This paradigm shift can best be understood by looking at a Chinese tradition dating back centuries. However, to understand modern China, we must also understand the basis for Chinese culture -- Confucianism. It was Confucianism, though, that dominated ancient Chinese history as a socio-religious philosophy. The trend towards philosophical underpinnings, too, was part of Ancient China's view of law, order, and state control. Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system based on the teachings of Confucius. It is a system that focuses on social, moral, political, and philosophical through, and stresses the important of education and the actualization of the individual. In combination, individuals then are able to govern the state by morality and virtue, rather than extreme coercion or violence (Sprunger). Unlike many religions, Confucianism expects to be part of the political/legal process and governance is part of the expectations of service by the populace. A basic sense of duty, honor, and bureaucratic hierarchy is part of the philosophy, as was a general view that people were generally good, wanted to exist within an orderly society, and only needed structure to remind them of the way of being good:
Lead the people with administrative injunctions and put them in their place with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously. (Analects II, 3)
This legalistic tradition is actually more of a political mindset that has been part of the way of Chinese politics for centuries. If we look at basic Maoism, we see that there are indeed some similarities, albeit with a Marxist bias. Maoism of course emphasizes the revolutionary struggle of the masses against exploiters, or a People's War. However, Maoism departs from Marxism because it is based on reforming an agrarian economy as opposed to an urban, industrialized state. The new communist leaders abandoned most Maoist practices by 1978, calling the new China -- which is a combination of ancient legalism, Maoism, and socialism, as "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" (Chung-Yueh Hsu, 1990, 168-72).
Thus, the character and flavor of Chinese politics is shaped by a number of rubrics, all of which now combine to produce a country that may appear contradictory, but is in fact completely within character. This is illuminated given an overview of China's recent national goals and issues as they relate to both internal political stability and growth, and China's emerging position within the overall geopolitical landscape of the 21st century. These goals are broken down into three major parts; political, social, and economic, all interrelated to a political culture based on the past and moving forward.
Political -- Harness nationalism in moderate and appropriate ways to retain control over divergent and large population.
Political/Military -- Increase military spending and size of military structure -- eventual goal is to field the most sophisticated Army in the world
Political -- Cannot provide enough of its own
Economic -- Diversify industry and become more self-sufficient in high-tech and other needed technological and industrial segments
Economic/Political -- Improve infrastructure to ensure safety of population (e.g. earthquake proof buildings, higher building standards, etc.)
Economic -- China shows no sign of slowing, and it's overall strategic objectives were clearly stated in the Three Step Development Strategy of 1978:
Step 1 -to double the 1980 SNP and ensure that the people had enough food and clothing to meet basic needs (attained prior to 1989).
Step 2 -- to quadruple the 1980 GNP by the end of the 20th century (attained by 1995)
Step 3 -- to increase per-capita GNP to the level of the medium developed countries by 2050, at which time modernization goals will be met (Mengin, 2002; Dahlman and Aubert, 2001).
The trend that emerges, then, is a new China with clear ties to the old. With the aggressive nature of China in the global environment, many scholars, in fact, believe it will be China that dominates the 21st century -- the power base shifting from West to East. With 20% of all humanity, and a civilization with thousands of years of history and tradition, the new China is clearly poised to be the next global super-power (Jacques, 2009).
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