In this article, http://nationalinterest.org/article/hegemony-chinese-characteristics-5439, Aaron Friedberg argues essentially, US and China are destined to be hostile to one another because of their differing political ideologies.
That argument is often used in the Western perspective. However, it deserves a 2nd look and rethink.
The glaring assumption in this view is that China has a “different political ideology” than the West, especially US.
But who can define this “different political ideology”? No one seem to be very sure what it is. Indeed, it is vaguely known as simply “different” from the West.
Here lies the problem, China is not so much “different in ideology” as it is IN SEARCH of its ideological identity.
China has had drastic changes in ideological doctrines, communism, socialism, market economy, some mixture of all these and perhaps a strong hint of Confucian traditions thrown in for good measure.
The very notion of “Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics” is telling, that China is creating something new that even China couldn’t easily define it with an existing label.
China is not saying absolutely NO to Western ideologies, but it’s not easily saying YES either.
Here is the analogy, and a good one.
A bunch of Westerners go regularly to their Church to commune in their shared religion of “democracy” Western style, and worships and thank the god of “democracy” for their good fortunes.
Along comes a Chinese person with his/her mix bag of experiences with many different religions, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucian values, thrown in old Imperial history and experiment with Republican democracy, and rough patches with Communism and socialism.
The Westerners are eager to try to convert the Chinese to their religion of “democracy”, and do trade with another possible convert.
Things go well enough for a while.
The Chinese settles down and do well in the business in the Community.
At first, the Chinese is quiet, and only listened in the Church, while others preached their views.
Then, as the Chinese became wealthier, he spoke up more, and to the others’ horror, began to question the doctrine of “democracy”.
The Chinese started to preach his view of “democracy” with elements of his own experiences.
Worst of all, his views began to cause other “potential converts” to ALSO question the god of “democracy”.
The elders of the Church would want to ex-Communicate the Chinese if they could, but he is now too wealthy and too well placed in the Community.
The danger is in that, he was not merely different, he was a heretic who perverted the old religion of “democracy” and Capitalism.
He was some New Age religion to the Church.
You see, it is not because the new religion is that different, but because it is simply heresy.
It is not because China is ardently holding onto its “different ideology”, but because ANY new ideology is heresy to the established Western ideological zealotry.
China is trying new ideas. Its leaders are diverse as its many different ideological policies. Reformers, traditionalists, hard core Communists, hard core capitalists, technocrats, etc. Yet, they co-exist within the same political system, because they are beyond the political petty zealotry.
Whereas in the West, especially in the US, over 200 years of liberal democracy only produced more and more ardent self-righteous ideological fanatics, pursuing the ultimate perverted form of political purging against outsiders and against each other.
You can see them now, throwing mud like so many name-calling of “Nazi’s” and even “slavery”, and of course, all too abused “genocides” of various kind.
What does China want? Its own beliefs through personal growth and development. It may worship many gods as it has in its history. It will not be limited to a singular self-righteous god.
It must resist all the pressure and name-calling from the establishment Church of Democracy.
For this, is the true freedom.
Well said. What is liberty on the world stage? It is for different nations to pursue their own paths. Every civilization has a tendency to project its version of political, cultural, social norms – views of history. That is only natural. And that projection can be done in the most well-intentioned and beneficial manner.
What the West does is however beyond that. It is interested not just in projecting its own norms and views of history, but also squashing others. Thus, it is vehement not just in projecting what democracy, but in demonizing all others.
This tendency to demonize others, to view the world in terms of a perpetual struggle of good vs. bad is in my view truly suffocating. We must do our best to liberate ourselves from such mind-numbing dichotomy tendencies.
Great post! I like the way you articulated it. The religion analogy is very apt. And the irony – isn’t America founded by a group of religious heretics?
Precisely. The West is so entrenched in its own ideological cesspool that not only does it reject any other system, it genuinely feels justified in converting others to their own path. The religion analogy is more than metaphor, it’s practically the truth. You can tell by the same defensive tone they take when you question their core beliefs, that their conclusions were not reached via logic, but moralist indoctrination. Chinese mentality at the moment is much wiser in being eclectic and not adhering to any specific belief. For me and I hope for many Chinese, the best way is the way that gets results.
China has “embraced” many new ideologies, learned from them, and tested them in experiences.
Some have argued that China has not “fully” embraced new ideas from the West.
Such words are merely euphemisms for nothing more than ideological CONFORMITY to the Western Theological fanatical Democracy, who now carry the banner of “Conform or Die” in its “regime changes”, interventionism, bombings, sanctions.
Nay, I say.
China has “embraced” new ideas, and this is why China is developing and reviving from the ashes of its turbulent Feudal Era.
The NEW Era for China carries with it a NEW Motto, China must seek ever more NEW ideas from all over the world, and forever RESIST conformity of orthodoxy of OLD ideas!!
“And the irony – isn’t America founded by a group of religious heretics?”
Yes, but the Colonists once established their colonies, turned them into an orthodoxy haven, conducting Medieval Witch trials, turning against each other and any outsiders.
It is another turn in the ironic analogy that draws another parallel to US.
And Britain herself was a product of Protestantism, which resisted conformity to the Orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church.
And yet once it established its own Anglican Church, it began to persecute others, prompting the persecuted to leave for the American colonies.
History shows, the Western civilization is nothing but a series of resistance to conformity, which then turns into another form of conformity, again and again. It may be traced back as far as the Romans.
The unified Greek and subsequent Roman empire depends on military invasion for expansion. They actually sincerely believed that it is a good thing since it they are converting the other “less civilized” culture to their way of life. This is their core belief. Christianity when started out in the Roman empire was heavily prosecuted as “the other”. Unfortunately when the Roman nobility embraced it, the virtue of faith, hope, charity which is supposed to be the foundation of the religion was somehow twisted.
As soon as it gained prominence, it started prosecuting other religion including other Christian denomination. So in other words, they actually imposed their belief onto Christianity. Ever since the collapse of the Roman empire, the greatest inspiration of any European nation is to be the successor to the Roman. Thus we have the Holy Roman Empire which as one historian put it, is neither holy, roman nor an empire. Napoleon also styled himself as the new emperor forcing the abdication of the Holy Roman Emperor as there can be only one. The Tsar, Kaiser etc are all titles created in reference to Caesar.
However, it would be unfair to say that Europe etc was never under threat of invasion. The Persian invasion is the first unifying events that make the Greek to see themselves as one culture and people. To most western intellectual today the battle between the western civilization against “the other” start here. The Hun, a terrifying nomadic force from the east was to be ingrained in their psychology that there indeed are threat from “the others”. Of course the western part of the Roman empire was actually destroyed by Germanic tribes. And the eastern Roman empire was also sacked by the crusaders weakening it to the extent that it was conquered by the Ottoman. Constant fighting of the various European people were to be a hallmark of Europe until the end of World War II. It is this in-fighting and plurality that was to shape modern human history of the last five hundred years or so. The Mongolian invasion and the subsequent Ottoman expansionist highlighted this threat to the ruling class of Europe. Thus the rare stoppage of in-fighting among Europeans occurred when they unified against the outside threat.
Another aspect of subsequent expansion is also self-righteousness. Their imperialist ambition aredone so under the belief that they are also the crusaders courtesy of misinterpretation of Christianity. Thus Europe is also the breeding ground of anti-Semitism. The Renaissance brought a revival of non-religious learning to Europe. It is also at this time that the Spanish and Portuguese discovered that the only way to fight a far richer and larger Ottoman empire is through organization (both in the military and government) and technology.
The modern military system was heavily influenced by this development. The Colonel who commanded a regiment with 9-12 companies lead by Kapitan (Captain) would shaped subsequent western military development. By using superior organization and technology the Spanish was able to push out the Ottoman. The Battle of Lepanto of 1571 was to pit the Christian against the Muslim in a battle that will signify the emergence of Europe as a future world power. The Catholics Spain and Portuguese in order not to clash divide the globe into two spheres of influence so that they will not fight each other.
The Spanish/Portuguese were subsequently overtook by the Dutch who used an even more efficient form of government and military. And the Dutch by the British, and then France emerged as a major European power it eclipsed the Austrian Empire, of course even the Swiss, Swedes, Danish etc were at one time powerful imperialist regional power. The founding of Germany, Italy etc keep Europe in a constant stage of rivalry and fighting. The plus side is that all these countries contributed more to the advancement of organization and technology while the rest of the world move at a snail pace. The conflict also have other consequences, for example, Russia see itself as one of the west while the west see it as an accumulation of the west and east, which is also “the others”.
The modern world order we see today is a result of the activities of the past five hundred years. We have an America (both North and South), Australia, NZ that are colonized by Europeans. In fact, pretty much the rest of Asia and Africa were colonized. The very important Great Imperialist War part one and two (aka WWI & II) put an end to it. European also bring the concept of nation state to the rest of the world. This is pretty much where the world is at, at this stage.
Regardless of how others have expanded their civilizations, China has no obligation to conform to their orthodoxic ideological systems.
Nor should China seek to form its own orthodoxy ideological system.
That would only lead to stagnation.
in this day and age where most-sorry, all-western countries are well aware of their own decline and growing irrelevance in the world today, governments and powerbrokers need to emphasize the illusion of moral superiority so as to raise morale amongst their own population who are experiencing stagnation and massive public debt.
for instance, any story involving China’s massive infrastructure development, high speed rail etc will 9.9999 times out of ten involve the journalist making the obligatory remarks concerning corruption/evicted persons etc.
so i say; let them be jealous, what will they have to feel morally superior about when their infrastructure is crumbling to crap, and it becomes increasingly self evident that their assumptions of superiority were proved false
Another issue is that the “West” gets upset when China learns the rules and then plays a better game.
For example, when Yao Ming is consistently voted into the All-Star Game there are people who bitch and moan about how it’s unfair because China has “so many people” voting (despite the fact that tons of Americans also vote for him).
It’s almost like saying, “You have to learn democracy and let your people vote…but only if they vote for who I want…”
I must give the New York Times credit for publishing this article Debunking Myths About China ( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/opinion/19iht-edli19.html?_r=1 ) by Eric Li. It is well argued and to the point. The democracy faithfuls believe that the governance in China is fundamentally flawed. This is why they are constantly looking for signs of crisis and collapse in China to reaffirm their faith. I think there are some western scholars who know the real reasons for China’s rise. They don’t say much about them because they are not politically correct.