1-3 of 3 Results  for:

  • Keywords: China x
  • History and Politics x
Clear all

Article

China: Party–Army Relations Past and Present  

Sofia K. Ledberg

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a key political actor in the Chinese state. Together with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese state institutions, it makes up the political foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the early years after the founding of the PRC in 1949, the military played an important role in state consolidation and the management of domestic state affairs, as is expected in a state founded on Leninist principles of organization. Since the reform process, which was initiated in the late 1970s, the political role of the PLA has changed considerably. It has become less involved in domestic politics and increased attention has been directed toward military modernization. Consequently, in the early 21st century, the Chinese military shares many characteristics with the armed forces in noncommunist states. At the same time, the organizational structures, such as the party committee system, the system of political leaders, and political organs, have remained in place. In other words, the politicized structures that were put in place to facilitate the role of the military as a domestic political tool of the CCP, across many sectors of society, are expected to also accommodate modernization, professionalization, and cooperation with foreign militaries on the international arena in postreform China. This points to an interesting discrepancy between form and purpose of the PLA. The role of the military in Chinese politics has thus shifted over the years, and its relationship with the CCP has generally been interpreted as having developed from one marked by symbiosis to one of greater institutional autonomy and independence. Yet these developments should not necessarily be seen as linear or irreversible. Indeed, China of the Xi Jinping era has shown an increased focus on ideology, centralization, and personalized leadership, which already has had consequences for the political control of the Chinese armed forces. Chances are that these trends will affect the role of the PLA in politics even further in the early decades of the 21st century.

Article

The Confucian Tradition and Politics  

Youngmin Kim, Ha-Kyoung Lee, and Seongun Park

Confucianism is a principal category and term of analysis in most discourses on Chinese culture. However, when it is defined in very stylized terms, it turns out to be of little use for understanding long-term historical changes, as its meaning varied greatly over more than a millennium. The Confucian tradition has fluctuated primarily because rulers and elites made use of inherited Confucianism for their ideological ends. In this light, Confucianism, Chinese elite, and politics are closely interconnected. Confucius, who has often been regarded as the founder of Confucianism, did not entertain a chance to materialize his political vision through a powerful government office, even if he had wished to do so. However, after his death, the early imperial rulers of China actively appropriated the textual tradition of what would later become Confucianism and used it to legitimize their political powers. Throughout the late imperial periods, Neo-Confucianism gained wide currency among those who did not hold governmental office and yet sought to engage in public matters at a local level. At the same time, donning the ideological garb of a Confucian sage-king, late imperial rulers instituted the civil service examinations and adopted Neo-Confucian commentaries on classical texts as the official curriculum. As there was almost no other access to office except through these examinations, Neo-Confucianism had become required knowledge for anyone who aspired to become a member of the elite until the early decades of the 20th century. In the late 19th century, China found itself in a disadvantageous position in the new world order, where aggressive European imperialism advanced across Asia. At that time, Chinese reformers regarded Confucianism as a cause of China’s failure to industrialize as adeptly as Western countries had. During the Mao Zedong era, Confucianism continued to be held responsible for the static nature of Chinese society, which robbed it of the possibility of progress. As Communism ceases to be a satisfactory model for China, the country’s politicians and intellectuals have sought a new identity and model whereby they can fashion their future. As a consequence, although discarded at the beginning of the last century as the cause of China’s demise, Confucianism has been gaining new currency as the model for modern China.

Article

Interconnected Asian History and “Open” World Orders  

Manjeet S. Pardesi

Historical Asia was an interconnected system of “open” world orders. This is a crucial theoretical takeaway for International Relations (IR) theory from historical Asia. In other words, there has never been one single order covering all of Asia or any of its subregions. There were multiple, unevenly overlapping orders in historical Asia. This perspective, which is rooted in the global historical approach to IR, challenges the Eurocentric notion of the “containerized” version of Asian regional worlds and world orders that only came into meaningful contact with each other because of the early modern European expansion. At the same time, this global and historical perspective also challenges all essentialist views of the East Asian past that characterize that part of the world as living in splendid Sinocentric isolation for thousands of years until China and East Asia were “opened up” by the West. Two crucial periods and processes of Asian history show the deep and transformative impact of the entanglements between South Asia and East Asia for Asian world orders: the Indic-Buddhist impact on China in the 1st millennium (and into the early centuries of the 2nd millennium), and the role of India in the so-called opening up of China by the West in the 19th and 20th centuries. These processes provide two crucial insights. First, historical East Asia was not a China-centered system for 2,000 years. The Buddhist impact on China had a profound impact on both the Chinese worldview and the world order(s) that existed in (East) Asia. More specifically, the Buddhist interconnections across Asia demonstrate that the “international” (or the global) was larger than East Asia, and that China and its eastern neighbors knew that too. Second, and relatedly, pre-European East Asia was not a “closed” system. While the expansion of Europe may have “opened up” China and East Asia in the 19th century, this represented the “opening up” of that part of the world for the West, and not because East Asia lived in Sinocentric isolation from the rest of Asia. Furthermore, Indian resources played a fundamental role in that Sino-Western encounter, thereby demonstrating the interconnectedness of the world orders of South and East Asia. Asia and its subregions defy singular and all-encompassing orders, and Asian history points toward a plurality of open and overlapping orders. Notably, the emerging regional orders in Asia are also pointing toward such a configuration. Asia is not one, but Asia is not disconnected either.