Consumed for nearly a century by internal and external struggles, China has finally gained a preeminent place in the global community of nations. China’s steps toward free market capitalism have opened the country to the outside world and raised Western hopes for increased democratization. The Chinese, however, have developed their own style of capitalism, which outsiders tend to analyze through the lens of their own ideologies, distorting their understanding of the nation’s goals and policies. Although popular belief still regards China as a traditional communist or Maoist country, most observers fail to realize how much the Chinese political system has evolved and diversified in the last fifty years.
In Contemporary Chinese Political Thought: Debates and Perspectives, Fred Dallmayr and Zhao Tingyang assemble essays by leading Chinese intellectuals to illuminate the political ideas shaping the rapidly changing nation. The contributors examine China’s dominant intellectual trends, focusing on the interlocking arenas of politics, economics, and culture. They investigate such topics as the advantages and disadvantages of the popular “China,” or “China Consensus” theory, which advocates mixed ownership, individual property rights, and government intervention in the economy.
Exploring the resurgence of Chinese Confucianism, the tenets of “New Leftism” (or post-Maoist leftism), and the evolution of liberal socialism, the book offers keen insights into the relationship between rapid economic growth and political stability and the government’s role in mediating between them. Comprising a broad range of opinions and perspectives, Contemporary Chinese Political Thought moves beyond the usual analytical frameworks toward what Dallmayr and Zhao describe as “a dismantling of ideological straitjackets.”
Knowledgeable observers have said that modern China is economically liberal, culturally Confucian, and politically socialist, but these three orientations also intersect and challenge each other in a complex fabric of ideas struggling for prominence. Contemporary Chinese Political Thought is the most current, comprehensive survey of modern Chinese political attitudes and discourse available in English.
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