China will be taken increasinglyseriously as offering an alternativeform of governance to the Westernliberal order.
crisis, it is now projected that China will overtake the U.S.economy in size in 2018, and threatens to be twice the sizein around two decades;
since 2000, China has emergedas a major global economic player and arguably now hasa bigger impact on the shape and nature o globalizationthan the United States. Sooner or later, we will be obligedto come to terms with the reality o China as it is ratherthan as the West would like it to be and thinks it should be.We will probably bear witness to this process o grudgingacceptance over the next decade, as the West acquiesces inChina’s dierence not as some transient phenomenon butas a permanent eature o the global landscape. China will,in the process, be taken increasingly seriously as oering analternative orm o governance to the Western liberal order.
Te starting point here is to understand the nature o Chinese governance. Surprising as it may seem to many Westerners, Chinese governance enjoys great legitimacy,arguably more than any Western country.
Unlike the West,the legitimacy o Chinese governance does not rest ondemocracy. Notwithstanding the conventional wisdom inthe West, which tends toward the belie that democracy ismore or less the sole source o legitimacy, in act it has arange o dierent sources. What are its sources in China?Most undamentally, it is bound up with the idea o Chinesecivilization. China has called itsel a nation-state or littlemore than 100 years, but China is at least two millennia old,dating back to 221 BC. China’s sense o what it is and whothe Chinese are has been overwhelmingly shaped not by itsexperience as a nation-state but by its civilizational history.Its sheer longevity, its huge geographical and demographicscale, its diversity, and the overarching nature o the Hanidentity are some o the eatures o China as a civilization-state.Holding such a vast country together or two millennia hasbeen hugely difcult: the underlying dynamic that lies at theheart o Chinese society is the conict between the centrip-etal orces that hold it together and the centriugal orcesthat threaten its unity. Tis is why the most important polit-ical value or the Chinese is the unity o the country, whichis intimately linked to the priority attached to order andstability. Te institution charged with maintaining the unity
For example, surveys by Tony Saich, Kennedy School, Harvard University (based on4,000 respondents, 2003-2009).
o the country — and Chinese civilization — is the state.Tis is by ar its most important responsibility and gives ita unique status and importance in the Chinese mind. Testate is regarded as the embodiment o Chinese civilization;and is seen by the Chinese as, in eect, an extension andexpression o themselves.Te amily is crucial to an understanding o how theChinese see the state. For Conucius, the amily was thetemplate or the state. Te state was the amily writ large;with the emperor’s role akin to that o the ather. In theWest, the state is seen in utilitarian and instrumentalterms, whereas the Chinese state, modeled on the amily, isregarded quite dierently. Te Chinese view the state as anintimate, or literally, the head o the amily, the amily thatis China. Te relationship between the state and society inChina, in other words, is entirely unlike that in the West.Tis helps to explain the relative absence hitherto o democ-racy in the Chinese tradition. Conucius, in act, believedthat the state should be immune rom popular pressure,that it should govern according to ethical principles ratherthan popular demands. o this end, he believed the very best people should be selected on a meritocratic basis torun the state. Te examination or the selection o theimperial bureaucracy dates back to the Han dynasty twomillennia ago. While the West holds dear the notion o democracy, the equivalent or the Chinese is the principleo meritocracy. o this day, it continues to suuse Chineseculture: the huge importance attached to examinations, thenationwide competition to enter the top universities andthe act that gaining admission to the civil service — againdone by open examination — is seen by the Chinese as themost prestigious orm o employment. Not surprisingly, theChinese state is a highly competent institution attractingthe brightest and best talent. It is worth reecting, in thiscontext, on the extraordinary achievement o the Chinese