, 20 July 2010
ype=HTML, US-China Trade Statistics and China’s World Trade Statistics, etab le.h tml.
322009年中國貿易順差驟降三成 仍超過德成第一大出口國
2010 01 11 日,
28 授权发布:中共中央关于制定国民经济和社会发展第十二个五年规划
的建议,CCP Central Committee’s Suggestions on the 12th Five Year Plan
29 乔木等:网络民主、媒体政治与中国民主发展,Hu Chiaomu etc.,
Cyber Democracy, Media Politics and Development of China’s Democracy,
http://www.chinaelections .org/newsinfo.asp?newsid=173394; Wang Weigu,
Review on the Issue of Democracy since China’s Reform and Opening up,
Journal of Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
2009-05; LONG Miao, Co ntemporar y Cyber-democra cy Problems in Ch ina
Journal of Hunan First Normal College, 2006-03.
30 程翔:從習近平接班看中共權力交替模式,Cheng XianCCP’s
Power Transition Model vie wed by Xi Jinp ing’s Pattern,; 胡錦濤在江 被任命前就 已經
成為江的繼承人,Hu Jintao, Jiang was appointed heir before Jiang be-
came successor,
ber-democracy Problems in China, Journal of Hunan First Normal College,
33 联合国报告显示今年中国对世界经济贡献将达50%. According to the
UN Report mainland’s contribution to world economic growth rate was
50%, 2009-01-17,; 新聞分析:世
界經濟形勢與中國對復甦的貢獻,News Analysis: World Economic
Situation and China’s Contribution to the Recovery, 20101107日,
34 商務部:中歐建交 35 年來經貿合作關係日益深化,Ministry o
Commerce, 35 Years of Diplomatic Relations between China and European
Union the Economic and Trade Relations Gradually Deepen, 2010.4.29.
S.-C. TANG 7
support to these countries in the future. But the EU blames
China for its poor human rights record and refusal to allow the
Renminbi to strengthen. China’s image in the UK, France and
Germany has deteriorated in the recent years mainly because of
value differences and China’s overall performance (d’Hooghe,
2010). Isn’t that a paradox?
What if China became destabilized by inner turmoil caused
for instance by the Nobel Committee’s decision or Renminbi
appreciation causing massive unemployment? Wouldn’t the
West have shot itself in the foot? The EU changed its human
rights policy toward China in 1997 from a policy of linkage to
consultation. This could be an efficient way to reach mutual
acceptable results.
Domestic Challenges: Pollution & Social
For the sake of rapid industrial development, China’s
pollution problem has been neglected for a long time.
According to the report of the World Health Organization
(WHO) in 2006, China has 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted
cities.35 Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city
inhabitants (2007) breathe air deemed safe by the European
Union.36 On the other hand, China has achieved some
improvements in environmental protection during the recent
years e.g. forest cover, sewage and rubbish treatment facilities,
renewable energy technologies and wind turbines, and solar
panels production.37
With regard to social injustice, first and foremost is the case
of the 1989 Tienanmen Square incident. Since some of the
perpetrators are still alive the possibility of a total rectification
in the near future is slim. Moreover, incidents constantly break
out involving press freedom, freedom of demonstration,
freedom of belief, judicial protection, freedom of mobility and
the expropriation of land for public purposes etc.38
Take the recent fire disaster in Shanghai for example. More
than 100,000 people gathered in the streets to make their
dissatisfaction heard in the aftermath (Hogg, 2010), because the
Shanghai authorities covered up the news of the most essential
part of the fire and only held several construction workers for
responsible. The fire could have revealed evidence of
corruption. That is the typical way to protect the authorities
involved at the expense of the victims.
All in all, different kinds of social injustice are accumulating
but the CCP can still tackle these problems by way of divide et
impera and adequate compensation. On the other hand there is
no organizations which can link all these socially explosive
problems together. The “Charter 2008” could have done so, but
its idea was too far reaching for the people and it has already
been nipped in the bud.
International Challenges: Cognitive Dissonance
Along with the rise of China since the 1990s, Western
politicians and academics have proposed the theory of China
collapse, the theory of Chinese threat, the theory of opportunity
in China and finally the theory of China’s responsibility and so
on (Chang, 2002; Yee, 2002; Gertz, 2000; Oi, 2010).38 China
has become a bitter pill hard for Westerners to swallow. How
can they accommodate such a rich and prosperous, but
developing communist ruled by dictatorship? Isn’t it an
oxymoron? Should the West confront or co-operate with China?
Should the West balance or bandwagon with China? Maybe the
concept of cognitive dissonance in line with psychology can be
seen as an explanation to it (Festinger, 1957; Harmon-Jones
1999) just like a person addicted to smoking and is well aware
of the harm of smoking. But he or she still defends smoking
and ignores its harmfulness rather than face the reality because
accepting the true world mean self-denial.
In particular, when the traditional Chinese Confucian
benevolent politics (中國王道論) emerges, these countries
become schizophrenic and speechless. This happens also in
Taiwan. Due to the separation since the 1950s, Taiwan was
profoundly impacted by the ideology of the West, especially by
the United States. Some Taiwanese politicians and academics,
especially those with US background also show a sense of
panic along with the rise of China. The feeling of uncertainty
over the sustainability of the US economy is obvious.
Therefore, it can be inaccurate or even unethical to judge the
case of the Mainland with Western standards such as the
relationship between economic development and environmental
protection. Western industrial countries also generated a lot of
pollution in the early stage of the Industrial Revolution. Things
improved when they became more developed and they tackled
the issue partly through the exodus of their sunset industries to
developing countries. The same situation has also happened in
Taiwan, and now China follows. Isn’t that a common process
of development? That involves the sharing of carbon dioxide
emissions. Wouldn’t it be fairer if the industrial countries
started counting their emissions from the Industrial Revolution?
35 世衛組織:世界污染最重20城市 中國占16席,WHO: 20 world’s most
polluted cities in China accounted for 16,
36As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes,
37”Can China be green by 2020?”. BBC. 2009-04-02,; “China plans 10 major
steps to spark growth as fiscal, monetary policies ease. English_Xinhua”.
N 2008-11-09.
http:/ /news.xinhu;
China Leads Major Countries With $34.6 Billion Invested in Clean Tech-
r-countries-with-346-billion-15729.html?pagewanted=1; China steams
ahead on clean energy,; Bradsher, Keith, Jan
30, 2010, China leads global race to make clean energy, New York Times,
38 Review of China by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Univer
sal Periodic Review, 7 February 2009, cast/unhrc/archive.asp? go =0 9020 9;
Human Rights in China, http://www.hrichina.or g/pu blic/index .
The human rights issue is another example. According to the
“Records of the Grand Historian” (史記管晏列傳),
politeness and courtesy can only be maintained on a full
stomach (倉廩實而知禮節衣食足而知榮辱). The
development of human rights also has certain stages and it must
be judged in accordance with the national circumstances of
each and every country. In the 19th century, Western
39Experts las h out at ‘China responsibility’ theories,
http://www.chinad world/2010-0 8/20 / co ntent_11179857 .h tm.
Why Is China Supposed to Be Responsible f or the World?
imperialists took advantage of the huge injustice by usurping
Chinese national assets (estimated equivalent to 71.2 billion
RMB) to develop their industry.40 And now they ask the
Chinese to adopt Western universal human rights values. Is that
a fair game? Therefore, it would be more appropriate to
compare the current development in the Mainland with its own
status 10 or even 20 or 50 years in the past. The standard of
living of most Chinese people is substantially improved and the
scale of freedom of speech is also significantly relaxed. This
shows a much more positive picture as judged through the
lenses of the West.
Concluding Remarks:
East Wind over West Wind!?
In summary, the current status of development in the
Mainland can be seen as a unique example as well as an ingen-
ious mixture of Confucianism, socialism and capitalism. Dis-
tinguishing the individual impact of each factor on the others
and every aspect of the function of the CCP and the govern-
ment as well as their international performances is not an easy
task due to their closely interw oven nature. This uniqueness à la
Chine must account for the magnitude of the population and
territory, a long and continuous history as well as the
Mainland’s humiliation after the Opium Wars and isolation in
the 1960’s and 1970’s. After three decades of political turmoil,
China’s accomplishments after reforms and the open policy
since 1978 have amazed most observers throughout the world.
Not only is this sui generis and an oxymoron, but the recent
global financial crisis has also made this Chinese model even
more prominent.
In general, there are four major sectors of the development of
a state, namely the political, economic, cultural and social
sectors. Currently, other than the economic development, the
other three sectors in the Mainland have lagged behind. Since
the implementation of the “socialist market economy” in 1992,
there is much more market economy than socialism. Therefore,
the gap between the rich and the poor must be reduced with
efficient antidotes. Now the Chinese government starts to catch
up by implementing political and social reforms as well as
cultural constru ctions.
Nonetheless, the corruption problem remains as the most
serious and important issue for the CCP. Without independent
anti-corruption authorities, it would be extremely difficult for
them to tackle this problem. For the time being the Mainland
has to count on the leadership to set examples for others.
Furthermore, it is also necessary to promote civic education
to make the citizens and even the peasants more aware of their
rights and obligations. This can help stabilize society in the
long run. Judging from the PRC’s performance in the past
decades, there is reason to believe that Beijing is in the position
to face the domestic and international challenges in their own
As a whole, the value of the West is not to be negated as a
whole and it can provide valuable references for China. In view
of Confucianism, it is very impolite to lecture people who do
not ask for advice, such as the EU and Germany protesting on
Taiwan’s death penalty system. Perhaps because European
countries have experienced war and dictatorial actions, they
insist that the state shall not order death penalty in its country.
However, the Taiwanese and Mainland governments have not
killed six million Jews or started wars. On the contrary, the
Chinese people are all victims rather than perpetrators.
Certainly abolishing the death penalty is an option which can be
considered in the future, but the people involved shall have the
right to decide when and how. More than 80% of the Taiwanese
people can not accept the European protest over death penalty
and the EU stakeholders should also give this fact
Meanwhile, the West should be more cautious in judging the
Mainland affairs in order to avoid misperceptions and
unpleasant consequences. In the past few years, China’s
implementation of the “socialism with Chinese characteristics”
system has indeed been successful in its internal and external
affairs. Can this performance justify its superiority to their
system? Over the years, most of the Taiwanese can not accept
the positive developments on the Mainland. This was indeed
normal in the era of the Cold War and confrontation. But time
has changed. Isn’t it now time to start facing the fact and
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