Ambiguities of Political Success or Failure in East and Southeast Asia

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Series on Contemporary China – Vol. 1

Ambiguities of Political Success or Failure in Ease and Southeast Asia

edited by

Lynn White
Princeton University, USA

WeWorld Scientific

Published by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. 5 Toh Tuck Link, Singapore 596224 USA office: 27 Warren Street, Suite 401-402, Hackensack, NJ 07601 UK office: 57 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9HE

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LEGITIMACY: AMBIGUITIES OF POLITICAL SUCCESS OR FAILURE IN EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA Copyright © 2005 by World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission from the Publisher.

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Series Editors Joseph Fewsmith (Boston University) Yongnian Zheng (East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore) Advisory Board Members Tun-jen Cheng (College of William and Mary) Jane Duckett (University of Glasgow) James Tang (University of Hong Kong) Gungwu Wang (East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore) Lynn White (Princeton University) Dali Yang (University of Chicago) Ji You (University of New South Wales) This series showcases the most significant and lasting contributions to scholarship in the studies of China’s politics, society, and culture — whether for general readers or specialists. Each of the volumes is a quality work by a leading scholar or scholars in the field and may take the form of a reasearch monograph, a multi-author edited volume, a conference proceeding, a textbook, or an annual review, among others. While the focus is on China, the series does not lose sight of the interplay of other regional and global forces and their influence and impact on China. Forthcoming Title China under the Fourth Generation Leadership: Opportunities, Dangers, and Dilemmas, edited by Tun-jen Cheng, Jacques deLisle and Deborah Brown.

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List of Contributors Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy Lynn White 1) Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context Bruce Gilley 2) The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late– Authoritarian Taiwan David Dahua Yang 3) Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes Zhengxu Wang 4) Nationalism and the Problem of Political Legitimacy in China Jungmin Seo 5) Political Legitimacy in Reform China: Between Economic Performance and Democratization Yongnian Zheng and Liang Fook Lye

ix 1 29


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6) Legitimating Rhetorics and Factual Economies in a South Korean Development Dispute Robert Oppenheim 7) Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs: Japan’s Case Takayuki Sakamoto Index




List of Contributors

Bruce Gilley is a doctoral student in politics at Princeton University. His current research is centered on the legitimacy of states in crossnational comparison, paying particular attention to the mediation of pluralism. He is the author of three books on China, most recently China’s Democratic Future (Columbia University Press, 2004), and co-editor of a forthcoming volume entitled Comparing China and India: New Paradigms for Asia’s Giants. Liang Fook Lye is a Research Officer at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore. He has conducted research on China’s central–local relations, technocratic leadership, media reforms, and political legitimacy. He was part of a team that completed a study about the Singapore–Suzhou Industrial Park. He has also co-authored articles related to China’s leadership transition, political reform, and crisis management. He compiled the index for the present book. Robert Oppenheim is an anthropologist who teaches Korean topics in the Department of Asian Studies, University of Texas at Austin. His work focuses variously on Kyongju and the contemporary politics of ˘ history, place-making and locality, and the history of anthropology.

x List of Contributors

Takayuki Sakamoto is an assistant professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. His research focuses on the comparative political economy of industrial democracies and Japanese politics. He is currently conducting a cross–national study of economic policy and performance in OECD countries, and also a study of the Japanese political economy and its changes over the past three decades. His articles have appeared in Comparative Political Studies, European Journal of Political Research, and Party Politics, and he is the author of Building Policy Legitimacy in Japan: Political Behavior beyond Rational Choice (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, 1999). Jungmin Seo is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he teaches Chinese and Korean politics. His main research interest focuses on the various forms of nationalism in contemporary East Asia. Zhengxu Wang is finishing his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan’s Department of Political Science. His areas of study include comparative democratization, political attitudes and behaviors, and China and Asian politics. He has been publishing in international journals and edited volumes and is currently preparing articles for journals including Foreign Affairs and the Journal of Democracy. Lynn T. White III teaches in the Politics Department, Woodrow Wilson School, and East Asian Studies Program at Princeton. He edited the present volume while at the Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong. His books include Careers in Shanghai about the 1950s, Policies of Chaos about the Cultural Revolution, and Unstately Power about the origins of reforms. He has also written articles concerning Hong Kong and cross–Strait relations. His main current book project is about the effects of economic booms on local political structures in China and Southeast Asia. David Dahua Yang is a doctoral candidate in the Politics Department at Princeton University. His dissertation explores the

List of Contributors xi

linkage between modes of political development and socioeconomic organization, drawing upon the comparative experiences of Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. He has also published various articles on Chinese politics and research methodology. Yang holds an MBA in Economics and worked as a financial software developer before returning to graduate school. Yongnian Zheng is a Senior Research Fellow at the East Asian Institute (EAI) of the National University of Singapore and co–editor of China: An International Journal. His research focus is on China’s domestic political economy and its external relations. His papers have appeared in journals such as Comparative Political Studies, Political Science Quarterly, and Third World Quarterly. His books include Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China (Cambridge University Press, 1999), Globalization and State Transformation (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Will China Become Democratic? Elite, Class and Regime Transition (2004). He has also co-edited many volumes including Reform, Legitimacy and Dilemmas (2000) and Bringing the Party Back In (2004).

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Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy
Lynn T. White

Legitimacy is not easy to define or measure. It has been a crucial topic — arguably the crucial topic — in the history of political philosophy. Yet legitimacy has degrees, objects, and aspects that take variant forms. When legitimacies are examined in specific countries at specific times, the dimensions of the topic expand the job of considering it in a unified way. An effort to sort out these facets will be useful; and such an attempt is a must, if we want to show the scope of legitimacy. The chapters below, which concern different kinds of legitimacy in specific countries, provide rich material from which it is possible to induce and evaluate the parts of this subject. One standard definition of legitimacy is, “the belief in the rightness of a state … so that commands are obeyed not simply out of fear or self-interest [but] because subjects believe that they ought to obey.”1 Yet legitimacy is not just a predicate of the consciousness of followers.

1 Rodney Barker, Political Legitimacy and the State (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), p. 11.


2 Lynn T. White

Elites, too, perform with more confidence if they see themselves as legitimate rulers. In addition, states are not the only possible objects of legitimacy; specific leaders or policies, as well as other sizes of power network, are often called legitimate or not. We could try to construct a social science that might use the word “legitimate” in a more technical and arcane way than most people actually use it, but this might give less rather than more purchase on such a topic.2 The book in your hands takes a mainly inductive approach to the study of legitimacy, and this introductory essay refers to the other chapters that throw light on the traits of legitimacies that have varied in specifiable ways in the real politics of Asian countries. Legitimacy is a crucial basis of politics; so its relative neglect by scholars is odd. Few recent political scientists have tried to write much about it because of problems involving definitions and measurement.3 Social scientists of East Asia have been especially preoccupied with the question, “What structures of government create fast growth?” They have tended to leave aside other issues, and legitimacy is one of these.4 The main reason for this scholarly indolence has undoubtedly been the problem of proving legitimacy from observable behavior alone.


On the possibility of discussing the meanings of a concept as broad as legitimacy despite all its dimensions, see David Collier and Robert Adcock, “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research,” American Political Science Review 95:3 (September 2001), pp. 529–46, especially Figure 1. 3 The main recent exceptions have been scholars organized especially by Larry Diamond, but also for Asia including Fu Hu and Yun–han Chu (for Taiwan), Andrew Nathan and Tianjian Shi (for mainland China), Robert Albritton (for Thailand), and others who are largely interested in democratic legitimations. For example, Yun–han Chu and Yu-tzung Chang, “Culture Shift and Regime Legitimacy: Comparing Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong” (and other chapters) in Shiping Hua, ed., Chinese Political Culture, 1989–2000 (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2001), pp. 230–47. 4 Other relatively neglected topics include: the effects of fast growth on local politics, ethnic and religious questions that been unfashionable among researchers of non-Asian politics too, and politics within businesses, armies, and families. Even with respect to economic growth alone, international factors have been studied better than domestic market causes.

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 3

When citizens obey a regime because they believe in the wisdom of its leaders or the fairness of its policies, rather than because they fear that disobedience would lead to sanctions, legitimacy is in evidence. Belief in the rightness of rulers has been a sporadic issue in news from East and Southeast Asia. When legitimacy has been most evidently in doubt, soldiers have often been near at hand, either to support regimes or to replace them. For example, predicaments of legitimacy were obvious during the 1980s in the Kwangju massacre in Korea, the 1986 Manila movement that toppled Ferdinand Marcos, the 1988 Rangoon rallies against the annulment of Burma’s democratic election, the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations in Beijing, the 1992 Thai king’s command that the army stop shooting protesters in Bangkok, the 2001 demise of Erap Estrada in the Philippines, or the 2004 Taiwan election campaign in which the incumbent and his running mate were grazed by bullets. Many other instances could be cited, and these are just the litmus moments of legitimacy, which is supposed to be an element of politics even at less exciting times. Few books about legitimacy have been published in the last decade. On Asian subjects, arguably the best is Muthiah Alagappa’s 1995 edited collection of essays, Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia.5 The book in your hands does not try to cover all the countries in a region of Asia, as that one does. Half the present chapters are about China and Taiwan. Its main aim is to try new methods, both statistical and interpretive, to show how the variations of legitimacy can be studied. Better indices of legitimacy are needed and are possible to construct. So are better ways to assess its meaning. These preliminary studies suggest that legitimacy: 1) is always partial rather than total; 2) is specifically and provably political rather than vaguely socioeconomic;


Muthiah Alagappa, ed., Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority (Stanford: Stanford University Press, in a series of the East-West Center, 1995).

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3) can be analyzed as both a causal factor of politics and as an outcome result of politics; but in each case, it is constructed by gain-inspiring or loss-avoiding agents and is in that sense unnatural or created rather than inherent; 4) can apply to various political objects such as states, governments, leaders, or policies, and can be an attribute of political objects with various roles and in various sizes of collectivity, not just sovereign governments; 5) can be challenged by patriotisms and is not always supported by them; and 6) has universal as well as contextual aspects, but contemporary legitimacy derives not just from scientistic norms or technocracy, even when modern politics adapts to both the global and local contexts. Legitimacy with these dimensions may vary along any of them. Its alternative — illegitimacy — is something that people often suppress in their minds for some time until external situations change and bring an unexpected cascade of relegitimation. This introductory chapter will consider the listed dimensions separately, as well as some of their interactions. It uses evidence from each of the succeeding chapters and other sources to explore these variances.

Legitimacy is not a topic on which governments want any ambiguity. Incumbents like to imagine that their laws (in Latin, leges) alone can prove legitimacy — but the matter obviously goes beyond that in practice. Trust, as each of the chapters in this book shows in one way or another, is not mainly a legalism. Nothing in real-world politics is purely legitimate or illegitimate. As this book’s subtitle implies, legitimation has both successes and failures. Even in East or Southeast Asia, where ideological traditions of stately prestige are documentably strong, legitimacy and illegitimacy

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 5

are always ambiguous and relative. They can be described in various shades of gray (or in more colorful kinds), not just white or black. Many of the chapters here, including those by Wang, Yang, and Gilley, show this partialness by making quantitative tests, locating legitimacy between 100 and 0 percent rather than at those extremes. Oppenheim, Seo, Sakamoto, Zheng and Lye, as well as any of the statistical chapters in their early definitional stages, show the incompleteness of legitimacy by textual and historical analyses. For example, Oppenheim explains how South Korean politicians tried to create a scientistic claim to rightful power, although that was dubious. Seo details the ways in which Chinese nationalism can threaten, not just aid, the PRC (People’s Republic of China) leadership. Zheng and Lye stress that “performance legitimacy” requires more transparency and accountability from Chinese leaders, they show that economic growth is not the only criterion by which Chinese judge their government, and they cite extensive recent surveys suggesting that the fast-increasing gaps between urban and rural people may present a future problem for public views of the leaders. Sakamoto describes tax policy successes, but also the failures of other tax policies that weakened their initiators. Legitimacy for every one of these comes in measures, by fractions and with doubts, rather than by wholes. Ordinary citizens, as well as officials or oppositionists, want to talk about ways of finding whether their leaders or order should be taken as acceptable. Bruce Gilley’s chapter in this volume relies on Beetham and others who find vectors of legitimacy in citizens’ “acts of consent” to laws that depersonalize uses of the state’s scary coercive power — even to the point of justifying inequalities. It is possible to try to measure the degree of such consent. Few political philosophers have the statistical skills to do that, and few statisticians take enough care when choosing the philosophical categories in which they gather data about legitimacy. Yet as soon as the measuring begins — and the next chapters offer bold efforts with numbers from Asian countries — the incompleteness of legitimacy becomes easy to see. This first trait of legitimacy relates to the others, listed below.

6 Lynn T. White

The topic of this book is political, not vaguely social, and evidence here suggests it is seldom ethnic. This theme also runs through each of the chapters below. In David Yang’s work, for example, it emerges as an empirical result from correlations, not an assumption or definition. Yang’s factor analysis of many social and economic indicators about late-authoritarian Taiwan shows that specifically political causes, rather than others, best explain the political effect of the degree of legitimacy. Even ethnic factors (differences on the island between Taiwanese and mainlanders) failed, at least in the mid-1980s, to explain the extent of trust in the government. Zhengxu Wang also finds that the general “life satisfaction” of respondents has no statistically significant effect on political trust, although citizens’ satisfaction with specific political incumbents has large and positive effects. The habit of “discussing politics” correlates with lower trust in national leaders, and “following the news” correlates with lower legitimacy for local state officials. More general and less political “self-expression values” of social equality and tolerance were found, however, to lack a correlation with trust in government. This kind of finding by Yang and Wang raises confidence in the other chapters that begin with specifically political causes of legitimacy or trust. Strong links among solely political factors do not preclude a possibility that other socioeconomic and cultural variables, including many that relate to modernization, may be less direct or less immediate contributing conditions to changes in types of legitimacy.6 They show that the first place to look for such change, however, is in political mechanisms. The Gilley chapter, for example, starts with the World Bank’s governance indicators to measure the rule of law, with

A famous recent contribution has been made by Adam Przeworski, e.g., in his article with Fernando Limongi, “Modernization: Theories and Facts,” World Politics 49 ( Jan. 1997), pp. 155–83, showing that although economic growth does not cause


Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 7

indices of how well or badly corruption in small coteries is controlled by the state, with frequencies of civil violence, and with rates of government reliance on self–paid taxes. These factors are political, even when they apply to small power networks or are not the results of public debate. When used for specific countries, they provide ways not of showing that a regime is legitimate or illegitimate, but of comparing the partial legitimacy in one place with that elsewhere. Liberals and authoritarians alike have made many insistent claims about legitimacy, but the penchant for measurement in many of these chapters moderates all these assertions about right rule. Taking an interpretive approach, Robert Oppenheim also stresses that legitimation is not a derivative process of socioeconomic life. It emerges from political struggles, not in any simple fashion from modern “national needs,” even though technocrats with engineering or economics degrees claiming to serve such needs are evident in many East Asian governments. These politicians create science or scientism as a legitimacy for their own rule.7 Oppenheim’s chapter puts new vengeance into the first word of the term “political science.” Using Korean examples, this anthropologist shows what was at least an ambiguity — perhaps a flaw — in Weber’s view of “legal rationality.” Oppenheim tells a ghost story about Gen./Pres. Park Chung Hee. The most general ghost who haunts all the chapters of this book is Max Weber. The ongoing political process that creates scientistic or rationalistic legitimacy might not be mainly based on the organizational strength of predictable bureaucrats, as Weber sometimes suggested. It is more intentional than that, more substantive and less formal. It arises from self-serving faith among a

liberalism, already-established democracies have not been overthrown in countries above a certain middling threshold of per-capita income. Wang’s chapter, below, suggests similar care with ideas about values that have been surveyed for years by Ronald Inglehart, also of the University of Michigan. 7 See Danny W.Y. Kwok, Scientism in Chinese Thought, 1900–1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965).

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community of technocratic politicians that their knowledge gives them a right to rule, and the outcome of greatest interest here is their political domination, not economic growth.8 This is a topic that can be studied in many contexts, because technocrats have made such claims in countries as diverse as France and Egypt. Because intellectuals ran traditional East Asian empires, especially China’s, and were selected for bureaucratic posts after passing academic tests, this is nonetheless an archetypical East Asian topic.9 Oppenheim, studying Korea where exConfucian traditions are especially strong, writes about the country where modern intellectuals in technical fields might most easily claim legitimacy on the basis of their academic credentials. Korea is not a random country to study the political ambitions of contemporary technocrats.10 Several of the chapters also raise unusual questions about the role of cultural ethnicities in legitimation. Yang presents startling data about the relative unimportance of Taiwanese identity in Taiwan’s authoritarian politics as late as the mid–1980s. Later, the

An example is described in Cheng Li and Lynn White, “China’s Technocratic Movement and the World Economic Herald,” Modern China 17:3 ( July 1991), pp. 342–388. Most Weberian writings about East Asia have mainly dealt with political–administrative structures as factors of growth, however. An example is Peter Evans, intercontinentally comparing “State Structures, Government–Business Relations, and Economic Transformation,” in Sylvia Maxfield and Ben Ross Schneider, ed., Business and the State in Developing Countries, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 63–87. The outcomes in the present book, however, are political. 9 On two Chinese governments, see Cheng Li and Lynn White, “Elite Transformation and Modern Change in Mainland China and Taiwan,” China Quarterly 121, March 1990, pp. 1–35; or by the same authors, “The Sixteenth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party: Hu Gets What?” Asian Survey 43:4 (July–August 2003), pp. 553–97. 10 Carl E. Schorske, in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York: Knopf, 1980), accomplished a similar feat by writing the history of a city that bred psychohistorians and mentalité-seekers — and thus changed historiography. Methods seldom meet subjects so neatly.


Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 9

situation apparently changed, at least for a while, although nonethnic structural factors were important later too.11 The ease with which the late–authoritarian KMT (Guomindang) coopted Taiwanese — and then they coopted it — is remarkable. Gilley’s Malaysian case suggests in that context too the unimportance of ethnic politics, or at least ethnicity at ebb tide. This is a very plural society, with Malays, Chinese, Tamils, Dayaks, and as many different religions in sizeable groups. Has the government’s legitimacy been greater because Malaysians know their leaders have a hard row to hoe preserving order (since the 1969 riots) in such a plural society? In some ethnically more homogeneous nations, such as Japan or South Korea, legitimacy is measurably higher. Causes of the rise or sublimation of ethnic politics have been perennial riddles in political science (especially in studies of Latin America, where this situation has changed in recent years).12 For East and Southeast Asia, the jury is still out, deciding about the importance of ethnic cleavages as distinct from classes, status groups, or other bases of identification. The main relevant conclusion derivable from these chapters is that differences in ethnic structures cannot explain differences in legitimacy, and they certainly fail to do so separate from historical narratives of legitimation processes. Political legitimacy is tightly linked to other things that are specifically political.

For a view that is only somewhat different, see Shelley Rigger, Politics in Taiwan: Voting for Democracy (New York: Routledge, 1999), which is about later ethnic politics but is also about the long–term structural effects of voting as a habit. 12 Crawford Young, The Politics of Cultural Pluralism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976) found, when he was writing, that ethnicity in Latin American politics was unexpectedly different than on other continents. Deborah Yashar, later in Contesting Citizenship: Ethnic Movements, Post–Liberal Politics, and the State in Latin America (forthcoming), explores conditions under which ethnic politics have emerged as very important in some countries, such as Bolivia, but less so in others which likewise have ethnolinguistic divisions, such as Peru.


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Should legitimacy be sought mainly in its origins, e.g., in public views about proper ways of choosing leaders? Or instead, should it be explored in terms of its outcome results, such as common victories and welfare rather than political corruption and nonperformance? The answer from the researches reported in this book is: Both. Photographs may be taken to measure legitimacy at particular times, but we also need to catch the subject in motion by writing histories of the ongoing processes of legitimation and delegitimation. No matter what object of legitimacy is in view, and no matter whether any change of legitimacy is slow or sudden, at least some of its main causes call for analysis over long periods of time.13 Political procedures for choosing leaders or laws can lend legitimacy, and so can good performance after they are chosen. These ambiguities of the topic may be reduced, but only by definitions that reduce them on an a priori basis. Public outcomes may aid legitimacy, and the ways in which leaders obtain their posts before such outcomes are also subject to moral judgments, both public and private.14 It may seem analytically messy to want to talk about both causes and effects as well as their links in a scientific discourse. But actual politics mix these, and reality trumps theory. Social models with narrow scopes usually explain too little. In the last chapter of this book, Takayuki Sakamoto raises a bold challenge to the usual logic that politicians in democracies are just “re-election seekers.” This highlights a tension between legitimacy about procedures and legitimacy

Compare the categories in Paul Pierson, “Big, Slow-Moving, and … Invisible: Macro–social Processes in Contemporary Political Science,” in James Mahoney and Dietrich Reuschemeyer, ed., Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 177–207. 14 A study of such judgments in a small Cantonese polity is Richard Madsen, Morality and Power in a Chinese Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).


Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 11

about outcomes. Elections foster the search for 51–percent majorities, and thus they also can foster policies that disserve almost half of the people. Yet politicians’ actual rhetoric, and sometimes their actions even in electoral democracies, is more expansive than that. Leaders often survive their mistakes. Sakamoto mentions that the tax policies of Ohira, Nakasone, and Hosokawa all failed — and these missteps hurt those premiers — but despite electoral losses, not all of the governments fell because of those problems alone. Legitimacy that comes from winning electoral contests is not the same as the concurrent legitimacy that comes from appealing to a more general will. Both processes can be modeled, and the models are different. Apparently nobody has found a way to resolve this ambiguity in logics.15 So people put up with the analytic inconsistency. Sakamoto says that legitimacy has a substantive “idea component” that usually relates to collective, not just majoritarian, notions of justice. And he describes legitimacy’s procedural “democratic component” that belongs to a leader who wins an election. Because these two components often strain against each other, decision norms develop to synthesize, in practice, the consensus and majoritarian criteria that cannot be synthesized in principle. For example, voters who once supported an incumbent may change their minds, if they do not think he or she does a good job. Legislators who alter their policies after their campaigns can try to persuade others that the revisions are wise. Empirical research — not just theory — is required to show the changing extents to which political norms come from first principles or, instead, outcomes that are judged on the basis of predictable procedures. This is just as true for authoritarian as for democratic situations. As the Zheng–Lye chapter says, now in China the government and Party “are beginning to realize the need to respond to the aspirations


Albert Hirschman has addressed formally parallel problems in economic theory; see his “Against Parsimony: Three Easy Ways of Complicating some Categories of Economic Discourse,” Economics and Philosophy, 1 (1985), pp. 7–21.

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of a much more complicated society such as the demand for greater transparency and accountability.” They are moving from a stress on the never–wholly–satisfactory norm of ideological consensus toward a never–wholly–successful attempt to optimize performance in institutions, e.g., through strengthening constitutionalism and trying village elections. This process is driven by social changes “from below” as well as by the needs of high elites in China’s multi–layered polity. Both of these factors affect public politics and make the Communist Party slightly less clandestine. China’s political elite is schizophrenic about “modern” legitimacy in particular. As Zheng and Lye write, China has “shifted the basis of its legitimacy from one relying solely on ideology to one that also encompasses economic performance.” After an era of normative centralization, there is evidence of greater pluralization, albeit this is often among local structures that remain patronist. Some Party leaders, some of the time, see that increased participation in politics creates transparency, which raises the amount and quality of information going into policies. Participation also should aid implementation, because citizens may obtain from it slightly more sense of ownership in the government and more will to make policies succeed. Pareto’s classic analysis of circulation, in China’s case between groups that are often called “reformers” or “conservatives,” is robust because it deals with causes and effects interactively. This circulation theory explains why any elite tries to maintain, at its decision tables, both new members for vitality and old members for integrity.16 Legitimacy cannot be found solely in its causes or its results, but by the process of legitimation that creates and sustains it. Zhengxu Wang’s chapter notes the “bizarre” situation that declining trust in a regime does not necessarily assure that it will “walk into peril” or collapse. In many democracies, “declining public trust in government


See Vilfredo Pareto, The Rise and Fall of Elites, intro. Hans Zetterberg (New York: Arno Press, 1979), and for comparison, Susan L. Shirk, The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 13

institutions and in politicians have become the norm in the last two decades,” yet neither the regimes nor the incumbents necessarily fall from power. A great deal of future research is needed to explore possible links between the establishment and the maintenance of legitimacy.

Zhengxu Wang’s chapter, eschewing legalism, uses the Old English word “trust” that denotes reliance on the integrity of a political object at least as well as does the Latin-derived word “legitimacy.”17 Wang offers fresh kinds of evidence that Chinese people tend to have more trust in an “imagined state” of national leaders, whom they practically never meet, than in the “real state” of local officials and police, whom they know from practical experience to be sometimes untrustworthy. Many of the kinds of objects to which legitimacy applies can be distinguished along a spectrum of sizes of collectivity: individuals, families, and corporate or larger groups. Any of these may have specific political roles, and that is a separate basis for differentiation among them. In China during Mao Zedong’s time, public norms

“Trust,” suggesting firmness and solidity, derives from the same etymological root that generates words such as tree, betroth, or durable. “Legitimacy” comes from Latin lex (law), but more remotely from a root with many derivatives that involve speaking: lecture, legend, logic, logos, lexicon, intelligent. See http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE87.html and … IE267.html. “Legitimacy” (like ‘country’) is a difficult word to translate into Chinese. Basing it on “legitimate” with a suffix xing (character), many dictionaries first offer hefa, but that seems too narrowly legalistic; shifa is perhaps a bit better. Gongren is one of the several other possibilities. Zhengdang xing aptly suggests honor or worthiness, as well as lawfulness, and this is perhaps the best translation. Just as for the meaning country/state/nation, usually conflated as guojia in Chinese, the meaning legitimacy is alive for Chinese people, and that is more important than translation problems between languages.


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could only be expressed in communitarian form. Jiang Zemin’s “three represents” norm, which has put a few private capitalists (politely called ‘entrepreneurs’) in the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, shows a shift that strikes many foreign observers as humorous. The change shows the crunch that arises when a perceived need for a national leader’s charisma crashes into the practicalities of money politics, as rich new political patrons emerge from quick industrialization in many parts of China.18 The result is untidy but understandable. Many writers conflate trust in national leaderships with trust in local officials — but this book does not, partly because of Zhengxu Wang’s chapter. Change in the legitimacy of one political object can, of course, affect the legitimacy of others in the same context. To study such interactions carefully, it is necessary to separate different political things from one another, while realizing that they also relate to one another and that changes in one of them can cause changes in others. The norms of nations, intermediate collectives, and individuals strain against one another in democracies, too. Takayuki Sakamoto’s study of policies in Japan highlights an aspect of legitimacy that many political scientists of the U.S. have ignored, namely, that legitimacy implies a consensus. Sakamoto points out that “consensual policy making” is a norm in many democracies, methodological individualists to the contrary notwithstanding. He cites “Nordic countries such as Sweden and continental European countries such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland” that have election contests and adversarial litigation — but all have strong traditions of consensus as an ideal too. Even Americans have recently become more aware, since the razor–close U.S. presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, that there is a tension between norms of unity and norms of fair contest. This is an unavoidable ambiguity of the liberal legitimation process. Rather than trying to obviate this dilemma as a philosophical contradiction, most democrats accept that the habit of merely counting


Compare the newest book by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, Thaksin: The Business of Politics in Thailand (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2004).

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 15

noses can never fully harmonize individual preferences with collective decisions. Economist Kenneth Arrow has presented this dilemma formally, showing that no electoral system can be perfect in the sense of meeting concurrently all basic criteria that liberals would want.19 Winston Churchill did not need such an abstract proof to be sure that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried from time to time.”20 No kind of political order can perfectly integrate the dignities or interests of all the sizes of collectivity that it contains. Sakamoto’s paper also clarifies very sharply that legitimacy is a predicate that can apply to objects other than individuals or collective networks of them. Policies, like states or regimes or specific leaders, may be objects of legitimacy.21 Functional branches of a government also rely on different legitimacies. A judiciary would be in deep trouble if it were not seen to be normatively strong, as compared with a legislature that can allocate money or an executive who can command troops. This is a recognized problem in China, where (as Zheng and Lye report) Party head Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in the spring of 2004 stressed the need to strengthen their country’s legal system. The incomplete independence of judges creates problems for modern Chinese development, as does the incomplete legitimacy of their lawful judgments in the eyes of some actors who have higher bureaucratic ranks.22 An emphasis on the rule of law is not always pluralizing, anyway, if the specific content of the laws empowers fewer rather than more political actors.23 Further research is needed on the manners in which political actors with different roles are legitimated.

Kenneth J. Arrow, Social Choice and Individual Values (New York: Wiley, 1963). Hansard, November 11, 1947. 21 For more, see Takayuki Sakamoto, Building Policy Legitimacy in Japan: Political Behavior Beyond Rational Choice (New York: Palgrave, 1999). 22 For examples, see Donald C. Clarke, “The Execution of Civil Judgments in China,” in Stanley Lubman, ed., China’s Legal Reforms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 65–81. 23 On the great lawgiver of the Soviet Union and father of its 1936 Constitution (which lasted about four decades), see Robert Sharlet, “Stalinism and Soviet Legal


16 Lynn T. White

Patriotism may be “the last refuge of scoundrels,” as Samuel Johnson defined it. Nationalism is usually cited as a basis of legitimacy, but Jungmin Seo shows that it is a dangerous taskmaster for governments. It can delegitimate regimes, not just support them. For example, Beijing leaders have reasons to dampen but not prohibit recurring anti–Japanese popular movements in China (e.g., those generated by soccer games or by the Diaoyu Dao Senkaku uninhabited rocks where a territorial dispute creates symbolic tension between the two largest East Asian nations). China’s leaders have, with similar reservations, tried to harness anti–American sentiments, for example after the 1999 bombing in Belgrade. This requires balancing rather than political clarity. The patriotic genie is hard to keep in a bottle. It never completely, but only ambiguously, legitimates a regime. Patriotism is not just an ideology of rulers, who have self– interests as well as communal interests. Modern nationalism is, like any other hegemony, incomplete; people believe it in various ways. It has many kinds of potential agents, and they may challenge each other. In ex-Communist China, patriotism and economism (to use an old term) may have replaced Marxism as bases for official legitimation, but such changes would still leave many political questions open. Leaders such as Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao might, for example, have identical views on China’s patriotic duty to “liberate Taiwan” — but commentators eagerly scan their statements for differences, to see which leader is more committed to China. Patriotism is a threat to incumbents, as well as a tool for them. Much of the scholarship about nationalism has stressed ways in which this belief becomes concrete in the form of governments, without considering its simultaneous role among other agencies that can conflict with governments. Jungmin Seo’s chapter argues that many Chinese citizens take patriotism as commonsense, inborn, unpremeditated, natural like
Culture,” in Robert C. Tucker, ed., Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation (New York: Norton, 1977), pp. 155–79.

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 17

the air they breathe — not conceivably an ideological lie that might serve rulers hoodwinking followers who have different interests. Any falseness of patriotic consciousness would arise only for people who could imagine not being part of the relevant group. In a country like China, where many people (at least in cities) tend to identify strongly with their nation and where practically everybody is Chinese, the strength of the nationalist hegemony weakens theoretical distinctions between agents and principals. Everybody is supposed to be an agent. The question of alternative norms does not arise. Identities may be so strong that the preference becomes the actor. The analytics of rational choice then become inapplicable. In the real world, of course, differences in political tactics do arise. Non–government networks (businesses, families and lineages, religious sects, schools, even artists’ groups) have political structures too, and they interact with the official establishment.24 Emotional commitments to nonstate coteries often accompany mere “as if” allegiance to the state.25 Seo traces debates among Chinese historians of the 1950s and 1960s centering on Shang Yue, and among intellectuals of the 1980s centering on Su Xiaokang, to show the near impossibility of avoiding more-nationalist-than-thou arguments that aimed at sustaining patriotic hegemony among such groups.26

See E.E. Schattschneider, The Semi-Sovereign People (Hinsdale, IL: Dreyden Press, 1960), p. 124, who suggests that “ … we have underestimated the extent to which the government itself as a whole has been in conflict with other power systems.” 25 Seo refers in the chapter below to Lisa Weeden’s work on Asad’s Syria, where this form of politics brought mass obedience without much allegiance. See also the later references, in this present chapter, to work by Timur Kuran. 26 Similar dynamics apply to two opposing kinds of patriotism on Taiwan. In Hong Kong, which is the highest-income city in China, the largest “pro-Beijing” political party (the ‘DAB,’ [Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong] which has the unenviable job of trying to muster workers’ votes for a government run by a tiny minority of capitalists) must rely on patriotic appeals. One of its recent election slogans, plastered all over the city, was “meiyou guo, naer you jia?” (without


18 Lynn T. White

Is the proper topic of this study universal legitimacy, at all times and everywhere? Or is it legitimacy in the modern era and in specific places? To what extent do we want to be dispassionate social scientists, or instead, advocates for the greater legitimacy of some forms of legitimacy in the contemporary world? In the West, norms of legitimation have changed over time. If Shakespeare, Spenser, and Molière were mere propagandists, faking it as they praised their monarchs in such full terms, they were at least eloquent enough to sound candid.27 Even within a nation, for example, differentiations may be found. Are Louisiana’s modes of legitimation identical with Maine’s?28 Contrastive studies of modal legitimacy are yet to be attempted in Hong Kong vs. Beijing, Bikol vs. Pampanga, Bali vs. Aceh, Hanoi vs. Saigon and so forth, but people who know these places can certainly hypothesize differences. At the same time, common strains in actual or future norms of legitimacy, predicted by some elites only after a period of political tutelage, are now becoming worldwide. Trade and the Internet are just two of the forces to make them so. Introducing the most obvious predecessor of the current book, Muthiah Alagappa wrote that, “Society cannot conform to some

the state [guojia], where would the family be?), suggesting that the national institution is even more important than the small polity, which in fact everyone knows is most vital. Seo’s chapter, starting with an old word, says we need to pay more attention to “the function of factuality,” and Oppenheim’s chapter includes the same idea. 27 Compare current ideas with those in E.M.W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture: A Study of the Idea of Order in the Age of Shakespeare, Donne and Milton (New York: Vintage Books, 1950). See also Patrick Riley, The General Will Before Rousseau: The Transformation of the Divine into the Civic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986). 28 Other primate polities would be far beyond the purview here, but see Peter M. Kappeler, ed., Primate Males: Causes and Consequences of Variation in Group Composition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 19

extraneous truth.”29 Yet rises of global interdependency, spurred in the last decade especially by electronic media, have communicated more truths to more people in more kinds of societies than ever before. The most legitimate approaches to the topic of legitimation in Asia may have substantively changed, at least to some extent, because what many people are actually doing on a daily basis in Asia has changed so quickly. Modernization may well, however, not just be a force for convergence of political patterns. It strengthens localities and finances nationalisms, too. Recent developments do not eliminate the tension between universal and contextual types of legitimation. Weber noted that any regime is bolstered by “rational belief in the absolute validity of the order as an expression of ultimate values.”30 Quite aside from whether truths are “extraneous” or local, different people in the same society can believe them in different styles and with different intensities.31 The most obvious trait of legitimacy, making it crucial for politics, is that it is never certain. Philosophers were the earliest students of legitimacy, and most of them tend to be universalists despite their differences. Incumbents as well as oppositionists have often made studies of legitimacy not just normative but prescriptive. Usually political thinkers have to die, before the most articulate of them are canonized as philosophers. They have offered not just visions of what could be bred out of what already exists, but instead, of what might be constructed (not to put this too gently) if everyone else were like themselves. How philosophical should we be, in these studies?

Muthiah Alagappa, “The Anatomy of Legitimacy,” in Muthiah Alagappa, ed., Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 13. 30 Alagappa, “The Anatomy of Legitimacy,” p. 13, cites Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, ed., Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: Free Press, 1964), pp. 125 and 127. 31 Clifford Geertz, Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), provides good theory backed by thick description on varying kinds of faith in Islam, for example.


20 Lynn T. White

Research about legitimacy requires definitions of terms; but does it require much abstract philosophy? The examination of evidence in categories does not require pre–set linkages between types in a deductive theory. This book mainly follows the inductive tradition, without claiming that the deductive mode is invalid. Some works, e.g., Ronald Rogowski’s book, Rational Legitimacy, take the opposite tack, positing a whole theory first and only thereafter going to test it with data.32 The statistical and interpretive chapters in this book, when they suggest hypotheses connecting their terms, do so most immediately for the purpose of seeing the variance in legitimacies rather than for the purpose of seeing how legitimacy may be single or permanent. Political theory is never just “thought” without context. There is no history of thought; there is only the history of people thinking. Political philosophy can be understood in the inductive mode, as principled reports from men and women who were considering the politics in which they found themselves. Gilley’s chapter finds among “the remarkable political developments of the last quarter of the 20th century … some common causes of legitimacy.” He documents a “convergence of views” toward a consensus for “pluralist neutrality … a universal theory, but one which leaves much room for contextual variation.” Gilley defines plural groups in terms of economic work, social prestige, and institutional ideals, not just in terms of ethnic identities. He finds that explanations of legitimacy “in terms of actual performance consciously endorsed by people (i.e., without recourse to purely contextual factors, much less false consciousness) can explain most of what legitimacy there is.” This approach is informed by values, but it is also empirical. It takes the question of universal or contextual legitimacy not as a contradiction of principles, but as an issue to explore with data. Advocates may root for either a worldwide ethics or cultural sensitivity, and at the same time they can empirically find both — and can remain advocates.


Ronald Rogowski, Rational Legitimacy: A Theory of Political Support (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974).

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 21

This issue is at least as alive for politicians as for other analysts, although the politicians are more constrained by a great diversity of actors (soldiers, voters, others) in their societies. The Zheng–Lye chapter in this book makes clear that the Chinese Party leaders are as queasy as everyone else, watching China’s economy bound ahead for several decades faster than had been predicted. Even they are not of one mind about the appropriate political concomitants of this growth. The “Third Wave” of democratization, cresting in the early 1990s, raised hopes in many rich countries that liberal forms of legitimacy would spread quickly. Research showed that some aspects of “globalization” were indeed political, although other research showed that political change from this cause can be bumpy even when it occurs.33 But also, many scholars were concerned by evidence that citizens in established democracies have become unexpectedly lackadaisical about politics.34 Electoral turnouts in “advanced” democracies fell, while in some arguably unadvancing democracies such as the Philippines, where local tyrannies still thrive, turnouts for elections have been high even though enthusiastically and competitively elected governments have brought scant progress to the voters.35 Political scientists should admit that they have barely begun to make general sense of these trends.


See Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government, Pippa Norris, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) — and for a view stressing that democratic flows have been followed by democratic ebbs, Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). 34 Russell J. Dalton, Democratic Challenges, Democratic Choices: The Erosion of Political Support in Advanced Industrial Democracies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). E.E. Schattschneider, The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America (Hinsdale, IL: Dreyden Press, 1975), however, asks what by what right political theorists tell citizens how much to participate in democracies. 35 See John T. Sidel, Capital, Coercion, and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999), but also the works of far more Philippinists than have yet been sufficiently read by other Asianists. Look for Aguilar, Berlow, Broad, Cullinane, Diokno, Doronila, Feder, Fegan, Gershman, Guitierrez, Hawes, Hedman, Hernandez, Hollnsteiner, Hutchcroft, Hutchison,

22 Lynn T. White

Legitimation by procedures may turn out to be ordinarily contextual, while legitimation through results might turn out to be usually universal. Alagappa claimed that, “in the absence of an established normative order, the procedural element cannot be the primary basis on which political authority is claimed, acknowledged, or resisted.”36 Industrial development may, however, normalize such orders within national styles. This is happening in many parts of Asia that have prospered, even though evidence for convergence is very incomplete and the phenomenon is partial. It affects the political structures not just of states, but also of families, armies, businesses, and the ways in which governments deal with these other political networks. These changes are fairly recent and are reversible at least in detail. Legitimacy was once an idea that interested only a tiny minority of political theorists, while for most people it was a presumption. Political development, at least insofar as it involves consciousness, may itself be partly a growth of interest in legitimacy. Modern citizens care more about whether their government is legitimate. That changes, and the change is measurable.

Weber based his notion of legitimate domination on attitudes that might be evidenced by behavior. He wanted to know “the probability that to a relevant degree the appropriate attitudes will exist, and the corresponding practical conduct ensue.”37 This does not

Kawanaka, Kimura, Kirkvliet, Koike, Landé, Magno, McCoy, Murray, Owen, Pinches, Putzel, Riedinger, Rivera, Rocamora, Rood, Schaffer, Social Weather Station surveyors, Steinberg, Timberman, Wolters, Wurfel, and others (not to mention usual comparativists such as Anderson, Bello, Doner, Eaton, Kuhonta, or Yoshihara). 36 Muthiah Alagappa, “Seeking a More Durable Basis of Authority,” in Muthiah Alagappa, ed., Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 293. 37 Quoted from Weber and Dirk Kasler, in David Dahua Yang’s paper, below.

Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 23

preclude the possibility that the same behavior could come from negative or positive sanctions, official violence or benefits, “fear or favor.” What is the relation between legitimacy and sanctions, especially force? Coercion is never the intention of the coerced actor; the main trait of such external situations is exactly that they lack the actor’s meaning. Positive incentives, “carrots,” are also unintended from the standpoint of actors subject to them, and thus are as situational as negative sanctions, force, or “sticks.” Inducements of a concrete sort do not prove that a ruler is legitimate or illegitimate. They only prove that the ruler is rich or strong enough to afford them. Often behavior can be interpreted to impute meanings, but strictly speaking, two or more inconsistent intentions may lead to the same observable conduct. The imputation is a researcher’s guess, no doubt usually a good one but not provably so.38 Social scientists almost always presume similarities between the workings of their own minds and their subjects’ — even when they hope not to do so because they know these are not identical. If a command is issued, mere compliance does not prove its legitimacy. Behavior, including speech behavior such as responses in attitude surveys, may be affected by situations not just norms. Behavior is often imagined by researchers to be the only gold–standard evidence in social science. If the main interest is to find the probability that a follower will adhere to the leader’s command, fears of sanctions may be important along with beliefs in the leader’s legitimacy. Most contemporary Asian regimes act, most of the time, as if they accepted that open violence cannot for long procure compliance.39

This knowledge problem is parallel to the issue faced by statisticians who can be sure they understand the meanings of the terms and hypotheses that they construct themselves, but can never be sure they have chosen the best behavioral data to test them — and in any case end up with findings at probability only. 39 Exceptions are evident and include the Burmese army’s violent repression of an electoral result since 1987, as well as the Beijing regime’s many attempts to “scare monkeys by killing chickens” as in 1989.


24 Lynn T. White

Implicit duress, however, can be institutionalized.40 Many regimes find ways to remind people about police. Citizens may furtively resent such threats even while complying with the threateners most of the time.41 “Coercive compliance” is, according to Etzioni’s analysis, one of three main types.42 Consent requires consciousness, which is an extremely edgy topic for social scientists who prefer to study only conduct that they can observe directly. What evidence could make a researcher sure that consent to any legitimacy were not “hegemonic” — based (in Gramsci’s view) on unknowing acceptance of a political order that can contravene the consenter’s own interest?43 Mannheim, whose

For examples from Mao’s China, see Lynn White, Policies of Chaos: The Organizational Causes of Violence in China’s Cultural Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). 41 The degree of subjects’ consciousness of hegemony has been a major topic since Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Quintin Hoare and G.N. Smith, eds., and trs., (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971). Consciousness — e.g., of legitimacy — is sporadically “hidden” rather than “false” in the analysis of James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985). Types of power along this spectrum are described in Steven Lukes, Power: A Radical View (New York: Macmillan, 1974), and in a U.S. application, John Gaventa, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980). The current author thinks that all parts of the Lukes–Gaventa spectrum are analytically useful, does not think theorists can tell everyone what to be conscious of (even though advocacy to “raise consciousness” often helps people), and guesses that we are all semi–conscious or unconscious of a great deal. 42 Amitai Etzioni, A Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations: On Power, Involvement, and Their Correlates (New York: Free Press, 1975). In this view, Weber’s “traditional” authority spurs “coercive” compliance, while “utilitarian” compliance is brought by “legal rationality,” and “normative compliance” is inspired by “charisma.” The predicate “legitimate” is usually applied to just two of Weber’s three types (the procedural-legal one, and the charismatic one). This may prove mainly that few writers like violence. 43 See Antonio Gramsci, Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, trs. and eds., Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971).


Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 25

more robust interpretation places less burden on credence, claimed that actors sometimes tentatively repress their own knowledge that some of their ideas are wrong (“lies,” to use his honest word) because of short–term, concrete political advantages that they gain from such self–confusion. Practical ideologies and partial lies of this kind have social uses, even if they do not fully reflect what people know.44 Could an hegemony be legitimate? The answer may be no, if legitimacy is a norm that requires full consciousness. But it is also necessary to be clear that not all hegemonies are nasty; what people do not know sometimes does not hurt them. Data quoted in Wang’s chapter suggest that “the correlation between political fear and trust in government is very weak.” Also, he finds that “exposure to [propaganda] media in China actually has a negative effect on citizens’ trust in government.” Although it would be prudent to regard these conclusions as tentative, situations and norms differ basically from each other, and this begins new lines of research about them. Previous social scientists have been overly hesitant to make claims of causation from intentions to behavior, and they can also be careful when looking at conduct to impute human meanings. Adam Przeworski, using cross–national statistics to study the sustainability of authoritarian regimes, has suggested that legitimacy does not matter.45 The viability of alternative regimes is what affects transitions. As he argues, that likelihood is what may cause change among their types. Yet legitimacy is worth studying for its own sake, even though it certainly cannot explain everything about the objects to which it can apply. Even Przeworski allows that certain signals, including a collapse of legitimacy, can trigger realignments of political forces that create the “viable alternatives” that are

Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1936). 45 Cases such as the junta in Burma (also known as Myanmar) could be studied to seek the mechanisms that produce Przeworski’s finding on the causal weakness of legitimacy for explaining transitions. See references to him in the chapter below by David Yang, to whom the present author gives thanks for help on this important matter.


26 Lynn T. White

prerequisite to regime change — although he may not choose to admit that such signals are causes. In any case, legitimacy is arguably as important a trait of any regime as is its democratic or authoritarian or dictatorial type, its stability, the structure of the country in which it holds sway, or other predicates. Epistemological problems are important, but they need not shape all the interests that researchers find in politics. This whole field of study needs much firmer links to psychology. A conundrum about legitimacy is that most people sense what it is, but its most expected causes and results both correlate only loosely with it insofar as attitude surveys or elections can measure it. This understandably makes behavioral researchers nervous. Yet social science can use information from expressed normative intentions, as well as from conduct. Relying on the hope that a researcher can understand the consciousness of the people being studied is an unsure way to draw conclusions — but so is its alternative, relying only on direct observations of behavior and testing them against hypotheses that neglect ideas not constructed by the researcher. Better knowledge about politics will come from adopting both methods and using them together. The few previous studies of major changes in legitimacy have barely begun to model the psychology of legitimation. This would have to include both externally generated and self-generated net benefits to people from their beliefs in legitimacy or illegitimacy. Timur Kuran, explaining the transition from communism in Eastern Europe, suggests that people may “falsify,” or at least fail to act on, preferences that they are nonetheless aware of having.46 When the psychological costs of repressing these views exceed the external costs of expressing them, a cascade of unexpected behavior can change politics quickly. This can become a syndrome, affecting many

Timur Kuran, “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution,” in Nancy Bermeo, ed., Liberalization and Democratization: Changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 7–48.


Introduction — Dimensions of Legitimacy 27

in a society at once. Kuran is an economist and feels most comfortable with an approach that refers mainly to individual actors — but actually, his logic is about double personalities, about the balance of conflicting preferences within minds. Future studies of legitimation will benefit from more work on its psychological mechanisms. Believers in any legitimating norm, such as patriotism, do not necessarily believe in full. They may be “faking it” in part. Their expressed ideas can seem to be firm but then can change quickly. The quick transmogrification of attitudes in Iberia, where practically nobody predicted democracy in post–Franco Spain or post–Salazar/Caetano Portugal, exemplifies such change. Another sharp example comes from the surprise in Eastern Europe during the demise of Communism, as mentioned above. Another comes from Taiwan, after the mid–1980s authoritarian period that David Yang’s chapter in this book explores. Yet another comes from China, where many intellectuals after the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989 detested their regime (not their state) as illegitimate — but within a short time, the climate changed because of more coercion and better governance too.47 Legitimacy remains a norm, and situations clearly affect it.48 Most political scientists have been slower to pay serious attention to norms than to situations, but they can try harder to tell the other half of the story. This book in your hands is obviously experimental. It does not cover all the nations of East and Southeast Asia. Various chapters try different approaches to this global, large, rather presumptuous topic of legitimacy — but there is no claim that all possible valid

See the new book by Dali L. Yang, Remaking the Chinese Leviathan: Market Transition, Political Leadership, and Economic Growth (forthcoming). 48 Talcott Parsons’s suggestions about the primacy of norms and about the closeness of their links to situations need not be accepted, in order to use his contrast between norms and situations. For more ideas about functionalisms that work and those that do not, see references to Parsons in Lynn White, “Functional Stories: Uses for Communist, Developmental, Military, and Individualist Ideologies,” in David Arase, ed., The Challenge of Change: East Asia in the New Millennium (Berkeley: University of California Institute of East Asian Studies, 2003), pp. 341–71.


28 Lynn T. White

approaches are attempted here. This is a rich subject with a big future, and none of these chapters tries to oversimplify it. Each deals with one or several dimensions of legitimacy, while remaining open to other dimensions. Legitimacy varies over time. It is not something that a regime just has or lacks. It is not wholly created by either old traditions or new agents — but it is created, not natural. In totalitarian regimes, it may seem hegemonic. Yet even hegemony changes, when people begin to disclose views that they previously hid. As the succeeding chapters suggest, a better theory of legitimacy will be vital to understanding the evolution of politics in Asia and elsewhere.



Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context*
Bruce Gilley

In 2004, Malaysia’s ruling National Front coalition was returned to office in general elections with 64% of the popular vote. After suffering an electoral setback in elections in 1999, the coalition returned to consolidate its rule. The ongoing support for the National Front has presented something of a puzzle for scholars because under the reign of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad from 1981 until 2003 political liberties in Malaysia steadily deteriorated. The country’s economic performance, while adequate, was weaker than that of the other Asian tiger economies where authoritarian regimes lost support. The Malaysian case raises two obvious questions: Is political legitimacy as high as it appears? If so, what explains that result? To

* This is a substantially revised version of a paper originally presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, San Diego, March, 2004. My thanks to Lynn White and Evan Lieberman for helpful comments on earlier drafts. 29

30 Bruce Gilley

answer these questions, we need to consider legitimacy in some general framework that allows comparisons with other countries as well as a tracing of the legitimation process in Malaysia itself. This paper proceeds in three parts. In the first, I outline a theory of the political legitimacy of states, its analytic components and their relative importance. Using this, I proceed to an analysis of some quantitative indicators of political legitimacy in 10 Asian states, including Malaysia. This gives us some insight into the first question. In the second part, I consider the causes of legitimacy, or at least those universal causes which may explain most of the variations in legitimacy levels across states. I introduce a four–part theory of these causes, and provide an aggregation of performance for the 10 states that seems to fit observed legitimacy levels. In the third part, I consider the question of the legitimation process, namely the mechanism through which the hypothesized causal variables lead to the observed legitimacy outcomes. After introducing a general theory of this process, I consider the case of Malaysia in greater detail. My conclusions are twofold. One is that legitimacy in Malaysia is not as high as electoral returns suggest, reflecting the importance of the analytical and empirical distinctions between legitimacy (support due to views of the rightfulness of the state) and compliance (support due to personal payoffs or coercion). Second, modest legitimacy levels in Malaysia do reflect reasonable performance of the Malaysian state on distributive and regulatory fronts that have generated legitimacy in spite of the decline of civic and political freedoms in the country. As such, the Malaysian case is a reminder of the complexity of political legitimacy, both its make-up and its causes. This conclusion meshes with the findings in other chapters in this book, namely that not only is legitimacy a multi–faceted concept that admits of degrees, but its causes, even if confined only to political variables, may range across various types of political performance. The immediate implication is that as Malaysian society continues to modernize, the regime will need to pursue legitimacy–enhancing improvements in its performance or else introduce new, sterner forms of compliance. As the latter option was increasingly exhausted in the post–Mahathir era, it portends a period of significant governance reforms.

Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 31

The concept of legitimacy is central to much of the social sciences since it describes how power may be constituted and used in a community in ways that members accept. Within political science, its importance has been demonstrated by the Third Wave of democratizations from the late 1970s to the late 1990s which cut the proportion of the world’s states living under authoritarian rule from two–thirds to one–third. States that lack some minimal degree of legitimacy, no matter how powerful their coercive apparatus or how appealing their economic performance, have been unable to withstand citizen desires to be willing subjects of the political order in which they live. Political legitimacy remains a complex, multi–faceted concept whose measurement is difficult and whose sources and implications may vary widely across states. Still, the increased evidence of a “globalization of politics” means that cross–national measurement and comparison of this concept is increasingly possible and fruitful. Efforts to distill a common meaning and measure of legitimacy across otherwise diverse states, of which this book is one part, are made possible by a growing universality of political experience.1 Political legitimacy can be defined as the degree to which a state is viewed and treated by citizens as rightfully holding and exercising political power. Where it is legitimate, citizens defer to political power not because of fear or favor but because of “an acceptance, even approbation, of the state’s rules of the game, its social control, as true and right.”2 In other words, legitimacy concerns evaluations of the goodness and justness of political power. It is an endorsement of the state by citizens at a moral or normative level, that is, in the light of considered views of what is best from a public perspective.

Jeff Hayes, “Tracing Connections Between Comparative Politics and Globalization”, Third World Quarterly, 24:6 (December 2003), pp. 1029–1047. 2 Joel Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 32–3.


32 Bruce Gilley

This is in contrast to their compliance with the state due to non– normative coercion (police repression, restrictive laws) or individual economic or social payoffs. Legitimacy is thus normative by nature. What is sometimes called “performance legitimacy” only makes sense to the extent that it implies the ways in which citizens evaluate state performance from a public perspective. A citizen who supports the regime “because it is doing well in creating jobs” is expressing views of legitimacy. A citizen who supports the regime “because I have a job” is not. While in practice, citizens may conflate individual payoffs with public rightfulness, the justification remains distinct, and thus liable to critique if not sustained by evidence of the public good. Much empirical evidence suggests that on both economic and political issues, people’s evaluations of performance are often from a public perspective, meaning that there is a distinct form of political support called legitimacy.3 It is possible to evaluate the legitimacy of many objects — constitutions, politicians, judges, laws, processes, and much else. If the main concern is political development, then the relevant object is the state, a political community enjoying a monopoly of power within a defined territory.4 Political development is changes in the “basic structure” of a political community. This basic structure includes the institutions, norms, and processes of that community at both central and local levels, and “how they fit together into one unified system of social cooperation”.5


See Larry Diamond, Developing Democracy: Towards Consolidation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). Also see Yun-han Chu, Yu-tzung Chang et al., “Regime Performance, Value Change and Authoritarian Detachment in East Asia”. (Paper presented at conference “How East Asians View Democracy: The Region in Global Perspective”, National Taiwan University and Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, 2003.) 4 This definition automatically excludes those places where political community has not been established, that is where no single organization has established a monopoly on the use of coercive force in most parts of a defined territory. Failed states and states in a situation of civil war cannot be understood as objects of legitimacy. 5 John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 11.

Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 33

More specifically, the state can be divided into two parts: state institutions and state–embedded polity. State institutions include the organizations, agencies, departments, customs, norms, laws, and processes of a political community. For most democracies, this is the only part of the state as a referent object of legitimacy. For this reason, surveys of state legitimacy typically ask questions about how people feel about the democracy in their country, or their confidence in civil servants, judges, or policemen. State–embedded polity covers those cases where leaders, parties, or governments are empirically or perceptively indistinguishable from the state. Generally speaking, citizens in democratic countries make a clear separation between their views of the state and their views of politicians, parties, and governments since these things are empirically separate.6 Nevertheless, in some states, elements in the polity have “captured” the state. In a country where people talk about “the regime” as opposed to “the government”, it is likely that there is a significant degree of state–embedded polity.7 A collapse in the legitimacy of a leader in an authoritarian regime has grave implications for the legitimacy of the state.8 In what ways can the state be seen as legitimate? I follow Beetham9 and others10 in defining legitimacy as having three principle

See for example Ralf Lillbacka, The Legitimacy of the Political System: The Case of Finland, Abo (Finland: Abo Akademi University Press, 1999), p. 203, Table 11.2. 7 So I use the term state–embedded polity to cover the concept of “regime” that is often named as a separate, middle–level object of legitimacy between state and government. The system of rule — democracy, one-party rule, etc., — another issue sometimes put under the title “regime” fits properly within the notion of state institutions here. 8 The World Bank Institute argues that such “state capture” by business elites is more likely in the initial phases of development, one reason why development is not empirically well–related to democracy as a causal variable. See J. Hellman, G. Jones, and D. Kaufmann, “Seize the State, Seize the Day: State Capture, Corruption and Influence in Transition”, (2000). Available at www.worldbank.org/wbi/governance/ pubs/seizestate.html 9 David Beetham, The Legitimation of Power (London: Macmillan, 1991). 10 Jack Citrin and Christopher Muste, “Trust in Government” in John P. Robinson, Phillip R. Shaver and Lawrence S. Wrightsman, eds., Measures of Political Attitudes; Measures of Social Psychological Attitudes, vol. 2 (San Diego: Academic Press,


34 Bruce Gilley

components: views of legality, views of justification, and acts of consent. Views of legality means that citizens believe that those in power have acquired and exercised that power in a way that accords with established and accepted rules or norms. This is the classical component of legitimacy — indeed the English word itself comes from the Latin word meaning “to make legal”. In the words of Poggi, legality represents “the taming of power through the depersonalization of its exercise”.11 Views of justification means that citizens believe there are good reasons to accept the inequalities in wealth and power created by the coercive power of the state. Those reasons lie in shared beliefs about the nature and pursuit of the common good. Acts of consent are those positive actions which express society’s willingness to be obligated or compelled to perform certain duties as members of the state. These three components intermingle in the legitimation of most aspects of the state. The legitimacy of the tax system, for example, relies not only on the provision of detailed and transparent tax laws, but also on political justification and quasi–voluntary tax–payer compliance. As a general rule, we would expect the three components to be positively correlated. If we wish to arrive at an overall evaluation of the legitimacy of the tax system, which component — evidence of citizen views of legality, views of justification, or consent — is most important? If one or two matters more, a simple aggregation of “everything” will give biased estimates. In this paper, I will simply aggregate components into a simple mean. However, a more complex measure of legitimacy would need to provide a theoretically–motivated aggregation strategy.12

1993), pp. 465–481. Also see Muthiah Algappa, “The Anatomy of Legitimacy” in Alagappa ed., Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority; (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), pp. 11–31, 15. 11 Gianfranco Poggi, The Development of the Modern State: A Sociological Introduction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1978). 12 See Bruce Gilley, “The Meaning and Measure of State Legitimacy: A Study of 78 Countries”, European Journal of Political Research (forthcoming). It should be noted that in the 78–country dataset, a simple mean of legitimacy indicators produces results that do not differ significantly from those from more complex aggregation strategies.

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Evidence of the three components of legitimacy can be found from both attitudinal and behavioral data. In this study, I have selected the following data sources (see Appendix A for details of these indicators). For views of legality, I use a composite score based on three survey questions, two from the World Values Survey on confidence in the police and civil service and another from Transparency International on corruption in state institutions. For views of justification, I use the average score for 1996 to 2000 of “normalized civil violence”, the percentage of civil actions that involve violence, from the World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators IV. For acts of consent I use two separate measures: electoral turnout in national legislative elections in the late 1990s; and the percentage of central government revenues raised from “quasi-voluntary” or self–paid taxes, mainly income and corporate profit taxes. I choose 10 Asian states for which sufficient data is available and transform the data using a normal distribution into a 0 to 10 scale for all indicators (meaning a score of 5 represents the mean for all countries). The results are as follows:

Table 1.1 Legitimacy Component Scores: Scaled 0 (Worst) to 10 (Best) Views of Legality Taiwan Japan Philippines South Korea Indonesia Malaysia China Bangladesh Hong Kong India 6.43 5.02 6.47 6.08 3.44 2.89 7.66 7.26 2.21 4.50 Non-Violence Election Turnout 7.99 4.81 5.95 4.15 10 2.95 3.82 5.91 0 6.09 Self-Paid Taxes 5.91 8.43 6.15 4.78 5.24 5.77 0.99 2.30 6.18 4.24 SIMPLE MEAN 6.76 6.52 5.59 5.57 5.24 4.91 4.82 4.25 4.08 3.68

7.72 7.82 3.78 7.25 2.17 8.04 6.82 1.52 9.71 0

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Taken at face value, we can make some general observations. One is that as a matter of ranking, for the period of the late 1990s to the early 2000s covered here, the state in Malaysia enjoyed middling legitimacy levels in comparative context. Indeed, it was closer to the middle score of 5 than any other state in the 10 surveyed here. The interest of this finding may be what it says about the first question posed at the outset, namely how high is legitimacy in Malaysia. It implies that legitimacy, while modest, is not as high as electoral landslides for the ruling National Front suggest. Second, the make-up of legitimacy in Malaysia, as with most states, varies across components. The relatively low political violence and relatively high self-paid taxes are indicative of a reasonably robust support for what might be called the “invisible state”.13 The country’s poor performance on views of legality and on electoral turnout reflects less legitimacy for the visible and everyday institutions of the state. We will later examine qualitative evidence for this legitimacy scoring in the Malaysian case. But prior to that, it is useful to remain at the macro–comparative level of analysis and consider explanations for this variation in legitimacy levels.

Explanations of Legitimacy
Legitimacy is often studied as a causal variable. That is, social scientists are interested in how legitimacy affects the way that states behave towards citizens and towards other states. The questions I want to consider here are the causes of legitimacy itself. The question of the sources of legitimacy is as old as political science itself. Jean Jacques Rousseau set out in The Social Contract [1762] “to enquire whether there can be a legitimate and reliable rule of administration in the civil order”. Yet political science has been remarkably divided on the question of how legitimacy is created. Without exhausting all the possibilities, we can roughly divide


I borrow this concept from Zhengxu Wang’s chapter in this book.

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the various schools of thought into what might be called the “contextual” and the “universal” schools. Within both of these, we can identify several specific theories. Contextual theories are those which locate legitimacy causes in purely local, case–specific sources, or at least which argue that universal categories lack enough substance to be of use. These can be divided into top–down and bottom–up variants. The former states that an effective leader or elite can inculcate their views into society through the use of charisma or the creation of hegemonic local norms and values that are accepted in society. Gramsci and Weber founded this “hegemony” school, which became popular in the 1960s and 1970s.14 The latter pays attention to specific socio–cultural norms and socio–psychological traits to explain the extent to which citizens will view rulers as legitimate. A key factor here is the congruence of these particular and contextual values between society and state. Inglehart15 and Almond and Verba16 are good examples of this “culturalist” school, which was formulated earliest by Eckstein.17 Universal theories that propose common sources of legitimacy across cases are more diverse. Again, while not ignoring contextual factors, they that are the most powerful or interesting causes of legitimacy are best understood in universal terms. Marxism, for example, might be called the universalist version of the hegemony school, the difference being that here the content of claims and their success is always linked to the imperatives of capitalist development. Today’s critics of “neo–liberalism” write in this vein. Another universalist

An example is Paul Dettman, “Leaders and structures in ‘Third World’ politics: contrasting approaches to legitimacy”, Comparative Politics 6:2 (January 1974), pp. 245–269. 15 Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Post Modernization: Cultural, Economic, and Social Change in 43 Societies, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997). 16 Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, eds., The Civic Culture Revisited (Boston: Little Brown, 1980). 17 Harry Eckstein, Division and Cohesion in Democracy: A Study of Norway (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1966).


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explanation puts emphasis on the creation of a generic political order. The idea here is that the overarching source of legitimacy is the provision of order and stability in states. Huntington18 is perhaps the best–known advocate of this view. Narrow preference or rational choice theories, meanwhile, hold that citizens evaluate legitimacy from the point–of–view of individual payoffs and interests. A state will be legitimate to the extent that it provides payoffs to more citizens than not. A good general example of this “political economy” approach is Haggard and Kaufman.19 Finally, liberal theories of legitimacy put emphasis on a state’s provision of certain normative goods of procedure and substance, in particular the provision of wide freedoms, their paramount status over other aims, and the assurance of equal voice and role in political processes. A well–known work in this mould is Fukuyama.20 None of these theories is deterministic, as recent history has shown. The charismatic Suharto was ousted (contra top–down theories), while the Confucian preference for dictators was shown to be mutable in Taiwan and South Korea (contra bottom–up sociological theories). Workers in Brazil have installed socialist presidents into office three times in a row (contra Marxist theory), while fast-growing Brazil and Poland and orderly South Africa and Yugoslavia all saw their regimes overthrown (contra political economy and political order theories respectively). Remarkably free India suffers from low legitimacy (contra liberal theory). Of course, there is no saying that selected elements of these approaches do not combine at various times, nor that regimes may find that when one sort has been exhausted or rejected they can move to another. Indeed, as a dynamic process through which citizens are reconciled to power, it

Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968). 19 Stephen Haggard and Robert Kaufman, The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). 20 Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Penguin Books, 1992).


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might be better to speak of legitimation (the ongoing process) rather than legitimacy (a static one). But somewhere in the midst of the remarkable political developments of the last quarter of the 20th century, we might have perceived some common causes of legitimacy and legitimation. In the past decade, there has been a convergence of views in the subfields of comparative politics and political philosophy alike on the nature of legitimate regimes. Addressing the question from empirical and deductive approaches respectively, the two fields nonetheless today speak the same language much more than prior to the Third Wave. No one holds up Yugoslavian worker councils, African tribalism, or Oriental despotism as plausible models of sustained legitimacy–generation. I will use the term “pluralist neutrality” to refer to a theory that I believe sums up this consensus view. In terms of the taxonomy above, this is a universal theory, but one which leaves much room for contextual variation. As its name suggests, pluralist neutrality puts particular emphasis on how the state can remain neutral among the competing claims of various aspects of pluralism — moral doctrines (religions, moral codes, etc.) and social identities (class, race, ethnic, cultural, regional, etc.) — within society. A full defense of this theory is beyond the scope of this paper. But the main principles may be suitably unobjectionable and straightforward to be merely stated, as follows: • Distributional Essentials: The state will be more legitimate to the extent that it ensures a minimal required degree of all-purpose distributive goods for all citizens. These goods are those without which no life could go well. They therefore include adequate food, clothing, shelter, health, education, law and order, and income. Rights Essentials: The state will be more legitimate to the extent that it ensures a minimal required degree of all-purpose rights to all citizens. These rights are those without which no plan of life could be successfully carried out, that is without which no moral doctrine or social identity could adequately be realized. They therefore include some minimal degree of such well-known

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rights as freedom of conscience and belief, of speech and association, from torture and illegal detention, of movement and bodily integrity, etc., as well as an unspecified necessity to provide for particular moral–social group rights as may be required to sustain any life plan. Executive Selection: The state will be more legitimate to the extent that it allows each citizen to take an equal role in the selection and empowerment of political leaders. This will mean that no group or individuals enjoy an a priori greater role in this process, and that the effective role of each citizen in choosing leaders is roughly equal. Policy Process: The state will be more legitimate to the extent that it provides and is seen to provide a roughly neutral forum for the making of policy. In other words, the state ensures that the institutions and processes that are “rented out” to the citizenry to determine policies do not themselves reflect any particular moral doctrine or social identity. This draws on a common–sense notion (and empirically strong finding) that people will believe a given policy is legitimate to the extent that it is made through processes that all can agree are fair, or impartial.21 It is worth noting however that the policy process neutrality does not imply policy neutrality. Citizens may well decide to provide state funding for parochial schools or lavish state ceremonies for the exhibition of fragments of the Buddha’s teeth. This theory is in stark contrast to the better known idea of “liberal neutrality”22 in which government policies may not favor any moral doctrine or social identity. Here, it is the processes and institutions that must be neutral but not the outcomes. The result, for example, is that a state in a largely Islamic community will gain legitimacy

Tom Tyler, Why People Obey the Law (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1990). Two edited volumes on this subject are Paul Kelly, ed., Impartiality, Neutrality, and Justice: Re-Reading Brian Barry’s Justice as Impartiality (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998); and Robert Goodwin and Andrew Reeve, eds., Liberal Neutrality (London: Routledge, 1989).


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to the extent that its educational system or legal system, for example, embraces certain Islamic points of view, provided that: a. this does not violate any of the first three principles above; and b. it is passed by neutral processes. While this theory certainly stipulates many “universals” — especially in the first three components of distribution, rights, and selection — it also leaves a lot of room for the “contextuals” of political life — especially in policy–making. In this sense, it is an example of the kind of “contextual universalism” that enjoys wide support in mainstream social sciences today.23 The theory does not rule out the “contextual” explanations of legitimacy (top–down or bottom–up) mentioned above — provided of course that they do not violate its principles. Indeed, it predicts that contextual factors will almost certainly be important in the formation of overall legitimacy. It merely claims that in addition to them there will be a core set of universal principles that form the basis of legitimacy in all modern states. A key assumption of this theory is the ability of citizens to distinguish between state–determined and non–state–determined policy outcomes. Citizens must recognize when malign outcomes are a result of bad luck, or individual incompetence, for example. In democracies, they may blame leaders, parties or governments but not the state itself.24 Economic conditions explain about half of the

See Andrew Nathan, “Universalism: A Particularistic Account”, in L.S. Bell, I. Peleg and A.J. Nathan, eds., Negotiating Culture and Human Rights. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), pp. 349–368. 24 Bartels and Achen argue that American citizens lack the cognitive ability to make rational decisions about whether or not to blame politicians for natural disasters. If Bartels and Achen are right then the same would presumably apply to citizen evaluations of the state. Erickson and colleagues argue against this position, showing how voter behavior is largely consistent with rational accountability. See Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels, “Blind Retrospection: Electoral Responses to Drought, Flu and Shark Attacks”. (Paper Prepared for Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, 2002), Robert S. Erikson, Michael B. MacKuen, and James A. Stimson, The Macro Polity (Cambridge University Press, 2002).


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variation in the votes won by the incumbent party in American congressional and presidential elections between 1952 and 1996.25 In other cases, citizens may rightly attribute policy failures or successes to the state itself. One example would be when ethnic unrest creates demands for a devolution of power in order to create a state that is more responsive to minority needs. In other cases, electoral arrangements may create fractured parliaments that are unable to pass important welfare laws. We assume that citizens are able to observe and evaluate those systematically–induced aspects of policy performance.

Choosing indicators to capture the four components above is an inexact science. At best, we can hope to find indicators that provide the correct rankings among different states examined here. For distribution, I use the simple mean of the transformed scores for two figures: GDP per capita growth from 1975 to 2001 and the percentage of income or consumption held by the poorest 20% of the population in late 1990s, both taken from United Nations Development Programme tables. The former is a good indicator of the provision of resources and the latter of their distribution to the most needy. For rights, I use the World Bank Institute’s voice and accountability indicator for 2000. The Institute defines this as a broad composite of civil rights. For Executive Selection, I use a more narrow measure of political rights, the Freedom House Political Liberties score 1999–2000. This is specific to whether elections are free and fair and institutionalized in the political system. Finally, for policy I use the World Bank Institute’s government effectiveness indicator for 2000, defined as “the quality of public service provision, the quality of the bureaucracy, the competence of civil servants, the independence of the civil service from political pressures, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to policies”. As with the legitimacy scores, all data is transformed into a 0 to 10 scale using the mean


Erikson et al., The Macro Polity.

Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 43

and standard deviation of scores among the 10 states and a normal distribution. In aggregating the performance scores into overall performance averages, I use three alternatives. One is the simple mean of the four items. Of the two alternative weightings, one puts emphasis on the traditional liberal components of selection and rights (“Liberal Values”) and the other puts emphasis on the authoritarian focus on distribution and policy effectiveness (which I call “Asian Values” to refer to the regional version of this in Asia). In both cases the weights are 75% for the important indicators and 25% for the less important two. The results of these calculations are shown in Table 1.2. A general statement linking the performance indicators above to the legitimacy levels mentioned earlier would require a large–n statistical analysis in order to provide sufficient levels of confidence in the findings. Here, we can only rely on correlations as indicative of patterns of legitimation. The correlations between the legitimacy scores in Table 1.1 and the three alternative means in Table 1.2 are as follows: 0.64 for Simple Mean; 0.58 for Liberal Values, and 0.63 for Asian Values. None of the four individual performance indicators gives a correlation better than any of these three. Thus the Simple and Asian Values performance scores best fit the observed variation

Table 1.2 Performance Indicators for 10 Asian States: Scaled 0 (Worst) to 10 (Best) Distribution Rights Executive Policy Simple Liberal Selection Neutrality Mean Values Taiwan Japan South Korea Hong Kong India Malaysia China Philippines Bangladesh Indonesia 7.61 6.01 6.43 3.85 4.80 3.05 6.32 1.37 4.89 5.65 7.68 8.30 7.50 3.26 6.42 3.88 0.04 6.24 3.65 3.02 6.81 8.21 6.81 2.63 6.81 2.63 0 6.81 5.42 4.02 7.74 7.86 5.85 8.60 3.10 6.09 4.29 3.72 1.46 1.30 7.46 7.59 6.65 4.58 5.28 3.91 2.66 4.54 3.85 3.50 7.35 7.92 6.90 3.77 5.95 3.58 1.34 5.53 4.19 3.51 Asian Values 7.57 7.26 6.39 5.40 4.62 4.24 3.98 3.54 3.52 3.49

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in legitimacy scores across all 10 states. This implies that the Liberal variant is less plausible than a theory that puts at least equal weight on distributional and policy performance as on traditional liberal rights. Both the Simple and Asian means correctly account for Malaysia’s middle–ranking among these 10 states, including its superior performance over China and Bangladesh and its inferior performance to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. As a preliminary answer to the second question posed at the outset, “what accounts for legitimacy in Malaysia”, we can hypothesize that the country’s modest performance on distributional and policy–making, and its lesser but still adequate performance on rights and selection, has added up to an overall performance that generates the observed middling amount of legitimacy. As mentioned, a large–scale statistical analysis would be needed to ascertain the significance of these findings. Moreover, it may be that a large amount of variation remains unexplained as a result of the importance of purely country–specific factors in legitimacy. Process tracing may help us deal with both issues. The significance of the findings may be tested by seeing if the putative universal performance formula for legitimation seems to accord with the actual experiences of Malaysia during the period in question. As to contextual factors, process tracing will provide a way to observe the presence or absence of such factors, whether they be a charismatic leader or a deeply–ingrained nationalism. In the final part of the paper, I consider a systems model for the tracing of legitimation, and apply it to the Malaysian case.

The precise mechanism through which legitimacy might be generated by the four performance indicators above requires a further elaboration of the notion of pluralism on which the theory of pluralist neutrality is based. For if we plan to trace how the various aspects of pluralism are mediated by states to produce legitimacy–determining outcomes, we will need to be quite specific about the forms that pluralism takes.

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Pluralism is by no means limited to ethnic identity. It includes different moral conceptions, personal identities, and local affiliations. Pluralism can be defined as the diversity of moral and ascriptive views that form part of each individual’s view of the good life. These may pertain to many things. One four–part division might be the following: (1) markets, distribution, and environment; (2) religion, ethnicity, and locality; (3) social life, gender, and education; and (4) political institutions and processes. It may come as a surprise that “pluralism” embraces so much. Much contemporary writing focuses only on (2) but it is plain that the competing worldviews that define a pluralistic society cut many more ways. The citizenry of Denmark is only half as culturally and ethnically diverse as the United States.26 Yet Denmark’s political scene, in which socialist and environmental parties won 20 of 179 seats in the national parliament elected in 2001, encompasses wider diversity than that of the United States. In addition to differences on economic identity and social matters, citizens will differ on the ideal institutional design of their political community. For the civic humanist, an active engagement in public life through various forms of direct democracy and mandatory voting is itself the ultimate good of life. For others, a retirement from all public life is the highest ideal. In the words of Rawls, “reasonable pluralism” is the totality of all views in these four areas that meet the minimum requirement of being consistent with a fair scheme of social cooperation. This is “not seen as a disaster but rather as a natural outcome of the activities of human reason”.27 What unites the various dimensions of pluralism is that they are based on conflicting underlying values that are matters of ethical and moral philosophy or identity (“conceptions of the good” as they are called in political philosophy) and thus not liable to fundamental agreement. Like many theories of legitimacy, pluralist neutrality attempts to explain legitimacy through a “purely political”


James Fearon, “Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country”, Journal of Economic Growth 8 (2003), pp. 195–222. 27 Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. xxvi.

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conception of justice that avoids an attempt to reach or impose a transcendental truth. Here, states gain legitimacy to the extent that they are neutral or impartial among the various aspects of pluralism, as judged by the four performance indicators. Qualitative evidence will take the form of tracing the process by which the four types of pluralism are mediated by the state. The performance of the state can then be evaluated with respect to the “external” or “objective” criteria outlined above — namely the procedural and substantive requirements of pluralist neutrality. Finally, we can trace the possible links between this “objective” performance and the “subjective” levels of legitimacy in the state, seeing which aspects of performance seem to matter more to legitimacy as well as the extent to which purely local/contextual sources of legitimacy might exist. This in turn would be expected to have implications for the political development of the states concerned — those with lower legitimacy, other things equal, experiencing more pressures for political change. To put this causal story into a visual format, we are tracing the pattern shown in Figure 1.1. As a general theory of legitimation, this system is consistent with arguments in other chapters of this volume in several respects. For one, it takes legitimacy as being a political phenomenon (indicated by the absence of a direct link from Demands of Pluralism to State

Demands of Pluralism

The State


State Legitimacy

* markets * ethnicity * social life * political life

* institutions / processes * embedded polity

* distribution * rights * selection * policy

* legality * justification * consent

Figure 1.1 A System of Pluralism and Legitimation.

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Legitimacy). Political variables mediate social demands to create legitimacy. In some instances, political variables even change social demands. The political process then is central to legitimacy outcomes. Second, it recognizes legitimacy as a continuous variable that will vary with changes in the legitimation process. It is not a Yes/No outcome but a scaled variable that admits of degrees. Third, legitimacy depends not only on outcomes but on processes as well. Technocrats who believe they can “outperform” systems based on procedural principles may find themselves judged against higher standards than messy democracies. Finally, legitimacy matters as an outcome as shown by the feedback loop to the state. States with low legitimacy, other things being equal,28 are likely to face more pressures for changes in the basic structure of the state itself — as shown by constitutional and political reform movements.

Malaysia was founded in its present form in 1965, following the secession of Singapore from the federation created in 1963, six years after British colonial rule ended. The country’s 24 million people had a price-adjusted income per capita of $8,750 in 2001, ranking as a middle income country like Mexico and Poland. The population is split roughly 55% Malay Muslim, 30% Chinese, and 10% Indians. Malays make up the vast majority of indigenous groups described as “sons of the soil” or bumiputras. The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) won the first national election in Malaysia and has ruled the country ever since in a National Front coalition. Mahathir Mohamad was the prime minister from 1981 to 2003.29 The Mahathir era is essentially what we cover

This is not a complete system and holds many other relevant variables constant. Thus the durability of a state is also affected by its capacity — fiscal, coercive, regulatory, institutional, and leadership. Falling legitimacy may be offset by greater repressive capacity. 29 Bridget Welsh, ed., Reflections: The Mahathir Years (Washington: School of Advanced International Studies, 2004).


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here, although the forms it took remain the main basis of legitimation of the Malaysian state under his successor, Abdullah Badawi.

Most observers of Malaysia and travelers to the country have noticed the remarkable success of UMNO in winning electoral mandates. In the period covered here, the National Front won 168 of 192 (88%) seats in the 1995 elections, and 148 of 193 seats (77%) in the 1999 elections (its share of seats in the 2004 elections was 90%). As Munro-Kua asks, “How has it been possible for the Malaysian state to maintain electoral support while simultaneously strengthening authoritarian institutions”.30 Likewise, Loh and Khoo note that “as the Malaysian political system became less democratic, the regime appeared to become more popular”.31 Both authors point to electoral victories to substantiate the claim of growing support. Yet this is problematic at two levels. One, good election results in a state captured by a single party by no means suggest high legitimacy. The share of the popular vote won by the National Front in the 1995 and 1999 elections was 65% and 56%. Given that turnout as a share of the voting age population was 64% and then 50% in these two elections, this implies active endorsement by far less than half of the adult population in both cases (the same was true in 2004). While such electoral returns might suggest significant government support in a liberal democracy, their interpretation must be different in an authoritarian regime which is used to proclaiming high popular support to justify its reduction of civil and political freedoms. The National Front’s self–proclaimed goal of

Anne Munro–Kua, Authoritarian Populism in Malaysia (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), p. 3. 31 Francis Kok Wah Loh and Boo Teik Khoo, “Introduction” in Loh and Khoo, eds., Democracy in Malaysia: Discourses and Practices (Richmond, UK: Curzon, 2002), pp. 1–19, 6.


Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 49

always winning two thirds of all seats in parliament is an implicit admission that an authoritarian regime needs higher electoral support to claim the same legitimacy as a democratic regime. Second, a key distinction made here concerns compliance versus legitimacy as distinct forms of support. While rigged and bribed elections may bring compliance, they by no means indicate legitimacy. Munro–Kua includes “co–optation” and “selective repression”32 among her explanations of the National Front’s electoral support. As the analysis above shows, a large part of unraveling the puzzle of Malaysia is to show that legitimacy is not that high in the first place. Once we do so, it becomes apparent that many of the “explanations” of UMNO electoral victories taken as indicative of high legitimacy may turn out to be “causes in search of effects”. Malaysia shows a relatively poor score on perceptions of legality of the state in Table 1.1. It may be useful here to show the World Bank Institute indicators (normalized to the 0 to 10 scale as usual) for rule of law for the 10 Asian states. The distinction between objective and subjective indicators is brought out starkly here, in which the two scores are moderately inversely correlated (r 0.44). What this suggests is that subjective perceptions may be highly sensitive to temporal events or trends rather than to global–macro comparisons. For instance, the poor score on views of the rule of law in Hong Kong, which arguably boasts the best rule of law among the 10 states, clearly relates to post–1997 discontent with the politicization of the courts and legal system by Beijing.33 In the case of Malaysia, the poor subjective score, which is based on the Transparency International Survey, probably reflects the concerns about the police and courts raised by jailing



Munro–Kua, p. 7. see Jermain T M Lam, “Consolidation of Democracy in Hong Kong under Chinese Sovereignty.” Asian Affairs: An American Review (2001), pp. 19–35; and Steve Tsang, ed., Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law in Hong Kong (Oxford: Palgrave, 2001).

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Mahathir’s planned successor, Anwar Ibrahim, in 1999 (discussed below). Views of state legality and of state corruption are closely correlated in both subjective and objective indicators. For example, the correlation between the two indicators in the World Bank Institute data for 2000 is 0.97. In Malaysia, corruption perceptions have been a perennial public concern as a result of the highly interventionist state in economic and social affairs. There is much talk on the streets of the “UMNO-putras” who have gained special perks and contracts from the affirmative action plans for Malays under UMNO. The attempts at recreating an East Asian developmental bureaucracy too often led to Southeast Asian corruption, as with the bailouts of selected private firms, the awarding of government projects without tender, and the so-called “smart partnerships” between government and private companies. The government has been sensitive to such charges. In 2003, it declared a quixotic goal of becoming “one of the 10 least corrupt countries in the world”.

Table 1.3 Objective and Subjective Indicators of Legality: 0 (Worst) to 10 (Best) Objective Views of State Legalitya Bangladesh China Hong Kong India Indonesia Japan Malaysia Philippines South Korea Taiwan 2.18 3.16 8.67 4.70 1.56 9.12 5.59 2.67 5.87 6.49 r
aWorld bWorld

Subjective Views of State Legalityb 7.26 7.66 2.21 4.50 3.44 5.02 2.89 6.47 6.08 5.43 0.44

Bank Institute Governance Indicators, Rule of Law, 2000. Values Survey IV and Transparency International (see Appendix A for details).

Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 51

Malaysia’s non–violence score is quite high at over 8 out of 10, reflecting the fact that most contention is conducted through normal or peaceful channels, and there is no armed insurgency to speak of. However, dissatisfaction with UMNO rule led to the rise of the anti–system Reformasi movement in the late 1990s after Mahathir arrested and jailed his planned successor, Anwar Ibrahim, on charges of corruption and sodomy. Funston calls the 15 months after Anwar’s sacking in 1998 “the most dramatic and contentious in Malaysia’s political history”.34 Thousands were arrested in ongoing protests in Kuala Lumpur. “Most of Malaysia’s major institutions — including the judiciary, the police, the Anti–Corruption Agency, the Election Commission, the bureaucracy in general, and the media — came under sustained attack.” Yet as Case argues,35 it might be more notable that there was not more of a movement against Mahathir after the jailing. In other words it might be that the justification of state actions in this case was accepted by a large enough portion of the population to ensure only a passing protest movement. The regime resorted to heavy handed tactics sparingly and generally gained acceptance or disinterest from enough people. Nonetheless, the protest movement did leave in place a durable anti–system movement known as Reformasi. This includes the Islamic party, Parti Islam Semalaysia (PAS) and the Chinese middle class Democratic Action Party (DAP), as well as Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah’s Social Justice Movement, or ADIL. They adopted a shared basic platform for the 1999 elections. Reformasi was a mobilizing movement that widened the scope of salient subjects of legitimacy in Malaysia to include the poor rural Malays who had long voted for National Front parties. It managed to “disincorporate” some of them. Along with regionalists in Sabah (Parti Bersatu Sabah), the


John Funston, “Malaysia’s 10th Elections: Status Quo, Reformasi or Islamization?”, Contemporary Southeast Asia 22:1 (April 2000), p. 24. 35 William Case, “Malaysia: Aspects and Audiences of Legitimacy”, in Alagappa, ed., Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia, pp. 69–107.

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result has been a slow erosion of UMNO capture of the Malaysian state. It was also notable that for the first time after the 1999 election, UMNO had less seats in the National Front coalition than its partners. As far as indicators of consent, these suggest a modest level of citizen willingness to contribute to the state. Malaysia earned 37% of its central government taxes in 1997 from quasi–voluntary taxes, this despite the fact that it has a large oil sector and manufactured goods export sector. That gives it a 5.77 normalized score. As mentioned, electoral turnout was less impressive in both the 1995 and 1999 elections. Even among registered voters, the turnout was only 65% in the 1999 election. Moreover, the Election Commission Malaysia admitted that about half of the 1.7 million eligible Malaysians who had failed to register after a year–long registration campaign in 2003 were between the voting age of 21 and 30, indicative of potential failing consent as time wears on.36 In short then, the continued strong electoral performance of the National Front masks a much more ambiguous picture of the legitimacy of the Malaysian state. Its middle ranking among the 10 Asian states here suggests that UMNO may be more honest than its propagandists and critics in believing that winning two thirds of the parliament is minimum needed to prove its legitimacy. Compliance and legitimacy are analytically distinct and empirically so to various degrees. That degree appears very high in this case.

As far as Malaysia’s performance on the “essential” components of pluralist neutrality — distribution, rights, and executive selection — the record is mixed. Malaysia’s normalized score of 3.05 for distributional achievements is low, and reflects both the GDP and inequality performance. While the country boomed in the 1990s, growth had been much more modest in the 1970s and 1980s. Moreover, the


Making Democracy Meaningful, April 6 2003, New Sunday Times, p. 8.

Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 53

poorest 20% of the population commanded only 4% of national income in 1997, one of the worst shares of the 10 states here.37 The reason for this is a combination of laissez–faire marketization and government intervention which exacerbated the problem. The goal of raising bumiputra ownership became a justification for an explicit strategy of handing over economic power to the better–off Malays.38 While the government and state–tied scholars regularly trot out statistics showing how the civil service, share capital, enrolment, and other figures have improved Malay status, they studiously ignore the vast increase in intra-Malay and inter-class inequality that has made Malaysia one of Asia’s most unequal states. Given its explicit focus on communal rather than class identities, the state repressed attempts by workers to unionize or by peasants to publicize their plight. Numerous applications to form trade unions in electronics sector, for example, were rejected. Still, these indicators here may somewhat underplay the material achievements of Malaysia in this period. A broad indicator of welfare provision is the human development index of the United Nations Development Programme. In 2000, the country’s human development index of 0.790 put it on par with upper middle income countries like Mexico and Brazil. The Malays often compare their fate to that of the Philippines, which enjoyed a higher HDI of 0.647 in 1975 (versus 0.615 for Malaysia) but which by 2001 had fallen significantly behind Malaysia with an HDI of 0.751. To put that progress in a more dramatic light, of the 99 countries that the UNDP calculated HDI for in 1975, Malaysia stood at rank number 60 and the Philippines at 45. By 2001, Malaysia had risen to 37th, while the Philippines had fallen to 48th. In terms of the “liberal” performance requirements of selection and rights, Malaysia’s low scores of 2.63 and 3.88 respectively reflect a state that in many ways regressed in these areas in the Mahathir

See Ishak Shari, “Globalization and Economic Insecurity: A Need for a New Social Policy in Malaysia”, Asian Journal of Social Science 31:2 (2003), pp. 251–71. 38 Munro–Kua, p. 109.


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era. In the period after its independence in 1957 and then split from Singapore in 1965, Malaysia was considered one of the most promising new democracies of Southeast Asia. In his 1971 book Polyarchy, Dahl listed Malaysia as among the “near polyarchies” of the world.39 Yet Malaysia’s political development took several steps backwards after 1981 under Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia with an increasingly tight hand, making wide use of colonial–era subversion laws and jailing dozens of political dissidents and opposition figures. This is evidenced in the country’s Freedom House status which worsened from a rating of 3–4 on political and civil liberties (scaled 7 to 1, worst to best) in 1981, to a rating of 5–5 by 2000. Executive selection has steadily deteriorated in the 10 rounds of general elections to the national parliament since 1959. Amendments to the Elections Act in 2002 made it an offence to campaign in any way that might cause “ill–will, discontent, or hostility”, changes used by UMNO to muzzle many of the most charismatic opposition figures. Despite hundreds of complaints in the 1999 election, the national election commission declined to investigate a single one. Funston argues that elections in Malaysia are “tilted” but not rigged or outright fraudulent.40 This assures that UMNO maximizes its support without sacrificing the legitimacy of having acquired power in a semi–legal manner. Munro–Kua calls Malaysia a “restricted democracy” since it lacks freedoms necessary for free and fair elections. Moreover, there was a weakening of executive accountability under Mahathir. As for rights, one former Malaysian prime minister referred to the Mahathir regime as a “police state” given its weakening of the judiciary, strengthening of the colonial–era ISA (Internal Security Act), tougher laws restricting the media and non–governmental groups, periodic roundups of political dissidents, tighter laws on unions, and


Robert Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971), Table a3, p. 248. 40 John Funston, “Malaysia’s Tenth Elections: Status Quo, Reformasi or Islamization?”, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 22:1 (April 2000), pp. 23–34.

Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 55

wider police powers.41 The growing movement against the ISA has reflected doubts about the rights record of the state. Othman writes that “the intermittent and habitual resort to the ISA by the Malaysian state poses a great obstacle towards the democratization of the legal and constitutional bases of state and governance.”42 The Anwar trial and demonstrations showed the legal system at its weakest. Rahim Noor, the inspector general of police resigned in 1999 to take responsibility for a police beating of Anwar. This mitigated some of the sense of illegality in the case. But the impact on views of corruption is clear from the subjective indicator above. “The manner in which Anwar was humiliated, and the way in which state apparatuses, the supposed supreme protector of the Malays, were used against unarmed demonstrators, mostly Malays, awakened the new generation of Malays from ‘political hibernation’ or ‘false consciousness’,” writes Hwang.43 The six–month protest movement in Kuala Lumpur after Anwar’s arrest, writes Othman, “brought to the surface long–suppressed crises and tensions related to past and ongoing undemocratic actions taken by the government”.44 Another rights concern has been the Islamic laws introduced in the 1980s and 1990s which are often in tension with the common law system inherited from the colonial era. These changes have undermined existing (common law) legal commitments in areas like an independent judiciary, legal sovereignty of parliaments (national and state), generality of laws, constitutionalism, and women’s rights. Othman notes, “The laws passed narrowed individual human rights and were retrogressive, particularly to the democratic assumptions

Tunku Abdul Rahman, quoted in Munro–Kua 3. Norani Othman, “Islamization and Democratization in Malaysia in Regional and Global Contexts” in Ariel Heryanto and Sumit K. Mandal, eds., Challenging Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia: Comparing Malaysia and Indonesia (New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 117–144, 128. 43 See Hwang In-Won, “Authoritarianism and UMNO’s Factional Conflicts” in Journal of Contemporary Asia 32:2 (2002), pp. 206–230. 44 Othman, p. 127.


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of the Malaysian constitution.” The result: “It is citizens as well as the standing of the state’s legal culture that have been made to suffer from the ensuring incoherence and conflict.”45

Policy Neutrality
If the “Asian Values” performance weighting is correct, then the ways in which the Malaysian state successfully mediated the demands of pluralism would, along with its distributional achievements, go a long way towards explaining its modest legitimacy. By policy effectiveness, we mean that the state will make policy through reasonably fair and impartial processes, and implement it in a credible and efficient manner. Such performance may have two sources: the objective attributes of the state policy process; and the role of the state in shaping pluralism so as to enhance subjective beliefs about the fairness of its policy process. In tracing the way in which the Malaysian state mediated these demands of pluralism, it will be useful to keep these two mechanisms in mind. Malaysia inherited a British colonial administration and built it into an impressive system of making and implementing policy. Its normalized score of 6.09 on policy effectiveness above reflects its relatively efficient bureaucracy and institutionalized political system. It is notable that this effective governance has been achieved despite the reversal of accountability of the executive that is traditionally seen as a precondition for an effective civil service because it keeps bureaucrats honest, neutral, and efficient. Lim argues that the quality of public administration was damaged by the Mahathir years but that the strong colonial foundations and continued commitment to high standards mitigated worse outcomes. “Malaysia inherited a politically neutral civil service from colonial rule and the majority of civil servants continue to see themselves as non-partisan.”46

Othman, pp. 131, 140. Hong Hai Lim, “Public Administration: The Effects of Executive Dominance” in Loh and Khoo, eds., pp. 165–197.


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At the same time, the Malaysian state has reshaped society, turning what would otherwise be identity–crossing moral differences into identity–based differences. This is most obvious in the mediation of ethnic pluralism. Affirmative action policies were introduced for Malays with the first New Economic Policy in 1971. With this policy, the Malaysian state made the management and improvement of ethnic relations a major claim to legitimacy. Economic power had long been concentrated in the hands of the Chinese community and the NEP provided education, jobs, housing, contracts, and rural subsidies to Malays who might have otherwise slid further behind as the country embraced free–market developmentalism. There is of course a strong argument that they would have been better off without the NEP given the inequality figures above. Yet the subjective views, which matter for legitimacy, were that it had helped more than hurt. As Case notes: “The UMNO–led government has forged legitimacy among most Malays without utterly sacrificing all support among non-Malays.”47 The degree of affirmative action was somewhat watered down in the 1990s because of evidence of its disparate impact on lower and middle class Chinese citizens who fare better in other Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Thailand. UMNO moved to embrace merit to combat the main Chinese middle class party DAP. Yet the core aspects remain. UMNO has maintained racialist rhetoric of Malays as the rightful owners of Malaysia and of being dominant under a rubric of “one language, one culture” in the National Cultural Policy. Mahathir had a clear non–pluralist approach to culture, on one occasion calling for Chinese traditions to be left in a museum. In 1982, he said, “the majority view was that Malay culture should be the predominant ingredient in national culture — to be accepted and practiced by all”.48 Leftist intellectuals and Chinese attacked this cultural policy in the 1980s, arguing that it was not only discriminatory but also imposed an elitist Malay culture on Malays. In the words of

47 48

Case, p. 74. Cited in Munro–Kua, p. 116.

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Munro–Kua, “the debate raised … the question of what constitutes a ‘democratic’ position on language and culture”.49 Nonetheless, it resonated with a Malay population that as a result of colonial government experiences had come to see ethnicity as a salient part of their identity. In most Southeast Asian states, ethnicity has not been a large factor in politics because of extensive intermingling and polytheistic approaches to culture and race. Malaysia however, embraced the essentialized approach to ethnicity of British colonial rule, not to mention its repressive internal security laws — an ironic inheritance given Mahathir’s strident anticolonialism. The Malaysian state’s ability to confine pluralism to the central notion of the Malay–Chinese ethnic split declined in the 1990s as new forms of pluralism emerged. The most important of these was Islam. PAS defected from the National Front in 1978 and for the next two decades its divergence widened. UMNO moved to embrace Islam to combat PAS (“to legitimate itself as Islamic against the claims of … Islamic forces”50) by introducing its own Islamization laws in areas like family law, civil and criminal laws, and the legal standing of fatwa (learned opinions) issued by state mufti (religious officials).51 These moves reconciled large parts of the Malay community to UMNO rule. Mahathir’s frequent anti–Semitic comments, for which he suffered much international censure, also kept him on the right side of Islamic opinion. “While the National Front asserts that PAS is Islamic extremist, the state itself has changed character in this direction,” notes Munro–Kua.52 It is ironic however, that one of the parts of that plan was the recruitment by Mahathir in 1982 of the charismatic leader of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), Anwar Ibrahim.

Munro–Kua, p. 117. Othman, p. 125. 51 See Syad Ahmad Hussein, “Muslim politics and the Discourse on Democracy” in Loh and Khoo, eds., pp. 74–110. 52 Munro–Kua, p. 120.


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Anwar was a genuine modernizing Islamic intellectual who believed in reconciling the high standards of democracy with the call of Islam. This is a reminder of the salience of intra–Malay splits in Malaysia today, a challenge to outside observers who “still dwell on the country’s ‘plural’, ‘divided’, or ‘communal’ makeup as its most salient feature, suggesting that any serious study of legitimacy must be cast relentlessly along these lines.”53 Through this dual process of responding to as well as reshaping pluralism, the Malaysian state was able to generate modest legitimacy. While the state embraced Islam in the 1990s, it successfully continued to define the country’s politics in ethnic terms. Lee argues that the hegemonic role of the ethnic discourse that UMNO has imposed on Malaysia was the main cause of the failure of the Reformasi movement in 1999 since its universalistic goals were constantly being reinterpreted by citizens in ethnic terms.54 It also explains why pluralism in the other three realms — economic, social, and political — has been so limited. Economically, the country embraced a free–market ideology as Southeast Asia began to export more goods to the West in the 1980s. The Proton car project and the soaring Petronas towers in the capital are symbolic of the state–led development promoted by UMNO. While there was little dissent on markets per se, limits were placed on labor organization, making it difficult to organize new trade unions even where there was majority support among workers in a given enterprise. In 2002, four sectors had unions organizing in metals, chemical, electrical and mineral sectors that were denied official recognition. Rural Malays, who felt the inequality most, were denied organizational structures outside of National Front–controlled entities — a reminder of the sort of economic policies that prompted the “everyday forms of resistance” that inspired Scott’s



Case, p. 91. Hock Guan Lee, “Malay Dominance and Opposition Politics in Malaysia”, Southeast Asian Affairs (2002), pp. 177–195.

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book Weapons of the Weak. For Munro–Kua, the story of Malaysia is essentially one of class repression under the guise of ethnicity, thus legitimating the distributive failures of the Malaysian state.55 While we should avoid easy recourse to claims of “false consciousness”, a common approach for Marxist and postmodernist writers, it is clear that the state has succeeded in dampening class consciousness in Malaysia, if not eliminating it altogether. The state also succeeded in transforming social pluralism in areas like education and gender into the communal and Islamic identities of state policies. Loh and Khoo note that UMNO’s state led manipulation of society through New Economic Policy and Vision 2020 programs meant that the nationalism and national identity that was forged ended up legitimating the state in the 1990s.56 As Verma writes: “By coopting interest groups and associations in the past, the state has shielded itself from spontaneous popular impulses”.57 The nationalism under Mahathir stressed “the absence of internal conflicts”.58 Likewise, political pluralism has been largely repressed, coopted, or communalized by UMNO. One example is the way in which UMNO used its embrace of Islam to weaken the powers of the regional–based monarchies in Malaysia, which had traditionally been a mild check on centralized state power. As two scholars note, a new body of literature argues that “it was not Malaysia’s plural society but its ruling elite which was assumed to pose the greatest threat to the preservation of a meaningful Malaysian democracy”.59

The instrumental use of ethnicity in this way is one of the many empirical examples that raise questions about the existence of such a thing as “ethnic conflict”. See my essay, “Against the Concept of Ethnic Conflict”, Third World Quarterly 25:6 (2004). 56 Francis Kok Wah Loh, “Developmentalism and the Limits of Democratic Discourse”, in Loh and Khoo, eds., pp. 20–50. 57 Verma, p. 4. 58 Munro–Kua, p. 112. 59 Loh and Khoo, “Introduction” in Loh and Khoo, eds., 1–19, 5.


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In Malaysia’s case, then, the empirical (as opposed to merely analytical) importance of the state’s impact on pluralism appears to have been significant. The result is that the “success” of the state in generating legitimacy by its handling of pluralism is in a sense a foregone conclusion since its has shaped society with this goal in mind. If pluralism, as Rawls argued, is the natural outgrowth of liberties, then the repression of liberties would tend to reduce pluralism, other things being equal. Malaysia offers a textbook case of this.

As the feedback loop suggests, low legitimacy will tend to create pressures for changes to the state itself. The non–liberal weightings used here imply that despite impositions in the areas of rights and selection, the Malaysian regime could get away with these regressive policies. Indeed, to the extent that they were part of a broader policy of regulating pluralism so as to enhance state legitimacy, these regressive policies may have been an optimal strategy for an UMNO regime. What pressures for political change that arose were dealt with through non–normative sources of compliance like coercion and bribery. The “answer” to the puzzle of UMNO dominance, then, has less to do with some unusually high legitimacy brought about by particular Malaysian factors than with coercion, inducements, and political institutionalization. Nonetheless, the feedback loop is not entirely absent or repressed. Authoritarian stability in Malaysia can only continue in one of two ways: through legitimacy–enhancing improvements in the distribution and policy performance indicators above; or through new and sterner forms of coercion and organization. Neither seems a long–term proposition. As mentioned, the performance indicators, even on the Asian Values aggregation, require some improvement in rights and selection performance, a weight that may rise with time and which would fundamentally change the existing state. Maintaining coercive dominance over society, meanwhile, becomes increasingly difficult as incomes rise.

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An alternative is a shift in regime type towards a more liberal democracy. Verma argues that “growing demands for democratization and human rights” are likely to come to Malaysia in the 2000s.60 If so, it implies that the non–liberal performance weightings, even if true in the late 1990s, may change. If such weightings reflected the demands of modernization for effective governance and economic goods, then Inglehart’s thesis of democracy being a result of the “postmodern” emphasis on self–expression and social justice implies that such a change will reflect a fundamental value shift in Malaysia.61 The rise of the anti–system Reformasi movement is the strongest indication of this, along with associated social movements such as the abolition of the ISA, unionization in export sectors, and greater devolution to the Bornean regions.

Tracing the politics of Malaysia allows us to explain how citizens subjectively evaluate legitimacy in terms of how the state responds to the demands of pluralism. The “puzzle” of Malaysia can be resolved both by accurately measuring state legitimacy and by viewing its performance in terms of some aggregate indicator that puts at least equal weight on welfare and policy effectiveness as on liberal rights. This explanation means that one does not have to reach for purely local, contextual explanations of legitimacy in the Malaysian case. Contextual theories are generally more favored by area specialists (local knowledge) and postmodernists (local meaning). Verma, for example, engages in a mainly postmodern theory of local meaning to argue that the Malaysian state is contested yet also dominant. Munro–Kua, by contrast, is an example of an area–specialist approach

Vidhu Verma, Malaysia: State and Civil Society in Transition (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2002), p. 212. 61 Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1997).


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with her focus on the particular features of communal nationalism and Mahathir’s leadership to explain the legitimacy of the state. The universalist approach used here does not necessarily clash with such contextual ones, since contextual sources of legitimacy may be consistent with universal ones or may supplement them. And in one respect — the ways in which the state changes pluralism — contextual explanations are indispensable. Yet the advantage of universal theories is that they present a fixed proposition that is not liable to the charge of post–hoc theorization. Area specialists have been most prone to derive “causes in search of effects” on the question of legitimacy in Malaysia because of their overestimation of the state’s legitimacy. Even those like Verma with a more skeptical view of legitimacy levels cannot offer replicable or even falsifiable explanatory theories. As such, universal approaches seem preferable for the purpose of expanding collective knowledge in the social sciences. The tracing of legitimation in Malaysia through the lens of a universal theory such as pluralist neutrality shows how this can be done.

Cross–country studies of state legitimacy, even within the same region such as Asia, are liable to suffer from internal validity problems. Even if we agree on the existence of some universal sources of legitimacy, it may be that local contextual factors overwhelm them and thus any explanation of overall legitimacy should rely most heavily on “thick description” of the countries concerned. I think there is good reason to believe otherwise, that variation in legitimacy levels can be explained by variation in performance measured by a common set of principles of just governance. This paper has shown how such a set of principles might be used to explain legitimacy in Malaysia in the context of nine other Asian states. The cases chosen vary widely in their apparent legitimacy and thus provide a useful small–n test of various explanations. The evidence presented here is not conclusive as to the weights or even significance of the explanatory variables given the small number of cases. However, process tracing shows how it accords

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well with outcomes. This underscores the importance of actually measuring what we claim to be trying to explain in political science, lest we find explanations for things that do not exist. We have shown that legitimacy is limited in Malaysia and explanations in terms of actual performance consciously endorsed by people (i.e., without recourse to purely contextual factors, much less false consciousness) can explain most of what legitimacy there is. Thus both proponents and opponents of the Malaysian state may both be overestimating its legitimacy and underestimating the importance of universal, common–sense explanations of the legitimation process. With the middle range legitimacy rating here and the performance explanations offered, a weak Asian Values hypothesis seems to fit the evidence best. These modest findings suggest that the “globalization of politics” is providing political scientists with new tools with which to evaluate and predict the political development of otherwise highly diverse states. They also provide a framework within which to watch political developments in Malaysia in the coming years.

“Confidence in Police”, World Values Survey, 1999–2002, Question 152: The question asks: “I am going to name a number of organizations. For each one, could you tell me how much confidence you have in them: is it a great deal of confidence, quite a lot of confidence, not very much confidence or none at all?” This question asks about “the police”. I use the percentage choosing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence, excluding don’t know or no answer. World Values Survey, “Confidence in Civil Service”, 1999–2002, Question 156: The same as Question 152 except the object here is “the civil service”. Again, I use the percentage choosing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence, excluding don’t know or no answer. This data is available for eight of the 10 countries/economies, the exceptions being Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Political Legitimacy in Malaysia: Regime Performance in the Asian Context 65

Transparency International Corruption Barometer, 2002: The survey asks respondents which institutions of political and social life they would eliminate corruption from if they had a magic wand. I use the percentage choosing the courts or the police, the two objects in the responses most closely associated with the state. This data is available for six of the 10 countries/economies, the exceptions being Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Views of Justification
“Civil Violence”, World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators IV, 1996–2000: The Civil Violence scoring relies upon the automated event analysis compiled from Reuters Business Briefs in the World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators IV.62 This is one of many databases emerging now to provide analysis of contentious politics in multiple countries. The indicator chosen here is the “normalized civil violence” measure which is the percentage of civil actions that involve violence. The extent to which citizens feel that they must, or are forced to, use violence in political activity should be a good indicator of justification failures. I have used an average score for the five year period 1996 to 2000 given the year–to–year volatility of the data for many countries. It should thus reflect in a general way the level of political violence in this period.

Acts of Consent
“Parliamentary Election Turnout”, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, various years: This is the percentage of the voting age population that actually cast ballots in the most recent national parliamentary election. IDEA uses voting age population rather than registered voters, which is the appropriate


The complete dataset is available at: www.sociology.ohio-state.edu/jcj/hndbk4 A discussion of the dataset is available at http://www.ciaonet.org/isa/bez01

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metric for tapping into overall consent. In a few cases — China for example — I use figures for local elections based on the work of area specialists. “Quasi–Voluntary Taxes”, International Monetary Fund, various years: The ability of states to rely on the payment of “quasi-voluntary” taxes, i.e., taxes that are easy to evade, has been seen as an important measure of legitimacy. The indicator here, mostly taken from the IMF Government Finance Yearbook for 2002, is combined revenues from taxes on incomes, profits, capital gains, and property as a percentage of total central government revenues excluding social security revenues. Since what this tries to capture is the willingness of citizens to contribute taxes to the state for general public purposes, such calculations exclude social security revenues which are specifically earmarked and linked to the individuals themselves.



The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan
David Dahua Yang

People are evidently inclined to grant legitimacy to anything that is or seems inevitable no matter how painful it may be. Otherwise the pain might be intolerable. — Barrington Moore, Jr.

The nexus between legitimacy and regime stability has received much attention from political scientists. Much of the scholarship on the topic builds upon a Weberian understanding that “legitimation achieves what power alone cannot, for it establishes the belief in the rightness of rule which, as long as it endures, precludes massive challenges.”1 The stability of the established democracies has often

1 Reinhard Bendix, Kings or People: Power and the Mandate to Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), p. 17. See also Dankwart Rustow, A World of Nations (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1967), Chapter 5.


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been attributed to their presumed superior legitimacy,2 and conversely the emergence of protest movements within democratic societies has also been attributed to crises of legitimacy among certain segments of the population.3 More recently the breakdown of authoritarian regimes around the globe has also been identified as failures of legitimacy stemming from diverse sources. In Latin America as well as Eastern Europe the crises were supposedly triggered by economic collapses, whereas in prosperous East Asia and Pahlavian Iran the crises have been ascribed to increasing cognitive dissonance created by the discrepancy between existing regime norms and tectonic value shifts in these societies.4 None of these arguments, to be sure, should be construed to imply either the necessity or sufficiency of legitimacy for regime stability in the short run. Few would dispute that coercion and bribery can go a long way, even in the total absence of legitimacy. But as Charles Ragin observed, absolute standards of necessity and sufficiency are seldom applicable in the social sciences, and a more fruitful employment of these concepts would have to be built upon a probabilistic basis.5 Legitimacy is thus best understood as a contributing factor to regime stability — a “usually necessary” condition perhaps, especially in the long run, but the causal linkage is by no means deterministic. But as much as it would be simplistic to assert that loss of legitimacy would inevitably result in the collapse of the

example, Seymour Martin Lipset, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (New York: Doubleday, 1960), pp. 77–85. 3 See, for example, Philip Worchel, Philip Hester and Philip Kopala, “Collective Protest and Legitimacy of Authority”, Journal of Conflict Resolution 18:1 (1974), pp. 37–54. Also Seymour Martin Lipset, “American Student Activism in Comparative Perspective”, American Psychologist 25 (1970). 4 Doh Chull Shin, “On the Third Wave of Democratization”, World Politics 47 (October 1994); G. Hossein Razi, “The Nexus of Legitimacy and Performance: The Lessons of the Iranian Revolution”, Comparative Politics 19:4 ( July 1987). 5 Charles C. Ragin, Fuzzy-Set Social Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 107–9.

2 For

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regime, it would be equally simplistic to assert that legitimacy does not matter. For even if we accept, as Adam Przeworski argued, that what truly matters for the stability of a regime is the “presence or absence of preferable alternatives”,6 surely such considerations are deeply intertwined with legitimacy on at least two counts. Firstly, if Herbert Simon was right and social actors are indeed satisficers rather than optimizers, then a regime with a high level of legitimacy may be stable even in the presence of “preferable alternatives”. Secondly, it behooves us to remember that the “preferable alternatives” are themselves products of human agency and are not bestowed upon humanity like manna from heaven. Preferable alternatives are sought and believed found precisely at those moments when the legitimacy of the ancien regime faces its greatest crisis, as the history of almost every major revolution in the modern era teaches us. Przeworski himself acknowledged that the loss of legitimacy may constitute a “persuasive signal” to which strategic actors may respond accordingly, although he prefers not to view it as a “cause” per se.7 To this author the epistemological distinction is not immediately obvious, and at any rate it is probably of limited relevance to the empirical investigation of regime transition. What is clear, if only by dint of the efforts invested in self-legitimation by virtually every lasting political regime, is that legitimacy is an important constraint facing all political actors. Though its effects are always filtered through the institutional arrangements and socio-economic structures of the political system, and the constraint may not be binding in every concrete historical situation, its presence nonetheless delimits the realm of the politically possible and demands constant acknowledgement. As such, no account of regime transition can be complete without addressing the issue of political legitimacy.


Adam Przeworski, “Some Problems in the Study of the Transition to Democracy”, in Guillermo O’Donnell et al., eds., Transition from Authoritarianism: Comparative Perspectives (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 51–2. 7 Ibid., p. 55.

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This essay presents an empirical investigation of the level and determinants of regime legitimacy — defined as the subjective psychological orientation toward the procedural and institutional norms of the political system — within the “late authoritarian” context of Taiwan on the eve of transition. Although the concept of legitimacy may also be approached from a “macro” perspective under the epistemic assumption that the legitimacy of a political system can be measured by an outside observer according to certain objective criteria,8 for the purposes of the present discussion legitimacy resides in the public and is a direct antecedent to the potential for political stability or revolutionary changes. Using data from a national survey conducted in 1984, three years before the lifting of martial law that marked the beginning of Taiwan’s transition, this study evaluates several major hypotheses regarding the bases of legitimacy in an authoritarian political system. The findings lend support to an ideological reading of legitimacy and cast doubts on certain conventional wisdom regarding the role of the middle class in the transitions of the Third Wave.

A legitimacy crisis, borrowing from Lucian Pye, is “a breakdown in the constitutional structure and performance of government that arises out of differences over the proper nature of authority for the system.” As a crisis of legitimacy is fundamentally a breakdown in the basis of legitimacy claims, “basic to a legitimacy crisis is a change in the way in which governmental authority is conceived or itself acts.”9 Again, Weber’s three-fold typology of legitimate rule informs much of the literature on the topic, although the palette of legitimacy claims available to modern authoritarian regimes is often

M. Stephen Weatherford, “Measuring Political Legitimacy”, APSR 86:1 (1992), p. 150. 9 Lucian Pye, “The Legitimacy Crisis”, in Leonard Binder et al., Crises and Sequence in Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 136.


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more limited. Reliance on charismatic appeals renders rulers vulnerable to public disillusionment when actual achievements inevitably fail to measure up to charismatic, frequently millennial, promises;10 while legitimacy based on traditional norms is often difficult to be invoked by regimes with self-professed modernizing missions, sometimes buttressed by claims of revolutionary pedigree. At the same time, the widespread disregard for formal rules and legal regulations, the prevalence of particularistic, clientelist arrangements, and the endemic and apparent corruption that characterizes most authoritarian societies also deviate significantly from the “legal-rational” ideal type. Instead, from a Weberian basis scholars have developed at least one additional type of legitimacy — that of “goal-rational” legitimacy derived from the validity of the principal social goals that the authorities profess to represent and promote.11 Correspondingly compliance under this form of legitimacy must derive from a belief in the rulers’ cognitive superiority, evinced perhaps through prolonged effectiveness, in the pursuit of shared goals. Although the analysis was originally applied to Soviet–type societies, the analogy appears highly valid in most modern authoritarian societies of various ideological stripes. Note that while the legitimating goals themselves do not need to be particularly clear, realistic or coherent, as the unifying foundations of an “ideological community” they do need to be consistently interpreted by the rulers and the ruled.12 In the post–war era these goals have tended to be along the lines of either nationalist aggrandizement or economic development. But given the vagaries of war military adventures were always


See for example Paul Dettman’s analysis of six leaders of the developing world, in “Leaders and Structures in ‘Third World’ Politics: Contrasting Approaches to Legitimacy”, Comparative Politics 6:2 ( January 1974). 11 Jan Pakulski, “Legitimacy and Mass Compliance: Reflections on Max Weber and Soviet-Type Societies”, British Journal of Political Science No.16 (1986), pp. 39–45. 12 T.H. Rigby, “A Conceptual Approach to Authority, Power and Policy in the Soviet Union”, in T.H. Rigby and F. Feher, eds., Political Legitimation in Communist States (London: Macmillan, 1982).

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fraught with perils. As a result most authoritarian regimes had little choice but to appeal to economic performance to justify their rule. Those regimes founded on ideological claims to a supposedly higher morality proved to be no more exceptional. Some two decades before the fall of the Berlin Wall, observers of the Eastern Bloc had remarked upon the increasing reliance on economic, remunerative means of social control and predicted that the tendency would fundamentally alter the evolutionary trajectory of Communist systems.13 How successful then were these economistic strategies of legitimation? Some linkage between economic performance and regime stability appears to have been borne out by events in Latin America and Eastern Europe over the past two decades. The fall of authoritarian regimes in Latin America has often been attributed to their inability to deliver on promises of rapid economic growth,14 while the collapse of the Soviet-bloc has similarly been attributed to the stagnation and inefficiencies that long beset command economies. But if these examples suggest that superior performance is likely necessary for regime stability, the experience of Taiwan and South Korea, both of which underwent democratic transition in a period of stellar economic expansion, demonstrates that successes in self-appointed “national tasks” do not constitute a sufficient basis for authoritarian stability. If the failures of these regimes were indeed failures of legitimacy as many have asserted, then the East Asian examples provide vivid illustrations for Bendix’s contention that effective political authority based on a “coalescence of interests” and “legitimate order” based on normative, subjective acceptance of institutional norms — however interrelated — “are not reducible to each other.”15

Alexander Eckstein, “Economic Development and Political Change in Communist Systems”, World Politics 22:4 ( July 1970). 14 Edward Epstein, “Legitimacy, Institutionalization, and Opposition in Exclusionary Bureaucratic Authoritarian Regimes: The Situation of the 1980s”, Comparative Politics 17 (October 1984). 15 Reinhard Bendix, Nation-Building and Citizenship (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), pp. 20–21.


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The normative poverty of performance as a basis for legitimacy has been pointed out by various scholars. Richard Lowenthal, writing on the legitimacy of Soviet–type regimes, argued that the problem of legitimation is one that cannot be resolved on the basis of performance, although acceptable performance may contribute to the “conditional tolerance” of the regime by the people. Without a credible ideological justification it would become increasingly difficult to justify why exclusionary rule would be needed to achieve the performance objectives of the regime. For even if legitimacy can be based entirely on performance, in the long run one must have confidence that existing regime norms offer the best prospects for delivering satisfactory performance. Furthermore, the rationality of performance is unambiguous only when there is a well-defined end, yet the very essence of politics is the “choice of priorities between different ends”. Therefore the long-run legitimacy of any modern polity depends not so much on the ability of the regime to meet certain short-term performance goals, but on “the plausibility of the claim that its procedures of leadership selection and policy decision are likely to meet the needs of a modern society.”16 This does not imply the inevitability of democracy; but it does imply — as Talcott Parsons pointed out — that institutional forms basically different from democracy are particularly vulnerable to recurrent crises of legitimacy. It follows that crises of legitimacy in authoritarian societies have generally been related to what Lipset referred to as the “entry into politics” problem, a problem that arises when significant strata of society are denied access to the political process after they have developed political demands.17 Most theorists concur that the rise in participatory demands is itself a product of the very project of economic development, although different scholars have emphasized different aspects of the modernization process. Some emphasized changes in the process of political socialization (as a result of changes


Richard Lowenthal, “On ‘Established’ Communist Party Regimes,” in Studies in Comparative Communism 7:4 (1974), p. 357. 17 Seymour Martin Lipset, Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, pp. 78–9.

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in lifestyle, educational level, etc.), others focused on changes in the structure of social stratification. Some highlighted the emergence of a modernist intellectual elite, while others argued that the everexpanding role of the modern state redefines the “political” by making public what used to be in the private or religious domains.18 But regardless of the relative salience of these various factors, it is clear that the growth in demand for political participation is precipitated by the growth of equality, differentiation and capacity in a social system. The more advanced the stage of development, the greater the participatory pressure is likely to be.

By the mid-1980s, all of the prerequisites for a rise in participatory demands were present in the East Asian NICs that underwent democratic transition. Both Taiwan and South Korea had enjoyed a sustained period of rapid economic expansion and their levels of development were fast approaching First World standards. On the eve of transition in 1985, Taiwan’s per capita income had increased from US$50 in 1941 (the last year of peacetime Japanese rule) to US$3,175. Its urbanization rate had reached above 70% and over 90% of its population were literate. South Korea likewise had attained a per capita GDP of $3,056, an urbanization rate around 70% and a literacy rate of over 95%.19 In both states, more than half of the population had begun to consider themselves “middle class”;20 and in both states, significant opposition movements led by

Myron Weiner, “Political Participation: Crisis of the Political Process”, in Binder et al., Crises and Sequence in Political Development (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971), pp. 166–175. 19 Taiwan Statistical Data Book, CIA World Factbook, World Development Report, various editions. 20 For example, John K.C. Oh, Korean Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), p. 70; Werner Roy, “Taiwan’s Trade Flows: The Underpinning of Political Legitimacy?” Asian Survey 25:11 (1985).


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a liberal intellectual elite had emerged. The developmental records of the authoritarian states were certainly impressive, but the ground also appeared fertile for the germination of participatory demands according to theoretical predictions. What remains is the empirical question: What was the level of perceived legitimacy for these authoritarian regimes, and what were the determinants of authoritarian legitimacy? In the South Korean context, Chong-Min Park had found that while the public was generally satisfied with the economy, the authoritarian regime seemed unable to acquire credit for the country’s economic success. “Rather, economic success appears to make the question of procedural legitimacy more relevant or salient than ever before.”21 Based on a survey of Seoul area residents, Park found that while satisfaction with economic performance did appear to reduce political distrust or disaffection with the regime, the effects of satisfaction with political and social policy outputs were much more significant. And since the authoritarian state pursued a policy of growth promotion coupled with political repression, the net result was a decrease rather than an increase in regime legitimacy. The gain from economic success appeared insufficient to offset the loss from socio–political failure. Would these observations similarly apply to Taiwan? In the mid-1980s the KMT (Guomindang) regime in Taiwan was a quasi–Leninist regime, organized along Leninist lines with deep Party penetration into every segment of the government, the military and society. Decision making within the Party adhered to a rigid top–down command structure, with the apex of the party–state dominated by a small elite of mainlanders who retreated to Taiwan some four decades earlier ruling over a population that was 85% native. However, unlike Leninist parties elsewhere the KMT was officially committed to a liberal democratic ideology. Dictatorial rule therefore


Chong-Min Park, “Authoritarian Rule in South Korea: Political Support and Governmental Performance”, Asian Survey 31:8 (August 1991), p. 760.

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had to be justified as democratic “tutelage” under the “extraordinary circumstances” of martial law, imposed on the island since 1948 at the height of the civil war. Partly to bolster its international image, direct elections at the local level had been held regularly since the 1950s, although the offices open to electoral competition generally held little power. Even so, local elections were tightly managed with numerous restrictions on campaigning and candidacy qualifications. As a result, the KMT predominated in local politics, although the elections no doubt provided valuable opportunities for the burgeoning political opposition. Meanwhile, the export-driven economic boom of the 1970s had given birth to a new commercial sector relatively independent of the party–state. As the regime avoided picking out “national champions” the economy came to be dominated by small to medium-sized enterprises, with sufficient resources to maintain a significant level of autonomy yet numerous enough to avoid direct confrontation with the state. It should be noted, however, that although economic resources were diffused, they were largely controlled by native Taiwanese. Thus an equilibrium of sorts was reached in which mainlanders dominated high politics while the Taiwanese took the lead in the economy.22 Against this backdrop, a new political opposition announced its arrival in the 1977 election when independent candidates captured 22 seats in the provincial assembly and won four mayoral/magisterial races.23 As opposition parties were banned under martial law, the opposition operated mostly as a loosely coordinated movement based largely on personalities and local issues but drawn together by a common dissatisfaction with KMT dominance in political life. Within the opposition camp the movement was divided between two

Tun-jen Cheng, “Democratizing the Quasi–Leninst Regime in Taiwan”, World Politics No. 4 (1989), p. 481. 23 Yangsun Chou and Andrew Nathan, “Democratizing Transition in Taiwan”, Asian Survey 17:3 (March 1987), p. 280.


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factions — a moderate majority that was willing to tolerate KMT dominance for the time being and a radical minority that favored more confrontational tactics. Although the KMT was fairly successful in its efforts to co-opt the moderates through various measures of authoritarian softening, the radicals were able to orchestrate a series of highly visible, frequently violent demonstrations against the regime throughout the early 1980s. Nonetheless, the KMT continued to enjoy considerable electoral success, winning 62 out of 71 open seats in the legislative election of 1983.24 In 1986 ahead of yet another legislative election, the KMT leadership began to consider further liberalizing reforms that included the legalization of new civic associations. The opposition responded by launching an official political party — the Democratic Progressive Party — with great fanfare in defiance of government warnings. Although the regime refused to recognize the new party, the much-anticipated crackdown did not materialize. Instead, two weeks later on October 15, the KMT Central Committee adopted resolutions abolishing martial law and lifting the ban on new civic organizations, paving the way for a series of further reforms that culminated in the direct elections of the national legislature and the presidency a few years later. Much has been written about Taiwan’s transition since that fateful day in 1986. Emanating from the transitionist literature, two arguments have been so oft-repeated that they have become part of the conventional wisdom in the study of Taiwanese politics. The first argument points to the growth of the middle class as a key impetus behind the island’s democratization. Proponents of this view argue that the opposition movement that emerged in the late 1970s was essentially a middle-class movement, as the agricultural sector had traditionally been a bastion of KMT support (due to successful land reforms carried out in the 1950s) while the labor movement was pliant and puny. It was often asserted that with the satisfaction of basic


Fei-Lung Lui, “The Electoral System and Voting Behavior in Taiwan”, in Haggard Cheng, ed., Political Change in Taiwan (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1992), p. 168.

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economic needs a groundswell of demand for political participation became inevitable, creating a crisis of legitimacy for the regime that eventually resulted in authoritarian breakdown. Indeed, Lucian Pye referred to Taiwan admiringly as “possibly the best working example of the theory that economic progress should bring in its wake democratic inclinations and a healthy surge of pluralism.”25 The second argument relates to the emergence of a Taiwanese identity distinct from China’s. According to this argument the crisis of legitimacy encountered by the KMT regime was first and foremost a crisis of national identity. Democratization in this context was a contest for power between the Taiwanese and mainlanders, and the quest for democracy was essentially a quest for national self–determination.26 According to this view sub–ethnic identity was a major determinant of support for the regime, as evinced by the predominantly native Taiwanese base of opposition support. There is little doubt that the development of the political opposition was greatly facilitated by the island’s changing social structure and political economy. There is also little doubt that the opposition drew upon and in turn fostered a growing consciousness of Taiwan’s distinctive past as well as pent–up resentment against mainlander dominance in political life. The opposition movement was led by middle–class intellectuals trained in the social sciences, almost exclusively of Taiwanese background, often with close ties to the island’s small to medium entrepreneurs. Similarly, Taiwan’s budding social movements and civil society associations were generally centered around middle–class issues such as environmental protection and consumer welfare. However, as many observers readily acknowledge, Taiwan’s prospects for substantive democratization were not encouraging at the beginning of the 1980s. Despite the emergence of an increasingly

Lucian Pye, Asian Power and Politics (Cambridge: Belknap, 1989), p. 233. Alan Wachman, Taiwan: National Identity and Democratization (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1994), Chapter 1.


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cohesive opposition, the KMT continued to capture about 70% of the popular vote, largely unchanged since the 1950s.27 The social movements that came to such spectacular prominence after the lifting of martial law were by and large meticulously apolitical before the transition.28 Nor did the business sector have much incentive to be at the “cutting edge” of democratic politics — with the power of the traditional land-owning elite long dissipated in earlier land reforms, the state was the principle protector and promoter of industrial– commercial interests. Though middle-class Taiwanese readers snapped up works of hsiang-t’u wen-hsueh (nativist literature) steeped in nostalgic depictions of ordinary Taiwanese lives, they also joined the KMT in droves (over 70% of the Party’s membership was Taiwanese by the 1980s) and repeatedly told pollsters that they cared much more for the effectiveness of governmental policies than the ethnic makeup of government.29 As late as 1987, Yangsun Chou and Andrew Nathan believed that “KMT rule is so intimately intertwined with all aspects of the Taiwanese system” that “Taiwan is more likely to remain for the foreseeable future a hegemonic system like that of Mexico”, and that the major consequence of liberalization would be limited to enhanced governmental accountability.30 To what extent then, was the KMT regime faced with a crisis of legitimacy? And to what extent was support for the regime related to class status, sub-ethnic origins and other hypothesized determinants of regime legitimacy? This article will attempt to provide some

Zhengliang Guo, Guo Min Dang Zheng Quan Zai Taiwan de Zhuan Hua (The Transformation of the KMT Regime in Taiwan), (Master’s Thesis, Dept. of Sociology, National Taiwan University, 1988), p. 114. 28 Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao, “The Rise of Social Movements and Civil Protests”, in Haggard Cheng, ed., Political Change in Taiwan (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1992), p. 70. 29 Roy Werner, “Taiwan’s Trade Flows: The Underpinning of Political Legitimacy?” Asian Survey 25:11 (1985). 30 Yangsun Chou and Andrew Nathan, “Democratizing Transition in Taiwan”, Asian Survey 27:3 (March 1987), p. 296.


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answers to these questions. A better understanding of these issues will not only shed more light on the process of democratic transition, but may also provide valuable insights on authoritarian regression in the course of democratic consolidation.

A central challenge in the analysis of political legitimacy is the problem of measurement. As the very nature of the concept refers to a subjective psychological state, key to its measurement is the problem of imputation. Max Weber, whose pioneering work laid the foundation for generations of empirical research on the topic, favored a behavioristic approach to the imputation of subjective meaning as he saw “social action” as the object domain of his sociology.31 Thus, in a Weberian analysis of domination the point of departure is the observable social action of Herrschaft (Domination), defined as the “probability that a command with a given specific content will be obeyed by a given group of persons”. The legitimacy of domination — delineated in three well-known categories — is understood merely as “the probability that to a relevant degree the appropriate attitudes will exist, and the corresponding practical conduct ensue.”32 Domination interpreted as legitimate, perhaps on the basis of observable “corresponding practical conduct”, constitutes proper “authority”. But empirically, a gamut of motivations may generate the same “corresponding practical conduct”. As James Scott remarked, “resignation to what seems inevitable is not the same as according it legitimacy, although it may serve just as efficiently to produce daily compliance.”33 A psychological state of disaffection is often insufficient

Dirk Kasler, Translated by Philippa Hurd. Max Weber: An Introduction to His Life and Work (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988), p. 150. 32 Quoted in Dirk Kasler, Max Weber: An Introduction to His Life and Work, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1988), pp. 161–4. 33 James Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 324.


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to stimulate rebellion by itself. The presence of other structural factors, such as the existence of a protest movement with which the disaffected can identify, can also be crucial.34 Political stability can be maintained for a long time without an adequate basis of legitimacy if the regime has the means to maintain an adequate system of utilitarian control. In societies where state penetration of the economy is profound, for example, the regime’s control over the distribution of economic resources gives it great leverage to reward pliancy and punish dissent. Political stability and compliance in these societies can be sustained on “conditional tolerance” of the regime by the people without genuine legitimacy. As critics pointed out, although Weber recognized the existence of forms of submission based on “helplessness” or “opportunistic grounds”, the methodological constraints of his approach forced him to loosen “agreement with” regime norms to “orientation to” a particular form of domination. “Insofar as behavior is viewed as defining as well as expressing psychological states, Weber’s conception of legitimacy becomes circular, and his explanation of political order by legitimacy tautological.”35 In the end, as noted by Bendix, “Weber did not use authority as a separate technical term, but appeared to think of it as a synonym for ‘domination’.”36 The development of survey research methodology after the end of World War II provided the tools necessary to operationalize legitimacy from an attitudal perspective by tapping directly into the individual psychology.37 Although issues of measurement validity remain pronounced, the survey method offers significant advantages

Bert Useem and Michael Useem, “Government Legitimacy and Political Stability”, Social Forces No. 3 (1979). 35 Robert Grafstein, “The Failure of Weber’s Conception of Legitimacy”, Journal of Politics 43:2 (1981), p. 469. 36 Reinhard Bendix, Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait (Garden City: Doubleday, 1960), p. 296. 37 M. Stephen Weatherford, “Measuring Political Legitimacy”, APSR 86:1 (March 1992), pp. 150–1.


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in areas such as parsimony, specificity, and comparability. The survey method allows for the most direct measurement of legitimacy understood as the subjective evaluation of aspects of the political system. The generality of survey data also affords great flexibility in the choice of indicators, thereby enhancing measurement validity by helping the researcher minimize the distance between indicators and any particular systematization of the concept of “legitimacy”.38 In recent years much of the empirical discussion of political legitimacy had been based on survey research, and significant advances have been made in the refinement of measurement models. Nevertheless, the operationalization of the concept remains a much-debated issue. Although in much of the discourse legitimacy is clearly understood as a measure of the “covert”, psychological support for regime norms, some scholars appear to operationalize the concept as the moral judgement of fundamental regime principles. In her oft-cited essay on political support in democratic political systems, Pippa Norris refines David Easton’s three-fold typology by disaggregating support for the regime into support for regime principles, regime performance and regime institutions.39 While support for regime institutions refers to satisfaction with the formal structures of the political system, support for regime performance refers to satisfaction with the actual “practice of democracy”. The “perceived moral legitimacy of the government”, on the other hand, is indicated by support for its (professed) underlying values and principles of democracy. Thus the legitimacy of democratic regimes is often measured by survey items probing for broad agreement with democratic principles, such as “Do you agree that democracy is the best form of government for our society”.


Robert Adcock and David Collier, “Measurement Validity: A Shared Standard for Qualitative and Quantitative Research”, APSR 95:3 (September 2001), pp. 530–1. 39 Pippa Norris, “Introduction: The Growth of Critical Citizens?” in Pippa Norris, ed., Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

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But as Norris pointed out, even within the context of democratic political systems, overwhelming support for abstract regime principles does not immunize the regime from crises of legitimacy. “Abstract approval of the broad ideals and principles of democracy may be rooted in shallow support for particular aspects”, and ample evidence suggests that despite overwhelming support for democratic principles, significant tension exists between the ideal and reality of democratic politics in old and new democracies alike. The result is a growing number of “disenchanted democrats” and widespread lack of confidence in traditional democratic institutions such as Parliaments and political parties, a phenomenon that may ultimately undermine the legitimacy of existing institutions and raises serious doubts about the ability of many new democracies to weather economic crises and other external shocks. The problem is even more severe in authoritarian political systems plagued by chronic problems of “ideological schizophrenia”. As O’Donnell and Schmitter observed, authoritarian rulers in the post–war era have not been able to “promote themselves as long term solutions to the problems of political order and as the best possible modes of governance for their societies.” Instead, they practice dictatorship in the name of future democracy, justifying themselves as “transitional powers” safeguarding social stability and economic development during a period of “democratic tutelage”.40 It is not at all clear under such circumstances whether support for abstract democratic principles necessarily translates into opposition to existing regime norms, especially when the regime studiously covers itself in the trappings of democratic politics while justifying its dictatorial practices as exigencies imposed by threats of totalitarian subversion, as did the KMT regime in the days of martial law. In fact, some studies from the 1970s revealed significant positive correlation between support for abstract democratic principles

Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 15.


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and support for the KMT regime among university students in Taiwan.41 It is important to keep in mind that the concept of political legitimacy, like that of political support, is multidimensional. Therefore any useful employment of the concept must include the specification of its object. If we understand legitimacy as “the belief that, in spite of shortcomings and failures, the political institutions are better than any others that might be established”,42 then the object of legitimacy as the direct antecedent of political stability must be the institutional and procedural norms of the regime. Legitimacy in this sense roughly corresponds to support for “regime performance” and “regime institutions” in Norris’s framework. “Regime performance” in this usage refers to the procedural norms of the regime, not the policy outputs of the political system as it is typically understood. But as Norris acknowledged, survey items related to “regime performance” (e.g., “How satisfied are you with the way democracy functions?”) often provide ambiguous measures tapping into both support for abstract regime principles as well as satisfaction with the incumbent government. Thus a more reliable measure of legitimacy in the present context must rely upon satisfaction with regime institutions. In this study, I will rely on data from the first wave of the Basic Survey of Social Transformation in Taiwan, an ongoing survey project under the auspice of Academia Sinica. The first wave of the survey was conducted between 1984 and 1985, two years before the lifting of martial law that marked the beginning of the island’s democratic transition. The target population was defined as voting age residents between the ages of 20 and 75, and a nationwide sample of 4,307 respondents was drawn. After the first wave there

For example, Huai-en Peng, Political Support among R.O.C. University Students (in Chinese). (Master’s Thesis, Dept. of Political Science, National Taiwan University, 1978). 42 Juan Linz, “Legitimacy of Democracy and the Socioeconomic System”, in Mattei Dogan, ed., Comparing Pluralist Democracies (Boulder: Westview Press, 1988).


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was a hiatus of five years before annual surveys resumed in 1989–1990.43 The first wave of the Social Transformation Survey contained a battery of seven institutional satisfaction items. (Please refer to Appendix A for a complete listing.) Respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of 1 to 6, their satisfaction with various political institutions of the country, including the courts, the police, the tax collectors, the performance of elected officials, and electoral outcomes “in general”.44 As my indicator of regime legitimacy, I constructed an index by taking the average score of the two items regarding satisfaction with electoral outcomes “in general” and the fairness of the courts.45 To borrow Pippa Norris’s five-fold categorization of political support, most of the items above relate to legitimacy at the level of “political actors” — i.e., satisfaction with the particular individuals occupying roles of power within the political system.46 For the purpose of this analysis legitimacy at the level of “regime institutions” is

43 These have been large-scale surveys drawing island-wide samples of several thousands. Although there has been a great deal of continuity in the core components of the survey targeting basic sociological indicators (income, education, consumption, media exposure etc.), consistency in the attitudal portion of the survey is somewhat lacking. The early waves of the survey tended to target “hot topics” of the day, while the inclusion of generic indicators of personal well-being, general social satisfaction etc., was sporadic, making cross-temporal comparisons of certain attitudal variables difficult. Nonetheless, the surveys do provide invaluable snapshots of the Taiwanese public’s psychological profile over a crucial period of the island’s history. 44 Three additional response options were offered. These were: “No opinion”, “Do not understand the question”, and “Unwilling to answer”. 45 The alpha for the scale is 0.55, a not unreasonable number considering that only two items are used in the scale. But regardless of their statistical relationship, the two items are clearly related on a substantive level. 46 Pippa Norris, “Introduction: The Growth of Critical Citizens?” in Pippa Norris, ed., Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

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of greater relevance. Although the two measures are closely correlated (factor analysis reveals that all seven items in this section load onto the same factor), they are conceptually distinct. To be sure, one’s satisfaction with elections “in general” is no doubt colored by one’s satisfaction with the performance of elected officials, and one’s confidence in the fairness of the courts is likely influenced by one’s image of the local police. Nonetheless, I believe that the items chosen provide the most approximate indicators for the concept of interest. A brief methodological note: The survey items relating to satisfaction with regime institutions are probably the most sensitive on the questionnaire. As would be expected for such items in an authoritarian society, the non-response rate was high and over 16% of the respondents expressed no opinion on either of the two items used in the scale.47 To be sure, many of the “no opinion” responses were probably sincere expressions of indifference, and it should be noted that those respondents who reported no opinion were on the average older, less educated and more likely to be female. But it is also probable that some individuals who harbored non-mainstream sentiments disguised their true opinions behind “no opinion” responses.48 As the legitimacy indicator will serve as the dependent variable in regression analysis, I decided against recoding the “no opinion” responses to any arbitrary value. Instead, the non-responses would be excluded from the initial analysis, although regression models with selection may also be employed to explicitly account for any selection bias.49 The frequency distribution of the legitimacy score (excluding the non-responses) is presented in Figure 2.1. Although substantial

On satisfaction with elections in general, about 17.5% of the respondents reported “no opinion”, while 1% “did not understand the question” and 2.5% were “unwilling to answer”. On satisfaction with judicial fairness, over 35% reported “no opinion”, 3% “did not understand the question” and 4% were “unwilling to answer”. 48 For some evidence from American public opinion, see Adam Berinksy, “The Two Faces of Public Opinion”, AJPS 43:4 (1999). 49 Please refer to Appendix B for a more detailed discussion.


The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 87


0 Very Dis 2 3 4 5 Satisfaction with Political Institutions Very Sat

Negative Orientation (3 or less): 17.04% Mean: 3.975 Positive Orientation (4 or more): 73.17% S.D. : 0.851 N = 3,616, excluding 707 “No Opinions” and non-responses.

Figure 2.1 Distribution of Satisfaction with Political Institutions.

measurement errors exist, in general the survey results indicate that a fairly large majority of the population on the eve of the transition did not express dissatisfaction with existing regime norms. These findings are consistent with electoral survey data from the same period, which shows that political liberalization was considered an important issue by only about 12% of the electorate.50 Demand for greater political participation surely existed, but the available evidence does not support claims of a groundswell of opposition to authoritarian rule.

As aptly summarized by Chu, Chang & Hu, relevant hypotheses emanating from the existing literature on the sources of regime legitimacy


Chia-Lung Lin, The Mass Base of the KMT and the DPP: A Comparative Analysis of Political Support Among the Taiwanese Electorate (in Chinese). (Master’s Thesis, National Taiwan University, 1988), p. 100.

88 David Dahua Yang

can be grouped into at least three categories.51 These are rationality, political culture, and modernization/post–modernization theories. A fourth approach focusing on the role of elite opinion leadership can be thought of as an elaboration on the existing theories. Rationality based theories argue that political support is primarily a function of governmental performance. The individual’s behavior is assumed to be purposive and utility maximizing, and people choose the political regime most likely to enhance governmental “goods provision”. The “goods” may be economic well–being, as emphasized by the neoclassical theorists; or they may include a variety of general social criteria and particular political demands. Within the rational choice school there are scholars who emphasize experienced well– being at the personal level, and those who emphasize perceived well–being at the collective level. For the purpose of this analysis, I shall examine both indicators of personal well–being and indicators of satisfaction with overall governmental output. Political cultural theories emphasize that people’s political behavior is determined by their “predominant beliefs, attitudes, values, ideals, sentiments, and evaluations about the political system of their country, and the role of the self in that system.”52 In particular, shifts in social and political values are posited as the reciprocal causal link between structural and institutional changes in society on the one hand and citizens’ orientation toward regime norms on the other. If the hypothesis is correct, then the “observed effects of demographical variables … would attenuate if not disappear once we control for social and political values.”53 Fortunately, the data set

Yun-han Chu, Yu-tzung Chang and Fu Hu, “Regime Performance, Value Change and Authoritarian Detachment in East Asia.” (Paper presented at the East Asia Barometer Conference, Taipei, December 2003.) 52 Larry Diamond, Developing Democracy Toward Consolidation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1999), p. 161. 53 Yun-han Chu, Yu-tzung Chang and Fu Hu, “Regime Performance, Value Change and Authoritarian Detachment in East Asia,” p. 17.


The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 89

employed in this study contains a set of 19 questions probing various dimensions of political attitudes. Finally, modernization theorists dating back to Marx have argued that economic, cultural and political changes go hand-inhand in coherent patterns in predictable ways. In particular, modernization and post modernization theorists emphasize changes in the socioeconomic infrastructure as the impetus behind changes in the political over-structure. A variety of explanations, ranging from the emergence of a diversified urban economy54 to the ready availability of information,55 have been posited as the causal pathway linking socioeconomic development and shifts in political support. Implicit in many of these arguments is an emphasis on the urban middle class as the bearer of democratic values. Following Chu et al., I shall include five demographic indicators, namely age, gender, income, education and Taiwanese sub-ethnicity. An elaboration on these familiar theories emphasizes the role of elite opinion leadership in patterns of regime support. A paradigmatic example of this approach is Barbara Geddes and John Zaller’s essay on sources of popular support for the authoritarian regime in Brazil, in which the authors applied the exposure–acceptance model of public opinion formation to survey data collected in that country during the early 1970s.56 According to this model regime support is a function of the interaction between two factors — exposure to elite political communications, and resistance to such communications. Within this framework factors such as economic rationality, political values and demographic characteristics operate on the level of regime support through their effect on the propensity for resistance to elite messages. While regime support generally increases

For example, Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). 55 Minxin Pei, “The Puzzle of East Asian Exceptionalism”, Journal of Democracy 5:1 (1994). 56 Barbara Geddes and John Zaller, “Sources of Popular Support for Authoritarian Regimes”, AJPS 33:2 (May 1989).


90 David Dahua Yang

with exposure among the least resistant, among the more resistant regime support follows a curvilinear pattern — it increases with exposure at low levels of exposure but drops off sharply at higher levels as criticality increases with awareness. According to Geddes and Zaller, patterns of regime support in Brazil were largely consistent with the predictions of the model. While support was the strongest among those citizens sufficiently attentive to politics to be heavily exposed to government propaganda but lacked the sophistication for critical scrutiny — “such as the better-informed members of the working class” — support was the weakest among the highly attentive who were also “predisposed” against authoritarian rule by virtue of personal values and economic interests. As Zaller pointed out, by far the most reliable indicator of political exposure is the level of political knowledge. Unfortunately, the first wave of the Social Transformation Survey did not include any items on political knowledge, although it did include a number of items on media exposure.

Personal Satisfaction
The survey contained a battery of 10 questions probing the respondent’s satisfaction with various aspects of her personal well-being. Respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of 1 to 6, their satisfaction with their personal health, family relationships, marital life, personal finance, employment, educational status, housing conditions, relations with neighbors, recreational activities, and relations with friends. From the list, I selected the three aspects most relevant to government output, namely personal finance, educational status, and housing conditions. Employment was omitted due to the large number of respondents without formal employment. In order to minimize the number of independent variables in the final regression, I constructed a composite Personal Satisfaction Index taking into account all three items. (With an alpha of 0.55, inter-item correlation is not particularly high. However, the construction of the index is based more on substantive than statistical considerations.) Experiments with various weighing schemes did not

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 91


0 Very Dis 2 3 4 Personal Satisfaction 5 Very Sat

Negative Orientation (3 or less): 24.17% Positive Orientation (4 or more): 39.70% N= 4,312

Mean: 3.612 S.D. : 0.746

Figure 2.2 Distribution of Personal Satisfaction.

reveal significant variation, and in the end a simple average was employed. In order to minimize the number of missing observations, in those cases where the respondent did not respond to all three items, her personal satisfaction score would simply be the average of the available responses. The frequency distribution of the personal satisfaction index is presented in Figure 2.2. Unsurprisingly, given Taiwan’s general prosperity in that era, most respondents appear satisfied with the economic aspects of their lives, although over half the respondents expressed discontent with their educational opportunities.

Social Satisfaction
The survey also contained a battery of 16 social satisfaction items. Respondents were asked to indicate, on a scale of 1 to 4, the perceived seriousness of a number of prominent social problems. The options were “Very Serious”, “Serious”, “Not Very Serious”, and “Not Serious”. In addition respondents were given the options of

92 David Dahua Yang

“No Opinion” and “Unwilling to Answer”. Once again, respondents who reported “no opinion” are on the average older, less educated and more likely to be female. As these questions are less politically sensitive and “no opinion” responses are more likely to reflect genuine lack of familiarity, I recoded all “No Opinion” responses to neutral values between “Serious” and “Not Very Serious”. The 16 items are: Senior Welfare, Public Safety, Pornography, Wealth Polarization, Inflation, Over–population, Employment, Official Corruption, Divorce, Education, Traffic, Juvenile Delinquency, Electoral Fraud, Economic Crimes, Moral Degeneration, and Environmental Pollution. For my analysis I omitted Divorce and Moral Degeneration as these issues have limited relevance to government policies. Factor analysis was employed as a data-reduction tool to identify any underlying dimensional structure. I employed an iterative method, in which all variables are included in the first iteration, and those variables that do not load significantly onto any factor (factor loading 0.5) after the application of promax rotation are factor analyzed again in the second iteration. The process is repeated until no factor with eigen value greater than 1 can be identified. In the end, two factors were identified from the 14 items included in the analysis. (See Table 2.1.) These can be labeled “Satisfaction with Law & Order” and “Satisfaction with Economic Welfare” respectively, and factor scores were obtained as their indicators. The frequency distributions of the two dimensions of social satisfaction are presented in Figures 2.3a and 2.3b. The data reveals that Taiwanese citizens were fairly objective in their evaluation of government performance. Though a sizeable majority expressed dissatisfaction with law and order issues such as official corruption and electoral fraud, a plurality expressed satisfaction with the government’s economic policies. Infact, Taiwan in the 1980s was not only one of the fastest-growing but also one of the most egalitarian economies in East Asia, boasting a Gini coefficient (approximately 0.3) comparable to those of the Scandinavian countries.

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 93 Table 2.1 Factor Analysis of Social Satisfaction Variables [1st Iteration — All Variables] Factor Eigenvalue 1 … 4.11539

Difference 3.44825

Proportion 0.9374

Cumulative 0.9374

[2nd Iteration — Remaining Variables] Factor Eigenvalue Difference 1 1.24446 1.08442 0.83) Loading 0.63945 0.63648 0.63221 0.62073 0.59523 0.57764 0.55699 0.54049 0.52741

Proportion 1.3497 Factor 2: Economics ( Variable Wealth Polarization Inflation Senior Welfare Unemployment

Cumulative 1.3497 0.65) Loading 0.59969 0.51476 0.50850 0.50183

Factor 1: Law & Order ( Variable Official Corruption Juvenile Delinquency Economic Crimes Pornography Electoral Fraud Crime & Public Safety Traffic Environmental Pollution Over-population



0 Very Dis 2 3 4 5 Satisfaction with Law & Order Issues Very Sat

Negative Orientation (< 3.15): 62.5% Positive Orientation (> 3.85): 14.1% N= 4,131

Mean: 2.837 S.D. : 0.948

Figure 2.3a Distribution of Social Satisfaction (Law & Order).

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0 Very Dis 2 3 4 5 Satisfaction with Economic Issues Very Sat

Negative Orientation (< 3.15): 36% Positive Orientation (> 3.85): 39.9% N= 4,226

Mean: 3.540 S.D. : 1.055

Figure 2.3b Distribution of Social Satisfaction (Economic Welfare).

Political Values
The survey also included 19 items on political values. (Please refer to Appendix A for a complete listing.) For this section of the survey, respondents were asked to indicate, on a 6-point scale, agreement (or disagreement) with a series of statements expressing various sociopolitical attitudes. Many of these items were derived from the works of Hu Fu and other Taiwanese scholars who pioneered the analysis of political culture in Taiwan in the 1970s. Building upon David Easton’s paradigmatic analysis, Hu suggested that any political system can be characterized by the nature of three fundamental power relationships, these being: 1) the power relationship between members of the public; 2) the power relationship between the general public and the authorities; and 3) the power relationship within the authorities. Furthermore, the relationship between the public and the authorities is defined by three basic attributes, namely the location and source of sovereignty, the boundaries for the exercise of individual rights, and the boundaries for the exercise of associational rights. From these basic relationships at least five

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 95

dimensions of a structural political culture can be extracted, these being 1) Political Equality; 2) Popular Sovereignty; 3) Personal Liberty; 4) Pluralism; and 5) Intra-governmental accountability.57 Prof. Hu and his colleagues argue that while modern democratic political cultures are characterized by positive orientations along all five dimensions, traditional authoritarian political cultures are characterized by negative orientations all across. In contrast, transitional, “modern authoritarian” political cultures tend to be characterized by equal distaste for the arbitrariness of traditional rule and profound anxiety regarding the uncertainties inherent in great political and social transformations. If, as T.H. Marshall argued, the achievement of freedom is a dynamic and sequential process,58 then “modern authoritarian” societies are those poised between the achievement of “freedom from” (civil rights) and the achievement of “freedom to” (franchise rights). As a consequence, the political culture of modernizing societies often exhibits positive orientations in political equality and accountability, but the yearning for stability and the effective exercise of authority is also manifested in wobbly commitment to pluralism, personal liberty and oftentimes popular sovereignty. Factor analysis of the 19 items on political attitudes extracted three factors (Table 2.2), which can be characterized as popular sovereignty, pluralism, and popular accountability (i.e., government responsiveness to popular demands at the process level). From the nine items that did not load significantly onto any of the three factors, I identified one item each as an indicator for political equality, personal liberty and intra-governmental accountability respectively. In addition, an item asking about the relative importance of Chinese

Fu Hu, “Jie Gou Xing de Zheng Zhi Wen Hua: Gai Nian, Lei Xing Ji Mian Xiang de Tan Tao (Structural Political Culture: Concepts, Categories and Aspects)”, in Zheng Zhi Xue de Ke Xue Tan Jiu, Vol. 1: Fang Fa yu Li Lun (The Scientific Investigation of Political Science, Vol. 1: Methods and Theories), (Taipei: Sanmin, 1998), pp. 97–103. 58 T.H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950).


96 David Dahua Yang Table 2.2 Factor Analysis of Social Satisfaction Variables Rotated Factor Loadings (Promax Rotation) Item # 3 4 6 8 9 13 14 15 17 19 Popular Accountability 0.01399 0.03991 0.02435 0.03292 0.02021 0.59778 0.71492 0.80674 0.53438 0.61221 Pluralism 0.07726 0.00387 0.67558 0.81516 0.69657 0.00949 0.06110 0.02371 0.00334 0.00326 Popular Sovereignty 0.57386 0.63826 0.10354 0.12630 0.04617 0.12842 0.04304 0.14529 0.00810 0.01772

unification and Taiwanese development was selected as an indicator of Taiwanese identity. As discussed earlier, the issue may be especially salient in Taiwan given that political cleavages on the island were often perceived to be aligned along sub-ethnic divides. Using the items with the highest factor loading as lead indicators for the three multi–item dimensions, a total of seven indicators of political values were identified. As the political sensitivity of these items was only moderate (all of these statements are non-specific and cautiously phrased in such a way so that neither agreement nor disagreement would be particularly “socially unacceptable”), once again I recoded all “No Opinion” responses to a neutral value between “Somewhat Agree” and “Somewhat Disagree”. (A listing of these items is provided in Table 2.3.) Preliminary examination of the data confirms the “modern authoritarian” character of the Taiwanese public on the eve of transition. I found that while the majority of respondents evinced positive orientation in political accountability, commitment to political equality and popular sovereignty was more ambivalent. Furthermore, the public’s desire for order and stability was reflected in the large majorities displaying negative orientation in pluralism and personal liberty. (See Table 2.4) In order to minimize the number of independent variables in the final regression, I also created a Democratic Orientation Index

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 97 Table 2.3 The Seven Dimensions of Political Values I. II. Popular Sovereignty Pluralism “All public affairs should be up to our government leaders.” “If a community has too many groups with conflicting views, its stability would be undermined.” “In dealing with government bureaucrats, even if the people are dissatisfied, they should not protest.” “Older people should have more say in political decisions.” “Violent criminals should be punished immediately, there’s no need to go through lengthy court proceedings.” “If Parliament intervenes often in the government’s work, the government would not be able to get things done.” “The unification of China is more meaningful than the development of Taiwan.”

III. Popular Accountability IV. Political Equality V. Personal Liberty

VI. Intra-Governmental Accountability VII. National Identity

Table 2.4 Attitudal Distribution in Six Dimensions of Democratic Orientation (excluding non-responses)
Orientation Popular Intra-Gov’t Political Popular Personal Pluralism (scale of 1–6) Accountability Accountability Equality Sovereignty Liberty Negative (1–3) Neutral (3.5) Positive (4–6) Average (S.E.) N 12.65% 8.76% 78.59% 4.56 (1.20) 4,063 28.99% 18.88% 52.12% 3.77 (1.20) 3,818 42.38% 16.20% 41.42% 3.44 (1.12) 3,981 45.01% 14.66% 40.34% 3.40 (1.30) 4,046 65.41% 8.75% 25.84% 2.76 (1.43) 4,125 72.38% 10.39% 17.22% 2.71 (1.16) 3,983

incorporating the six indicators of democratic values,59 while leaving “Taiwanese Identity” as a separate explanatory variable. Experiments with a variety of weighing schemes revealed no substantive difference and a simple average was adopted in the end. Again, although the


For considerations of comparability, item 19 was substituted for item 15 as the lead indicator for “Popular Accountability” in the construction of the index.

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0 1 2 3 4 Democratic Orientation Score 5 6

Negative Orientation (< 3.15): 29.85% Positive Orientation (> 3.85): 22.89% N= 4,215

Mean: 3.425 S.D. : 0.734

Figure 2.4 Distribution of Democratic Orientation.

alpha for the index is not high (0.43), the construction of the index is based on theoretical rather than statistical justifications. The Democratic Orientation Index is given on a scale of 1 to 6, 1 being the least democratic and 6 being the most democratic. As Figure 2.4 indicates, Taiwanese society in the late-authoritarian era was fairly typical of most transitional societies, with those citizens of a somewhat authoritarian bent outnumbering those with a more democratic outlook. Nor was a Taiwanese identity distinct from China a salient issue for most of the island’s population at the time. Although less than 15% of the survey respondents identified themselves as “Mainlanders”, almost two thirds agreed with the statement “The reunification of China is more meaningful than the development of Taiwan”, which would have given a rather generous estimate of Taiwanese nationalism to begin with. (See Figure 2.5.)

Political Exposure
As convincingly demonstrated by Zaller, the most valid and reliable measure of political awareness is “neutral factual knowledge about politics, a type of measure that … captures political learning that has

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 99


0 China 2 3 4 5 Chinese vs. Taiwanese Identity Taiwan

Chinese Identification ( -3): 65.12% Taiwanese Identification (.4 ): 15.77% N= 3,767

Mean: 2.626 S.D. : 1.229

Figure 2.5 Distribution of Chinese vs. Taiwanese Identification.

actually occurred.”60 Such tests of political knowledge can be relatively immune to various response effects and do not require the respondent to estimate subjective behaviors or inner states. Unfortunately, the first wave of the Social Transformation Survey did not include such questions. Measures of political participation and media exposure were included in the survey, and these have been employed as indicators of political awareness in the literature. Unfortunately both of these measures have serious weaknesses. As Zaller pointed out, it is entirely possible for a person to achieve high levels of political awareness without engaging in conventional forms of political participation, and the problem is likely to be especially severe within an authoritarian context, where many disenchanted would-be participants certainly exist. In addition, as the survey questions were by necessity limited to the few officially-sanctioned channels of participation,

John Zaller, The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 335.


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many potentially far more consequential forms of participation probably remain hidden. Measures of media exposure, on the other hand, are extremely prone to exaggeration induced by social desirability effects, even when the measure is fine-grained enough to distinguish between different forms of media consumption.61 Direct measures of political knowledge were available in the 1992 version of the survey, thus presenting the possibility that political awareness can be imputed for 1984 using the “Two-Stage Auxiliary Instrumental Variables” technique proposed by Charles Franklin.62 This possibility was rejected due to two considerations. Firstly, the political knowledge measures in the 1992 survey are vulnerable to social desirability effects (respondents were asked whether they have “heard of” a series of political figures and organizations) and thus suffer from some of the same validity and reliability issues that plague other measures. Secondly, a key assumption of Franklin’s method requires that the relationship between the variable of interest and the auxiliary explanatory variables to be time-invariant. Although the 1992 survey drew from the same target population, it was conducted after the completion of the most dramatic stage of the democratic transition, and there is little reason to believe that the relationship between media consumption and political awareness had remained unchanged when the nature of the media had been radically transformed. Nonetheless, the available items on media exposure are sufficiently detailed that a measure of exposure to political communications can be constructed. To construct the measure I used an item on

Ibid., pp. 333–6. On exaggeration induced by social desirability, Zaller found that according to survey selfreports, 40% of the American public listens to National Public Radio several times a week! 62 Franklin Charles, “Estimation across Datasets: Two Stage Auxiliary Instrumental Variables Estimation”, Political Analysis 1 (1989), pp. 1–24. Briefly, the technique involves estimating the relationship between the variable of interest and a set of explanatory variables in an auxiliary dataset. Then the variable of interest, presumably missing from the primary data, can be estimated using the same explanatory variables in the primary dataset.


The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 101

the frequency of newspaper readership, a binary variable indicating whether political news was the type of news most closely followed, and an item on the frequency of television news viewership. These measures were then assigned weights derived from factor analysis.63 The raw scores were then divided into sextiles and each respondent was assigned a score on a six-point scale. However, as the survey only tapped exposure to the thoroughly government-dominated mainstream media, the score merely captures exposure to government communications and does not necessarily reflect political awareness as the actual reception and internalization of political information. Preliminary cross-tabulations did not reveal any perceivable interaction between the political exposure score and various resistance factors such as education, democratic orientation and personal satisfaction vis-à-vis regime legitimacy. Although support for regime norms appears clearly associated with the likely resistance factors, the level of political exposure has little predictable effect. These findings perhaps suggest that available measures are inappropriate indicators for the concept of interest, and the available data does not permit a proper test of the Zaller model.

In the final regression analysis the comparative effects of the various explanatory factors discussed above were estimated. These included the Personal Satisfaction Index, the “Law & Order” satisfaction score, the “Economic Welfare” satisfaction score, the Democratic Orientation Index, the “Taiwanese Identity” score, and the Political Exposure Index. In addition, a series of demographic variables were also included, these being age, gender, income, education and Taiwanese sub-ethnicity. All regressors with the exception of gender

The weights are — Newspaper frequency (5 pt scale): .65; Political news most closely followed: .44; Television news frequency (3 pt scale): .58. The scale has an alpha of 0.57.


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and Taiwanese sub-ethnicity were scaled to provide directly comparable coefficients. In order to minimize data loss, the income levels of housewives, retirees, students and other respondents who otherwise reported no income were imputed where possible.64 As mentioned earlier, respondents who did not express their level of regime satisfaction were excluded from the regression, although there is some evidence to suggest that the non-responders differed systematically from those who responded. (For more details please refer to Appendix B.) The results from the regression are presented in Table 2.5. The analysis reveals that satisfaction with the “law & order” aspects of government performance, personal satisfaction and democratic orientation were most closely correlated with support for the regime, while Taiwanese identity and income were marginally correlated. All other factors, including most notably satisfaction with the government’s economic performance, were not significant either substantively or statistically. These findings echo other studies such as the aforementioned Park study from South Korea, as well as evidence from post-transition Southern and Eastern Europe, which similarly demonstrated that support for regime norms is most closely associated with the “political” rather than the economic aspects of government performance. As one would expect, stronger democratic orientation was associated with stronger dissatisfaction with authoritarian regime norms, but greater satisfaction with government performance in the “political” arena was associated with greater regime


As we are primarily interested in income as an indicator of the respondent’s economic status, the underlying measure of interest is the respondent’s family income. Of those respondents who reported no income, roughly 2/3 were homemakers, 8% were retired, less than 4% were students, and the rest were unemployed, between jobs or unwilling to reveal their income. Income for the homemakers was imputed using the educational level of their spouses, the only relevant spousal information available. For the students, the parental education level was used. For the rest, the respondent’s own education level was used. In all, income was imputed for 1,825 respondents out of a total of 4,129.

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 103 Table 2.5 Comparative Effects of Some Explanatory Variables Independent Variables Dependent Variables Regime Satisfaction Personal Satisfaction Law & Order Satisfaction Democratic Values

6-Point Ordinal Vars: Political Exposure Personal Satisfaction Law & Order Satisfaction Economic Satisfaction Democratic Orientation Taiwanese Identity Education Income Age Binary Vars: Taiwanese Ethnicity Gender

.006 (.011) .140*** (.021) .163*** (.019) .002 (.016) .152*** (.021) .053*** (.012) .026* (.016) .021** (.010) .011 (.013) .025 (.045) .015 (.031)

— — — — — — .129*** (.012) .028*** (.008) .041*** (.010) .029 (.037) .072*** (.024) .01.

— — — — — — .122*** (.015) .035*** (.010) .103*** (.013) .314*** (.046) .059* (.030)

— — — — — — .109*** (.012) .006 (.008) .005 (.010) .129*** (.037) .002 (.066)



.10; **


.05; ***


satisfaction. However, our evidence also suggests that authoritarian disaffection is not necessarily associated with higher economic status. Infact, in the Taiwanese example individuals less satisfied with their economic circumstances were more likely to express dissatisfaction with the existing regime. Consistent with most previous findings, Taiwanese identity was found to be negatively correlated with regime satisfaction. However,

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in the pre-transition era its salience was far from pronounced, and its coefficient was merely a fraction of those of the leading factors. Interestingly, exposure to political communications as measured in the current study was not correlated with regime support. I probed for interaction effects with the addition of interaction terms between political exposure and personal satisfaction, “law & order” satisfaction and democratic orientation, but the interaction terms were neither individually nor jointly significant. (Prob. F 0.64.) This observation may be related to Geddes and Zaller’s prediction regarding political systems in which the regime makes energetic efforts to mobilize public opinion — a category that clearly includes “Leninist” pre-transition Taiwan. Since even the least politically informed citizens in such societies have been exposed to relatively high levels of government indoctrination, the effect of political awareness on regime support is likely to be less pronounced. Finally, the relationship between the key factors identified above and several oft-cited basic sociological indicators — including age, gender, income, education, and sub–ethnic background (native Taiwanese vs. mainlander) — was examined. In general, the analysis reveals that education had the greatest impact on the various factors affecting regime support, while no other demographic characteristic was nearly as consistently influential. Better-educated individuals tended to be more satisfied with their personal circumstances, yet at the same time more democratically oriented and more dissatisfied with the political aspects of government performance. These results suggest that the causal linkage between socioeconomic modernization and changes in the orientation of political support may be fundamentally driven by ideological and normative considerations.

The results above indicate that on the eve of democratic transition, Taiwan was a fairly typical transitional “modern authoritarian” society with significant but limited popular democratic support. While democratic political values apparently undermined the legitimacy of

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 105

the authoritarian regime, personal economic well-being did contribute to the regime’s political support. With regards to satisfaction with government performance on a macro level, the data indicates the predominance of political attributes over purely economic ones. In addition, the evidence suggests that the causal connection between economic development and democratic support may be primarily ideational. Fundamentally, support for democracy was not driven by utilitarian calculations of costs and benefits, but rather a normative orientation toward ideals of just and participatory government germinated perhaps through exposure to modern political values and access to uncensored information. Although a Taiwanese identity distinct from China was clearly emerging, its salience in the mid-1980s is not supported by the data examined here. To be sure, Taiwanese nationalism was a key tenet of the political opposition, especially its youthful radical wing, but given the overwhelming identification with China among the general public during that era, the mobilizational appeal of such a position is highly questionable. In addition, regression analysis reveals that Taiwanese ethnicity was only weakly correlated with democratic orientation, and the correlation between Taiwanese ethnicity and satisfaction with the political aspects of government performance was positive. Not surprisingly, no significant correlation was found between sub–ethnic background and regime satisfaction when other factors were controlled for. It is worth noting that, despite frequent claims to the contrary, the KMT regime on the eve of transition did enjoy a significant level of popular support. Although rapid economic development no doubt facilitated the spread of “democratic inclinations and a healthy surge of pluralism”, subtle shifts in ideological sympathies should not be automatically equated with growing opposition to authoritarian rule. Ironically enough, electoral data from 1986 suggest that while mainlanders and public employees remained the staunchest bastion of KMT support, they were infact somewhat more democratically oriented than native Taiwanese and private sector middle–class voters. Likewise, although white–collar professionals were more supportive of democratic principles than

106 David Dahua Yang

blue-collar workers as many would expect, they were infact more likely to vote for the KMT.65 But the phenomenon may not be as puzzling as it may appear, considering that only about a quarter of the electorate was issueoriented, and even among this minority the most salient issues were those related to the routine concerns of daily governance. In contrast, political liberalization was a significant issue for only about 12% of the electorate, roughly the same proportion that expressed a partisan preference for the opposition.66 Yet due to the KMT’s superior human and financial resources, large numbers of opposition sympathizers in fact voted for the KMT. (In 1986 the proportion was 20%. Three years earlier the proportion was an astounding 50%.)67 In short, the evidence suggests that despite increasing pressure from the opposition, the KMT continued to command fairly broad-based support in society and the “crisis of legitimacy” — if there was one — was far from insurmountable. But this should not be taken to imply that legitimacy does not matter. Although acquiescence to existing regime norms — and indeed, desire for political stability — appeared widespread, the KMT proved strangely unable or unwilling to exploit this reservoir of political conservatism and was instead hamstrung by the ideological posture of the opposition. While opposition politicians campaigned vigorously on democratic appeals, the vast majority of KMT candidates chose to sidestep the regime issue altogether and campaigned


For information on voters’ democratic orientation, see Chia-lung Lin, Paths to Democracy: Taiwan in Comparative Perspective (Doctoral Dissertation, Dept. of Political Science, Yale University, 1998), pp. 267–8. For information on voting patterns, see Chia-Lung Lin, Guo Min Dang yu Min Jin Dang de Qun Zhong Ji Chu: Taiwan Xuan Min Zheng Dang Zhi Chi de Bi Jiao Fen Xi. (The Mass Base of the KMT and the DPP: A Comparative Analysis of Political Support Among the Taiwanese Electorate), (Master’s Thesis, National Taiwan University, 1988), pp. 119–122. 66 Chia-lung Lin (1988), pp. 98–100. 67 Ibid., pp. 210–1.

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 107

instead on governance issues.68 The phenomenon suggests that although the KMT did not yet face overwhelming challenges to existing regime norms, its options going forward were also severely constrained. In particular, its grassroots agents lacked the confidence to assert authoritarian rule, and the party center dared not resort to large-scale suppression. At best the party could only try to divert attention and hope to put off political reforms for a little longer. Perhaps the KMT elite had decided — for reasons that remain to be explored — that it was no longer a matter of whether the regime would liberalize, but merely a matter of when and how. As such, the timing and method of transition are largely determined by the cost differential between suppression and toleration, as Robert Dahl famously posited in his much-cited work.69 Given the regime’s stellar developmental record and solid electoral showings in the face of a forceful opposition, perhaps the KMT had good reasons to believe that it could steal the opposition’s thunder by initiating political reforms one step ahead of the “silent majority”. In this sense, liberalization was driven not so much by a crisis of legitimacy, as it was facilitated by the relatively high level of legitimacy enjoyed by the regime.

68 69

Ibid., p. 95. Robert Dahl, Polyarchy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971), pp. 14–6.

108 David Dahua Yang

Political Satisfaction: (Items employed in statistical analysis underlined.) 1. “How satisfied are you with the outcomes of elections in general?” 2. “How satisfied are you with the performance of your legislators after they were elected?” 3. “How satisfied are you with the performance of directly-elected mayors and other officials after they were elected?” 4. “How satisfied are you with the way the police handle their work?” 5. “How satisfied are you with the way the tax collectors handle their work?” 6. “How satisfied are you with the fairness of the judges in the courts?” 7. “How satisfied are you with the abilities of the typical bureaucrat?” Political Values: (Items employed in statistical analysis underlined.) 1. “The unification of China is more meaningful than the development of Taiwan.” 2. “Older people should have more say in political decisions.” 3. “To avoid the trouble of elections, local mayors should be appointed from above.” 4. “All public affairs should be up to our government leaders.” 5. “Violent criminals should be punished immediately, there’s no need to go through lengthy court proceedings.” 6. “If people have different opinions, society would be chaotic.” 7. “It should be up to the government to decide whether an opinion should be allowed to be expressed in our society.” 8. “If a community has too many groups with conflicting views, its stability would be undermined.” 9. “If a country has several political parties, political chaos would ensue.”

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 109

10. “If Parliament intervenes often in the government’s work, the government would not be able to get things done.” 11. “People should only obey government regulations and not ask for changes.” 12. “The government should take into consideration all requests for local development from the people.” 13. “Whether the service provided by civil servants requires improvement should be up to their superiors, the public should not intervene.” 14. “People should pay their taxes whether it’s fair or not.” 15. “In dealing with government bureaucrats, even if the people are dissatisfied, they should not protest.” 16. “It’s unacceptable for someone to attempt to influence a legislator.” 17. “When the government is making a decision on a public construction project, it is acceptable for someone to influence the decision for his own benefits.” 18. “People should not express their views before government personnel decisions are made.” 19. “The primary duty of civil servants is to execute the government’s orders, whether or not they are conscientious in serving the public is less important.”

110 David Dahua Yang

It has been demonstrated that individuals who harbor non– mainstream sentiments are likely to disguise their true opinions behind “don’t know” responses,70 and the phenomenon is certainly likely to be present in the current context. In order to detect and account for any resulting selection bias, I employed Heckman’s Selectivity Model using the “heckman” command in Stata with full maximum–likelihood estimation. The model involves the specification of two equations — an “outcome equation” modeling the relationship between the outcome variable (in this case regime legitimacy) and the hypothesized explanatory variables, and a “selection equation” modeling the factors influencing the respondent’s decision to reveal her opinion. The specification of the outcome equation would be identical to that of the original model. Following Berinsky, I modeled the selection equation as a function of the respondent’s general political engagement in addition to all the explanatory variables employed in the outcome equation.71 The explanatory variables from the outcome equation were included because the respondent’s willingness to respond to items concerning regime satisfaction is believed to be related to her actual level of satisfaction, and measures of general political engagement were included based on available evidence suggesting that an individual’s propensity to respond to survey questions is related to his level of engagement with the political system. As my indicator of political engagement, I employed a “Political Participation” index constructed from eight items dealing with electoral participation and feedback in local policy-making (alpha 0.84). The results from the heckman estimation are presented below (Table 2.6). Although there is some indication that those respondents more likely to support existing regime norms were also more likely

70 71

Adam Berinksy, “The Two Faces of Public Opinion”, AJPS 43:4 (1999). Ibid., p. 1215. See also p. 1222.

The Basis of Political Legitimacy in Late-Authoritarian Taiwan 111 Table 2.6 Results from Heckman Selection Model Independent Variables Outcome Equation Coefficient (S.E.) .004 (.012) .147 (.021)*** .174 (.020)*** .005 (.017) .113 (.022)*** .063 (.013)*** .028 (.017)* .021 (.010)** .010 (.046) .015 (.014) .017 (.032) N.A. Selection Equation Coefficient (S.E.) .001 .101 .052 .057 .067 .095 .023 .005 .152 .003 .058 .317 (.024) (.044)** (.042) (.036) (.048) (.027)*** (.037) (.021) (.111) (.029) (.069) (.036)***

Political Exposure Personal Satisfaction Law & Order Satisfaction Economic Satisfaction Democratic Orientation Taiwanese Identity Education Income Taiwanese Ethnicity Age Gender Political Engagement rho .181 (.120). * p .10; ** p

.05; ***



to reveal their opinions, the evidence is not overwhelming. (The parameter estimate of Rho is positive, but its size is modest and the standard error is large.) In line with my expectations, respondents with high levels of political participation and personal satisfaction were more likely to express an opinion, while those with high levels of Taiwanese identity were less likely to do so. However, none of the coefficients from the outcome equation is substantially different from its counterpart in the original model. In short, available evidence suggests that although some selection bias probably exists, it is not enough to alter the results qualitatively.

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Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes
Zhengxu Wang

Political trust legitimates a regime. For new democracies, a high level of political trust will facilitate the consolidation process while a low level of it will contribute to, if not directly result in, protracted political instability or the return to authoritarianism. For an authoritarian regime, an accurate measurement of citizens’ trust in the government may predict how much strength the regime still commands in holding its grip on power. As natural as it sounds to equate political trust with regime legitimacy, scholars have recently found some bizarre contradictions. Studies of the advanced democracies have shown declining public trust in government institutions and in politicians in the last two decades.1 Despite such a troublesomely low level of political trust,

A well-known study is Susan J. Pharr and Robert D. Putnam, Disaffected Democracies: What’s Troubling the Trilateral Countries? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000). 113



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and increasingly indifferent and non–participatory publics, these democracies have sustained themselves. While it is generally believed that oppressive regimes will alienate their citizens and we would expect to find low levels of political trust in those societies, some authoritarian regimes have in fact enjoyed high levels of political trust. In China, surveys have found consistently high political trust among the public. These findings pose a serious question, intellectually and practically. Why do some authoritarian regimes enjoy high levels of political trust while democracies do not? This chapter analyzes political trust in China. I will first demonstrate that political trust can be documented in two categories. On the one hand, citizens express a high level of trust in the all–China institutions: the national government, the Communist Party, and the parliament (National People’s Congress). For many Chinese citizens, these organizations exist only in their imagination, because they seldom come in contact with the organizations in daily life. On the other hand, when it comes to government institutions that confront citizens in daily life, the trust level is much lower. This second group of institutions includes the police and the civil service. I will call the first group of institutions the “imagined” state, and call the second group the “real” state. I will analyze the trust in these two forms of government that exist in the cognitive space of citizens. I want to know what makes people trust their government. Then, I discuss the implications of my empirical findings on regime legitimacy in China.

Since the 1970s, many scholars have written about decreasing public trust in governments of Europe, North America, and Japan. This situation has been called a “crisis of democracy”.2 The trend has

See Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy (New York: New York University Press, 1975).


Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


continued into this century too. American citizens who express “a great deal” of confidence in their executive branch have decreased from 42% in 1966 to only 14% in 2000; and that of Congress, from 42% to 13%. Japanese citizens have also become less satisfied with their government, political institutions, and politicians between 1976 to 1996.3 Similar trends are found in almost every West European country. While the collapse of communism in the late 20th Century seems to herald liberal democracy as the most attractive form of government for the world, public confidence in the government in the best–established democracies is now at its record low.4 As one scholar aptly depicts it: down and down we go!5 If one characterizes this situation in the Western democracies as wan ma qi yin, ten thousand horses all silent, should we take the situation in China as yi zhi du xiu, one single flower blossoming? In a survey conducted on a national representative sample of China in 1993, 94% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with a statement that, “We should trust and obey the government, for in the last analysis it serves our interest”.6 The same survey found high proportions of citizens agree or strongly agree with statements such as “You can generally trust the people who run our government to do what is right”; “You can generally trust decisions made by the central government”; or “The government can be trusted to do what is right without our having constantly to check on them.” A composite index formed by these questions shows the mean of political trust in China at that time was .80 on of a 2 to 2 scale. The researchers find


Susan J. Pharr and Russell J. Dalton, “Democratic Discontent in American and Japan,” in John Campbell, ed., Losing Faith in Politics? Trends in Political Attitudes in Japan and the United States (Ann Abor, MI: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, forthcoming). 4 Susan J. Pharr, Robert D. Putnam, and Russell J. Dalton, “Trouble in the Advanced Democracies? A Quarter Century of Declining Confidence,” Journal of Democracy 11:2 (2000). 5 Soren Holmberg, “Down and Down We Go: Political Trust in Sweden,” Pippa Norris, ed., Critical Citizens, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 6 Andrew J. Nathan, “Authoritarian Resilience,” Journal of Democracy 14:1 (2003).


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this level of trust to be very high, especially because it was shortly after the government’s repression of the pro-democracy movement of 1989.7

Research Problem and Data
How are things now, almost 10 years since that study was done? I use the fourth wave of World Values Surveys to examine this question.8 The data collection in China was done in 2001 with a national representative sample of 1,500. What we can find is that political trust in China at the turn of century is indeed very high. Ninety seven percent of the respondents say they have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the national government, 95% say so concerning the National People’s Congress (China’s Parliament), and 92% say so concerning the political parties (mainly the Communist Party). Trust in the civil service and the police is lower, but still, 66% say they have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the civil service, and 73% in the police (Table 3.1). To put this in a global context, not many countries actually show higher levels of political trust. Figure 3.1 shows a number of selected countries included in the World Values Surveys. As to the question, “How much confidence do you have in the national government?” the Chinese public shows one of the highest levels of confidence. The confidence level regarding other major political institutions is similarly high, such as Parliament (fourth highest among the countries surveyed) and political parties (second highest). Is this a puzzle? As students of regime change, should we be pessimistic because the one–party regime in China still enjoys a high level of public trust? Or should we be happy for the Chinese citizens

Xueyi Chen and Tianjian Shi, “Media Effects on Political Confidence and Trust in the People’s Republic of China in the Post-Tiananmen Period,” East Asia 19:3 (2001). 8 For a full description of the project, see http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/.


Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes Table 3.1 Confidence on National Political Institutions in China, 2001 Can you tell me how much confidence you have for the following institutions? National Government A Great Deal of Confidence Quite A Lot of Confidence Not Very Much Confidence No Confidence at All N 39.1 57.6 3.0 .2 1476 National People’s Congress 33.5 61.3 4.3 .8 1427


The Party

29.5 63.3 6.7 .5 1392

Data Source: World Value Surveys, China, 2001. Figures are in percentages.

because they have a trustworthy government? If this seems to be a normative debate, as empirical comparativists we can still sort out the causal problems. Why is there high–level of public trust toward government in China? Is it because citizens under the authoritarian regime are threatened, so they cannot express their real distrust? Is it because the regime has been successful in propaganda, so citizens are persuaded their government is an excellent one? Is there something intrinsically good about the political reality there, such that the regime is able to secure genuine public support? Or is there a lack of critical citizenship among the populace in China? After I describe the current situation of political trust in China, I will use multivariate analyses to answer some of these questions.

The concept of political trust is complex. It can be analyzed on several levels. On the first level, it concerns citizens’ attitudes toward the overall political community, namely the nation of which the citizen is a member (1). Next, political trust concerns citizens’ attitudes toward regime principles, such as democracy principles (“Having a democratic government is better than rule by military”, for example) (2). Thirdly, it concerns citizens’ attitudes toward government institutions, such as the Parliament and the government agencies (3). Finally, it is

118 Zhengxu Wang

Figure 3.1 How much confidence do you have in the national government?
*The respondent is given four choices: “A Great Deal” (1), “Quite a Lot” (2), “Not Very Much” (3), and “None at all” (4). Data presented here are reverse-coded so that 4 represents “a great deal” of confidence, and 1 “not at all” confidence. Data Source: World Value Surveys, Third and Fourth Waves. Country Selection Criteria: All Countries with the confidence level higher than China are included. For countries below China, only the major Western democracies and some developing countries are selected.

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


also about citizens’ satisfaction with political actors, that is, individual politicians (4).9 Such differentiation of political trust is important normatively and analytically. It is important we distinguish trust in regime principles (2), on the one hand, and trust in government institutions (3) or politicians (4), on the other. I have emphasized the decreasing political trust in advanced democracies. That is, citizens are increasingly critical toward government institutions and politicians. But at the same time, citizens’ support for democratic principles remains firm. It appears that citizens are able to make the important distinction between support for democracy and confidence in government.10 As long as democratic principles are deep-rooted, some level of distrust in government may be reasonable, even necessary, because what is accountability if it is not about keeping government in check? Analytically, such conceptual differentiation is required for the definition of research questions. Most of the time, when people disagree about political trust, it is because they are using different conceptions of it. In this paper, I am concerned with the trust in or support for the political institutions in China (layer 3 above). As students of regime change, we care much less about the satisfaction with politicians or the incumbent government (layer 4 above). Citizens’ attitudes toward incumbent government will be relevant only to the extent that they effect trust in institutions. On the other hand, trust in the political institutions is an indicator of the popular support for, thus the legitimacy of, the overall system. When key government institutions suffer low levels of confidence, public demand for political changes or reforms will rapidly grow. The support for

For a detailed discussion of this different conceptions of political trust, see Pippa Norris, “Introduction: The Growth of Critical Citizens?,” in Pippa Norris, ed., Critical Citizens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 10 Hans-Dieter Klingemann, “Support of Democracy and Confidence in Government: On the Ability of Citizens to Make Distinctions” (Paper presented at the conference on “Citizens, Democracy and Markets around the Pacific Rim”, March 19–20, 2004, The East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2004.)



Zhengxu Wang

the political community (1) and the support for democratic principles (2) do not directly relate to regime legitimacy, and are thus not chosen as our analytic focus. In the rest of this paper, unless noted otherwise, “political trust” stands for citizens’ attitudes toward government institutions: the national government, the parliament, the police, the civil services, and the political parties. One may note political parties are not considered government institutions in most countries. But in the context of China, there is virtually only one party, the Communist Party, and the party hierarchy is intermingled with the state (thus the term party–state). In fact, at every level of the Chinese government, the Party Secretary is the most powerful government official. The Party is indeed one government institution.

The Real versus the Imagined State
I find an interesting pattern in citizens’ attitudes towards these institutions. It is natural to expect that the levels of trust vary across different institutions. My data have confirmed this. But citizens, in their minds, seem to group the institutions into two. Their trust in the national government, the parliament, and the party is clearly higher than that in the civil service and the police. As Table 3.2 shows, the lowest trust score of the first three institutions is 3.2, while the higher trust score of the other two institutions is only 2.81. The intra-group variations are smaller than the inter-group variations. This pattern is further confirmed by factor analysis as these variables readily form two separate factors (See Appendix A for the factor loadings).11

Chen and Shi also found that the confidence levels of the police and “average government officials” are much lower than that of the other, national, political institutions. The “average government official” is equal to the civil servants used in the current study. In a more recent study, it is found that citizens in rural China hold different levels of trust in the different layers of Chinese government: the central (national), the provincial, the county, and the village and township governments. See Lianjiang Li, “Political Trust in Rural China,” Modern China 30:2 (2004).


Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes Table 3.2 Trust on Various Government Institutions in China Institutions Trust on National Government Trust on Parliament Trust on the Party Mean Trust on the Civil Service Trust on the Police Mean Mean Trust Score 3.36 3.28 3.22 3.28 2.73 2.81 2.77


Data Source: World Value Surveys, 2001. Confidence/Trust on each institution is measured using a 1-4 scale, with “1” representing “no trust at all”, and “4” representing “a great deal of trust”.

Why is this the case? The reason probably lies in cognitive processes of citizens. That is, a citizen develops attitudes toward these institutions based on information of different natures. A citizen’s perception of the national institutions is formed largely on two kinds of information. The first is the curriculum content during her formative years of education, and the second is, after she has grown, mass media and public discourse. This information results in an image of these institutions in the citizen’s cognitive space. By contrast, the civil service and the police are the government agencies with which ordinary citizens come into contact in their daily life. The citizens acquire their attitudes towards these institutions when they visit a government office, deal with government officials, and see law enforcement actions of the police force. Thus, for one group of institutions, a citizen only acquires an attitude via indirect information. The other group of institutions, on the other hand, is the state apparatus that she deals with everyday.12

One similar example is that in a democracy like the U.S., citizens are normally critical toward the parliament, feeling alienated by the alleged dirty politics in it. But, they generally hold better attitudes towards their representative to the congress, as they form such attitudes mostly during their more personal contacts with him or her.



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Because the kinds of information a citizen uses to judge these institutions are, for most of the time, different, it is natural that her judgments of these institutions are different. This difference is all the more significant for citizens living under an authoritarian regime, as is the Chinese state. The Chinese state is heavily committed to the manipulation of information, otherwise known as propaganda. The Communist Party in China, specifically, for the largest part, exists in the mass media as the leading force of economic development and the avant-garde force for national advancement. Likewise, all other government institutions are only positively presented in state and state-censored media. On the other hand, citizens’ interaction with civil service and the police is of a different nature. Let us call the first group of institutions the “Imagined State”, and the second, the “Real State”. What we can say is that Chinese citizens hold high trust in the abstract government, but are much less satisfied with the agencies that carry out the real functions of the state. The mean trust on that “imagined state” is 3.28, and that of the “real state” is only 2.77 (Table 3.2). Figure 3.2 demonstrates this graphically.

3.4 3.3 3.2 3.1 3 2.9 2.8 2.7 2.6 2.5 Imagined State Real State

Figure 3.2 Two Forms of Political Trust in China.
Data Source: World Value Surveys, 2001. Confidence/Trust on each institution is measured using a 1-4 scale, with “1” representing “no trust at all”, and “4” representing “a great deal of trust”.

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


The high level of citizen trust in the imagined state means the regime in China still enjoys a considerable amount of legitimacy. As one scholar put it, the Chinese state, although clearly an authoritarian one, still has some “breathing space”.13 Why do citizens support the regime, then? In the rest of this chapter, I use citizens’ trust in the imagined state as the dependent variable, and sort out the causes to this high level of public support.

Fear? Indoctrination?
Two potential explanations are frequently offered. One is that, in an authoritarian country, citizens are intimidated by the state. As a result, they cannot express their genuine attitudes toward the government. This we can name the “intimidation” hypothesis. This hypothesis is relatively easy to test. If citizens are intimidated by the state such that they cannot openly voice their distrust, one should find a high and positive correlation between the level of citizen’s political fear, on the one hand, and the level of their expressed trust in government, on the other. However, in an earlier study, it has been shown this is not the case. In 1993, it was found, the correlation between political fear and trust in government is very weak, ranging from .04 to .14.14 Given the general trend of decreasing state penetration and increasing societal autonomy in China in the recent decade,15 it is only plausible that political fear plays an even lighter role in the expressed level of political trust.


Li, “Political Trust in Rural China.” See Chen and Shi, “Media Effects on Political Confidence and Trust in the People’s Republic of China in the Post-Tiananmen Period.” 15 See a discussion of, for example, Merle Goldman and Roderick MacFarquhar, “Dynamic Economy, Declining Party-State,” in Merle Goldman and Roderick MacFarquhar, eds., The Paradox of China’s Post-Mao Reforms (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999).


Zhengxu Wang

Another potential explanation can be called indoctrination theory. Such an explanation sees the citizens as immersed in the information generated, managed, and distributed by the state. Researchers find media do play a role in shaping citizen’s attitudes, including trust in government. It is found in many studies that people who view contents critical to the government also express lower trust in government.16 Can we expect citizens in China to show high trust in government because they only receive positive content regarding the government? Without question, a propaganda state still exists, although a weakened one.17 Again, however, this has been found to be not the case. Around 1993, Chen and Shi found exposure to media in China actually has a negative effect on citizens’ trust in government. They thus conclude the propaganda state is failing its task of generating public support by its control of information.18 Since then, state monopoly of media, or at least the monopoly of media content, has largely decreased. Media now cover a large sphere basically free of state intervention, such as entertainment and leisure.19 In addition, media also have more autonomy now when covering issues related to local governance, as well as government scandals, albeit only the scandals the government openly persecutes.20 Under

See works such as Arthur H. Miller, Edie N. Goldenberg, and Lutz Erbring, “TypeSet Politics: Impact of Newspapers on Public Confidence,” American Political Science Review 73:1 (1979), Michael J. Robinson, “Public Affairs Television and the Growth of Political Malaise: The Case of ‘the Selling of the Pentagon.’ ” American Political Science Review 70:2 (1976). 17 Daniel C. Lynch, After the Propaganda State: Media, Politics, and “Thought Work” in Reformed China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999). 18 Chen and Shi, “Media Effects on Political Confidence and Trust in the People’s Republic of China in the Post-Tiananmen Period.” 19 See, for example, Jianying Zha, China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture (New York: New Press, 1995). 20 Take an example of the media coverage of the recent anti-corruption campaign of the Central Disciplinary Committee of the Party. The Xinhua News Agency has devoted a web page that reports all the high–level officials that were persecuted in recent years: http://news.xinhuanet.com/legal/2003-10/30/content_1150976.htm


Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


such circumstances, it is probably even harder to find the direct effect of indoctrination through citizens’ consumption of political news.

Economic Performance?
A more reasonable explanation is that citizens are indeed satisfied with the performance of the government. This is plausible because China has sustained a remarkably high rate of economic growth for more than two decades, and the large majority of the populace has benefited from this. It is true scholars of advanced democracies have found the decreasing public trust is largely not caused by decreased government performance (such as measured by inflation rate and unemployment rate).21 But this finding does not necessarily refute the linkage between good performance and high political trust. There are strong grounds to believe high support for government in the 1950s in Germany, Japan, the U.S. and other Western democracies was largely an outcome of good economic performance. To test whether government performance is the main reason for high level of political trust, we should first measure government performance. To be precise, as a study of public attitudes, we should not measure government performance by economic indicators, such as the inflation rate or economic growth rate. Rather, we should measure the performance as perceived by the citizens. That is, we should measure individuals’ satisfaction with government performance. In the Chinese component of the World Values Surveys, two questions are available for this purpose. One asks the respondent how satisfied he or she is with how the people in the national government are handling the country’s affairs. Another asks the respondent to evaluate the current government as

On the page it reports that in 2003 alone, 596 corrupted officials were persecuted, including several minister level officials and provincial governors. 21 Ian Mcallister, “The Economic Performance of Governments”, Pippa Norris, ed., Critical Citizens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).


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compared with that of 10 years ago. Such questions gauge how citizens perceive the competence of the incumbent government. And in China, this judgment is most likely dominated by the government’s performance in the economic and social development fronts. Thus, increased individual well-being will lead to higher satisfaction of the incumbent government and positive assessment of government performance. Another question can also be used to measure government performance. It asks how satisfied the respondent is with the way democracy is developing in the country. Although China is not a democracy by any Western definition, the official discourse always maintains the Chinese people are building a democratic China by continuous political reforms. Such reforms aim at the expansion of political participation of the people, and the improvement in the government’s ability to provide good governance for the people.22 Thus, this question gauges the respondent’s assessment of political reform, whether it is moving toward a democratic direction (meaning, more political freedoms, and a more responsive government, among others, compared with the past). With these data, the performance hypothesis can be tested below.

Lacking Critical Citizens?
The “critical citizens” theory has been one of the leading explanations offered for the decline in public support for government. This theory argues social and economic modernization give rise to a new political culture conducive to the rise of critical citizens and contentious citizen politics.23 Industrialization and, even more so, post–industrialization bring affluence, and the rise of Postmaterialist


For such an official definition of democracy politics, see the official Party speech delivered at the 16th Party Congress, November 2003. 23 See, for example, Ronald Inglehart, Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), Pippa Norris, Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


or liberal values. Such values tend to correlate with decreased confidence in public institutions, and people with Postmaterialist values tend to reject authority.24 This reduces support for the military, government, and other hierarchical institutions. The newest development in this line of inquiry is the concept of Self–Expression Values and its relationship to democratic politics. Self–Expression Values refers to a coherent pattern of value changes taking place in modernizing societies, identified in a long–term effort of scholars observing the dynamics of cultural and political changes. Long term economic growth and social modernization lead to the rise of values that emphasize political participation and individual liberty relative to material and physical security, higher level of tolerance toward out-groups, support for gender equality, higher levels of interpersonal trust, and a sense of satisfaction toward life as a whole.25 This is an important advancement in understanding the relationship between socioeconomic, cultural, and political dimensions of human society, an effort traced back to the “civic culture” studies of the 1960s and those that built on it.26

See also Scott Flanagan and Aie-Rie Lee, “Value Change and Democratic Reform in Japan and Korea,” Comparative Political Studies 33:5 (2000). 25 For the development of the concept of “Self–Expression Values”, see the works by Inglehart and his colleagues starting from the late 1990s, such as Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997). More recently, Ronald Inglehart and Wayen E. Baker, “Modernization, Culture Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values,” American Sociological Review 65 (2000). For the relationship between these values and democracy or democratic politics, see Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), Christian Welzel, Ronald Inglehart, and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, “The Theory of Human Development: A Cross-Cultural Analysis,” European Journal of Political Research 42:2 (2003). 26 The well-known works belonged to this tradition include Gabriel Abraham Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), Robert D. Putnam,



Zhengxu Wang

In China, recent economic development, industrialization, and post–industrialization are also leading to the rise of Self–Expression Values.27 If so, why are we not observing a rise of critical citizenship in China? The possible explanation is that, although there is a rise in Self–Expression Values, its effect on political trust is still marginal. Declining trust in government in Western democracies did not manifest until the 1970s, after several decades of rapid economic development following World War II. Thus, the current situation in China is probably less a problem of “lacking critical citizens”, but rather an era of “before critical citizens”. It is still premature to expect a widespread rise of critical citizens as the rapid rate of economic development is producing high levels of satisfaction among a still predominantly Materialist public that has only recently emerged from subsistence-level poverty. For now, economic development still serves to enhance public’s support for government.

I now analyze the impact of government performance on political trust, on the one hand, and the impact of Self–Expression values on political trust, on the other. This section explains the methodological design, including measurement of the dependent variable, the hypotheses to test, and the independent and control variables. The empirical findings will be presented in the next section.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), Robert D. Putnam, Robert Leonardi, and Raffaella Nanetti, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993). 27 This is reported in Zhengxu Wang, “The Impact on Self–Expression Values: Modernization, Economic Development, and Higher Education,” (Paper presented at the “Market, Democracy, and Citizens in Pacific Rim” Conference, East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, March 22–24 2004).

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


Dependent Variable
I use the average of confidence in the national government and confidence in the Party as the indicator of “trust in the party–state;” it serves to measure the regime’s legitimacy among the public.

Hypotheses and Independent Variables
For the reasons explained above, I expect that government performance will have a larger impact than Self–Expression Values on citizens’ trust in government institutions: although these values are emerging in China, they are still relatively weak. This hypothesis will be tested in several steps. A: Performance Hypothesis: Economic development results in citizens’ high satisfaction with government performance, which in turn leads to high trust in government institutions. This hypothesis is tested in two steps: A1: A citizen’s positive assessment of government performance results from increased individual well–being; and A2: A citizen’s trust in government institutions results from a positive assessment of government performance. B: Critical Citizen Hypothesis: Citizens with stronger Self– Expression Values tend to distrust government more. C: “Before Critical Citizens” Hypothesis: The effect of government performance on political trust largely overwhelms that of Self–Expression Values, thus reducing, if not eliminating, the impact of Self–Expression Values. The variables used to measure these constructs are as follows. Individual Well-Being is measured by the average of an individual’s overall financial satisfaction and overall life satisfaction. This averaging results in a variable of overall life and financial satisfaction ranges from 1 to 10. In addition, a variable measuring the individual’s family financial situation is also included. It asks whether the respondent’s family saved money or not during the past year, ranging from 1 to 4. This is intended to gauge the objective financial well–being of the individual.


Zhengxu Wang

Evaluation of Government Performance is measured in two ways. One is the individual’s overall satisfaction with the government’s performance. This is an average of two measurements: How satisfied are you with the way the people now in national office are handling the country’s affairs? Would you say you are very satisfied (4), fairly satisfied (3), fairly dissatisfied (2) or very dissatisfied (1)? And How well are things going in our government comparing to 10 years ago (the respondent is asked to choose a rating from 1 to 10)? These two measurements are recoded and combined to a 0–4 scale. Another variable measuring individual’s evaluation of the incumbents is Satisfaction with the Development of Democracy: On the whole, are you very satisfied (4), rather satisfied (3), not very satisfied (2), or not at all satisfied (1) with the way democracy is developing in our country? As explained above, this measures how satisfied the respondent is with political reform in China. To test the Critical Citizen theory, I use Self–Expression Values to measure the value changes that result from socioeconomic modernization and the rise of Postmaterialism. Self–Expression Values is a factor score based on: Tolerance of Disliked Groups (represented by homosexuality), Rejection of Patriarchal Beliefs, Rejection of MaleCentric Social Relations, Democratic Aspirations (measuring a preference for liberty and civic rights over material and physical security), and High Level of Life Satisfaction (See Appendix A). These variables emphasize on liberty and civic rights, tolerance, and life satisfaction. The “rise of critical citizens” theory predicts that higher Self–Expression Values leads to lower trust in government institutions.28


For the critical citizens theorists, besides value change, individual’s educational and professional backgrounds and age are all important indicators of critical citizenships. That is, younger generations, more educated, and people employed in

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


Control Variables
The analysis will control for age, gender, and educational background, variables that are thought to have an impact on political trust. I will also control for support of the political community. This is measured by asking the respondent how proud she is of being a Chinese, namely national pride. The second is a citizen’s psychological involvement with politics. This is measured by a variable, the respondent’s interest in politics. I also control the impact of state–monopolized information on political trust. This is operationalized as the respondent’s consumption of political news, which in China comes exclusively from state–controlled information channels: TV, radio, and newspapers.

EMPIRICAL FINDINGS Hypothesis A: Performance
Table 3.3 presents the regression analyses by which I test Hypothesis A1, and Table 3.4 that of Hypothesis A2. In Table 3.3, I test economic development on citizens’ evaluation of government performance in two aspects: overall incumbent satisfaction and satisfaction with political reform. The overall incumbent satisfaction is measured by asking the respondent about her satisfaction with the government now in office, and the current government comparing to 10 years ago. Satisfaction with political reform is measured by the respondent’s satisfaction with the development of democracy in the country. These are tested in Models A1.1 and A1.2, respectively. From Model A1.1, it is confirmed that improved personal well–being leads to higher satisfaction of the incumbent government.

the professional or knowledge sectors (lawyers, finance, entertainment, and information industries, etc.,) are more likely to be critical citizens. In this study, I have included education as a control variable, and analysis has shown that education level and Self–Expression values together already include a large portion of the variation in professional background.


Zhengxu Wang Table 3.3 Testing the Performance Hypothesis Personal Well-Being and Incumbent Evaluation

Dependent Variables: Model A1.1: Incumbent Satisfactiona Model A1.2: Satisfaction with the development of democracy Model A1.1 Satisfaction with life and financial status Family financial situation in the past year National Pride Political Interest How often do you follow political news Years of formal education Gender (male 1) Age groups (Constant) N R-Square .091**** .044** .130**** .050* .084**** .038**** .019 .048** 3.56**** 1153 .156 Model A1.2 .032**** .000 .099**** .088**** .019 .016**** .042 .017 3.15**** 1184 .104

* .1, ** .05, *** .01, **** .001. Data Source: World Values Surveys; 2001. aSatisfaction with Incumbent Government is an average score of 1) How people in the national government are handling our country’s affairs, & 2) The current government compared with 10 years ago.

Thus, economic development does lead to positive evaluations of the government. Model A1.2 shows that improved personal well–being make people more satisfied with the development of democracy in China. This means that better economic situation also makes people happier with the way government is handling political reform in the country. The other findings in these two models are not surprising. People with higher levels of national pride and people who are more interested in politics are more likely to give positive evaluations of government performance. I next test whether positive evaluations of government performance lead to higher political trust. Table 3.4 presents the findings. Two findings are interesting. First, higher levels of personal

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


Table 3.4 Testing the Performance Hypothesis (Cont.) Incumbent Evaluation and Regime Support Dependent Variable: Models A2.1 and A2.2: Political trust: Confidence in the party-state Model A2.1 Personal Well-Being Satisfaction with life and financial status Family financial situation in the past year Incumbent Evaluation Satisfaction with the incumbent government Satisfaction with development of democracy National Pride Political Interest How often do you follow political news Years of formal education Gender (male 1) Age groups (Constant) N R-Square * .1, ** .05, *** .01, **** .001. Data Source: World Values Surveys, 2001. .149**** .058**** .019* .024**** .045 .033** 3.74**** 1259 .100 Model A2.2

.002 .019 .101**** .201**** .129**** .016 .007 .023**** .056* .032** 2.73**** 1033 .164

well–being do not have a direct effect on political trust, as shown by Model A2.1. Second, positive evaluations of government performance have strong and significant positive effects on political trust, as shown by Model A2.2. This means that mere economic development is not enough to make people trust the government more. But insofar as the economic gains of individuals are attributed to government performance, citizens trust the government more. As Models A1.1 and A1.2 show, improved economic encourages people to evaluate government performance positively. We can conclude that economic development contributes to high political trust in China, insofar as it leads to positive assessments of government performance.


Zhengxu Wang

Hypotheses B and C: Before Critical Citizens
Model B in Table 3.5 tests the “Critical Citizens” hypothesis. It confirms that people with higher Self–Expression Values tend to distrust government more (with a unstandardized B of –0.035, significant at 0.05 level). This critical citizen effect, however, is offset, if not eliminated, by the performance effect, as shown in Model C (Table 3.5). What Model C shows is that, once the positive evaluation of the incumbent government is included (satisfaction with the incumbent government and satisfaction with development of democracy), the Self–Expression Values variable stops having any significant effect (the B coefficiency decreases to next to zero).

Table 3.5 Testing the “Before Critical Citizens” Hypothesis Self-Expression Values, Incumbent Satisfaction and Political Trust Dependent Variable: Models A2.1 and A2.2: Political trust: Confidence in the party-state Model B Self-Expression Valuesa Satisfaction with Incumbent government Satisfaction with development of democracy Satisfaction with life and financial status National Pride Political Interest How often do you follow political news Years of formal education Gender (male 1) Age groups (Constant) N R-Square .035** Model C .005 .105**** .208**** .008 .021 .021 .014 .005 .033 .014 2.86**** 878 .158

.172**** .059**** .008 .018*** .042 .005 3.88**** 1040 .093

* .1, ** .05, *** .01, **** .001. Data Source: World Values Surveys, 2001. aSee Appendix A for the components of this variable.

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


Summary of Findings
To summarize, Hypothesis A is clearly confirmed. The high level of political trust the regime receives is largely due to citizens’ positive assessments of the regime’s performance, which reflect improved economic well–being at the individual level. Hypothesis B is confirmed by the negative impact of Self–Expression Values on political trust. But this effect of value change is overwhelmed by the effect of performance, in that Self–Expression Values no longer has an impact once the performance variables are included. When both the indicators of performance and critical citizenship are included in the model, the effect of the latter is offset by that of the former, resulting in high political trust (Model C in Table 3.5).

The findings suggest the high level of public support the regime currently enjoys in China derives largely from its performance. This is reminiscent of the way in which the economic miracles of post–war Europe and Japan helped consolidate public support for the governments of these countries. One may speculate that if economic performance deteriorates; or, in the long run, a public that take prosperity for granted emerges, then public support for the regime will decline, resulting in demands for political change.29 For the time being, however, it seems as long as economic performance remains salient, and continues to be positive, public support for the state is likely to remain high. In this regard, the diagnosis that a crisis of governance is emerging seems unfounded — at least insofar as mass support is concerned — while the assessment that this authoritarian regime has demonstrated resilience may be more accurate.30

See a discussion of the causes of regime breakdown in Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). 30 For the crises of governance thesis, see Minxin Pei, “China’s Governance Crisis,” Foreign Affairs 81:5 (2002), and for regime resilience, see Nathan, “Authoritarian Resilience.”



Zhengxu Wang

Needless to say, a society that still places a high priority on economic security will tend to legitimate a regime that can deliver economic development. In the advanced democracies, the growth of a Postmaterialist public had, by the early 1980s, reached the point at which Postmaterialists were almost as numerous as Materialists. In China, our 2001 survey found about 50% of the citizens are Materialists, while Postmaterialists constituted less than 4%. As a regional leader recently said, “[In China,] the people’s ambition at present is not to achieve political rights or representative government. They just want to arrive as a developed nation.”31 Under these conditions, economic development tends to enhance, rather than erode, public support for the regime.

Has Propaganda Failed?
It is easy to come out of this study with the conclusion that propaganda has failed in today’s China. Above all, the consumption of state–controlled information (political news) has no clear effect on citizens’ trust of government. This probably deserves more careful treatment. It is true our regression results do not show any real effect of news consumption. But one has to notice the assessment of regime performance is based on state–generated, state–processed, and state–distributed information. In other words, citizens in China think the regime performs well because the information they receive induces them to do so. It may be that because the information comes predominantly from state or state–censored media, the amount of news consumption does not matter any more. As a result, our regression analyses fail to detect the impact of news consumption.32


Singapore’s Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s interview with Joshua Cooper Ramo from Foreign Policy Center, U.K., on April 6 2004, at Istana, see Joshua Cooper Ramo, The Beijing Consensus (London: The Foreign Policy Centre, 2004). 32 Thus, if we conduct a more specific study looking at media’s impact on citizens’ political attitudes, we should find clearer patterns.

Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


On the other hand, although not reported here, my analyses found news consumption does have a negative effect on citizen’s trust in the “real” government. I have argued that Chinese citizens see the “real” government as where problems of the state lie.33 And, I also pointed out earlier that the media are now enjoying more freedom in reporting government scandals and failures in government policies. Citizens are increasingly getting the message from the news that government officials are corrupted, and the police frequently abuse its coercive power. This has resulted in a tendency for those who follow more political news to distrust the government officials and agencies such as the police. If press in China receives more freedom, citizens will likely become more critical of government in general.

Performance, What Performance?
One important finding is citizens’ satisfaction with the speed of political reform (as measured by their satisfaction with the way democracy is developing in the country) also affects the support they give to the regime. Citizens do not look at economic performance alone. For now, Chinese citizens seem still quite satisfied with the way “democracy is developing” in that country, which means that they are relatively happy with the direction and speed of political reform. But public demands for more political rights and civil liberty tend to increase rapidly once socioeconomic development reaches high levels. On this front, the state may fall short of public expectation relatively soon, particularly if the Party assumes that economic performance will ensure public support, and neglects the more formidable task of political reform. Furthermore, even if the Party realizes the urgency of political reform, its ability to carry it out is likely to be much weaker than its ability to create economic development. An authoritarian regime is likely to fall short in the task of weakening its own control in power. Thus, at the end of the


See also Li, “Political Trust in Rural China.”


Zhengxu Wang

day, we need to watch whether public assessment of the state’s performance has shifted from the economic sphere to the political sphere. The trend in today’s China is clearly in such a direction. The regime’s determination and ability to carry out reform in itself, however, is far from clear.

As long as economic performance remains the dominant priority for the citizens — and economic performance is perceived to be good — the regime seems to command sufficient legitimacy. But such a performance–based legitimacy is not sustainable in the long run. As we have seen, rising levels of education tend to make citizens more critical of the government; and Self–Expression Values are linked with critical attitudes toward government. Consequently, if socioeconomic development continues in the long term, as it promotes Self–Expression Values and increases education, we would expect the Chinese public to become more critical of the government. Herein lies the dilemma for the Chinese state. Currently, economic performance helps to legitimate the regime. But with economic development comes a public that will question more and more such a performance–based legitimacy. As Huntington has put it: “The legitimacy of an authoritarian regime was also undermined if it did deliver on its promises. By achieving its purpose, it lost its purpose.”34 The state is facing a double challenge to manage economic development and public demands for a more democratic government. Whether it can succeed will determine its legitimacy in the coming years.

Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, pp. 54–55.


Political Trust in China: Forms and Causes


I. Factor Analysis: Two Forms of Political Trust in China Question: For each one, could you tell me how much confidence you have in them — is it “a great deal of confidence”, “quite a lot of confidence”, “not very much confidence”, or “none at all”?
Factor Loading Factor 1 Parliament Parties National Government Police Civil Service Intitial Eigen values Variance Explained (%) .849 .832 .835 .656 .629 2.71 54.35 1.07 21.36 Factor 2

Note: Principle Component Analysis, Varimax Rotation.

II. Factor Loading of Self–Expression Values used in this article
Value Dimensions 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Tolerance of outgroups (homosexuality) Reject: One should respect one’s parents unconditionally Reject: Men have more right to jobs than women Democratic Aspirationa High life satisfaction (level of overall happiness) Factor Loading .87 .78 .77 .68 .62

gives priority to self-expression and quality of-life over economic and physical security.


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Nationalism and the Problem of Political Legitimacy in China
Jungmin Seo

Many informed westerners have long regarded images such as those of the Goddess of Democracy and a man standing in front of an advancing armored vehicle in Tiananmen Square in 1989 as symbols of the relationship between the oppressive Chinese party–state and the resisting civil society. Nevertheless, the outburst of nationalistic sentiments among the Chinese populace in recent years created a deep confusion that destroyed earlier images of Chinese society, leaving observers of China with no alternatives. The world witnessed the Chinese university students’ protest against the sudden seizure of Fisherman Island (Diaoyu Dao/Senkaku) by a few right–wing Japanese activists, the huge commercial success of nationalist writings such as Zhongguo keyi shuo bu (China Can Say



Jungmin Seo

No)1 in 1996 and the massive anti–American demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in Beijing right after the 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. A series of recent events such as the spectacular Sino–American Hacker War right after the spy plane crash in 20012 and the emergence of anti–Japanese hooligans during the Sino–Japanese soccer match in August 2004 3 prove that nationalistic fever is gaining firmer popular ground as time passes by. Of the numerous attempts to explain the causes of the sudden popularization of nationalistic fever in Chinese society since the early 1990s, “the government manipulation” perspective has been the best received in China scholarship. According to this account, Chinese nationalism today is the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) alternative ideological tool to communism to fill up the ideological vacuum and re–legitimize its rule in the era of economic reforms.4 This interpretation is in many regards persuasive, as many argue that the fundamental reason why the 1989 revolutions happened in Eastern Europe was the decaying moral base of communist ideology.5 Recalling

Qiang Song, Zangzang Zhang, Bian Qiao, Zhengyu Yang and Qingshing Gu, Zhongguo Keyi shuo bu (China Can Say No) (Beijing: Zhongguo wenlian chuban gongsi, 1996). 2 The New York Times named this spectacular event on the Internet “the WWWWI (World Wide Web War I) The New York Times, May 13, 2001, and The Los Angeles Times, “Hactivism.” The Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2001. 3 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/FH07Dh01.html 4 Thomas A. Metzger and Ramon H. Myers, “Chinese Nationalism and American Policy,” Orbis 42:1 (1998); Thomas Christensen, “Chinese Realpolitik,” Foreign Affairs 75:5 (1996); Suisheng Zhao, “Chinese Intellectuals’ Quest for National Greatness and Nationalistic Writings in the 1990s,” China Quarterly no. 152 (1997); Suisheng Zhao, “A State-led Nationalism: the Patriotic Campaign in Post-Tiananmen China,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 31:3 (1998). 5 Daniel Chirot, “What Happened in Eastern Europe in 1989?” in The Crisis of Leninism and the Decline of the Left: The Revolutions of 1989 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1991); Leszek Kolakowski, “Mind and Body: Ideology and Economy in the Collapse of Communism” in Kazimierz Poznanski, ed., Constructing Capitalism: The Reemergence of Civil Society and Liberal Economy in the PostCommunist World (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992).


Nationalism and the Problem of Political Legitimacy in China


the Soviet and Eastern European experiences in 1989, a few China scholars convincingly suggest that ideological control of society has been the critical task of the Chinese state6 or even an issue of life and death of the party since the beginning of the reform.7 The rise of nationalistic discourses in 1990s China has been understood as a product of state propaganda since the crackdown of the Tiananmen Democratic Movement in 1989. Though I partially agree with the theory that “since the CCP is no longer communist, it must be even more Chinese,”8 my study argues that most observers of China overlook the dubious nature of nationalism when it functions as a “hegemonic ideology” in a society. Since successful nationalism redirects the target of political loyalty of the subjects from political institutions or charismatic political leaders to a “nation,” nationalism as a hegemonic ideology constructs the image of “agency (state/regime)–principal (nation) relationship” inside of popular political consciousness. When a state or a regime is perceived as an agency, the newly created — or inspired — national subjects find an inalienable political right to appeal directly to the principal, that is, the nation. That means, the creation and promotion of genuine loyalty toward the nation is a highly impractical means of sustaining the legitimacy of the ruling regime, precisely because political subjects with genuine loyalty perceive themselves as the owners of the political community which the ruling regime tries to keep under control. Secondly, I argue that the nation as the ultimate political category and nationalism as hegemonic politico–social discourse has not been challenged or vitiated since the May Fourth era, except for


Alan R. Kluver, Legitimating the Chinese Economic Reforms: A Rhetoric of Myth and Orthodoxy (Albany: Suny Press, 1996); Kalpana Misra, From Post-Maoism to Post-Marxism: The Erosion of Official Ideology in Deng’s China (New York: Routledge, 1998). 7 Yan Sun, “Ideology and the Demise or Maintenance of Soviet-type Regimes,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 28:3 (1995). 8 Christensen, p. 46.


Jungmin Seo

the brief period of the Cultural Revolution, and have shaped the discursive forms of both domination and resistance in China. In general, studies of Chinese nationalism exclude the Mao Zedong’s era and the early reform era (1978–1989) since many believe that the vocabularies of nationalism were neither available nor tolerable under Mao’s rule.9 Accordingly, the emerging nationalism in Chinese society has been seen as a new political invention or revival of the pre–revolution nationalism, assuming the pivotal role of the CCP in either case. Nevertheless, as I will further explore, the absence of nationalistic language during the Mao era and the early reform period does not necessarily mean the absence of nationalism as the ultimate political category. Controversies in the communist historiography in the 1950s and surrounding He Shang (River Elegy) in 1989 clearly indicate that the concept of nation was posited as a hegemonic political concept that generated both domination and resistance in the field of discursive struggles in pre–1990s China.

Following Jean and John Comaroff’s conceptualization,10 I suggest that there are three characteristics of the operation of hegemonic power in everyday life that differentiate hegemony from ideological domination. First of all, hegemonic power relies on the quality of

Gungwu Wang, The Revival of Chinese Nationalism (Leiden: International Institute for Asian Studies, 1996). 10 Jean and John Comaroff suggest that hegemony be defined as follows: “We take hegemony to refer to that order of signs and practices, relations and distinctions, images and epistemologies … that come to be taken-for-granted as the natural and received shape of the world and everything that inhabits it. … This is why its power has so often been seen to lie in what it silences, what it prevents people from thinking and saying, what it puts beyond the limits of the rational and the credible. Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, Colonialism and Consciousness in South Africa, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 23.


Nationalism and the Problem of Political Legitimacy in China


“taken-for-grantedness”,11 in other words, a constructed factuality, as the core effect of the operation of hegemonic power. Since hegemony is a force to make people believe in a certain cultural order as natural, it governs “the domains of fact, not value.”12 For conventional understanding, hegemony or a ruling ideology has been understood as a kind of “forged consent” whether by coercion or elite bargaining,13 or a manipulated false consciousness imposed by the ruling class.14 Since ideological domination is forged, Laitin and Scott leave considerable room for ideological contention by subordinate groups. A good example is Scott’s notion of “hidden transcript,” that presumes the existence of strategic calculations based on autonomous epistemologies among subaltern groups. Nevertheless, the Comaroffs’ definition of hegemony as governing “the domain of fact, not value,” makes the ruling ideology indisputable. A political ideology can de–legitimize or weaken a certain value system or arguments that consist of normative discourses. It is impossible, however, to refute a statement of factuality. In this sense, the new definition suggests that hegemony is not a maximized form of ideology but is qualitatively different from ideology as a false consciousness. Secondly, hegemony is a non–agentive power whereas ideology is an agentive one. Ideology, Comaroff and Comaroff explain, originates in the assertions of a particular social group, generally of the ruling class.15 Ideological domination relies on a certain social

Similarly, Raymond Williams also discusses this aspect of hegemony. He states, “It (hegemony) is different from ideology in that it is seen to depend for its hold not only on its expression of the interests of a ruling class but also on its acceptance as ‘normal reality’ or ‘commonsense’ by those in practice subordinate to it.” Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, revised edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 145. 12 Comaroff and Comaroff, p. 30. 13 David D. Laitin, Hegemony and Culture: Politics and Religious Change among the Yoruba (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 19. 14 James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990). 15 Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (Boulder: Westview Press, 1992), p. 29.



Jungmin Seo

group’s capacity to control the production, circulation and consumption of signs and objects in specific historical contexts.16 On the other hand, hegemony consists of “constructs and conventional practices that have come to permeate a political community and become transcendental and suprahistorical forces.”17 Hegemony as a non–agentive power, however, makes the status of the ruling class unclear. What is not clear is the extent to which the ruling class can firmly control hegemony. If hegemony is less about laws, rules and constraints than conventions, habits and facts, can the ruling class be free from the habit–forming power of hegemony? I believe that Franz Fanon’s conceptualization of colonial domination is instructive. In his interpretation of the psychological interactions between white rulers and black subjects, he found that “the Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”18 As white men, creators of racial categories, cannot escape from their own scheme, once hegemony is established, the alteration of hegemony is beyond the manipulation of the ruling class who initially created it. The concept of hegemony is, however, a bit different from Foucault’s notion of discursive power. Whereas hegemony assumes the initial intentions and schemes of a certain agency, Foucault was indifferent to the issue of agency from the beginning.19 For the Comaroffs, however, the relationship between ideology and hegemony is one of reciprocity and interdependence,20 since hegemony is a former part of a dominant ideology that has been naturalized and, having constructed a tangible world in its image, does not appear to be ideological at all.21

16 17

Comaroff and Comaroff (1991), p. 22. Comaroff and Comaroff (1992), p. 29. 18 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Mask, translated by Charles Lam Markmann (New York: Grove Press, 1967), p. 60. 19 See Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, 1980). 20 Comaroff and Comaroff (1991), p. 25. 21 Comaroff and Comaroff (1992), pp. 28–29.

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Finally, hegemony is better understood as a process than as a fixed state of domination. Hegemony is in nature not given, rather, it has to be sustained and reproduced, and therefore, “it constantly has to be made and unmade.”22 This argument makes the Comaroffs’ definition of hegemony truly dynamic by linking it with the issue of resistance. Scott later tried to discard the concept of hegemony since there was no way to explain the persistence of resistances under long-lasting domination.23 Since no hegemony can be fully complete, as shown by the “hidden transcript” in a Malayan village, he argues that the concept of hegemony suffers from self–contradiction. A few anthropologists, however, see that the impossibility of full domination explains the very nature of hegemony. While the notion of “hidden transcript” assumes the ability of the subordinate to fully escape from the dominating discourses, some scholars label it as “romance of resistance”,24 or “ethnographic refusal” by reifying the subject of resistance.25 The main point made by those scholars, including the Comaroffs, is that hegemony means that resistance is never located outside of ideological and cultural domination.26 In other words, resistance, defiance and counter– official ideologies are integral parts of the production and reproduction of hegemony. Hence, at its core, hegemony does not mean the absence of resistance, but formulation of certain modes of resistance. Hegemony is, therefore, a power in the process of formulating both domination and resistance. The new understanding of hegemony emerging in the field of anthropology thus characterizes hegemony as a process, a non–agentive power and a force that produces factuality. The focus

Ibid. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance. 24 Lila Abu-Lughod, “The Romance of Resistance,” American Ethnologist 17:1 (1990). 25 Sherry B. Ortner, “Resistance and the Problem of Ethnographic Refusal,” Comparative Study of Society and History 37:1 (1995). 26 Gaston, Gordillo. “Locations of Hegemony: The Making of Places in the Toba’s Struggle for La Comuna, 1989–99,” American Anthropologist 104:1 (2002).



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of recent scholarship is on the dynamics between the essentialized truth that transcends the initial intentions of the ruling elites and the internal generation of resistance that simultaneously attacks and confirms hegemony. The notion of hegemony here becomes clearer when we contrast it to the issue of “domination with cynicism” developed by Slavoj Zizek and Lisa Wedeen. In his analysis of Eastern European societies under the Communist regimes, Slavoj Zizek argues that, with empty slogans, an authoritarian regime may in fact be seeking to elicit public cynicism towards the official ideology, and that “the greatest catastrophe for the regime would have been for its own ideology to be taken seriously, and realized by its subjects” since a true follower of an official ideology is not obedient but is rather pressuring the regime to realize slogans whose realization is often impossible or improbable.27 Recently, Lisa Wedeen convincingly explained the efficiency of cults based on public cynicism and empty slogans and gestures. Wedeen’s meticulous investigation of the Asad regime in Syria shows that the cult of Asad, that produces the everyday hypocrisy of “as if” politics, was a successful strategy to produce mass obedience without fostering genuine allegiance and emotional commitments of the population.28 The core of Zizek’s and Wedeen’s arguments is that the cynical attitude, or

Slavoj Zizek, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?: Five Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion. (New York: Verso, 2001); Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology. (London: Verso, 1989). Because of the extensive use of violence and surveillance, it is controversial whether or not the Stalinist system primarily relied on cynicism based on coercion or ideological internalization through endless propaganda and political education. Nevertheless, through the analysis of an individual diary written during the Stalin era, Jochen Hellbeck notes that the Stalinist system indeed deeply infiltrated the popular consciousness. What is interesting in his analysis is that the writer of the diary often condemned the regime’s inability to live up to its promises. Jochen Hellbeck, “Fashioning the Stalinist Soul: The Diary of Stepan Podlubnyi, 1931–9,” in Sheila Fitzpatrick, ed., Stalinism: New Directions (New York: Routledge, 2000). 28 Lisa Wedeen. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbol in Contemporary Syria (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999).


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“living a lie” in a system of highly ritualized “truth” by the regime,29 is the key to the domination by the authoritarian state in everyday life. In contrast to domination based on rituals and rhetoric detached from reality described by Zizek, Wedeen and Havel, the hegemonic domination defined by the Comaroffs is strictly based on the factuality that produces true believers. Zizek’s insight that the production of true believers destabilizes the regime can explain the internal dynamism of hegemonic domination. When political subjects fully accept the factuality of the ideological construct produced by the ruling elites, the ideology can be easily appropriated and utilized by subordinates; the ruling elites lose the capacity to manipulate the contents of the ruling ideology. I believe nationalism can provide a good example of this transformation of the ruling ideology into hegemony, in the sense that it produces true believers with ardent nationalistic fevers that the rulers might fear.30 Especially in a society where nationalism is introduced and promoted by an authoritarian state in the interest of suppressing political opposition or popular unrest, the irony embedded in hegemony becomes conspicuous. The literature on nationalism has long tried to de–essentialize and deconstruct the factuality produced by nationalism. The paradigms of primordialism and perennialism, that formerly posited the

Vaclav Havel, Living in Truth: Twenty-Two Essays Published on the Occasion of the Award of the Erasmus Prize to Vaclav Havel, Jan Vladislav ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1987). 30 Wedeen boldly states that her account of political rhetoric “could be falsified by demonstrating the existence of a regime in which tired slogans and empty gestures foster allegiance and actually generate people’s emotional commitments to the regime” (Wedeen, 152–153). The rituals and rhetoric of nationalism used by many authoritarian regimes can challenge Wedeen’s account of political rhetoric since in many authoritarian states the slogans of nationalism did produce true nationalist fervor among ordinary citizens. Nevertheless, as I further discuss later, the tired slogans of nationalism produce popular loyalty toward the nation, not the regime. Hence, the politics of nationalism is not exactly the counter-argument of Wedeen’s politics of “as if.”



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unbreakable link between nationalism and primordial communal assets such as religion, language, kinship or ethnicity, have fallen from academic favor. There are now few disagreements over the modernist and postmodernist assumption that a nation is an imagined and/or invented community dissociated from any pre–modern communal attributes.31 Though Anthony Smith contends that modern political nationalisms cannot be understood without reference to earlier ethnic ties and memories,32 his argument is barely sustainable under the postmodernist notion that the very existence of ethnicity is “fictive,”33 and that collective memory is merely constructed and re–constructed over time in the field of politics.34 The scholarship of East Asian nationalism is not an exception. In spite of the unique history of East Asian states a few scholars have tried to deconstruct or de–essentialize nationalisms in East Asia by revealing the modernity and the multiplicity of nationalistic discourses. Prasenjit Duara argues that, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, with the introduction of Social Darwinism the majority of political actors perceived the “nation–state” as the only possible historical subject, and therefore naturally saw the theme of political struggle as legitimizing an actor’s own narrativization of “nation–state”. In this sense, nationalism must

Daniel Mato made a useful comment on the distinction between “invention” and “construction or imagination” in nationalism scholarship. The term “invention” is strongly associated with conscious and intended practices of social actors, while “construction” may be largely unconscious and is an ongoing activity in all human societies. See Daniel Mato, “On the Theory, Epistemology, and Politics of the Social Construction of “Cultural Identities” in the Age of Globalization: Introductory Remarks to Ongoing Debates,” Identities 3:2 (1996). 32 Anthony D. Smith, “Anthony D. Smith’s Opening Statement: Nations and their Pasts,” Nations and Nationalism 2:3 (1996), p. 361. 33 Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology,” in Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, ed., Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (New York: Verso, 1991), pp. 96–100. 34 Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).


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be understood as “the site where different representations of the nation contested and negotiated with each other.”35 In a similar vein, historians such as Mark E. Lincicome, Sato Shigeki, Gi-wook Shin, Michael Robinson, and Andre Schmid also argue that national identity is a purely modern construct formed amid fierce competitions among contending nationalistic discourses in early modern Japan and Korea.36 All of these scholars basically agree that nation formation in this region is not the outcome of one–sided state ideology pervading the society through the education system, but the product of numerous contestations among different groups harboring different priorities and different conceptions of the nation.37 While “rescuing” the suppressed narratives and discourses from the dominant master narrative, a linear history anchored on a specific version of nation–state, these historians successfully deconstructed the factuality based on the monolithic narrativization of the nation–state in East Asia. Without discounting the contribution of modernist or post–modernist approaches to our understanding of nationalism, however, I argue that the literature has unconsciously overlooked the function of factuality in the politics of nationalism. What are the unique features of the ways of political struggle where the nation is dominantly accepted as a fact, in other words, a hegemonic political

Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), p. 8. 36 Mark E. Lincicome, “Nationalism, Imperialism, and the International Education Movement in Early Twentieth-Century Japan,” The Journal of Asian Studies 58:2 (1999); Sato Shigeki, “Politics of Nationalism in Germany and Japan,” (Ph. D. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles 1998); Gi-wook Shin, “Agrarianism: A Critique of Colonial Modernity in Korea,” Comparative Study of Society and History 41:4 (1999); Michael Robinson, “Narrative Politics, Nationalism and Korean History,” Papers of the British Association of Korean Studies 6 (1999); Andre Schmid, Korea Between Empires, 1895–1919 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002). 37 Especially, Lincicome, Ibid., and Kevin M. Doak, “Ethnic Nationalism and Romanticism in Early Twentieth-Century Japan.” The Journal of Japanese Studies, 22:1 (1996); Kevin M. Doak, “Building National Identity through Ethnicity: Ethnology in Wartime Japan and After,” The Journal of Japanese Studies 27:1 (2001).



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identity that transcends all other categories in the field of political struggles? Recent anthropological research on nationalism gives instructive insights into the factuality of nation. Michael Herzfeld argues that we need to “stop treating both the nation–state and essentialism as distant and unreachable enemies, and to understand them instead as integral aspects of social life.”38 He suggests that we need to analyze how essentialized national myths, so–called “structured nostalgia,” are strategically appropriated by ordinary “national” citizens to achieve the goals of everyday life. In his ethnographic analysis of a Cretan shepherd community, Herzfeld contends that the nation–state created a structured nostalgia,39 “a yearning for a time of perfect social balance when the encompassing state’s own legal and disciplinary intervention was not necessary,” while justifying the bureaucratic state’s intervention in the daily lives of citizens by presenting “a narrative of progressive decay from which the bureaucratic state will now rescue the nation.” 40 The irony of structured nostalgia is that the Cretan shepherds appropriate a part of the national myth of Greek, “the love of freedom from official restraints of any sort” to resist the state interferences in their everyday lives. What is striking in this analysis is that both parties in the dispute, the state and the shepherds, invoke Greekness, a modern invention of Greek nationalism. This observation makes a sharp contrast with conventional approaches toward nationalizing nationalism, including Eugene Weber’s study,41 in which the dichotomy between modernity and

Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 1–2. 39 Herzfeld defines “structured nostalgia” as follows; “the longing for an age before the state, for the primordial and self-regulating birthright that the state continually invokes.” Ibid., p. 22. 40 Ibid., p. 114. 41 Eugene Joseph Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976).


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traditionalism is the key to the analysis of state penetration into the ideology of nationalism and the local resistance to the state’s attempts. The national myth in Greek society is a hegemonic discursive power in the sense that all members of the society subscribe to the official symbolism of structured nostalgia. Nevertheless, because of popular intimacy with official rhetoric, the fixed form of the national myth produces the unintended consequences of national subjects’ appropriation of the myth for their resistance against the state power operation. In this way, an essentialized, or hegemonized, discourse of nation–ness produces its own type of politics; both dominating and resisting forces utilize the reified nationalistic discourses or national symbols in the field of everyday political struggles. Herzfeld’s ethnography of a Cretan village gives us an important insight as well as a warning. The nationalism scholarship has long been obsessed with the top–down feature or the “dominating” and “oppressive” nature of nationalism. As Iris Jean–Klein states, nationalism scholarship tends to see “nationalism as a category of practice committed by one group (rendered active and immoral) against another (passive but innocent)” and, as a result, denies any possibility of “authentic nationalist production in everyday life,” in other words, “self-nationalization” by ordinary national subjects.42 The problem with the conventional understanding of nationalism is that it cannot provide adequate explanation of common phenomena in the politics of nationalism, “resisting the state authority in the name of nation and nationalism.” The following episodes in contemporary Chinese history show that the dilemma of the politics of nationalism — the incapability of the state’s manipulation of nationalistic discourses — is not an accidental deviation of the state project of nationalism, but an integral part of the nationalistic universe.

Iris Jean-Klein, “Nationalism and Resistance: The Two Faces of Everyday Activism in Palestine during the Intifata,” Cultural Anthropology 16:1 (2001), pp. 84, 87.



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Arif Dirlik problematizes well the conventional historiography of modern China, that portrays the period of the 1950s and 1960s as “interregnum” or an aberration43 that radically disrupted44 the progress of Chinese society,45 though his Marxist perspective clearly aims at the possibility of non-capitalist historical development that can reassess the role of the Maoist period as a part of “progress” in Chinese history. The academic tendency of China studies in America clearly shows the overwhelming perception that regards the Mao era as a “dark age” in the long–term modernization of Chinese society. As the market reform started in China, China studies began to highlight the commercial lives of the late Qing and the Republican era (1911–1949). The outbreak of the Tiananmen democratic movement sparked academic interest in the archeological study of Chinese civil society in the same periods, late–Qing and the Republican era.46 The

Arif Dirlik, “Chinese History and the Question of Orientalism,” History and Theory 35:4 (December 1996), p. 251. 44 William T. Rowe, Hankow: Commerce and Society in a Chinese City, 1796–1889 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984); Susan Mann, Local Merchants and the Chinese Bureaucracy, 1750–1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984); David Strand, Rickshaw Beijing: City People and Politics in the 1920s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989). 45 Paul A. Cohen, Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984). James Hevia and Judith Farquhar also made similar criticisms on the historiography of modern China but in different contexts. Both studies target the conventional American historiography that focuses on the “Western Impact” as the key, or only, causes of the emergence of modern China. As we will see in the later part of this chapter, such an argument was raised by Chinese historians in the 1950s against the Soviet historiography of China. James L. Hevia and Judith Farquhar, “Culture and Post–War American Historiography of China,” Position 1:2 (1993). 46 Lucian W. Pye, The Spirit of Chinese Politics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); Joan Judge, Print and Politics: ‘Shibao’ and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996).


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majority of those studies share an underlying assumption that the history of China paused in 1949 and resumed in 1978. The idiosyncrasy of the Mao era gives a reason to exclude the history of the 1950s and 1960s from the history of Chinese nationalism. The craze in Western culture (wenhua re) in the 1980s also makes the prism of nationalism irrelevant to an understanding of the early reform era. Nevertheless, I suggest that the absence of overt nationalistic discourses for almost four decades in China, from 1949 to the late 1980s, does not necessarily mean the radical discontinuity of nationalistic consciousness in China. A hegemonized political concept usually penetrates and goes “without saying”47 because a political concept lives in the realm of truth, instead of in the sphere of political arguments. Hence, if the concept of nation was already hegemonized in the Mao era, the political consciousness of nationalism may not exist in the form of ideology. The question here is, therefore, how to determine the position of the concepts of nation and nationalism during the Mao era. When nationalism did not appear in overt political discourses, there are two possibilities: nationalism as suppressed or obsolete discourse and nationalism as a hegemonic concept hidden behind the political discourses. How then, can we determine the status of nation and nationalism in these two possibilities? I suggest that the answer lies in the concept of hegemony itself. Since the nature of hegemony is shaping the forms of both domination and resistance, the status of a political concept in a society can be determined by looking at the “point of concern”48 in political or social debates. In other words, if competing social discourses share an assumption of the legitimacy of nation as “a collective historical subject poised to realize its destiny in a modern future,”49 we can conclude that nation and nationalism have hegemonic status in a society.

Comaroff and Comaroff (1991) p. 23. David D. Laitin, “Political Culture and Political Preferences,” American Political Science Review 81:1 (March 1987). 49 Duara, p. 4.



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While most scholars of Chinese nationalism constantly look back to the development of nationalistic consciousness in the May Fourth and Republican eras in order to explain contemporary nationalistic discourses, virtually none of them notices earlier findings regarding the nature of the Chinese Communist revolution. It is undeniable that the Chinese revolution up to 1949 was less a communist movement than a nationalist one. As Bianco eloquently stated; “In actual fact, Chinese Communism is first and foremost the triumphant assertion of Chinese nationalism. It is a nationalism of explosive vitality, as aggressive as it is vigorous, as often ill–considered as profound. And this is as it must be.”50 Young Mao Zedong’s philosophy in the 1910s was initially infused by the notion of “fuqiang” (increasing the wealth and power of the state) prior to his contact with Marxism in Beijing51 and, during the anti–Japanese war, Mao clearly defined the revolution before the liberation as a “bourgeois–democratic” nationalist revolution.52 After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the concern of the CCP shifted from nationalist revolution to social revolution guided by Marxist theory. Nevertheless, that does not mean that the CCP was willing to turn “the country into a carbon copy of the Soviet Union.”53 Throughout the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the path of Chinese communism is marked by numerous idiosyncrasies from the perspective of the orthodox Marxists. In the late 1970s, witnessing the death of Mao, many China

Lucien Bianco, Origins of the Chinese Revolution, 1915–1949, translated by Muriel Bell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971), p. 166. 51 Stuart Schram, The Thought of Mao Tse-tung (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 15. 52 Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, vol. 2 (London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd., 1954), p. 96. One of the key themes of Mao’s “On New Democracy,” one of the most important articles during the war, is the notion of ‘qiuguo’ (saving the nation) and the affirmation of Sun Yat-sen’s nationalism. 53 Schram, p. 135.


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scholars tried to evaluate Maoism in Marxist terms. For example, Modern China published a series of special issues that contained heated discussions on whether Mao Zedong was a successor of Karl Marx or a great deviation from the Marxist tradition, whether his ideas had little relation to Marx and he was simply a Chinese revolutionary.54 Major points of confrontation among scholars were the notions of historical materialism, class, class struggle and the national question developed by Mao and their suitability to orthodox Marxist–Leninism. Seemingly contradictory and inconsistent paths of ideological and social development of the Chinese polity, however, can be seen to be relatively coherent in terms of the nationalistic perspective. The debates on Shang Yue’s publication in 1959 show clearly that the nationalist consciousness had not been diminished under Mao’s reign. When Mao stood atop the Gate of the Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) in 1949 and declared that “the Chinese people have stood up!” the Chinese leader considered the formation of the bipolar world order by the United States and the Soviet Union indisputable. The series of events between China and the Soviet Union in the 1950s, such as Mao’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1949–50, the Korean War and the intensive Soviet involvement in the First Five–Year Plan and various levels of social reforms, made a long–term alliance between these two countries inevitable. Nevertheless, of the numerous influences from the Soviet Union, the introduction of Soviet Sinology triggered a fundamental discontent among Chinese scholars even before the political tension between these two communist states started in the late 1950s.55 In particular,

Richard M. Pfeffer, “Mao and Marx in the Marxist-Leninist Tradition: A Critique of ‘the China Field’ and a Contribution to a Preliminary Reappraisal,” Modern China, 2:4 (1976); Benjamin I. Schwartz, “The Essence of Marxism Revisited: A Response,” Modern China 2:4 (1976). 55 For extensive reviews of the development of Sino–Soviet tension, see O. Edmund Clubb, China and Russia: “Great Game” (New York: Columbia University, 1971); Lowell Dittmer, Sino –Soviet Normalization and Its International Implications, 1945–1990 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992); Sergei N. Goncharow,



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orthodox Marxist historiography regarding the emergence of the Chinese nation was virtually unacceptable for most indigenous Chinese scholars. Works by Soviet historians began to be translated into Chinese in 1954, followed by the establishment of a journal of translation, Lishi wenti yicong (Translations of Historical Questions). Numerous historical works based on orthodox Marxist, Leninist, and Stalinist works poured into China, largely due to the enthusiasm of Chinese historians for “advanced” academic works from the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the introduction of works by Soviet Sinologists embarrassed Chinese historians. In particular, an article by G.V. Efimov, “On the formation of the Chinese nation” in 1954, argues that the Han people did not become a nation until the turn of the twentieth century,56 raised a series of hostile reactions from Chinese scholars, who argued that the Chinese nation was formed during northern Song or Qin–Han period.57 Some scholars, such as Fan Wenlan, argued that unlike European nations, the Chinese nation developed without a bourgeois class. Against Efimov’s claim that the absence of a nation–wide economic system before the nineteenth century disqualifies pre–modern China as a nation, scholars such as Yang Zejun argued that the nation–wide economic network did exist in the sixteenth century, though capitalist development was hampered by Western imperialism.58 Whatever arguments Chinese scholars posed against Efimov’s theory on the emergence of the Chinese nation,

John W. Lewis and Litai Xue, Uncertain Partners (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993). 56 Edward Q. Wang, “Between Marxism and Nationalism: Chinese Historiography and the Soviet Influence, 1949–1963,” Journal of Contemporary China 9:23 (2000), p. 100. 57 Efimov’s argument is based on Stalin’s definition of a nation: common language, common territory, common economic life and common culture. Though there had been common languages, territory and culture in ancient China, Efimov argues that the absence of a nation–wide economic network disqualifies the Chinese state before the late nineteenth century as a nation–state. 58 Wang, Ibid.

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they all relied on a common underlying assumption that the history of China is unique and radically different from Soviet history. Regardless of theoretical position, almost all Chinese historians in the 1950s sought to establish a concrete historiography that makes the coming of communist China natural and inevitable. Hence, historical writings were virtually always “political writings” for both scholars and the party. Especially after the anti–rightist campaign in the summer of 1958, any discontent of Mao or the top leadership toward an academic publication might cause serious consequences for the writer. Nevertheless, the fall of renowned historian Shang Yue,59 a professor at the People’s University, in 1958 shows the conundrum of political correctness that was overridden not by Marxist but by nationalistic consciousness in Mao’s era. In 1956, Shang Yue published a book titled A Preliminary Study on the Emergence and Transition of Chinese Capitalism that was the culmination of his theory on the early development of Chinese capitalism.60 His core argument is that proto–capitalism existed in the late–Ming and early–Qing era (sixteenth–seventeenth century), as evidenced by the wide–spread existence of factory handicrafts in metropolitan markets. Numerous factories, for Shang Yue, meant the solid existence of the proletariat class, the commodity economy and, eventually, the bourgeois class that is a prerequisite for the formation of the Chinese nation. The reason for the delayed development of Chinese capitalism is, according to him, the two massive and harmful interventions by barbarians, Mongols and Manchu, in the

Shang Yue was the secretary of the CCP Manchuria branch during the early 1930s and, interestingly, the teacher of Kim Il–sung who was a middle-school student and later became the North Korean leader. Kim Il–sung received special private lectures on “imperialism” from Shang Yue. (Huanqiu, August 2002). http://www.globe.xinhua.org/2008-08/htm/5.htm 60 Yue Shang, Zhongguo Zibenzhuyi guanxi fasheng ji yanbian de chubu yanjiu (A Preliminary Study on the Emergence and Transition of Chinese Capitalism) (Beijing: Sanlian Shudian, 1956). His earlier book, a general survey of Chinese history, also advanced a preliminary version of his theory of Ming–Qing capitalism. See Yue Shang, ed., Zhongguo li shi gang yao (Beijing: Ren min chu ban she, 1954).



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thirteen and seventeenth century, respectively. The purpose of his argument is, primarily, to counter Efimov’s theory on the emergence of the Chinese nation. Since capitalistic development can be observed early in the sixteenth century, the formation of the Chinese nation should be traced to the sixteenth century. Unlike other scholars who tried to negate the Stalinist and Soviet Sinologists’ notion of nation by arguing the existence of the Chinese nation without capitalistic development, Shang Yue’s historical survey tried to show evidence of capitalism in pre–modern China, which makes Chinese history, not the Chinese nation, unique and advanced. In other words, he tried to prove the antiquity of the Chinese nation without altering the concept of nation. Shang Yue’s academic effort is indeed congruent with the primary political task of Chinese historians, making the coming of the Chinese Communist state natural and inevitable and producing a historiography that is nationalistic and Marxist at the same time. By delineating a longer history of capitalism in China, he proved a stronger revolutionary capacity of the Chinese nation than that suggested by the Soviet Sinologists. For example, Shang argued that the struggles of Donglindang (East Forest Bandit) in the late Ming period were an exemplary case of civil resistance of the property–less class (Wuchan jieji or Proletariat) against the ruling class, since Donglindang had “organization, plan, clear objectives, uncompromising disciplines overriding personal interests and based on collective behaviors”.61 By redefining the history of Chinese capitalism, he also elevated the history of class struggle in China, making it equal to or more advanced than its counterparts in Europe. Shang’s theory quickly won wide support from academia at least until the beginning of the Anti-rightist campaign in 1957.62 The problem is, however, Shang’s argument is literally contradictory to Mao’s notion of the development of Chinese capitalism. Mao believed in

61 62

Shang, Ibid., (1956) p. 57. Albert Feuerwerker, “China’s History in Marxian Dress,” in Albert Feuerwerker ed., History in Communist China (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968), p. 19.

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the possibility of indigenous capitalism in China. In a writing of the revolutionary period, he stated that, “As China’s feudal society developed its commodity economy and so carried within itself the embryo of capitalism, China would of herself have developed slowly into a capitalist society even if there had been no influence of foreign imperialism” (italics mine).63 Nevertheless, Mao also clarified that the bourgeois and proletariat classes did not exist until the emergence of Chinese national capitalism that started only after the imperialistic encroachment symbolized by the Opium War.64 Shang Yue’s theory received a death sentence as the Anti-rightist campaign started denying Mao’s theory of Chinese capitalism. Initially, an article that criticized Shang for denying Mao’s teaching that “[i]mperialism (not the Chinese bourgeois class) was the gravest threat to the Chinese Nation”65 first appeared in Li Shi Yan Jiu (Historical Studies). Soon after, Shang was forced to admit his mistake of producing a revisionist historiography in early 1958 and numerous articles criticizing his theory were published in Li Shi Yan Jiu again. Without exception, Shang Yue’s book was criticized for contradicting Mao’s perspective, such as when he wrote that “the bourgeois class and the propertyless class newly emerged (after the Opium War),”66 and that “the Opium War provided momentum for the transformation of Chinese society from feudalism to semi–colonial, semi–feudalism which had never existed before.”67

Mao Zedong, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, vol. 3 (London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd., 1955), p. 77. 64 Mao Zedong, Mao Zedong Xuan Ji (Selected Works of Mao Zedong) vol. 2 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1951), p. 597. 65 Danian Liu, “Guanyu Shang Yue tongzhi wei ‘Ming–Qing shehui jingji xingtaide yanjiu’ yishu suoxie de xuyan,” Li shi yan jiu 1 (1958), p. 8. 66 Shu Li, “Zhongguo de jindai shiyu heshi?” (When did Chinese Modernity Begin?), Li shi yan jiu, 2 (1959), p. 10, author’s translation. 67 Zhongguo renmin daxue zhongguo lishi jiaoyanshi jindai xiandaishi zu, “Ping Shang Yue tongzhi guanyu Ming-Qing shehui jingji jiekou de ruogan guandian (Comments on Shang Yue’s perspectives on the socio-economic structure of the Ming-Qing Era),” Li shi yan jiu, 12 (1958), p. 32, author’s translation.



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Seemingly, the academic purge of Shang in 1958 and his subsequent suffering during the Cultural Revolution were caused by his political incorrectness, by his not being attentive to Mao’s writings. Nevertheless, by looking at the context of criticisms on Shang carefully, we find the conundrum of the historiography of Communist China. The reactions toward Shang’s theory of the existence of proto–capitalism show the inherent fear among Chinese historians that “too great an emphasis on internal proto–capitalist developments prior to the full impact of Western imperialism in the nineteenth century might divert attention from the villain’s role assigned to foreign capitalism in transforming China into a ‘semicolonial, semifeudal’ status.”68 In particular, opponents were highly sensitive to the potential threat to the orthodox interpretation of the Opium War. Liu Danian complained that Shang’s theory glorified the commercial Opium trade in Southern China as a progressive force and degraded the struggles of the Qing government, patriotic gentries and courageous peasants against the Opium trade seen as “feudal forces.”69 Further, Shang’s other argument that the invasions of Mongol and Manchu were the factors that delayed Chinese capitalism was politically unacceptable for many. An article collectively written by the history department of the People’s University makes a straightforward statement: “though the invasion and rule by Manchu was destructive, should we not overcome such ways of viewing the struggles among nations (or ethnic groups) in ancient times? All nations are parts of the Chinese people … Such a perspective possibly means several nations are excluded from China.”70 In short, the tension over Shang Yue’s new theory was not only caused by the breaking away from political correctness under Mao’s rule. Rather, the reactions against Shang suggest “the problem of community” that was well understood by Chinese historians.

Feuerwerker, p. 20. Liu, pp. 11–12. 70 Zhongguo renmin daxue zhongguo lishe jiaoyanshi jindai xiandai shi zu, p. 34, author’s translation.


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Shang’s theorization of Chinese capitalism could force official historiography to define two groups of state members as enemies of the nation: namely, the indigenous Chinese capitalists and the northern nomadic peoples (Manchu and Mongol). Further, the history of the Communist revolution should be extended to the Ming period by highlighting the popular rebellion of the Chinese propertyless class at the time, while relativising the importance of the historical role of the CCP. In the 1950s’ context, Shang Yue’s argument was not only infringing on Mao’s writing in a literal sense, but also vitiating the very ground of the CCP’s political significance and its authority as a national agency. The irony is, however, that both Shang Yue and his opponents share a same “point of concern” regarding elevating the Chinese nation and history on the ladder of nationalistic historiography. For Shang Yue, the argument of “Chinese stagnation” that recognizes the unusually long period of feudal society and late development of capitalism in China meant the acknowledgement of the backwardness of the Chinese nation. Hence, the traditional periodization that sees the Opium War as a demarcation between “traditional” and “modern” China should be denounced as an academic disease caused by “defeatism.” In the days of the intrusion of Soviet Sinology that denied the historical glory of the Chinese nation and on the eve of the Great Leap Forward, the purpose of Shang Yue’s theory was to make the Chinese past catch up with European history in terms of historical materialism, when Mao’s slogan was to “catch up with England in 15 years”71 in terms of steel production. The problem for Shang’s theory was, however, that he failed to see the necessity of the CCP to claim itself as an agency of the nation, not of a class. The historiography of Communist China stabilized only after the intrusion of Soviet Sinology and the fiasco of Shang Yue’s theory. The official historiography that has still been maintained by the CCP


Mao Zedong, 1958. “Speech at the Supreme State Conference,” http:// maoism.org/msw/vol8/mswv8_03.htm


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until today is firmly grounded on a paragraph written by Mao during the Sino–Japanese War era:
The Chinese nation is not only famous throughout the world for its stamina and industriousness, but also as a freedom–loving people with a rich revolutionary tradition. The history of the Hans, for instance, shows that the Chinese people would never submit to rule by the dark forces and that in every case they succeeded in overthrowing or changing such a rule by revolutionary means. In thousands of years of the history of the Hans, there have been hundreds of peasant insurrections, great or small, against the regime of darkness imposed by the landlords and nobility. And it was peasant uprisings that brought about most dynastic changes. … In thousands of years of history of the Chinese nation, many national heroes and revolutionary leaders have emerged. So the Chinese nation is also a nation with a glorious revolutionary tradition and a splendid historical heritage.72

From this paragraph, we can see Mao’s ultimate solution to the question of how to maintain the national community while glorifying the revolutionary capacity of the Chinese nation. While not recognizing the existence of the bourgeois and proletariat classes before the Opium War, Mao sought the tradition of revolution from the history of peasant rebellion. Following Mao’s insight, history textbooks in the late 1950s and early 1960s were re-written from a perspective anchored in the peasant wars. As Mao suggests, it is not necessary to prove the greatness of the Chinese nation in terms of revolutionary capacity (geming liliang) through finding the early development of Chinese capitalism. Instead, by directly linking the Chinese Communist Revolution to the historical peasant wars, Chinese historians were relieved of the burden of keeping up with both Marxist and nationalist historiographies in the interpretation of pre–Opium War history. In this way, the late development of capitalism in China was compensated by the “glorious revolutionary” traditions in Chinese national history. Naturally, the interpretation of Chinese ancient history began to embrace a more nationalistic tone in the early 1960s.


Mao Zedong, “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party (1939),” Mao (1954), p. 74.

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The languages of “four thousand years of history” and the name of “the Great Yu,” a mythical emperor who tamed the flood, were reinstated in the Chinese history books, and the length of Chinese national history was extended to include the pre–Zhou era.73 By glorifying the revolutionary tradition of the Chinese peasantry and defining the encroachment of Western imperialism as the beginning of the primary contradiction of pre-liberation Chinese society, the Chinese Communist Party has never invented a new historiography clearly distinct from the nationalist historiography. Harrison, an early observer of Maoist historiography states that:
[t]he prevailing interpretation of the history of peasant wars is at once more nationalist and more radical in its class and revolutionary implications. It is more nationalistic in its stress on the peculiarly revolutionary qualities of the Chinese peasantry, and it is more radical in its unprecedented emphasis on class struggle. It therefore reveals both the chauvinism and Marxist fundamentalism of the Chinese communist. … [I]t shows that the Chinese communists believe that the best way to advance national interests is by stressing revolutionary heritage and commitment.74

The duality of nationalism and Marxism in Chinese historiography, however, does not mean that the relationship between these two epistemologies was equal. Rather, nationalism was the only and ultimate source of popular loyalty toward the Party. Shang Yue’s fiasco proves that orthodox Marxism combined with nationalistic motivation did not provide a safeguard for a historian such as Shang Yue. Nevertheless, however heretical or untraditional the usages of Marxism were, many Chinese historians were protected by the proper and correct understanding of the nationalist agenda. In sum, the interpretations of Marxism were to serve the interests of Chinese nationalism, not the other way around.75


A.F.P. Hulsewe, “Chinese Communist Treatment of the Origins and Foundation of the Chinese Empire,” in History in Communist China, pp. 122–123. 74 James P. Harrison, The Communists and Chinese Peasant Rebellions: A Study in the Rewritings of Chinese History (New York: Atheneum, 1968), pp. 275–76. 75 Harrison, p. 273.


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Many scholars tend to see the crackdown on the Tiananmen Democratic Movement in 1989 as a fundamental turning point for both society and state in China. China in 1989 was eloquently described by Lucian Pye as an “erratic state and frustrated society”76 that could not provide any model of a stable and predictable transformation. Western observers believed the CCP’s lack of legitimacy became the most important source of political uncertainty and saw the possibility of regime collapse in a decade. The problem for China scholars in the 1990s was, however, that the CCP regime had been relatively stable throughout the decade and very different from other illegitimate regimes that solely depended on harsh suppression of resistances. Another problem of this approach is the way of depicting the early reform era. Without many exceptions, most China scholars believe that the CCP failed to control the ideological realm of society in the late 1980s. Studies of ideological education in the 1980s prove that the CCP was negligent in supervising societal discourses and ineffective in containing the ideas of the young population within clearly defined boundaries.77 The CCP’s failure to prevent the emergence of independent, or non-establishment, intellectuals in the mid–1980s made radical and non-conformist ideas flourish in academia.78 In short, the 1980s was a period of

Lucian Pye, “China: Erratic State, Frustrated Society,” Foreign Affairs 69:4 (1990). R. Hayhoe, “China’s Universities since Tiananmen: A Critical Assessment,” China Quarterly, No. 134 ( June 1993); Suisheng Zhao, “A State-led Nationalism: The Patriotic Education Campaign in Post-Tiananmen China,” Communist and PostCommunist Studies 31:3 (1998). 78 Edward X. Gu, “The Economics Weekly, the Public Space and the Voices of Chinese Independent Intellectuals,” China Quarterly 147 (1996); Edward X. Gu, “‘NonEstablishment’ Intellectuals, Public Space and the Creations of Non-Governmental Organizations in China: The Chen-Ziming-Wang Juntao Saga,” The China Journal, no. 29 (1998); Merle Goldman, “Politically-Engaged Intellectuals in the 1990s,” China Quarterly, no. 159 (1999); Merle Goldman, “The Emergence of Politically Independent Intellectuals,” in Merle Goldman and Roderick MacFarquhar, eds., The Paradox of China’s Post-Mao Reforms (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999).


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accumulated frustration and of progressive diminishment of state authority in society. Nevertheless, not many political scientists have seriously delved into what types of public discourses were replacing ineffective Maoist ideology. The unanswered questions are: Was the discursive world of Chinese society in the 1980s ideological chaos without an anchor? Or, was it filled with Western liberal democracy symbolized by the Goddess of Democracy on Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989? Or was it occupied with something radically different from both the Mao era and the post-Tiananmen era? The hidden assumption of almost all studies on contemporary Chinese nationalism is that the ideological world of the 1990s is fundamentally different from that of the 1980s on both governmental and societal levels. Nevertheless, I argue that, using the prism of nationalism, the societal discourses in the 1980s and 1990s show more continuity than discontinuity. To support my argument, the following sections will analyze embedded nationalism in the discourses of “culture fever” and River Elegy. Anyway, we have to keep in mind that the authors of “China Can Say No” belong to the generation that was fed by the “culture fever” and experienced the Tiananmen Democratic Movement. In 1981, the Chinese women’s volleyball team won the World Cup and its live telecast was one of the biggest popular events in the year. The team, newspapers and broadcasting stations received thousands of letters of deep gratitude and emotion. Following is one of the letters as cited by Susan Brownell:
Women’s volleyball’s tears of victory and the inspired tears of the hundreds of millions in the TV audience — what do they mean? They mean that victory doesn’t come easily, they mean that the Chinese people need victory, they need the sweet dew of victory to moisten the spirit that was wounded in the past.79


Susan Brownell, “Strong Women and Impotent Men: Sports, Gender and Nationalism in Chinese Public Culture”, in Mayfair Mei-hui Yang, ed., Spaces of Their Own: Women’s Public Sphere in Transnational China (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), p. 215.


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As Brownell goes on to explain, the wide–spread enthusiasm proves that a popular nationalism, one that was not state–orchestrated, existed in the Chinese society early 1980s. The Chinese public linked the first victory of a national sports team to the symbol of the nation that was humiliated by imperialism and suffered from the mistakes of Mao. The question here is whether nationalistic enthusiasm for the sports game was a remnant of Maoist nationalism or a prelude to the rising nationalistic consciousness a decade later. The 1980s in China was very well-known as the era of “culture fever” (wenhua re), that comprised a number of discursive phenomena, including, but not limited to, debates on Marxist humanism, abundant publication of texts of Western philosophy, history and social sciences, the controversy over the TV series He Shang (River Elegy), and the unusual popularity of “postmodernism” in literature and art.80 The fever was triggered by a formerly condemned social class, intellectuals, who gained a certain degree of protection from ideological constraints. The Chinese party–state’s grant of partial intellectual freedom was based on recognition of a new role for technocrats and intellectuals in the era of economic development. As Deng promoted the slogan of “practice as the sole standard of truth,” ideological secularization of the academic realm was a necessity to maximize the productivity of the intelligentsia. As Zhang Xudong well delineates, “the intellectual’s tacit agreement with Deng’s social programs or, rather, with the idea of universal progress or evolution that the modernists believe is the raison d’etat of the New Era” and “the tacit mutual understanding or collaboration between the state and the intellectual endeavor seemed always

For a full description of “culture fever,” see Jing Wang, High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Xiaomei Chen, Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-discourse in PostMao China (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002); Xudong Zhang, Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms: Cultural Fever, Avant-garde Fiction, and the New Chinese Cinema (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).


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to have been taken for granted by the participants of the Culture Fever.”81 What was unexpected for the CCP, however, was the emergence of the issue of history at the core of intellectual debates. Seemingly, the theme of discussions among intellectuals was the definition of modernity in China. With the unprecedented introduction of Western knowledge in the mid–1980s, followed by Deng Xiaoping’s call to “translate and publish all major foreign academic works”82 in 1984, the palpable cultural and economic gap between China and the industrialized world provided a conundrum to Chinese intellectuals. While the state officially coined the term “modernization” in the official ideology, Chinese intellectuals were forced either to embrace and reinvigorate the notion of “progress syndrome of modernization” or to experience a schizophrenic separation between harsh realities and the futuristic dreams of modernism.83 In both cases, Chinese intellectuals were as obsessed with the image of Chinese nation and culture on the evolutionary ladder in “Universal History” as were Chinese historians in the 1950s. The uniqueness of the Chinese fever of postmodernism in the 1980s was its relation with evolutionary history. Fredric Jameson,

Xudong Zhang, p. 12. Renmin Ribao, December 16 1997, translated in FBIS-CHI-98-034. 83 Jing Wang, p. 12. Xudong Zhang’s quotation of Marshall Berman best illuminates the problem of intellectual modernism in underdeveloped society. The following paragraph captures the contradiction between the European modernism that grew out of economic and political modernization and the dream of modernism in nonwestern societies.


“The modernism of underdevelopment is forced to build on fantasies and dreams of modernity, to nourish itself on an intimacy and a struggle with mirages and ghosts. In order to be true to the life from which it springs, it is forced to be shrill, uncouth and inchoate. It turns in on itself and tortures itself for its inability to singlehandedly make history — or else throws itself into extravagant attempts to take on itself the whole burden of history.” Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts into Air (New York 1988), p. 232, quoted from Xudong Zhang, p. 20.


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one of the earliest postmodernist theorists introduced in China,84 argues that postmodernism in general is an effort to escape from modernist obsession with linear progress by eliminating the sense of past and collective memory.85 Hence, the concept of postmodernism in the West in the 1980s arose from the exhaustion of the modernist drive to materialistic progress marked by GNP, scientific technology and industrialization.86 Nevertheless, what would be the meaning of postmodernism in China in 1980s — where the state project of modernization and commodity economy had just began? Jing Wang answers this question, “in the 1980s, the configuration of the power relationship between Chinese literary and cultural elite and the hegemonic discourse of the West was defined in terms of their desire to copy rather than to contest it” and “the pseudoproposition of postmodernism in China is thus part of the syndrome of the Great Leap Forward myth.”87 The Great Leap Forward myth, here, means the extreme obsession with future and progress. If Western postmodernism is to discard and delete linear history from consciousness, Chinese postmodernism in the 1980s was to push the notion of progress to its extreme form. In other words, postmodernism in China was the very next step of “modernism” in the linear history of culture and nation. The fever of postmodernism was therefore a strategy of Chinese intellectuals to elevate Chinese culture in terms of both “modernization” and “postmodernization.” It was the same mentality during the Great Leap Forward that intended to make progress in all industrial and agricultural sectors at the same time.


Fredric Jameson gave a series of lectures at Beijing University in 1985 which were published soon after. See Fredric Jameson, Houxiandai zhuyi yu wenhua lilun (Postmodernism and Culture Theories), translated by Tang Xiaobing (Xian: Shanxi Shefan daxue chubanshe, 1986). 85 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), pp. 302–313. 86 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1989). 87 Jing Wang, p. 235.

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The public controversy over a TV documentary, He Shang (River Elegy),88 marked the culmination of the reinvigorated historical consciousness among Chinese intellectuals. At the same time, it was the means by which the discussions of cultural elites reached the Chinese public in general. He Shang was a six–part television documentary that aired in China from June to August 1988. The scriptwriters were Su Xiaokang, a celebrated reporter and a teacher in the Journalism Department of Beijing Broadcasting College, and Wang Luxiang, a teacher in the Chinese Department at Beijing Normal University. As soon as the documentary was aired, it became the center of debates among both domestic and international scholars.89 The documentary’s bold rejection of Chinese tradition or “cultural fetishes”90 stunned many viewers and generated a heated discussion of the theme of “tradition versus modernity” that obsessed many Chinese intellectuals during the May Fourth period. In its title, He Shang, the scriptwriters overtly showed their intentions. He refers to the huanghe (Yellow River), symbolizing age–old Chinese civilization and shang means death in early age or before reaching adulthood. The title implies that the Chinese civilization that achieved huge progresses in early times was unable to reach modernity and died out. The documentary starts with gloomy statements on the Chinese civilization, even though the title of the first episode is “Searching for a Dream.”

For the full manuscript of the documentary, see Xiaokang Su and Luxiang Wang, Deathsong of the River: A Reader’s Guide to the Chinese TV Series Heshang. Introduced, translated, and annotated by Richard W. Bodman and Pin P. Wan. (Ithaca: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1991). Following are the titles of each part of the series: Part I, “Searching for a Dream”; Part II, “Destiny”; Part III, “The Light of the Spirit”; Part IV, “The New Era”; Part V, “Sorrow and Worry”; Part VI, “Blueness.” 89 For an early response from Western China watchers, see Geremie Barme, “TV Requiem for the Myths of the Middle Kingdom,” Far Eastern Economic Review (September 1 1988), “Television in China: Rolling River,” The Economist, 19 November 1988. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars also published a special issue on the documentary in 1991. 90 Xiaomei Chen, p. 205.



Jungmin Seo On June 13 1987, the rafting expedition on the Yellow River that had attracted the interest of hundreds and thousands of Chinese people sent back bad news. Members of two rafting teams from Luoyang and Beijing were killed when the rafts overturned at the lower part of Lajia Gorge. … According to the news, these young men took this great risk because they would not let the American rafter Ken Warren take away their right to be the first to raft down China’s rivers. Ken Warren was very puzzled by this. He said that no one would object if Chinese came to America to raft down the Mississippi River. Of course Mr. Warren could never associate today’s rafting with the history of a hundred years ago when the gunboats of the Western powers sailed China’s rivers in disregard of China’s rights. Yet the youth of China cannot forget. Throughout the real suffering of the past century, it seems as if we have always needed an ancient and enduring tranquilizer to soothe ourselves. In every archaeological find that has startled the world, we seem able to take momentary comfort. Yet in the final analysis, our civilization has declined.91

From the first episode to the last one, the series relentlessly attacks the myth of the greatness of Chinese civilization expressed in such national symbols as the Great Wall, the dragon and the Yellow River, and in Confucianism. What is more striking is that the documentary fundamentally refuses official Chinese historiography regarding imperialism. As I discussed earlier, the role of the villains who caused the sufferings and humiliation of the Chinese nation was assigned to the Western imperial powers. Hence, the Opium War was the starting point of revolutionary history writings and the ultimate demarcation between pre–modern China and modern China. The screenwriters, however, argue that the responsibility of the failure of Chinese civilization should go to the backwardness and irresponsiveness of Chinese culture, using Toynbee’s theory of the rise and decline of civilizations. The cultural criticism of He Shang, however, contains subtle political implications. Its defamation of the Yellow River implicitly denies the glory of Yan’an, Mao’s guerilla base in the middle of the Yellow River, and the changing attribution of responsibility for Chinese suffering since the Opium War discredits and vitiates the


Xiaokang Su and Luxiang Wang, pp. 101–116.

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ultimate source of the CCP’s legitimacy — anti-imperialistic struggle. The political message of the series is also evident in the discussion of the treatment of intellectuals in China. In the third episode, the narration goes as follows:
Now although Chinese intellectuals in the twentieth century have finally gotten rid of the bad luck of being “Stinky Old Ninths” and seem to have slightly higher social status, yet economic hardship and spiritual repression still accompany them. The sad news of their early deaths is constantly reported. Their heavy burdens are wiping out the best middle–aged intellectuals in great numbers. Even more frightening is the fact that in this civilized old country which honors the ancestral tablet of Confucius, the status of teachers has fallen to a very low position. The old generation has burned down their candles, and their old lamps are about to die out, yet the new generation will refuse to follow in their foot–steps. The educational crisis has become China’s most urgent crisis. … Among the professions of mankind, no one has a greater need for a free atmosphere and unlimited space than they do. … May History never again play tricks on Chinese intellectuals. Today, this is our deepest prayer!”92

In this narration, the script attacks the maltreatment of intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution, and possibly during the Anti-rightist campaign in 1957 by using the stigmatizing word for intellectuals during the Mao era, “Stinky Old Ninths.” At the same time, the sustained hardship of teachers, the biggest occupational group of Chinese intellectuals (zhishi fenzi), implies that the state’s modernization projects are overlooking the undervalued status of Chinese intellectuals during the early period of market reform. The contents of the documentary are, without a doubt, straightforward anti-official. That denies the meaning of the Communist Revolution and criticizes the role of the Chinese Communist Party in recent history. In historiography, it challenges the official version by extending the stage of Chinese history back to the Ming dynasty, or implicitly to the birth of Confucian philosophy and down to contemporary China. In other words, the rule of the CCP, for the


Ibid., pp. 155–157.


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screenwriters, did not prevent the decline of Chinese civilization at all. At the same time, neither Western imperial powers nor the KMT (Guomindang) played a negative role in the long storytelling, since the responsibility for the decline of civilization goes to the internal, not external, elements. Considering the structure and patterns of media censorship in China, China observers wondered how He Shang could be broadcast. Many of them speculate that Zhao Ziyang’s active support for “cultural–elite activists” allowed the program to go unchecked by the censor of the broadcasting stations.93 Nevertheless, there is no evidence of Zhao’s involvement in the production and broadcasting of He Shang, though he later supported the perspective of the TV series. Rather, the successful passage to the broadcasting of He Shang can be attributed to the more relaxed social atmosphere in the 1980s and the increasing awareness of program popularity that can empower China Central Television (CCTV) both politically and financially.94 Further, the manuscript of He Shang was not perceived as political but cultural by the high–ranking officials in the station. The proposal for the program indeed smoothly passed the joint committee of the CCTV and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and the script of the program was approved for publication at the People’s Daily.95 The Vice–minister of Radio, Film and Television, who detected nothing dangerous, even praised good editing of the program at the final assessment before broadcasting. In sum, the contents of the documentary “did not trigger any alarm in the mind of responsible officials.”96

Xiaomei Chen, p. 38. Shengmin Huang and Junjie Ding, Meijie jingying yu chanyehua yanjiu (A Study on Management and Industrialization of the Media) (Beijing: Beijing guangbo xueyuan chubanshe, 1997), p. 80. 95 Since broadcasting was regarded as a military technology when CCTV was established in 1961, the PLA had been directly involved with broadcasting decisionmaking until the early 1990s. 96 Fong-ching Chen and Guantao Jin, From Youthful Manuscripts to River Elegy: The Chinese Popular Cultural Movement and Political Transformation 1979–1989 (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1997) pp. 220–22.


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Another reason, perhaps the most important one, for He Shang’s successful management of censorship is, I argue, that He Shang was controversial and disturbing but firmly grounded within the ideological realm of nationalism. After He Shang was televised, controversies over its contents and tone flooded major newspapers and journals. At the center of the debates was the program’s evaluation of civilizational achievements. Critics attacked He Shang for disseminating “national nihilism” (minzu xuwu zhuyi), “whipping out ancestors to criticize present problems” and “reckless iconoclasm,” whereas supporters praised the courageous efforts that enlightened the nation.97 The defamation of “yellow” that symbolizes the long history of China and contrasts her with the “blue” of the West was interpreted by many as Eurocentric or an uncritical admiration of the West. Nevertheless, as the history of May Fourth in 1919 suggests, anti–traditionalism does not necessarily mean anti–nationalism. As long as the theme of discussion is focused on “enlightenment” and “saving the nation,” the denial of tradition and the national past is a key component of nationalistic discourses throughout Chinese history.98 Frederic Wakeman pointed out the underlying nationalism of He Shang, citing a sentence of the script: “Our dream of a thousand– year empire ended at the time of Emperor Kangxi.”99 Similarly, others noticed the component of racial nationalism in the program’s obsession with the “yellowness” and Yellow Emperor (huangdi) that

Wenhua Cui, “He Shang dui Zhongguo dianshi de houshi hezaile,” in He Shang Lun (Discussions on “He Shang”), Wenhua Cui, ed., (Beijing: Wenhua Yishu chubanshe, 1988). The CCP launched a campaign against “He Shang” after the ‘June Fourth.’ For the official party perspective during the campaign, see Zhong gong zhong yang xuan chuan bu wen hua yi shu ju ying shi chu, He Shang de wuqu: cong he shang dao wusi (The Wrong Place of He Shang: from He Shang to “May Fourth”) (Nanchang shi: Jiangxi renmin chubanshe, 1990). 98 Zehou Li, Zhongguo xian dai si xiang shilun (A Study on Contemporary Chinese Thoughts) (Taipei: Feng yun shi dai chu ban gong si, 1990). 99 Fredric Wakeman, Jr. “All the Rage in China,” New York Review of Books, March 2 1989.



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exclude millions of the minority population in China from the historical narration.100 Nevertheless, nationalistic discourses sneaked into the documentary’s script and images in a much more delicate way. Jing Wang observes that “the fetishism of cultural symbols” is the primary target of He Shang’s criticism.101 From the first episode to the last, He Shang denounces positive images of traditional symbols such as the Yellow River, the Great Wall and the dragon that are historically understood as representations of “Chineseness.” Though the screenwriters’ intention for the use of those symbols was to “otherize” China from the perspective of the “Modern,”102 the criticism of the Chinese symbols, however, did not necessarily mean that the script was “anti–national.” From the constructivist perspective of nationalism, the abundant images of traditional symbols of He Shang had quite the opposite effect by forcing viewers to identify themselves with the images. The image of the Yellow River is exemplary. He Shang suggests that the Yellow River historically framed the fate of the Chinese:
Yellow River had left above a fragmented, infertile plateau, cleft by gorges and gullies, and below a disaster-prone plain, vulnerable at any moment to the havoc of flood. Looking out only for itself, it flows into the sea, leaving behind these two heavy burdens for the Chinese people to deal with. No wonder some people describe the outflow of soil and water caused by the Yellow River as severe bleeding from the Chinese people’s main artery. Are not the thousand–li dikes that support the rolling Yellow River a wonderful symbol of our social structure of “Great Unification”? … However, even within this miracle of great unification, under the dazzling surface of an over–ripe civilization, and in the curling purple smoke of incense burned to worship the tablets of emperors, sages, elders and ancestors, the inner layer of this social structure was silently rotting away. This situation


Barry Sautman, “Theories of East Asian Intellectual and Behavioral Superiority and Discourses on ‘Racial Differences’,” Positions 4:3, 1996. 101 Jing Wang, pp. 130–134. 102 Chen Xiaoming extensively discusses the strategy of “otherizing” in his discussion of “occidentalism.” He explains that Su Xiaokang and other authors of He Shang tried to employ the position of the West to criticize the official ideology of the CCP. Chen, pp. 23–42.

Nationalism and the Problem of Political Legitimacy in China very much resembled that of the Yellow River’s great dikes, which were silently being hollowed out by ants and by rats. A bureaucracy made up of Confucians had an irresistible tendency to corruption, and power itself became a corrosive agent.103


In this narration, He Shang clearly introduces the logic of Oriental Despotism104 and tries to remove any positive meaning of the Yellow River to the Chinese people and civilization. Nevertheless, at the same time, the introduction of the manuscript states that “we cannot change the color of our skins, just as we cannot change the color of the Yellow River.”105 Hence, however negative the connotation of the Yellow River is, the viewers of this program are supposed to identify themselves with the historicity of the Yellow River. Many scholars have discussed the radically challenged and altered meaning of the Yellow River in this program. However, the truly surprising aspect of He Shang is not the change of meaning, but the newly reified symbolism of the Yellow River to the Chinese people. Though historical and archaeological works in China treated the Yellow River as the origin of Chinese civilization, not a single work seriously deals with the symbolic meaning of the Yellow River. In five volumes of Mao’s writings that are very often symbolic and poetic, the Yellow River appears only a few times without much symbolism.106 Neither has a cultural exhibition nor an academic conference been held regarding the meaning of the Yellow River. Before He Shang, the Yellow River was one of two rivers — the other is the Yangtze River — that had complex and dubious images in Chinese history. For example, in a government–published small booklet that discusses the history of the Yellow River, the images of the Yellow River are multiple and self–contradictory. The river was “the cradle of the Chinese

Su and Wang, pp. 190, 195–96. Karl August Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957). 105 Su and Wang, p. 98. 106 Based on the keyword search of http://maoism.org, the Yellow River appears twice.



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nation” but the source of disasters throughout Chinese history. It was “us” as the source of civilization but, at the same time, “the other” to be tamed and conquered.107 Hence, it was He Shang itself that decisively identified the Yellow River with the Chinese nation by narrating, “For every yellow–skinned Chinese it is probably common knowledge that the Yellow River conceived and gave birth to the Chinese people.”108 The discussion on He Shang’s critique of “the fetishism of cultural symbols” is rather misleading, since the fetishism itself was constructed by the screenwriters of He Shang. In the beginning of the program project, the producer, Xia Jun, was not motivated by popular images of the Yellow River in Chinese society, but rather by the Japanese NHK documentary, “Great Yellow River,” for which he was an assistant editor in 1984–1986.109 In other words, as Xiaomei Chen explains using the term, “occidentalism,” He Shang was inspired by the other’s (Japan’s) reification of Chinese civilization, rather than by the young intellectuals’ disappointment with social fantasies of the Yellow River. In sum, the great irony of the fever of He Shang is that the documentary did not destroy a reified image that had hardly existed, but it eloquently made Chinese viewers identify themselves with the history of the Yellow River and promoted a view of the nation as a historical entity by attaching that history to the visual image of the river, however negative it might be.

Almost all books on revolutionary history in China start with the ancient glory of Chinese civilization, followed by the progressive decay of that civilization by feudalism and the beginning of massive suffering after the Opium War in 1840.110 Such accounts actively


Wei Huang, Conquering the Yellow River (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1978). Su and Wang, p. 104. 109 Chen and Jin, p. 127. 110 For examples, Zhande Li and Bingliang Lin, eds., Zhongguo gemingshi xinbian (A new edition of the Chinese Revolutionary History) (Beijing: Zhongguo Caizheng

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create “structured nostalgia” in the popular consciousness.111 By glorifying the ancient civilization and national humiliation, political subjects constructed by history education in socialist China were not “state subjects” but “national subjects.” Prasenjit Duara has suggested that history is inherently “anti–theoretical.” He argues that historical education in any country is not about the grammar or methodology of history but about its content; and its principal goal is “to instill love, pride, shame, resentment, or even vengeance for the nation” through which the national subject is formed.112 If national history is a tool to create national subjects with a clear boundary between insiders and outsiders, a revolutionary history of communism should be a method to formulate “revolutionary agents” who can follow the path of historical materialism. When the educational guidelines published in China in 1950 stipulated that “the first goals of history teaching [are to] ‘nurture patriotism and the love of people’ by revealing the greatness of China and the evils of Imperialism,”113 the CCP consciously or unconsciously produced not revolutionary agents based on class consciousness but national agents based on Social Darwinism. Consequently, the Chinese party–state created “the dual authority of nation and state”114 in which the state behaves as the agent of the nation, rather than the representative of the collective interests of societal forces. Similarly, the fevers of “culture,” “postmodernism” and “democracy” in 1980s’ Chinese society are not necessarily radical departures from the CCP historiography of nationalism. In some sense, the

Jingji Chubanshe, 1991); Zhenggai Luo, ed., Zhongguo Geming Gailun (An Introduction to the Chinese Revolution) (Beijing: Zhongguo Renmin Daxue Chubanshe, 1998). 111 Herzfeld, Ibid. 112 Prasenjit Duara, “Why is History Antitheoretical?” Modern China 24:2 (1998), p. 107. 113 Chung-hsueh Chiao-hsueh Tsang-k’ao tzu-liao (Reference Materials for High School Education) (Tientsin: Tienchin chiao-yu she, 1950), quoted from Harrison, p. 9. 114 Byung-il Min, “State, Modernity and the Rise of the Salariat in Modern Japan,” (Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Chicago, 2000).


Jungmin Seo

iconoclasm of the 1980s reinforced, rather than vitiated, the hegemonic position of the Chinese social and political discourses by removing the mantle of “universalism” from the Chinese Marxism comprised of a highly hybrid language in which the universal truth takes a national form.115 Many Western scholars have claimed that Chinese intellectuals’ loss of identification with the state was the key feature of 1980s’ Chinese society.116 Nevertheless, I suggest that we can see a very different picture of the Chinese intellectual realm if we use the prism of nationalism to understand the social and political discourses of socialist China, a picture highlighting the continuity of the Chinese intellectuals’ association with the Chinese nation from Shang Yue and Liu Danian to Su Xiaokang and Song Qiang. The existing studies on nationalistic discourses in 1990s’ China, as I briefly introduced earlier, have concentrated on the state indoctrination of the populace since the Tiananmen incident of 1989. Nevertheless, the following episode raises a fundamental question regarding the function of nationalism in the politics of resistance in China. In 1998, the dissident Qin Yongmin accused Jiang Zemin, the then leader of the CCP, of being non–nationalistic by accepting a “disappointing” apology from Tokyo for Japan’s aggression between 1937 and 1945. Qin said in the statement that “[t]he Chinese government has made concessions which undermine the national dignity of China.” Qin, ridiculing the “patriotism” of the Chinese president, further insisted that Jiang “rashly accepted the irrational demands of the Japanese, who agreed to offer apologies to the Koreans but not to the Chinese. It is a national humiliation.” Qin continued, “We must firmly demand that Japan offer a written apology. Otherwise, Jiang Zemin must refuse to sign the joint declaration” expected to be issued at the Tokyo summit between Jiang and Japanese Prime

Frederic Wakeman, Jr., History and Will: Philosophical Perspectives of Mao TseTung’s Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), p. xi. 116 Merle Goldman, Perry Link, and Wei Su, “China’s Intellectuals in the Deng Era: Loss of Identity with the State,” in Lowell Dittmer and Samuel S. Kim, eds., China’s Quest for National Identity, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).


Nationalism and the Problem of Political Legitimacy in China


Minister Keizo Obuchi.117 In this episode, the dissident made the point that the CCP had failed to accomplish the national mission during Jiang’s state visit to Japan. With its emphasis on “national essence,” Falungong might pose a subtler but more audacious challenge to the authority of the state. Duara argues that the notion of timeless authenticity is “politically important because it locates the source of authority in a society.”118 Although the Chinese state tries to secure its status as guardian of national authenticity through education, museums and mass campaigns of nationalism, the Falungong leaders straightforwardly defy the state’s authority by producing their own definition of Chinese authenticity. The official website of Falungong is filled with their claims that Falungong is the genuine essence of Chinese culture, and includes hundreds of testimonies from westerners who confess that “I came to know the essence of Chinese culture through Falun Dafa.”119 From the perspective of the Falungong leaders and supporters, the ban on Falungong in China is often interpreted as the suppression of Chinese cultural essence by the Communist Party, an inherently foreign power in China. One of the core features of hegemony noted by Raymond Williams and the Comaroffs is that it is never complete and is constantly being made and unmade. Hence, nationalism as a hegemonic political identity does not imply the singularity of the meaning of the nation. In the process of domination and resistance centered on the right to represent the nation, the plurality of the meaning of nation is unavoidable in any state in which nationalism is successfully promoted as an official ideology. By being successful, the nation and nationalism become the exclusive form of the subject of universal history, while the definitions of the nation and nationalism are endlessly challenged and revised by both the elites and the

117 118

Hong Kong AFP 26 November 1998, translated in FBIS-CHI-98-330. Duara, p. 12; also see Prasenjit Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003). 119 www.falundafa.org or www.minghui.org.


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subordinates. This is the direct result of the factuality of the nation. Since the nation is regarded as a fact, it is extremely difficult for the elites or the state to control the meaning of nation or nationalism. This aspect suggests a new approach to the study of nationalism. While almost all contemporary studies of nationalism are deconstructing popular ideas of nations and nationalisms by proving that the nation has no “factual” basis, this trend trivializes the reality that the form of nation is currently “taken–for–granted” by the majority of people in the world as the only legitimate political and historical unit . In this circumstance, the nation is not positioned in the realm of ideological struggles, but in the cognitive structure of reality that governs the forms of political domination and resistance. While solving the problem of governance in transitional periods, the state fails to see the unexpected consequence: the opening up of the path for the subordinates to the higher authority, the nation, to resist the state.



Political Legitimacy in Reform China: Between Economic Performance and Democratization
Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye

Almost all governments or regimes around the world, whether democratic or authoritarian, have to grapple with the concept of political legitimacy.1 In the U.S., which is usually held up as a beacon of democracy, there is a well–established process to elect the President once every four years. The political legitimacy of the President is more often than not derived from the endorsement that he receives from the electorate during election time. Any President that is


Regime here simply refers to the type of government such as democracy, totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Government here refers to organizations and people charged with the duty of governing which is usually subsumed under the broad framework of a regime. 183


Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye

deemed by the electorate not to have performed well during his term of office can expect to be voted out. In contrast, in the People’s Republic of China (hereafter China), where democratic institutions are virtually non–existent, the top leaders are not required to go through a competitive selection process to get elected. Instead, these leaders are chosen based primarily on internal political compromises and considerations that are often opaque to the public eye. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the top leaders of China do not need to possess legitimacy to run the country. It only means that they derive their legitimacy from other sources. For non–democratic regimes in East and Southeast Asia in general and China in particular, it is an even more challenging task to ensure that their regimes are legitimate politically. Without an established procedural–based legitimacy, the regime in China has to rely on other sources of legitimacy such as performance–based legitimacy. Hence, when some scholars look at a developing country like China, they tend to relate the government’s authority to rule a country on its ability to deliver economic goods to the people. Some scholars have argued that China’s model is one of “economic reform without political reform,” or one with “development first and democracy later.”2 In this paper, we contend that such a view does not adequately explain the concept of political legitimacy in China today. The open door and reform policy of the late 1970s and its aftermath serve as excellent examples of how the Chinese regime has shifted the basis of its legitimacy from one relying solely on ideology to one that also encompassed economic performance. Yet, the very success of China’s development along the lines of a market economy has unwittingly altered the basis of the country’s political legitimacy over the years.


Susan L. Shirk, The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China (Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press, 1993).

Political Legitimacy in Reform China


While economic performance remains important in China, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and the government are beginning to realize the need to respond to the aspirations of a much more complicated society such as the demand for greater transparency and accountability in the way things are being run in the country. Beginning from Deng Xiaoping and more so under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, greater importance is being placed on strengthening the relationship between the government and party on the one hand and the people on the other. The emphasis is on building trust and confidence between the ruler and the ruled. To achieve this objective, the top leadership has embarked on the road of limited political liberalization which is becoming important in augmenting the existing basis of legitimacy based primarily on performance. China has adopted a model of political incrementalism, namely, the leadership has continuously adjusted China’s political system to accommodate drastic socio–economic changes.3 During this process, different types of democratic practices have been experimented with. It is in this context that initiatives such as limited social democracy, the nascent moves in favor of constitutionalism and intra–party democracy should be seen. This paper is divided into four main sections. Section I explores the concept of political legitimacy and its particular meaning in the context of China. Section II outlines some major limitations of pursuing a purely economic development model approach in building legitimacy in China. Section III highlights three major political initiatives which the leadership has undertaken to strengthen its sources of legitimacy. The first is social democracy which refers to the role of village elections and NGOs in serving as additional avenues for the people to air their views. The second is

Yongnian Zheng, “Political Incrementalism: Political Lessons from China’s 20 Years of Reform,” Third World Quarterly 20:6 (1999), pp. 1157–77. For a more detailed account please see, Yongnian Zheng, Will China Become Democratic? Elite, Class and Regime Transition (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2004).



Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye

the movement towards constitutionalism which covers reforms in existing political institutions such as the People’s Congresses with a view to making them more effective in conveying the people’s aspirations. The third is intra–party democracy which is intended to foster a greater sense of accountability and predictability in the conduct of politics in the country. In the fourth section, some conclusions will be summarized.

The term political legitimacy has been broadly defined as the belief by the governed in the rulers’ moral right to issue commands and the people’s corresponding obligation to obey such commands. Political legitimacy is extremely important because it confers upon governments or regimes the right to rule, including extracting demands from the inhabitants of a particular country. Simply put, the greater the acceptance by the people of this right to rule, the higher is the level of political legitimacy enjoyed by the ruler. In other words, legitimacy will determine to a large extent the effectiveness of governance and the scope, pace and method of political change. If the government is perceived as legitimate, the social, political and economic cost of governance will be low and the government’s capacity to promote its political and socioeconomic goals will be enhanced.4 Conversely, if the government has to resort to brute force to assert its authority, then its right to rule will be constantly challenged and political change will be sought through resistance, rebellion and even revolution. Given the centrality of political legitimacy, it is not surprising that governments or regimes around the world pay a great deal of attention to making sure that they possess or are seen to possess

Crone Donald, “State, Social Elites and Government Capacity in Southeast Asia,” Review article. World Politics 40:2 (January 1988), pp. 252–268.


Political Legitimacy in Reform China


some semblance of legitimacy. But what are the various sources of legitimacy and under what conditions are some sources of legitimacy more important than others? Max Weber’s formulation of legitimacy has been a dominant thread in the literature on this topic and is a good starting point for discussion. According to Max Weber, the “basis of every system of authority, and correspondingly of every kind of willingness to obey, is a belief, a belief by virtue of which persons exercising authority are lent prestige.”5 Based on this definition, the two key components of political legitimacy is the belief by the governed in the rulers’ moral right to issue commands and the people’s corresponding obligation to obey such commands. Nevertheless, such a definition has not been fully accepted by other scholars. J.H. Schaar commented that Max Weber’s definition has reduced the meaning of “legitimacy into belief or opinion. If a people hold the belief that existing institutions are ‘appropriate’ or ‘morally proper,’ then those institutions are legitimate. That’s all there is to it.”6 Others like David Beetham criticized Max Weber for misrepresenting the relationship between beliefs and legitimacy and for ignoring other equally important elements of legitimacy such as legality and the consent of the governed.7 Muthiah Alagappa identified four essential bases of legitimacy, namely (a) shared norms and values (referring to belief systems or ideologies that specify how things ought to be); (b) if the government concerned acquired power in conformity with established rules; (c) if that power is exercised

Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, Talcott Parsons ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1964), p. 382. 6 J.H. Schaar, “Legitimacy in the Modern State,” in P. Green and S. Levinson, eds., Power and Community (New York: Randon House, 1969), p. 284. 7 David Beetham, The Legitimation of Power (Hong Kong: Macmillan Education Ltd, 1991), pp. 11–13. According to Beetham, a given power relationship is not legitimate because people believe in its legitimacy, but because it can be justified in terms of their beliefs.



Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye

within prescribed limits for the promotion of the community’s collective interest; and, (d) if the governed have given their consent to the incumbent.8 Despite all these divergent views on the definition of legitimacy, it is clear that each government or regime derives its legitimacy from a combination of different sources. In this paper, for purposes of discussion, we divide these sources into two broad categories. The first category relates to the procedural elements of legitimacy such as whether the government acquired power in conformity with established rules and if the governed gave their consent to the incumbent. The procedural elements of democracy is most evident in established regimes like democracies in the West where there are established institutions, procedures and norms for electing new leaders and endorsing existing ones. In China, in contrast, it is a well known fact that the CCP achieved military victory over the KMT (Guomindang) forces in 1949 and began to set its own rules of the game. The leaders of the party and government are not subject to free and competitive elections as their Western counterparts but are selected based on their personal loyalties, power networks and dedication to the cause of the party. Unlike the West where the rules and procedures for the election of top leaders are widely accepted by the general public, in China such a level of acceptance is non–existent. What kind of leaders are chosen and how they are chosen are determined by a small group of elite at the very top with minimal or no participation from below. In this sense, China lacks procedural legitimacy. However, procedural legitimacy may become more important in the years ahead with a greater emphasis being placed on transparency and accountability in the conduct of politics in the country. The second category, more applicable to China, concerns the normative and performance aspects of legitimacy. The normative element is concerned with prescribed goals or values for society on

Alagappa Muthiah, ed., Political Legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The Quest for Moral Authority (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 15.


Political Legitimacy in Reform China


the basis of which the incumbent power holders seek to construct a normative framework. The performance element is concerned with the use of power for the promotion of the common interests of the people. These two elements deserve some elaboration in terms of their degree of relevance to China. The first element, which deals with the issue of how things ought to be, is closely tied to the Chinese socialist system and the values that underpin such a system. The goal, at least theoretically, is to perfect the existing socialist system although the values that give meaning to the system have evolved over the years. This is best exemplified by the changing role of ideology. Under Mao Zedong in particular, ideology largely determined how the political system should be run and how individuals should think and behave.9 With Deng’s open door and reform policy, pragmatism overtook ideology as a guide to political behavior. While Jiang Zemin attached greater importance to ideology, the market economy that Deng embarked on had changed China forever. In fact, the “three represents theory” enunciated in February 2000 and the admission of capitalists into the party are indications of how ideology has changed to stay relevant with the times. Where before ideology dictated how things ought to be, now circumstances dictate what the ideology should be. More significantly, the performance of the Chinese leadership especially in generating economic progress and development has become a very important source of legitimacy. Without institutions and procedures to confer legitimacy on the leadership, and with

Waves of mass campaigns were launched for political indoctrination and thought control as well as to mobilize support for the regime’s particular economic or foreign policies. Individuals such as Lei Feng ( ), Wang Jinxi ( ) and Jiao Yulu ( ) were held up by the authorities as models of sacrifice and selflessness. Lei Feng (1940–1962), a People’s Liberation Army soldier, is remembered for devoting his entire life to social work; Wang Jinxi (1923–1970) or “Iron Man” is known for his indefatigable spirit in braving sub–zero temperatures to open up the Daqing oil fields; and, Jiao Yulu (1922–1964) symbolizes the exemplary party cadre who devotes himself tirelessly to the service of the country.



Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye

ideology playing a less important role, the economic performance of the leadership has assumed a more dominant role. Under Deng’s market reform and open door policy, the party shifted its focus from revolution to performance legitimacy. Deng’s principle that “development is a hard fact” (fazhan shi yingdaoli), with particular emphasis on economic development, paved the way for China to pursue market–oriented reforms. What then evolved between the party and the people was a new “social contract”, a legitimacy based on performance rather than revolution. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s raised serious doubts about the future of socialism in China. But Deng’s interpretation of the events was somewhat different. In his view, the demise of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries was due to the failure of the communist regimes there to deepen economic reforms and bring economic development to the next level. As a result, these regimes lost the support of the people and eventually their legitimacy. Therefore, Deng argued that for China to avoid the same fate, it was imperative to deepen and expand the scope of market reforms in order to bring development and stability to the whole country. This led Deng to make his historic 1992 nanxun (Southern Tour) that provided a much needed boost to China’s economy. As shown in Figure 5.1, China has managed to achieve spectacular economic growth of above 9% since 1992. Although measures introduced to cool the economy in 1994 and the impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis dampened growth somewhat, the overall performance of China’s economy was impressive.10 In terms of FDI inflow, China has become the world’s most favored destination in comparison with all other developing countries since 1993. Figure 5.2 indicates that China enjoyed an annual FDI inflow of around US$3–4 billion just

John Wong, “The Rise of China: Challenges for the ASEAN Economies,” in John Wong and Yongnian Zheng, eds., China’s Post–Jiang Leadership Succession: Problems and Perspectives, (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2002), p. 284.




14.2 13.5 13.5 12.7 10.9 11.6 11.3 10.5 9.2 8.9 9.6 8.8 7.8 7.1 8.0 7.5 8.0 9.7 9.1








Political Legitimacy in Reform China






Figure 5.1 CHINA’S GDP GROWTH, 1981–2004*.
Note: 2004 Data is of first Quarter. Sources: China Statistics Yearbook 2003; China Monthly Statistics, January 2004; Website of National Bureau of Statistics of China, July 2004, http://www.stats.gov.cn.

19 82 19 83 19 84 19 85 19 86 19 87 19 88 19 89 19 90 19 91 19 92 19 93 19 94 19 95 19 96 19 97 19 98 19 99 20 00 20 01 20 02 20 03 20 04 *

19 81



60 52.74 151.9 50 45.26 41.73 40 33.77 30 37.52 33.88 45.46 40.32 40.71 149.9 46.88 53.51


Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye





billion US$



60 20 38.1 25.2 11.01 10 3.19 0 6.3 3.39 2.9 3.49 4.37 22.8 11.1 11.2 15.2 8.5 0.4 -11.3 -20 1.0 12.5 1.5 12.0 0 40

















2003 2004*

Figure 5.2 China’s FDI, 1988–2004*.
Note: 2004 data is of first half. Sources: China Statistics Yearbook 2002; Foreign Investment Statistics, Ministry of Commerce of China, July 2003, http://www.mofcom.gov.cn.


Political Legitimacy in Reform China


before nanxun, but this figure has since shot up to above US$50 billion annually since 2002. From 1988 to 2003, China’s FDI inflow grew at an average rate of 21% per annum. In the first half of 2004, FDI to China reached US$33.9 billion despite measures introduced to cool the economy. China looks set to attract more than US$50 billion in terms of FDI for the whole of this year. Over 80% of the world’s 500 largest companies have set up businesses in China.11 China’s trade for 2004 is expected to rise 20% from 2003 and top US$1 trillion.12 China’s sterling economic performance has now become a major source of legitimacy for the party and government. It is not far–fetched to argue that the CCP has so far been able to remain at the helm of power due to its success in delivering economic goods, i.e., provide employment and material benefits, to the people. According to official statistics, with robust economic growth, China has succeeded in reducing the number of people living below the poverty line from a high of 250 million to a low of 29 million in one generation (from 1978–2003).13 This represents one of the largest and fastest reductions of poverty in human history.

Without a doubt, political legitimacy that is based on economic performance has enabled China to resolve a number of pressing


John Wong, “The Economic Rise of China: A Catalyst for East Asian Economic Integration.” (Paper presented at the International Conference on East Asian Cooperation and East Asian Think Tank Network, organized by the Institute of Asia–Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China, 11–12 September, 2003). 12 “Official: Tighter Control Won’t Impede FDI Flow,” China Daily, 31 July 2004. 13 Although it has to be pointed out that the figure of 29 million living below the poverty line was slightly higher than the figure of 28.2 million in 2002. This is the first time the number of needy people increased since China embarked on its open door and reform policy in the late 1970s. See Number of Indigent Chinese Rises by 800,000 in 2003, Xinhua News Agency, 20 July 2004 and Rise in Country’s Poor Calls for Attention, China Daily, 20 July 2004.


Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye

problems. As many of these problems are developmental in nature, they can in large part be resolved through the pursuit of economic growth. But China’s remarkable economic growth has unwittingly led to the emergence of other challenges which are not easily resolved through economic measures alone. After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the economic miracle that has been variously used to describe the economic successes of the countries in the region was somewhat dented. It became more obvious that the wholehearted pursuit of economic growth was not a panacea for society’s problems. There were major limitations to this economic development model approach which the top leaders in China were aware of. The first major limitation in basing legitimacy largely on economic growth is that it is inherently unstable should the economy falter. So far, China has been able to achieve impressive growth rates that many other countries can only dream of. This has opened up huge opportunities for the population to improve their lives and get rich. The attention of the people has mainly been directed towards the economic realm and away from the political realm. In a sense, the people have become apolitical for the time being. But should the economy face a dramatic slowdown or if FDI were to dip suddenly due to some unforeseen circumstances, the people could readily blame the government for their economic woes. And if the people were to form the impression that the government is incapable of responding to their economic needs and welfare, the legitimacy of that government would quickly dissipate. One need not go further than recent history to understand the significance of this point. The massive outflow of capital from the country in the wake of the 1997 Asian financial crisis dealt a huge blow to Indonesia’s economic and political stability. Eventually, the Suharto regime lost its legitimacy and was forced to give up power because it failed to offer a solution to the economic malaise that the country found itself in. The situation in China at the moment is nowhere near what had confronted the Suharto regime although the danger of a local crisis occurring and spiraling into a national crisis that would affect the legitimacy of the leadership is always there.

Political Legitimacy in Reform China


At the moment, despite the socio–economic challenges, the people of China are relatively satisfied with present conditions and appear relatively optimistic of the future. According to a survey conducted in 2002, more than 70% of respondents said that they were both relatively and very satisfied with their overall living conditions. Within this group, the rural residents were more optimistic in their outlook with 72.8% saying they were relatively and very satisfied with their living conditions compared to 67.4% of urban residents. Also, the rural residents were less pessimistic of their living conditions with 21.9% saying they were either not so satisfied or very dissatisfied compared to 31.1% of urban residents (Table 5.1). Table 5.2 shows the degree of optimism of Chinese residents of life in the future. An overwhelming number of residents, 72.7%, were of the view that life in the future will be both relatively better and much better. Of this group, rural residents were more optimistic of the future with 75.5% saying that life will be relatively better and much better compared to 68.1% of urban residents. And a smaller group of rural residents (4.6%) feel that life in the future will change

Table 5.1 Degree to Which Chinese Citizens Are Satisfied with Their Overall Living Conditions Category Very satisfied Relatively satisfied Ok Not so satisfied Very dissatisfied Cannot tell Total Overall 7.2 63.6 3.3 21.4 3.9 0.6 100 Urban Residents 6.9 60.5 1.3 25.7 5.4 0.1 100 Rural Residents 7.3 65.5 4.5 18.9 3.0 0.9 100

Source: Yue Yuan and Huichao Zeng, “2002 nian zhongguo jumin shenghuo zhiliang diaocha” (Survey of Living Quality of Chinese Residents in 2002), in Xin Ru, Xueyi Lu and Peilin Li, eds., Shehui lanpishu 2003 nian: Zhongguo shehui xingshi fenxi yu yuce (Blue Book of the Chinese Society in 2003: An Analysis and Forecast of Chinese Social Situation), (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2003), pp. 140–141.


Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye Table 5.2 Degree to Which Chinese Citizens Are Optimistic of Life in the Future

Category Will become much better Will become slightly better Not much improvement from the present Will become not so good Will become worse Cannot tell Total

Overall 6.3 66.4 12.3 4.6 0.9 9.5 100

Urban Residents 7.2 60.9 15.4 5.5 1.7 9.4 100

Rural Residents 5.9 69.6 10.5 4.2 0.4 9.5 100

Source: Yue Yuan and Huichao Zeng, “2002 nian zhongguo jumin shenghuo zhiliang diaocha” (Survey of Living Quality of Chinese Residents in 2002), in Xin Ru, Xueyi Lu and Peilin Li, eds., Shehui lanpishu 2003 nian: Zhongguo shehui xingshi fenxi yu yuce (Blue Book of the Chinese Society in 2003: An Analysis and Forecast of Chinese Social Situation), (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2003), pp. 141–142.

slightly for the worse and could even become much worse compared to 7.2% of urban residents. Based on the findings in Tables 5.1 and 5.2, the survey has found a strong correlation between the degree to which Chinese residents are satisfied with their overall living conditions and their degree of optimism of the future. The higher their satisfaction with overall living conditions, the higher their level of optimism of the future. Also, upon deeper analysis, those households whose members earn a higher income and receive a higher education tended to be more satisfied with overall living conditions and be more optimistic of life in the future.14

Yue Yuan and Huichao Zeng, “2002 nian zhongguo jumin shenghuo zhiliang diaocha” (Survey of Living Quality of Chinese Residents in 2002), in Xin Ru, Xueyi Lu and Peilin Li, eds., Shehui lanpishu 2003 nian: Zhongguo shehui xingshi fenxi yu yuce (Blue Book of the Chinese Society in 2003: An Analysis and Forecast of


Political Legitimacy in Reform China


Judging from the above findings, the conclusion can be drawn that the Chinese people expect their leaders to continue to deliver more good years particularly in terms of economic growth in the years ahead. Only with sustained economic growth will the people remain satisfied with their overall living conditions and be optimistic of the future. If the government can meet this aspiration of the people, its legitimacy can certainly be enhanced further. However, the danger is that if it falters, the legitimacy of the government in the eyes of the people could quickly fade away. Hence, as stated above, there is a limit to placing legitimacy largely on economic performance. The second major limitation in placing legitimacy largely on the economic development model is that the interest of the less privileged and less influential could easily be overlooked in favor of the better endowed and more powerful elements of society. This could pose a threat to the socio–political stability of the country in the future. In any given society, the ability to participate or even influence politics is usually confined to the group that controls the economic resources. In China, the rich and the powerful will have an advantage over their poorer counterparts such as the peasants, workers and other less privileged groups in pressing for their interest to be heard and acted upon by the top leaders.15

Chinese Social Situation), (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2003), pp. 141–142. 15 Some Chinese scholars such as Chen An have argued that China’s entrepreneurial class and other middle classes that have benefited most from the open door and reform policy see it in their continued interest to work closely with existing political leaders to ensure that they are able to continue to reap economic benefits. The entrepreneurial class and other middle classes are generally distrustful of the lower classes because there is a fear that if the lower classes are allowed a greater say in the political process, their economic interest would be jeopardized. Therefore, the entrepreneurial class and other middle classes, unlike their counterparts in the West, are not really supportive of greater democratization in the country. See An Chen, “Capitalist Development, Entrepreneurial Class and Democratization in China,” Political Science Quarterly 117:3 (Fall 2002), pp. 401–422.


Yongnian Zheng & Liang Fook Lye

Table 5.3 Social Groups that Benefited the Most and Least Since the Open Door and Reform Policy Social Groups that Benefited the Most Social Groups that Benefited the Least
Types of Social groups Workers Farmers Teachers Professionals State-owned enterprises managers Urban and rural sole proprietorship Party and government cadres Private enterprises bosses Acting Personnel Others Ranking Choice as a % 88.2 76.3 15.3 14.2 8.8

Types of Social groups Party and government cadres Private enterprises bosses Acting personnel Urban and rural self employed State-owned enterprises managers Professionals


Choice as a % 59.2 55.4 43.0 33.0 29.3

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5















Workers Others

9 10

1.5 0.5

9 10

2.5 2.7

Source: Jiang Zhou, “2002 nian zhongguo chengshi redian wenti diaocha” (Investigation of the Hot Issues in Chinese Cities in 2002), in Xin Ru, Xueyi Lu and Peilin Li, eds., Shehui lanpishu 2003 nian: Zhongguo shehui xingshi fenxi yu yuce (Blue Book of the Chinese Society in 2003: An Analysis and Forecast of Chinese Social Situation), (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2003), pp. 159–160.

There is a perception among urban residents in China that since the open door and reform policy, only a select group of privileged individuals has reaped the most benefits from this policy. According to a 2002 survey, the results of which are in Table 5.3, Chinese urban

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residents are of the view that the group that has benefited most from the open door and reform policy is the party and government cadres, followed by the bosses of private enterprises and actors. Not surprisingly, farmers and workers were ranked the lowest among the various social groups. The same survey also confirmed that the workers and farmers benefited the least from the open door and reform policy. The results of the 2002 survey in Table 5.3 have shown no variation from the results contained in previous surveys published in earlier issues of the Blue Book of the Chinese Society. It would therefore imply that those groups who have consistently benefited the most or the least from the open door and reform policy have remained largely the same over the years.16 There is therefore an urgent need for the top leadership to find ways and means of spreading the benefits of economic reforms in a more even manner so that the less privileged could see the benefit of supporting the existing system. Otherwise, there will be a widening gap between those who consistently benefit the most from a market economy and those who consistently benefit the least from it. This would pose a threat to the continued viability of the open door and reform policy in the long run.17 The admission of capitalist into the ranks of the party and the amendment of the CCP constitution to reflect the CCP as not only the vanguard of the working class and peasants but also representative of the entire Chinese nation and people marks a turning point

Zhou Jiang, “2002 nian zhongguo chengshi redian wenti diaocha” (Investigation of the Hot Issues in Chinese Cities in 2002), in Xin Ru, Xueyi Lu and Peilin Li, eds., Shehui lanpishu 2003 nian: Zhongguo shehui xingshi fenxi yu yuce (Blue Book of the Chinese Society in 2003: An Analysis and Forecast of Chinese Social Situation), (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2003), p. 160. 17 Yongnian Zheng, “State Rebuilding, Popular Protest and Collective Action in China,” Japanese Journal of Political Science 3:1 (2002), pp. 45–70.



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in the history of the party.18 Obviously, such moves are a belated acknowledgment of the important role which the capitalist class has played in contributing to China’s economic prosperity. This raises questions about the nature of the CCP that will evolve in the future. Rather than being a socialist party at the “primary stage of socialism,” the CCP may evolve into a kind of a Social Democratic Party, one that will move it one step away from the socialist road. There could be a possibility that one day the capitalist class could come to wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the conduct of politics in the country given the economic resources they wield. Correspondingly, the interest of the economically less endowed, as stated above, could be sidelined. This is a danger which the top leadership has to avoid. The third major limitation in placing legitimacy largely on the economic development growth model is that such a system is unable to ensure a better distribution of wealth that is accumulated under a market economy. In a full fledged market economy, an undue amount of emphasis is placed on the pursuit of development and accumulation of wealth, and less on the distribution of such wealth. Also, the degree of wealth distribution would depend on whether the leaders under such a market–oriented system see it in their interest to introduce wealth distribution policies and ensure that they are implemented. It may be the case that those members of society who really want to see a better distribution of wealth are not in a position to convey their views effectively to those in power. On the other hand, those societal members who do not want to see an even distribution of wealth are better able to convince the politicians not to take any effective action. If the uneven distribution of wealth were to persist and even widen, it will pose a long term threat to the socio–political stability of the country. Table 5.4 shows the ever widening income


Among the amendments was the incorporation of Jiang Zemin’s “three represents” theory into the Party Constitution. According to this theory, the party represents the “most advanced mode of productive force, the most advanced culture and the interests of the majority of the population.”

Political Legitimacy in Reform China Table 5.4 Fluctuations in the Urban–Rural Income Levels since 1995 Year Per Capital Rural Income (Yuan) 1926 2090 2162 2210 2253 2366 2476 2622 Increase in Real Income (%) 8.99 4.59 4.35 3.79 2.11 4.20 4.80 4.03


Gap in Urban Rural Income (No. of Times) 2.51 2.47 2.51 2.65 2.79 2.90 3.11 3.23

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Source: Yiyong Yang and Yanfen Huang, “Zhongguo jumin shouru fenpei xinjumian” (The new situation of income distribution among China’s residents), in Xin Ru, Xueyi Lu and Peilin Li, eds., Shehui lanpishu 2003 nian: Zhongguo shehui xingshi fenxi yu yuce (Blue Book of the Chinese Society in 2003: An Analysis and Forecast of Chinese Social Situation), (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2003), pp. 226–234; China Statistical Yearbook 2003 and China Statistical Abstract 2004.

gap between the urban and rural residents over the years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the Gini coefficient indicating the gap between the rich and poor has risen from 0.3 in 1978 to 0.46 in China in 2003, rising above the internationally recognized warning level of 0.4.19 The main cause of the rise in the Gini coefficient is due to the increasing income gap between the urban and rural residents. In 1996, the income gap between the two was 2.51 times but this figure has since widened to 3.23 by 2003. Besides the urban–rural divide, the other major challenge which the top leadership has to grapple with and which seemed to have become more rampant under a market economy is the problem of corruption. In a press interview after the 10th National People’s

Social Development Draws Attention from Chinese Government, Xinhua News Agency, March 1 2004. See also Urgent — China Working to Narrow Growing Income Gaps — Premier, Xinhua News Agency, March 15 2004.



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Congress in March 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao described the fight against corruption as an important task that concerned the life and death of the CCP and country.20 According to the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of 2003, China was given a CPI score of 3.4 out of a range of 0–10, with 0 being the most corrupt and 10 being the least corrupt.21 Corruption, if not brought under control, could undermine the confidence of the people in their government’s ability to rule the country. The problem is doubly serious if officials abuse their privileged position to obtain wealth illegally as ordinary people would then have less reason to restrain themselves. Most recently, Bi Yuxi, former Head of Capital Road Development and vice Director of Beijing City Transport Office, was expelled from the party and is under investigation for corruption. The investigation of Bi is reportedly the first major corruption case involving a Beijing official since former Party Secretary and Mayor of the City Chen Xitong was sentenced to 16 years in jail on corruption charges in 1998.22 The fourth major limitation in placing legitimacy primarily on the economic development model is that it creates a false sense of security that as long as the government is able to deliver the economic goods to the people, it will always be able to retain the support of the people and remain in power. Recent developments in Hong Kong have shown that this may not be the case. Since the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997, the Beijing authorities have introduced various measures to help the Hong Kong economy

Wen Jiabao: fan fubai guanxi women dang he guojia de shengsi cunwang (Wen Jiabao: the Fight Against Corruption is Linked to the Life and Death of the Party and Government), Renminwang, March 14 2004 (http://www1.people.com.cn/GB/ shizheng/1024/2389811.html). See also Government to Rectify Itself, Fight Corruption: Premier Wen, People’s Daily, March 5 2004. 21 Johann Graf Lambsdorff, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2003,” pp. 282–287, in Global Corruption Report 2004 available at http://www.globalcorruptionreport.org/ index.shtml. 22 Ex-roads Chief under Investigation for Graft; First Major Graft Case Involving Official in Capital since 1998, South China Morning Post, August 10 2004.


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and to allay the concerns of its people with China’s rapid economic rise. When SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) hit Hong Kong last year, China eased travel restrictions in July 2003 by allowing residents from some Chinese cities to visit the territory without having to join tour groups, in an effort to boost Hong Kong’s flagging economy.23 The free–spending mainland Chinese tourists have contributed in no small measure to reviving Hong Kong’s retail industry.24 Most significant of all, China concluded the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with Hong Kong at the end of June 2003. In Beijing’s view, CEPA was meant as a timely gift for the people of Hong Kong to placate the anti–Tung groundswell.25 However, this was not to be. In the eyes of the Hong Kong people in general and the democrats in particular, economic goodies alone could not satisfy their desire for a Chief Executive that would or be seen to fight for the interests of the general populace. On hindsight, Beijing’s interpretation of the Hong Kong issue solely from an economic angle proved to be limited in meeting the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. Learning from the Hong Kong example, it would also be prudent for Beijing not to be lulled into a false sense of security that as long as it delivers economic goods to its people, everything else will fall into place.

To be sure, the top leadership is aware of the major limitations of building a political structure based largely on performance legitimacy. Given China’s own domestic conditions and the varied circumstances under different historical periods, China’s leaders,

Visitors to Hong Kong Surge to June Record, Reuters News, August 1 2004. H.K. June Retail Sales Volume up 11.3%, Lags Forecast, Reuters News, August 6 2004. 25 John Wong and Sarah Chan, “China’s Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with Hong Kong: A Gift from Beijing?,” EAI Background Brief No. 174 (Singapore: December 12 2003).



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beginning from Deng Xiaoping and more so under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, have made continuous efforts to adjust the political structure to stay relevant to the socio–economic circumstances. They have embarked on three main types of political initiatives, namely social democracy, constitutionalism, and intra–party democracy in an effort to complement existing sources of legitimacy.

Social Democracy
Social democracy here essentially refers to democracy from below. Central to the idea of social democracy is political participation where social forces are given a say in decisions and policies which have a bearing on them. In this regard, two forms of practices have taken root in post–Mao China, namely, the establishment of the village election system and the emergence of NGOs and other civil organizations. The establishment of the village election system has aroused much interest among scholars inside and outside China. Every stage of its development has been closely watched and analyzed, and voluminous studies have been published.26 The Chinese leadership

Yang Zhong and Jie Chen, “To Vote or Not to Vote: An Analysis of Peasants’ Participation in Chinese Village Elections,” Comparative Political Studies 35:6 (2002), pp. 686–712; Jean Oi and Scott Rozelle, “Elections and Power: The Locus of Decision–Making in Chinese Villages,” The China Quarterly 162 (2000), pp. 513–539; Tianjian Shi, “Voting and Nonvoting in China: Voting Behavior in Plebiscitary and Limited Choice Elections,” The Journal of Politics 61:4 (November 1999), pp. 1115–1139; Anne F. Thurston, Muddling Toward Democracy: Political Change in Grassroots China (Washington, D. C.: United States Institute of Peace, 1998); Bruce J. Dickson, “China’s Democratization and the Taiwan Experience,” Asian Survey 38:4 (April 1998), pp. 349–364; Daniel Kelliher, “The Chinese Debate over Village Self–Government,” The China Journal 37 (1997), pp. 67–75; Kent M. Jennings, “Political Participation in the Chinese Countryside,” American Political Science Review 91 (1997), pp. 361–372; Minxin Pei, “Creeping Democratization in China,” Journal of Democracy 6:4 (1995), pp. 65–79; Lianjiang Li and Kevin O’Brien, “Villagers and Popular Resistance in Contemporary China,” Modern China 22:1 (1996), pp. 28–61; Melanie Manion, “The Electoral Connection in the Chinese Countryside,” American Political Science Review 90:4 (1996), pp. 736–748.


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formally introduced the village elections in 1987 as part of its efforts to restructure rural governance after the collapse of the Maoist commune system. The system allows villagers to choose their own leaders in an unprecedented experiment with rural autonomy. Despite resistance from vested interests at different levels, the system has persisted and spread to different parts of the country. According to a People’s Daily article, in 2003 alone, there were 929 counties across China covering Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Fujian, Jiangxi and Shaanxi that conducted elections to elect new villagers’ committees.27 Some scholars and policy makers are of the view that the village election system could mark China’s nascent moves towards democracy, and spark off a process of democratization from below. However, such high expectations have not materialized. The leadership seems unwilling and unprepared to expand the election system from the village level to the township level, the lowest administrative level of the government structure. Although the authorities implicitly allowed some townships to practice local elections during Jiang Zemin’s second term from 1998–2003, no more of such experiments are now allowed. From the perspective of the top leaders, it would appear that before the village election system becomes a well–functioning institution, it would be quite risky to expand it to a higher level. So far the support for village elections at the village level is growing, judging from the expansion in geographical scope of such elections. They seemed to have become a permanent fixture of China’s political landscape, allowing an increasing number of people at the village level to have a say in matters that affect their lives. A second form of social democracy is China’s emerging civil society. The development of NGOs and many other types of civil organizations has also been noticed by scholars. Such developments


“Minzhengbu: zhongguo cunweihui huanjie xuanju gongzuo jiang juxu tuijin” (Ministry of Civil Affairs: China’s Villagers’ Committees Election Work will Continue to Push Ahead), Xinhua News, May 5 2004.


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have been spurred by the rapid socio–economic changes in the past two decades. The reform and open door policy has led to the emergence of social spaces left unoccupied by the existing power structure, and civil society has come to fill up the space. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, China had 142,000 registered non–government organizations by the end of 2003, an increase of 6.8% over last year’s figure.28 The Chinese leadership has actually allowed NGOs and civil organizations to grow in these spaces, partly because the services of such organizations are required by the rapid socio–economic transformation of the country, and partly because these organizations can better meet the needs of Chinese society. Allowing the NGOs and civil organizations to play a more active role in the social realm will help the government realize its goal of building a country based on “small government and big society.”29 In many developed countries, NGOs and civil organizations also help play an important role in fostering a greater sense of responsibility and accountability on the part of the government. But in China, until today, their role is still not so obvious and the authorities would not take kindly to any organization that could become influential enough to challenge the authority of the party and government. Most NGOs and civil organizations are apolitical and only deal with non–political matters such as poverty reduction, environmental protection and AIDS prevention.30 It has been observed that the leadership has attempted to use a corporatist approach to make all these NGOs and civil organizations play a “healthy and helpful” role in China’s political system. The idea is to make them partners of the state and not to challenge the authority of the state. At this juncture,

Registered NGOs in China Number 142,000 by 2003, Xinhua News Agency, April 30 2004. 29 NGOs can Become Key Social “Partner,” China Daily, March 13 2004. 30 NGOs to Play Important Role in China’s AIDS Prevention, Control, Xinhua News Agency, April 13 2004; Chinese College Students Work in NGOs for Environmental Protection, Xinhua News Agency, March 27 2004; NGOs Helping to Reduce Poverty, China Daily, October 15 2001; and, NGOs Want More Chances to Participate in Welfare Work, Xinhua News Agency, October 28 2001.


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the NGOs and other civil organizations in China are still in the process of finding their niche and, unlike their counterparts in the West, they are likely to become players in support of the government’s role in society.31

Constitutionalism or constitutional democracy here refers to the process of democratizing the existing political institutions via constitutional reforms. Two related forms of political practice have been tried under this framework, namely, (a) strengthening the role of the NPC (National People’s Congress) at the national level and that of the PC (People’s Congresses) at local levels, and (b) emphasizing the rule of law. In contrast to social democracy, the primary motivation force behind constitutional democracy comes from the top. It is the top leadership that decides what can be allowed or disallowed. From the perspective of political participation, constitutionalism is a form of elitism. This is because the ordinary masses do not play a direct role in influencing politics at the national level; rather, they elect representatives to the NPC and it is these representatives that help to represent their interest. The reforms in the NPC have been given priority since the end of the Cultural Revolution. Maoist radicalism during the Cultural Revolution undermined and in some cases destroyed party and state institutions and the whole country was in a somewhat chaotic state for more than a decade. After Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1970s, the Chinese leadership began to place an emphasis on building a more credible legislative and legal system. The NPC, as the highest law–making body, became important.32 In the most ideal


Edward X. Gu, “State Corporatism and Civil Society,” in Gungwu Wang and Yongnian Zheng, eds., Reform, Legitimacy and Dilemmas: China’s Politics and Society (Singapore: Singapore University Press and World Scientific, 2000), pp. 71–102. 32 Authors like Chien Min Chao have argued that the autonomy of the National People’s Congress has increased since the 1980s. Among some of the notable


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sense, an increase in the role of NPC in national politics can promote two transformations in favor of a more predictable political environment, namely from party dominion to government dominion, and from governance by party policies to governance by laws and regulations.33 In the pre–reform era, the CCP dominated every aspect of Chinese society. It made every important decisions and policies. The NPC was known only as a rubber stamp of the CCP. Since the reform era, there has been some progress made in these two transformations although the party–government relationship is still not well defined in functional terms, and party policies remain important, and sometimes even more effective in solving some problems in some areas. Another problem that needs to be resolved is how to empower people to choose their representatives and have their interests represented in the political processes. A second practice under the constitutional framework refers to efforts made in instituting the rule of law. The purpose of rule of law is twofold. First, the government governs the country by laws, and second, the government, and to some extent the party, is subordinate to laws, like any other organizations in society. Laws have apparently played an increasingly important role in attempts by top

powers that the People’s Congresses at both the central and local levels enjoy have been the pingyi, a measure to evaluate and discuss the work of government agencies and officials, and zhifa jiancha, inspection on the implementation of laws. See Chien Min Chao, “The National People’s Congress Oversight: Power and the Role of the CCP,” in Kjeld Erik Brodsgaard and Yongnian Zheng, eds., Bringing The Party Back In (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2004), pp. 115–140. 33 Other scholars who have written on these issues include Du Gan, ed., Jinyibu wanshan difang renda zhidu ruogan wenti yanjiu (Several Issues on further Improving the Institution of Local People’s Congresses), (Szechuan: Renmin chubanshe, 1998); Yuankun Zhang, Difang renda gongzuo gailun (Introduction to the Work of Local People’s Congresses), (Beijing: Zhongguo minzhu fazhi chubanshe, 1997); Kevin O’Brien, “Institutionalizing Chinese Legislatures: Trade-offs between Autonomy and Capacity,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 23:1, pp. 91–108; Andrew Nathan, “China’s Constitutionalist Option,” Journal of Democracy 7:4 (1996), pp. 43–57.

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leaders to enhance the legitimacy of their regime. Even though party policies continue to hold sway in important political areas, laws are being emphasized on more occasions. To a greater extent, the rule of law is becoming an important pillar in enhancing the legitimacy of the current leadership. The political report of the 16th Party Congress in November 2002 argued that in order to foster socialist democratic politics, it is most fundamental to integrate three core elements, namely the CCP leadership, the autonomy of the people and the rule of law in an organic way.34 The rule of law has received much greater attention under the Hu–Wen leadership. At a CCP study group session in April 2004, Hu said that governing the country according to law, administrating by law as well as safeguarding the integrity of the legal system were vital especially when the task of reform, development and stability were onerous.35 In the same month, the State Council led by Wen published a guideline on improving the operations of the government based on the rule of law in the next decade, which elaborates the principles, main tasks and measures to push the government at all levels to carry out its duties in accordance with the law.36 There have been other occasions this year where importance of the rule of law is emphasized.37

Jiang Zemin zai dang deshiliudashang suozuo baogao quanwen (Full Text of Jiang Zemin’s report to the 16th Party Congress), Xinhuawang, 17 November 2002 (http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2002–11/17/content_632235.htm). 35 Top CPC Leader Stresses People’s Democratic Participation by Law, Xinhua News Agency, 27 April 2004. 36 Quanmian tuijin yifa xingzheng shishi gangyao (Guideline on Comprehensively Pushing Ahead with the Implementation of Rule of Law), Xinhuawang, 20 April 2004 (http://news.xinhuanet.com/zhengfu/2004–04/21/content_1431232.htm). 37 Wen Jiabao: tuijin yifa xingzheng, jiakuai jianshe fazhi zhengfu bufa (Wen Jiabao: Push Ahead with Rule of Law, Speed up the Pace of Building up a Government based on Law), Xinhuawang, 29 June 2004 (http://news.xinhuanet.com/zhengfu/ 2004–06/29/content_1554737.htm); Chinese Premier Welcomes Auditing Report on Government Departments, Xinhua News Agency, 5 July 2004; and, Chinese Premier Calls for Clean, Efficient Government, Xinhua News Agency, 22 July 2004.



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It would appear that the Hu–Wen leadership realizes the importance of pushing ahead with the rule of law in governing the country. Given their lack of revolutionary credentials, the decreasing role of ideology and the intractable difficulties that China faces, it would make much sense for them to want to build up an additional source of legitimacy in something that is more predictable and transparent. The challenge is how a rational relationship among the leaders of the party at different levels, and between the party on the one hand and the law on the other can be established. If the party and its officials are unwilling to be subordinate to laws, the rule of law as an effective governance system cannot be established. How events will unfold is still an open question.

Intra–Party Democracy
Intra–party democracy here refers to greater political participation within the CCP. It aims at establishing various mechanisms for party members, especially party leaders, to “voice” their opinion over different issues on the one hand, and to make the party leadership accountable to party members. In this category, several positive developments have taken place. Intra–party democracy was greatly emphasized by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s. Mao’s personal dictatorship caused much damage to the party and generated enormous negative consequences for China’s political system. To contain such damages, Deng called for reform of the party and state leadership. Personality cult has been greatly constrained, and lifelong tenure system for party leaders abolished. Meanwhile, many institutions and mechanisms were established to prevent personal dictatorship and excessive centralization of power such as the retirement system, “exit” system, and appointment system. During Jiang Zemin’s tenure, efforts were also made to introduce the rule of law as a constraint on party cadres and government officials (yifa zhiguan). The most difficult part is to establish mechanisms to ensure that individual leaders are accountable for their actions. Many party leaders continue to stand above laws, and consequently, corruption is still quite

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serious among officials. It will take some time to establish an effective mechanism to make party leaders accountable. Some efforts have been made by the Hu–Wen leadership to institute a system of limited accountability. During the SARS epidemic, two senior government officials, namely Beijing Mayor Meng Xuenong and Health Minister Zhang Wenkang, were removed for their incompetent and irresponsible behavior. Within the Political Bureau, there has been moves to make its procedures more transparent. The meetings of the Political Bureau Standing Committee have been regularized and their agenda made known before each meeting. Also, party and government bodies are expected to make regular public announcements of decisions taken at closed door meetings. Most significantly, during the Third Plenum of the 16th Party Congress in October 2003, Hu took the unprecedented step of submitting the Political Bureau’s work report to the Central Committee and inviting them to give their comments. The party is willingly submitting itself to limited political supervision.38 Such a reporting system looks set to continue at the Fourth Plenum of the 16th Party Congress in September 2004. Also under Hu’s watch, the CCP finally issued the long–awaited Regulations on Internal Supervision of the CCP and Regulations on Discipline Penalties for the CCP in February 2004.39 These two sets of regulations are aimed at preventing as well

Yongnian Zheng and Liang Fook Lye, “SARS and China’s Political System,” in John Wong and Yongnian Zheng, eds., The SARS Epidemic: Challenges to China’s Crisis Management (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2004), pp. 45–75. 39 Zhongguo gongchandang dangnei jiandu tiaoli (Regulations on Internal Supervision of the CCP), Xinhuawang, February 17 2004; and, Zhongguo gongchandang jilu chufen tiaoli (Regulations on Discipline Penalties for the CCP), Xinhuawang, February 18 2004. In 1990, at the 6th Plenary of the 13th Party Congress, and in the wake of students’ demand to clean up official corruption in the aftermath of the Tiananmen incident, a party internal supervision regulation to combat corruption and to pre–empt the possibility of another student movement motivated by anti–corruption feeling was proposed. But due to a lack of consensus within the top party leadership on the scope and power of the new regulation, the proposed regulation was shelved.



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as punishing corruption involving party officials including party secretaries and even Political Bureau members. They show the party’s determination to base its efforts in the fight against corruption on rules rather than on any particular leader’s political will.40 Some detractors would argue that these are but mere changes in formality and procedures as the party still calls the shots on important matters. But the fact of the matter is that the party actually initiated steps, albeit small ones, to willingly submit itself to some degree of supervision. The party was under no strong pressure to do so. This is a reflection of the realization by the top leaders that both the party and government cannot continue with the old ways of doing things. They would need to change to stay in line with the aspirations of the people in order to maintain or even broaden the basis of legitimacy.

The China of today is very much different from the China during Mao’s times. Not only has society changed as a result of the forces unleashed by rapid economic development but the people of China today are more connected to the rest of the world and are better able to compare what is happening elsewhere with developments in their own country. This socio–economic transformation presents huge challenges for the Chinese leaders in–charge–of the largest socialist country in the world. A major challenge, which is the focus of this paper, is how to ensure that the leadership of the party and government can continue to have a legitimate claim to rule the country. The party has been in power for the past 55 years and there is no guarantee that it will be able to do so. The top leaders of China are aware of the limitations of basing legitimacy primarily on the basis of economic performance and have consciously set out to expand its sources of legitimacy.


Detailed Rules to Oversee Conduct of Party Members, China Daily, February 19 2004. See also Party Corruption Fight Gets Tougher, China Daily, February 18 2004.

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Without a doubt, the economic development of China has helped it resolve many of its problems such as raising the standard of living of the people, lifting a large group of people above the poverty line and raising China’s international status. But relying on economic development has also generated other destabilizing forces which cannot simply be addressed by economic goods alone. These other forces include the ever widening urban–rural income gap, rampant corruption, the aspirations of the people for a more accountable and transparent government and a desire by the people to play a greater role in policies that affect their lives. To be sure, the Chinese political system was never entirely based on performance legitimacy and in particular economic performance. It is true that ideology as a tool of legitimation has declined in importance compared to economic performance. But it is also a fact that the Chinese leadership has constantly strived to create other sources of legitimacy to supplement the legitimacy derived from delivering economic goods to the people. It is in this context that the political experiments such as social democracy, constitutionalism and intra–party democracy should be understood. There has been some commendable progress made in each of the three major areas outlined above although the results are rather mixed. Nevertheless, it reflects an understanding on the part of the leadership that they must stay relevant or perish. In the area of social democracy, the geographical scope of village elections has expanded over the years and is likely to continue. As for the NGOs and civil organizations, they are likely to evolve into institutions that are non–confrontational in nature and help the government serve the people better. They may also act as a feedback mechanism to allow the government to better understand the views and concerns of the people. In the area of constitutionalism, the role of the NPC and lower level People’s Congresses is becoming more important given the present leadership’s emphasis on the interests of the ordinary people, many of whom still live in the countryside. These representatives to the people’s congresses can be expected to play a more assertive role in helping to meet the needs of the people they are supposed to represent. Also, the stress by the leadership on the rule


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of law will mean that matters of state will become more predictable and transparent. But it remains to be seen how the party can be brought to observe the rule of law. As for intra–party democracy, some of the work processes has also become more transparent. The present leadership under Hu–Wen has built on the success achieved by their predecessors to broaden and deepen the sources of legitimacy. They have deliberately taken a pro–people orientation to show the leadership’s determination to address the concerns and grievances of ordinary folks. Hu has proposed the new “three people’s principles” of the party, namely, power to be used by the people, concern to be showered on the people and benefits to be enjoyed by the people (quan weimin suoyong, qing weimin suoxi, li weimin suomou).41 The media has also been tasked to be “closer to reality, closer to the masses and closer to life” (tiejin shiji, tiejin qunzhong, tiejin shenghuo).42 The leadership is constantly working to enhance its legitimacy. It would be quite unfair to judge the progress China has made so far in expanding the sources of legitimacy solely from the standpoint of well–established democracies. In embarking on the three major political initiatives, China’s leaders do not have any ready textbook to refer to. No other large authoritarian country in the world has ever attempted such a transformation. The model of political legitimacy that China will build is an on–going process and is being shaped in an incremental manner based on local conditions. Such an approach will enable China’s leaders to guarantee socio–economic stability while constantly seeking ways to strengthen their “social contract” with the people.

Yongnian Zheng and Liang Fook Lye, “China’s Politics in 2003: The Fourth Generation Leaders Making Their Mark,” EAI Background Brief No. 176 (Singapore: December 30 2003). 42 Yongnian Zheng and Liang Fook Lye, “China’s Propaganda Reforms (I): Rapid Changes in Media Scene,” EAI Background Brief No. 201 (Singapore: August 2 2004). See also Yongnian Zheng and Liang Fook Lye, “China’s Propaganda Reforms (II): The Challenge of Modern Information Management,” EAI Background Brief No. 202 (Singapore: August 2 2004).




Legitimating Rhetorics and Factual Economies in a South Korean Development Dispute
Robert Oppenheim

During its last months in office in 1997–98, the government of Kim Young Sam, South Korea’s first civilian president in over three decades, was haunted by the ghost of Park Chung Hee. Park, a leader of the coup of May 16 1961, had inaugurated modern military rule and over the next two decades had overseen both the rapid, forced–march industrialization of his nation and some of its darkest periods of authoritarian repression. Park had been assassinated by the head of his own Korean Central Intelligence Agency in 1979 — a nice irony for opponents then and since, a literal destruction at the hands of forces unleashed. As Kim’s regime descended into a morass of corruption charges and economic crisis, however, the dead strongman’s image was suddenly everywhere. The stern countenance and


Robert Oppenheim

the aviator sunglasses stared up from book covers and newspaper serializations, while the words within in many cases cast Park’s career in a heroic mold. The hairstyle was transplanted to the head of a living politician who, casting himself as a “youthful reformer,” had entered the race for the next presidential term. Much of the South Korean left, itself no slouch in pointing out the demerits of Kim’s administration, was nonetheless clearly horrified. Several authors offered analyses of the phenomenon, supplemented in some cases with critical rejoinders that sought to remind the public of what it knew or should know: the blood on Park’s hands, his “anti–national” character as a servant of the Japanese military during the colonial period, or the likelihood that “TK”1 regionalism was driving this bit of political reminiscence. Doing research in South Korea at the time, I was struck by the formula in which several interlocutors discussed Park and the Zeitgeist — I was, in one case, literally told that “Park might have killed a lot of people, but he sure developed Korea.” In Kyongju, the historic city solidly in the TK heartland ˘ where I did the bulk of my work, it was more specifically said of the former president that “he really knew culture.” The quality, more than the public strength, of these sentiments is what caught my attention, and in them and in the conversations that ensued I further got the sense that, although Park’s achievements were certainly partly responsible for his postmortem return, behind his ambivalent encore was also a more generalized, detached association with a competence that was independent of goal or result. All of which led to a question: what is the political history of this “competence”?2 By way of rephrasing the issue, it is my purpose here to suggest that scholarship on South Korea might pay more attention to, loosely, the technocratic dimension of the politics of at least the

“Taegu–(North) Kyongsang,” the region of Park’s birth and the geographic center ˘ of support for him and his political successors. 2 I should be clear that I am exercising an “ethnographic prerogative” here. This is a description of the (my) formulation of a problem and a suggestion of one reason why the problem may be interesting, and not a full analysis of the Park Chung Hee


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last four decades, as a supplement or corrective to more usual analyses in terms of the contest of “authoritarianism” versus “democracy.” How might this be done? Max Weber’s account of rational–legal–technical bureaucracy offers both a domination (Herrschaft)3 story and a legitimation story. For Weber, the character of bureaucracy as an ever–encroaching war machine was tied to its actual superiority in efficiently organizing and deploying “technical knowledge” of the sort “completely indispensable” to contemporary societies in large–scale planning and similar endeavors.4 “Bureaucratic administration means fundamentally domination through knowledge,”5 Weber wrote, emphasizing in part its constitutive control of and rule through facts. Importantly, however, this was a thesis of formal rather than substantive rationality, and thus different from the perspective of Talcott Parsons, for whom bureaucratic rationality necessarily tended to eufunctionalist substantive

memory phenomenon, which while potentially valuable is beyond the scope of this paper. For examples of heroic depictions of Park, see In-hwa Yi, In’gan ui Kil (The ˘ Path of a Human), 3 vols. (Seoul: Sallim, 1997–98) and T’ae-hyong Kim, Yongung ˘ ˘ Pak Chong-hui (Hero Park Chung Hee) (Kwangmyong: Inhwa, 1997). For an analy˘ ˘ ˘ sis of the phenomenon, see Chun-man Kang, “Wae Pak Cho ˘ng-hui Yuryo ˘ ˘ng i Ttodonun’ga?” (Why Is the Spirit of Park Chung Hee Wandering?), in Inmul kwa ˘ ˘ Sasang 2 (Personalities and Phenomena) (Seoul: Kaemagowon, 1997). For a critical ˘ academic response, see Han’guk Chongch’i Yon’guhoe, ed., Pak Chong-hui Nomoso ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘˘ (Overcoming Park Chung Hee) (Seoul: P’urun Sup, 1998). ˘ 3 This is famously a difficult word to translate, and is rendered for the most part as “domination,” “authority,” or “rule.” Talcott Parsons chose “imperative control,” in line with his larger emphasis on its integrative, de–politicized functionality. See Robert J. Antonio, “Weber Vs. Parsons: Domination or Technocratic Models of Social Organization,” in Ronald M. Glassman and Vatro Murvar, eds., Max Weber’s Political Sociology (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1984), p. 155. I use the word “technocratic” much more suggestively than does Antonio, who ties it to Parsons’ substantive vision and eufunctionalist orientation. 4 Antonio, p. 157, and Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, 2 vols., Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, eds. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), p. 223. 5 Weber, p. 225.


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approximation of societal needs, or even the more revolutionary Thorstein Veblen, whose “soviet of engineers” represented those who might see clearly over the heads of the self–interested “captains of industry.”6 Weber’s bureaucracy is instead ruled, and given its substantive goal, from outside itself; it is “chained to the domination interests of the master,” the “nonbureaucratic head”7 — for example, the autocrat. This denial of immanent “utopian” logics of social harmonization was of a piece with Weber’s more general focus on the “permanence of the political,” of rule and struggle.8 Yet of course he simultaneously realized that the central legitimacy claim, projected outwards, of the conjoint domination of a ruler and a bureaucratic apparatus is typically articulated in precisely these socially functional terms: namely that rule is exercised legally and, to emphasize the technocratic aspect, competently in the service of a common, usually national goal.9 Weber’s analysis thus establishes the nexus of ruler and bureaucratic apparatus, formal and substantive rationalities, as a privileged site of empirical political questions concerning both domination and legitimacy. In a given case, bureaucratic officials may recast or resist the goals of those who ostensibly command them,10 or, as is alleged to have been the case with Park Chung Hee and his technocratic “learned friends,”11 they may be wholly instrumentalized. In some situations, a ruler may draw legitimacy from the competence of a

See Antonio, especially pp. 156–158, and Thorstein Veblen, The Engineers and the Price System (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1921). 7 Antonio, p. 159. 8 Peter Lassman, “The Rule of Man Over Man: Politics, Power and Legitimation,” in Stephen Turner, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Weber (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 84, citing Joseph Schwartz, The Permanence of the Political (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). 9 Weber, p. 215. 10 Lassman, p. 92. 11 The phrase is drawn from Sugwon Kang, “President Park and his Learned Friends: Some Observations on Contemporary Korean Statecraft,” Bulletin of


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technocratic apparatus. When the content of an established national goal is modernization or “advanced–nation status,” as has so often been the case in South Korea, there may alternatively be a different sort of blending of means and ends as well–trained technocrats become not only instruments but signs of potential success. Another option for treating technocratic legitimacy is to consider, more broadly, the cultural, institutional, and disciplinary histories and exigencies of what Timothy Mitchell has recently referred to as the “rule of experts.”12 The field of technocracy in contemporary South Korea could thus be extended to all the many arenas in which chonmun’ga — “specialists” or “experts” — claim or are accorded a ˘ unique voice. Some authors who have, in this fashion, emphasized the social interactions at the heart of technocratic rule have likened the epistemic authority of “high” experts to charisma in Weber’s terms. This is so since the non–expert confronting expert pronouncements must essentially accept or deny them on faith, based on a lay evaluation of experts’ technomantic “powers” — is a given set of the “best and brightest” really all that?13 Historical investigation of the actual organization of experts and expert roles, both inside and outside governmental structures, may go some way towards ameliorating the totalizing aspect of this view, which is based on rather strong assumptions of the social separation of experts and the radical incommensurability of forms of discourse.14 In the South Korean case, the governmental and quasi–governmental institutes where planning expertise has been concentrated are a place to start.

Concerned Asian Scholars 7:4 (1975). Kang’s piece (written at the high point of Park’s Yusin regime) is a straightforward denunciation of the treason of intellectuals in their support of and flirtation with the government at the time. It ends on the claim that “there is no creative tension between mind and power in Korea; one speaks for the other” (p. 31). 12 Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno –Politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). 13 See Stephen P. Turner, Liberal Democracy 3.0 (London: Sage, 2003), pp. 50–51. 14 See Turner, p. 66.


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But not, perhaps, to finish: it is worth asking, for example, whether the new “citizens’ ” social movements of the 1990s represent a historical shift not only in the class character or goals of such bodies but in the political mobilization of experts, semi–experts, and quasi–experts. Yet ultimately the question of the legitimating role of experts must confront also the content of expertise. If technocratic legitimacy is based on a claim of competence, and competence is associated with command of “technical knowledge” of facts, which may or may not be fully epistemically integrated, then there arises the issue of the legitimating efficacy of facts themselves and the terrain they present for political action. At the broadest level, my own substantive goal in this paper is to reconsider the relationship between a terrain of facts, politics, and more specifically the politics of legitimacy. In one common understanding, facts enable and constrain political action while being themselves apolitical. The terrain metaphor, for this view, suggests a landscape of mountains and rivers invariant on the scale of human time that variously canalizes (political) movement. In contrast, I participate here in a broad family of perspectives that suggest that the factual terrain itself is more malleable, changeable, and thus politically inflected if also not simply reducible to politics. A fuller political consideration of technocracy, and technocratic legitimacy, must thus attend not only to the “harnessing” to substantive ends of organizational efficiencies and claims to legitimacy based upon legality and competence, nor only to the social organization of technical knowledge and monopolistic expertise, but also to the making and unmaking of facts. Most obviously, I mean technical facts. To paraphrase Lynn White’s introduction to this volume, I am thus arguing that in order for political science and other fields (not excluding my own, anthropology) to confront technocratic legitimacies, a better understanding of political science (and technology) is needed. Yet I also consider it worthwhile to rethink — more deeply, reflexively, and recursively — what a generalized politics of legitimating facts might mean. As a sign of this commitment, by the end of this paper I will be writing of “political facts” that operate alongside politically– relevant technical facts with analogous efficacy.

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Methodologically and theoretically, I thus aim to play out an encounter between two academic literatures: on the one hand, what I will call “science studies,”15 and on the other, a more canonical social and political theorization of legitimacy, epitomized here by the work of Weber. I take it as axiomatic that the issue of legitimacy suggests a set of problems and questions that may usefully be posed in relation not only to an individual government, nor only to a more perduring state regime form, but also to an “order” considered more broadly, by which I mean something potentially variable in size and open in its list of possible constituents.16 Given this broad sense, much science studies literature of the past quarter century has, I would argue, been focused on studying legitimation processually. How a given group of scientists, acting with and as spokespeople


Specifically, I draw here on that branch of the contemporary sociology and philosophy of science that often is given the quasi–disciplinary label of “science, technology, and society” (STS) studies, and on the “actor–network theory” that is an important sub–formation within STS — the work of Michel Callon, Bruno Latour, John Law, Annemarie Mol, and (at some distance from but in respects sympathetic to actor–network approaches) Ian Hacking and Andrew Pickering, to name a few authors, is central here. Some differences between the assumptions of this body of work and other types of science studies will be discussed in the course of this paper. For broad overviews of the field, from within and without, see Andrew Pickering, The Mangle of Practice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), Chapter 1, and Sarah Franklin, “Science as Culture, Cultures of Science,” Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1995). For some debates within science studies constituent of its divisions, see H.M. Collins and S. Yearley, “Epistemological Chicken” and “Journey into Space,” both in Andrew Pickering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 301–26 and 369–89, M. Callon and B. Latour, “Don’t throw the Baby out with the Bath School! A Reply to Collins and Yearley,” in Pickering, ed., Science, pp. 343–68, David Bloor, “Anti–Latour,” and Bruno Latour, “For David Bloor … and Beyond: A Reply to David Bloor’s ‘Anti–Latour,’ ” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 30:1 (1999), pp. 81–112 and 113–29. 16 This is, I believe, consistent with Weber’s own concept of legitimacy. See Weber, pp. 31–36, 215 for examples.


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for natural and technical objects, manages or fails to persuade other scientists and sometimes a larger social unit that an experiment works, or that vaccination is a valuable national undertaking, has been a recurrent kind of question.17 Meanwhile, the field has developed from relatively small–scale ethnographies of “laboratory life”18 towards engagements with quite fundamental issues of representation versus philosophical realism and the ontological constitution of society, nature, politics, and their intersections. In this paper, I seek to explore the implications of the overlap of intellectual terrain that I have heuristically set out. I hope to contribute to a consideration of how political legitimacy might be rethought through the insights and claims that, within science studies, have been pushed to the foreground by its own institutional concerns and disciplinary history. Reciprocally, I hope that this project of extension towards political questions away from the conventional ground of science (the laboratory that, if conceptually decentered, is still performatively central even in many far-reaching science studies works) might contribute to a more interdisciplinary consideration of the implications of a “science studies” no longer relegated to friendly topical confines. This dialogue, productive of revised conceptualizations of both legitimacy and facts themselves, is the focus of the immediately following section. In the subsequent, more empirical second half of this paper, I turn to the politics of development in 1990s South Korea and eventually to the case of a development dispute, the 1995–97 debate over the routing of the then–proposed Korean high–speed train through the city of Kyongju. Various legitimat˘ ing “political facts” of this situation instantiated a transformed historical


See, for example, John Law and R.J. Williams, “Putting Facts Together: A Study of Scientific Persuasion,” Social Studies of Science 12:4 (1982), Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France, Alan Sheridan and John Law, trans. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988). 18 Cf. Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts (Beverly Hills: SAGE, 1979).

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relationship to another order of legitimacy, the (supposedly) obsolescent technocratic narrative of state competence in pursuit of a common goal of national modernization. Meanwhile, these same political facts had a more economic relation to technical facts of the same controversy, rendering them more or less “solid” as potential contributors to a persuasive terrain.

SYMMETRICAL LEGITIMACY Against Two-Step Weberianism: From Political Theory to Science Studies …
Writers using Weber as a basis for a discussion of legitimacy commonly cut to the chase of the ideal–typical classification of types of “legitimate domination” and the corresponding (“rational,” “traditional,” and “charismatic”) claims made for each, for all that these illuminate about the grounding and internal tendencies of forms of sociopolitical organization.19 I have, of course, done just that in beginning with the blanket claim that technocracy in modern South Korean history is something worth studying. Others have used Weber towards building a precise analytic vocabulary of conceptual distinctions, as for example between “expertise,” “control,” “authority” (or “domination”), and “legitimacy” itself.20 What is important for my argument here — and the point, after all, is not to decide definitively what Weber meant but to consider what we might want to mean by legitimacy — is less these distinctions themselves than the logical progression in which Weber imbeds them. In Economy and Society, Weber arrives at the issue of legitimacy through his consideration of social action and its intersubjective

Cf. Weber, pp. 215ff. For one example, see Jon P. Miller, “Socio–Psychological Implications of Weber’s Model of Bureaucracy: Relations among Expertise, Control, Authority, and Legitimacy,” Social Forces 49:1 (1970), p. 92 and passim.



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orientation “to the past, present, or expected future behavior of others.”21 The problem arises of how actors are capable of “exercising ‘power’ or ‘influence’ over other persons.”22 A limit case occurs when the means is simple force, whether the “monopolistic position” of an economic actor, the “skill in sport” that wins a contest, or superiority of arms. A mugging is, indeed, intersubjective social action of a very specific sort.23 Weber’s first distinction is thus between this kind of interaction and “domination” (or “authority”), which he defines with respect to the issuance of commands and the “probability that [they] … will be obeyed by a given group of persons.” Domination opens the issue of “voluntary compliance” and its “most diverse motives” (as opposed to motiveless defeat), which range from “simple habituation to the most purely rational calculation of advantage.” “Hence,” Weber continues, “every genuine form of domination implies … an interest (based on ulterior motives or genuine acceptance) in obedience.” The conjunction of “hence” and this singular “interest” in Weber’s transitional sentence is significant, since it implies a relationship to his action sociology that may not be fully apparent. In his consideration of the diverse motives for obedience Weber is first led back to his own sociology of means/ends rationality, that is, of interests in the plural. Excepting obedience as a result of habituation, with respect to other motives (“material or affectual or ideal”) Weber is in effect posing the question of what actors achieve (materially, in avoidance of punishment, in furtherance of ideal goals, or in perpetuation of social relationships) through obeying — that is, through instrumentally–rational (zweckrational ) compliance with a

Weber, p. 22. Weber, p. 212. The remainder of this paragraph and the next draw heavily on Weber, pp. 53, 212–215, which I cite without additional footnotes. 23 For this example, see Henry Orenstein, “Asymmetrical Reciprocity: A Contribution to the Theory of Political Legitimacy,” Current Anthropology 21:1 (1980), p. 69.


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commanding person or system.24 He quickly adds, however, that such motives “do not form a sufficiently reliable basis for a given domination. In addition there is normally a further element, the belief in legitimacy.” Legitimacy entails the elevation of the commanding person or system as an overriding end in itself, and an associated value–rational (wertrational ) orientation towards it: a singular interest in obedience that might trump other interests. And of course this is a belief that “every … system” or ruler — all, presumably, with their own interests — “attempts to establish and to cultivate” through the active making of “claim[s].” If, in this brief exposition, I have sought to explore some of the subtleties of Weber’s account of legitimacy in its relation to the rest of his interest sociology, I have also meant to highlight the clear progression that gives legitimacy its place in his conceptualization. In the course of his exposition of the problem of power and compliance, there is a crescendo from least to most general explanation for the compliant coordination of action: from the occasional sufficiency of simple compellent force through the effect of conjunctive interests (at which point it becomes possible to talk about domination and obedience) to the belief that is “normally a further element”25 in most situations. Interests, in the unfolding of this model, are logically and perhaps temporally prior to the belief in legitimacy, even if Weber is also forceful on the point that the relative determinative importance of each may be highly variable in any concrete case. Certainly in many social scientific applications of legitimacy theory, legitimacy is pragmatically conceived of as “up and out” from interests: a belief emergent in a given situation that might be

On Weber’s types of social action, see pp. 24–25. “Affectual” orientation is separated from the two types of “rational” orientation in this expository discussion. However, in the specific context of Weber’s discussion of domination and legitimacy, the “affectual” motives under discussion are “of solidarity,” thus oriented towards the preservation or improvement of an interpersonal bond. In other words, they seem to have a means/ends quality of their own. See Weber, p. 213. 25 Weber, p. 213.



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considered after logically–prior and (for the most part) preexistent interests (or ideologies, Weber’s “ideal motives”) are accounted for. If we restrict ourselves to the domain of authority and thus exclude simple force, we have as a diagram:

The space of legitimacy is constituted, negatively, as beyond interests. Why, indeed, do the people not rebel, when they would seem to have every good reason to do so? While Weber is mostly concerned with the perspective of the dominated, for whom the legitimacy belief may be either augmentative or substitutive of interests, one can imagine the same sort of diagram in the case of those who command, who seek to “cultivate” Weber’s “further element” in the wider social arena, with the obvious difference that one would assume their interests and the probable effects of the legitimacy claim to be, for the most part, aligned. Aspects of this model or, even better, of this conceptual architecture have a relevant history in the development of science studies. Consideration of the role of scientists in the making of the persuasiveness of technoscientific orders — what I have suggested are legitimacy stories by another name — has motivated a revised understanding of the temporality of human interests. Many accounts of scientific activity, echoing the common popular appreciation of science, have adopted the ideal standpoint of a factual order independent of human intervention. In this understanding, science is ideally, and “real” science really is, interest–free — “interested” science lies somewhere on the road to Lysenkoism. An important turn in the effort to articulate a critical vision of science was a program known as the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK), which tended

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to the antithetical supposition that science is universally interest– laden, even interest–driven.26 Much of science studies since then has retained a sense of the goal-oriented, competitive, even agonistic quality of much scientific activity. However, just as SSK most forcefully questioned the notion that scientific facts “just are,” subsequent authors seeking to critique and amend the SSK approach have turned away from its treatment of individual and social interests as “out there.” Andrew Pickering has drawn a distinction between temporally emergent and nonemergent treatments of causal elements in science studies reasoning. The former grasp elements such as interests as imbedded in practice and thus constantly changeable and “tuned” within an open–ended process, while the latter take them as prior. For Pickering, SSK “interests” tend to be such temporally “nonemergent causes of practice”: “the tendency is to write as if the substantive interests of actors were present and identifiable in advance of particular passages of practice, setting them in motion and structuring outcomes without being themselves at stake.”27 An alternative understanding of interests as emergent would emphasize their character as modifiable and changeable in principle, even if contingently stable in some concrete cases, in the field of (scientific) legitimating practice itself. This and allied moves, corrosive already of the stepwise logical relation of interests and legitimating belief in Weber’s exposition, are key to a more thorough revamping of the concept of legitimacy via the insights of the science studies literature.

Franklin, p. 167n3 notes that SSK authors claim a complex relationship to Mertonian and Kuhnian approaches to the sociology of science. She cites SSK contributor H.M. Collins, who in the early 1980s described the state of the relationship between the emerging field and the sociology of science as not “evolutionary” but rather “cognitive tangentiality,” yet saw the possibility of a productive rapprochement despite occasional surface antagonism. See “The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge: Studies of Contemporary Science,” Annual Review of Sociology 9 (1983), p. 271. 27 Pickering, Mangle, pp. 14, 64.



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What, then, of the facts that are also central to this body of work? As already mentioned, facts enter Weber’s account of domination and legitimacy in the form of the “technical knowledge” that is a feature of bureaucratic organization. The accumulation of such facts — we might think here not only of knowledge–objects in the heads of experts but the equipment that makes both Big State Science and more prosaic technical administration possible — and the resulting economies of scale and integration serve as means of technical action that extend the power of the ruler of the bureaucratic apparatus, a “concentration of the means of operation”28 precisely analogous, for Weber, to the concentration of means of production on the factory floor. And of course the control over technical facts, substantivized in a claim to competence or efficiency towards common social ends, is a usual ingredient in the legitimating accounts that bureaucratic orders seek to foster. Yet there is one evident problem with this depiction given what I have argued so far. The technocratic apparatus of Weber’s account of legitimacy may be, in Pickering’s terms, emergent, and legitimacy certainly is, but it is not at all clear that the technical facts themselves are. In contrast, a perspective informed by critical studies of science would require, at a minimum, an understanding that the technical facts that bureaucracies organize and upon which technocratic legitimacy depends are made, and made in an already political field. They do not become political only afterwards, through accumulation and concentration. One ready possibility, representative of the SSK view in science studies, would be to seek the political nature of such facts in the prioristically–constituted interests of various actors, most obviously the bureaucratic ruler(s). As previously discussed, however, this would only exchange one conceptual problem of nonemergence for another. Among recent authors, anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj has treated within the framework of an empirical study many of these


Weber, p. 1394.

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same issues of the interrelation, historicity, and political effect of a national order of emergent interests, actors, and “facts on the ground.”29 Her topical focus is on Biblical and Israeli archaeologies and on the roles these interwoven disciplinary fields have had in “intervening in” a political terrain through excavating, popularizing, preserving, and articulating things with human trajectories — thus making, and not simply uncovering, the contentious facts of Jewish antiquity.30 Archaeology, in her view, does not merely reflect another nonemergent politics:
Rather than merely an expression of prevailing national–cultural, political, and territorial visions, however, archaeology was essential to their very constitution. Archaeology, to borrow Frederick Cooper and Ann Stoler’s formulation, was not “just part of a wider battle.” Rather, it helped to determine the “nature of the battlefield itself.”31

As a set of practices with their own internal paradigms, logics, and other partially determinant elements, archaeology furthermore only imperfectly transmitted the interests of its practitioners, thus remaking them as well, “the history made was not simply coterminous with the history sought.”32 These considerations lead Abu El-Haj to be dismissive of the category of legitimacy tout court, which she seems to equate (for reasons I have sought to outline) with a conceptualization of politics–by–other–means conducted with reference to prior, “already constituted interests.”33 Yet of course another option is to retain “legitimacy” for all that it productively connects while seeking also to recast it.

Nadia Abu El-Haj, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self –Fashioning in Israeli Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). 30 Abu El-Haj, p. 11. The emphasis on intervention in the world is drawn from Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). 31 Abu El-Haj, p. 10, citing Cooper and Stoler, “Tensions of Empire: Colonial Control and Visions of Rule,” American Ethnologist 16 (1989), p. 612. 32 Abu El-Haj, p. 10. 33 Abu El-Haj, p. 9; a similar distancing from the term occurs on p. 10.



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Let me summarize what I have been trying to argue about legitimacy in a world of facts via the dialogue I have staged between sociopolitical theory and science studies. Legitimacy is not adequately conceptualized as a logically second–order effect, an edifice built on top of prior socioeconomic, ideological, or other interests. Nor do (technocratic) domination and its associated claim to legitimacy rest upon the simple concentration of nonemergent facts, “technical knowledge.” Nor should legitimating facts be taken as simply reflective of a prior reality of nature, of interests, or of one plus the other. Legitimacy, I want to suggest, should not be arrived at via a two–step or depth theorization at all. Rather than being thought of as an additively articulated force of the sort of Weber’s “further element,” I would argue that the legitimacy of any given order is best conceptualized as a more tensile strength, an emergent effect of an ordering of likewise emergent elements that include facts, interests, and actors themselves. Instead of the “bull’s–eye” diagram of Weber’s relation of interests and legitimacy, I would suggest:

All elements are coplanar; none are logically prioritized, determined from without.34 This space, not to mention the legitimacy effect, is certainly “political” in quality, though not to the exclusion of being also “technical,” “social,” and much else at the very same time.


I paraphrase here from Pickering, Mangle, p. 20, who in turn draws his spatial metaphor from Gilles Deleuze and Christine Parnet, Dialogues (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987).

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… And Back Again: Facts Unbound
What I have tried to offer so far can be described, with reference to one of the watchwords of the science studies literature upon which I draw, as a symmetrical account of legitimacy. SSK authors formulated a principle of symmetry that mandated that both good and bad science, working and non–working technology, or true and false facts must be subjected to the same sort of explanation. This was in contrast to a commonplace naive realism towards science that seeks socioeconomic interests or (false) belief only when things fail. Critics within science studies of this SSK position and the strong explanatory role it assigned nonemergent social interests countered with a second (or, perhaps invoking Einsteinian relativity theory, “generalized”) principle of symmetry that stated, additionally, that nature (or science, or technology) and society must themselves be explained in the same uniformitarian terms and, contrariwise, carry the same explanatory burden.35 This, of course, is the symmetry of the “emergence all around” articulation of (political) legitimacy, actors, (social) interests, and (technical) facts that I have suggested above. Two corollaries follow together: that technocratic legitimacy, to invoke another keyword, is “heterogeneously”36 made out of political, social, and technical/scientific elements, and that the conventional boundaries of these and other fields are not ontologically significant.37 This is the “antidisciplinary”38 thrust of science studies: nothing is sui generis. But what, then, of facts? How do facts, specifically, work within an order of legitimacy when what facts are can no longer be defined

See Bruno Latour, We Have Never been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 94–96. 36 See John Law, “Introduction: Monsters, Machines and Sociotechnical Relations,” in John Law, ed., A Sociology of Monsters: Essays on Power, Technology and Domination (London: Routledge, 1991). 37 See Pickering, Mangle, p. 95n20. 38 See Pickering, Mangle, pp. 214–17.



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in relation to a nature that is taken as prior, nonemergent, and ontologically more real than other elements? Taken emergently, facts are solid, but not simply so. They are solidified, actively closed off from their own dependency and history.39 A quark becomes itself, and a fact, through material agency captured in an elaborate and expensive apparatus, but as a fact it then stands independently from this apparatus.40 Meanwhile, discussions of the political persuasiveness of facts often refer to the efficacy and solidity embodied in materiality itself. One of Bruno Latour’s favored examples is the speed bump, a lump of macadam that cheaply creates traffic order, standing in for the human agency of a police officer.41 In treating the political efficacy of archaeological facts, Abu El-Haj points to the public visibility that their materiality brings:
And unlike the mainstay of historical scholarship, which was based upon and analyzed (archival) texts, archaeology relied upon physical objects, a material–cultural archive to be examined on the surface or produced from the depths of the landscape. Those were physical objects that (once excavated) could be observed. … Most fundamentally for the nation–form, it was within specific artifacts that Israelites themselves emerged as visible.42

Archaeologists’ “concrete transformations of the terrain” helped make the “durability of national beliefs.”43 Durability was passed across registers: excavated materiality ordered and underwrote a political claim to autochthony. Thus facticity, solidity, durability, and materiality are commonly linked in studies of the legitimating effect of facts. But are all parts of this package necessarily connected?

Cf. Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), p. 23. 40 The quark example can be found in Pickering, Mangle, pp. 68–112. 41 See Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 186. Abu El-Haj also cites this example (from another source) on p. 12. 42 Abu El-Haj, pp. 14, 15. Italics are in the original. 43 Abu El-Haj, p. 18, italics per original.


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Studies of the “sociotechnical” commonly situate themselves astride the halves of the neologism — examining engineering, or the social effects of technology, or in Abu El-Haj’s case archaeology and national politics. Yet if disciplinary fields themselves are taken to be merely conventional, then so is this location, and so, furthermore, is materiality grasped across this conventional boundary as a determinant of the (politically or socially) efficacious solidity or “hardness” of facts. What I am thus arguing for, for science studies (and notwithstanding its own historical disciplinary imperative to write “about science”), is a third symmetry principle that is really more a pragmatic playing out of “generalized symmetry” than a new philosophical claim. I seek a more explicit recognition that the borderlands of the sociotechnical and the back regions on either side, because conventional, can be treated in the same terms. In performance of this principle I want to contend, in the remainder of this article, that alongside a politics of legitimating facts it is worth attending to legitimating facts of politics — within the conventionally–defined “purely political” if also interactive with a larger factual order. These “political facts,” like other facts, have an aspect of durability or extratemporality that belies their own temporal emergence, an aspect that in this case is not grounded upon materiality. Like “facts on the ground,” these political “facts in the air” furthermore affect the durability or solidity of other propositions or elements. At the broadest level, I am arguing that after the “sociotechnical” and the politics of science, we need to study the “simply” social or political differently as well. Below, I will examine the legitimating and delegitimating effects of political facts in the active course of a South Korean development dispute of the mid–1990s. First, however, it is necessary to reach back in time to grasp the specific empirical aspect of these political facts as durable fragments of an older order of technocratic legitimacy.

During the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the legitimacy of state–led developmentalism in South Korea was underwritten by a metaphysics of national mission that spread through and conjoined a variety of sites.


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State actors, Meredith Woo–Cumings notes, “harness[ed] very real fears of war and instability” in appeals for citizens’ redoubled effort and sacrifice towards national development.44 The same author elsewhere quotes President Park Chung Hee’s maxim, in the context of the heavy and chemical industrialization effort of the 1970s that marked also a high point in South Korean authoritarianism, all justified in the name of a need for (relative) military self–sufficiency, that “steel is national power.”45 Both stable formal institutions and more transient state campaigns sought to inculcate a sense of a coherent national project and mobilize the populace towards its realization. Manufacturing corporations, already financially intertwined with and thus to a significant extent governed by state agencies, similarly portrayed themselves as engaged in a struggle not for profit but for national survival.46 Among the more ubiquitous features of the times was the sloganeering of posters and banners in public places, a barrage that had as its common feature an exhortative “haja”: “let’s do!”47 Meanwhile, the cultural concomitants of this particular eschatology of future–worldly salvation have been explored with respect to one core concept. “Hamyon toenda” — more or less “if [we] do it, ˘ it will happen” — has been taken as an expression of (over)confidence that, for critics, bespoke also a certain instrumentalism and a cog’s catechism for the technocratic order: a faith that someone,

Meredith Woo–Cumings, “Introduction: Chalmers Johnson and the Politics of Nationalism and Development,” in Meredith Woo–Cumings, ed., The Developmental State (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), p. 23. 45 Jung–en Woo, Race to the Swift: State and Finance in South Korean Industrialization (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 118. 46 See Choong Soon Kim, The Culture of Korean Industry: An Ethnography of Poongsan Corporation (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992), Chapter 1 (especially pp. 30–32) and Roger L. Janelli with Dawnhee Yim, Making Capitalism: The Social and Cultural Construction of a South Korean Conglomerate (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), Chapter 3. 47 This tenor of the era was explored suggestively by Hans U.G. Luther in “Government Campaigns in South Korea: Exorcism and Purification of Nature and People,” Internationales Asienforum 11:1/2 (1980).


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somewhere, knew just why reconcentrated effort along established channels would make it all work out.48 Of course not everyone believed the story. The short answer on the legitimacy of South Korean ruling regimes and state capitalism in this period has always been that it was highly contested.49 Yet it is important to understand that the justifying tale of national mission has existed in the world as, in James Ferguson’s terms, a myth in an

See Kang Sin-p’yo, “Kundaehwa wa Chont’ong Munhwa” (Modernization and ˘ ˘ Traditional Culture), in Han’guk Sahoe Kwahak Hyobuihoe, ed., Han’guk Sahoe ui ˘ ˘ ˘ Pyonhwa wa Munje (Change and Problems in Korean Society) (Seoul: Hyonmunsa, ˘ ˘ 1986). 49 The literature on the ideological character of South Korean “success” and on South Korean oppositional groups and movements is vast. See, for starters, Janelli with Yim, Making, Martin Hart–Landsberg, The Rush to Development: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1993), Nancy Abelmann, Echoes of the Past, Epics of Dissent: A South Korean Social Movement (Berkeley: University of California, 1996), Namhee Lee, “The South Korean Student Movement: Undongkwon as a Counterpublic Sphere,” in Charles K. ˘ Armstrong, ed., Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy and the State (New York: Routledge, 2002), Carter J. Eckert, “The South Korean Bourgeoisie: A Class in Search of Hegemony,” in Hagen Koo, ed., State and Society in Contemporary Korea (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), Hagen Koo, “Strong State and Contentious Society,” in Koo, ed., State and Society, and Hagen Koo, Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001). This last work of Koo’s is especially salient given the theoretical grounding of the present essay. Andrew Pickering has commented on E.P. Thompson’s classic The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage, 1963) as illustrative of “macromangling,” the “open–ended transformation” of a large–scale social group “in a temporally emergent dialectic of resistance and accommodation” with a heterogeneous list of agents that included “machines, architectures, factory owners, the state, [and] the church,” a mode of understanding he contrasts to a “traditional assumption of stable actors and their properties,” such as prioristically–construed enduring interests. If we follow Koo (following Thompson and others) in taking Korean working–class formation as having been determined not simply by “production relations” but by the “lived experiences of the workers,” then the list of relations with respect to which this class came into being might be taken to include the official account of national mission itself. See Koo, Korean Workers, p. ix, and Pickering, Mangle, p. 235.



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anthropological sense of the word. It has been “not just a mistaken,” or self–interested, or ideological, “account but a cosmological blueprint that lays down fundamental categories and meanings for the organization and interpretation of experience.”50 The afterlife of such organizing national narratives has been a focus of recent scholarship. Ferguson himself considers the case of Zambia in the wake of the long collapse of its copper–based export economy. He presents what he calls an “ethnography of decline,” of a social experience often enough of senselessness that itself makes sense only against the backdrop of a past–time promise of coming “emergence” into “first class” status, of the prospect of a modernity convergent with “developed” nations.51 The precisely tragic condition he charts is manifested in a sense of expulsion rather than exclusion, of wrenching active disconnection from the rest of the world, produced within and not outside a global capitalist economy, rather than mere unconnection to it.52 For having hoped and lost, Zambia is different from if it had never hoped at all. While it is hardly a unique case, neither Zambia’s predicament nor its experience can be generalized to the entirety of what was once unproblematically referred to as the “developing” world. Ferguson remarks that promise–laden “ideas of development (often remarkably unreconstructed ones at that) hold great sway in many parts of the world today, perhaps especially in areas (notably, many parts of East and Southeast Asia) that have enjoyed recent rapid economic expansion” — though, in a postscript dated December 1998, post–financial crisis South Korea makes him wonder if even there the “modernist plot line of history” might be “running in reverse.”53 For Laura C. Nelson, however, writing of the South Korea of the 1990s, the central issue is not the aftermath of promise experienced as decline but rather its ambivalent and uneven realization. Nelson


James Ferguson, Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt (Berkeley: University of California, 1999), pp. 13–14. 51 Ferguson, pp. 15, 245. 52 Ferguson, pp. 237–238, 242. 53 Ferguson, pp. 247, 255.

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focuses on gender and on the politics of consumption as a complex temporal and social act that has unfolded in relation to a national mission narrative that, as I have suggested above, offered “a potent elixir of nationalism and hope that was widely held throughout the population.”54 She emphasizes the futural quality of this narrative, which promoted an “imagined future” of development, reunification, and a colonial legacy overcome “as the site of the ‘real’ nation.”55 The claim to legitimacy on the part of regimes and the national political order itself thus rested on a claim that judgment must necessarily be deferred. The same temporal logic underwrote also calls to workers and consumers to sacrifice now for future benefit. By the 1990s, however, growing prosperity made middle–class consumers reluctant to accept the need for “further restraint”, “years of scrimping had brought wealth to the nation and to their families.”56 For them, “the prosperous future had already arrived,”57 while for the less fortunate the spectacle of a middle class opting out of what had seemed a compact of shared deferral only increased their sense of disillusionment. The temporal orientation of citizens itself became a matter of public struggle.58 The legitimating narrative of common sacrifice has thus not simply served as an ideological mask for real social divisions, but has more actively, in its jagged end, exacerbated and re–dimensioned those divisions. In turning more specifically to the recent career of the technocratic version of the South Korean national legitimacy narrative, and thus to the politics of planning, I want to retain the issue that Ferguson and Nelson have raised in different ways, namely, that of the afterlife of such legitimating structures even after they no longer offer a coherent political cosmology. By the mid–1990s, some South


Laura C. Nelson, Measured Excess: Status, Gender, and Consumer Nationalism in South Korea (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), p. 18. 55 Nelson, p. 21. 56 Nelson, p. 167. 57 Nelson, p. 151. 58 See Nelson, p. 186.


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Korean critics of planning practices were mulling the bankruptcy of the largest legitimating claim of the bureaucratic authoritarian developmentalist state and the accompanying structures of meaning and competence. An essay by Seoul National University scholar Kwon ˘ T’ae-jun, entitled “The National Goal and Regional Environmental Movements,” took as its occasion the 1995 collapse of Seoul’s Sampoong Department Store. The tragedy killed over 500 people — the worst toll of any single South Korean disaster since the Korean War59 — and followed on the heels of the seemingly spontaneous collapse of one of the bridges over the Han River and a massive gas explosion in the city of Taegu. Things were, indeed, falling apart at an alarming rate. Though specific incidences of graft and malfeasance were found to have led to the Sampoong tragedy, much public discussion identified a wider national existential crisis linked to the rushed, blind–faith overconfidence of rapid development that I have sought to evoke with “hamyon toenda” above. Kwon’s essay ˘ ˘ proclaimed the breakdown of the basic legitimating promises of technocratic governance embedded in a metaphysics of national mission. The overarching project of “nation building” (kukka konsol) ˘ ˘ had often been “reckless”; the “straightforward path on which success could be found in national statistical indices” had run its course. Long confronted, in a technocratic mode, with a goal that, while clear, was not actively chosen but externally “given,” Korean citizens had lost track of any purpose beyond productive capacity and thus reached a state of “value exhaustion.”60 Nor could the situation be remedied through a return to habits of planning: Kwon ˘ dismissed the fad for long–range planning committees, “twenty–first century study groups,” and similar bodies composed of technocrats and academic specialists as “elitist” and not democratic. No new

The official figures listed 501 deaths, with 930 injured; see Oh Kun-Young, ed., Korea Annual 1996 (Seoul: Yonhap News Agency, 1996), p. 10. 60 Kwon T’ae-jun, “Kukka Mokp’yo wa Chiyok Hwan’gyong Undong” (The National ˘ ˘ ˘ Goal and the Regional Environmental Movement), Ch’orhak kwa Hyonsil ˘ ˘ (Philosophy and Actuality) 26 (1995), pp. 76–78.


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authentic national goal would come of these.61 For Kwon, the desir˘ able solution lay in the wilful formulation of a new goal only after and through a more open process of debate and discussion, one that might be considerate of the perspectives and experiential matrix of local community existence that have long been submerged within a dynamic of “standardizing life … from above and the center.”62 In this recovery operation, Kwon suggested that the regional environ˘ mental movements of the essay’s title might play a crucial role. If not an epistemic account of the “decline of grand narratives,”63 Kwon’s is a story of a decline of a grand narrative, as well as, by its ˘ own logic, a necessarily tentative sketch map of a road to renewal. Yet what I want to highlight is not Kwon’s solution64 but his sense ˘ that, amidst the rubble of Sampoong and the “father’s–friends– know–best” (masculinist) technocratic centrism that it represented, even such a reformist administration as the Kim Young Sam

Kwon, p. 79. ˘ Kwon, p. 80. ˘ 63 The allusion is to Jean-François Lyotard’s famous argument in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, trans. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), but more generally to the type of argument that depends on the identification of such “big shifts.” 64 Kwon’s criticism is approximately of what James C. Scott calls “authoritarian high ˘ modernism,” and like Scott he takes recourse in “the local” for an alternative; see James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). Both authors can be argued to assume a local that provides, as Craig Calhoun writes of the Habermasian lifeworld (a key point of reference for Kwon), “fully formed subjects ˘ with settled identities and capacities.” See Craig Calhoun, “Social Theory and the Politics of Identity,” in Craig Calhoun, ed., Social Theory and the Politics of Identity (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1994), p. 23. For recent accounts of the pernicious effects of categories like “indigeneity,” “locality,” and the often allied assumption of “rootedness,” even when deployed in sympathetic political projects, see Liisa Malkki, “National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity Among Scholars and Refugees,” Cultural Anthropology 7:2 (1992), and Hugh Raffles, “Intimate Knowledge,” International Social Science Journal 54:173 (2002).



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government had not been able to “overcome the inertia of the straightaway.”65 Destinationless, the train nevertheless somehow kept a–rollin’, dead hands on the throttle. The empirical claim that I make here, in turning to a mid–1990s case history of planning politics and the disputed development at a regional level, is that the South Korean technocratic mission narrative has persisted more specifically in fragments within discourses and practices that legitimate and delegitimate such simultaneously political and cosmological orders. These fragments, in effect, encode memories of ostensibly obsolescent modes of engagement and unfurl into familiar practical logics even as they also are permeated by the new legitimating claims of “democracy,” “(regional) selfgovernance,” and “decentralization.” I am cognizant of both the drawbacks and overdeterminacy of historical accounts of singular transitions from coherency to fragmentation, narrative to pastiche, and the like. Though I cannot defend the claim at length here, what I would instead offer as a hypothesis is that the real overarching coherencies of both “(authoritarian) technocracy” and “democracy” as legitimating narratives have been built of and upon an asynchronous undercurrent of such fragments. In short, coherency and fragmentation are not opposites,66 and successive and apparently opposing legitimacy stories may share building blocks in revealing ways. In the section that follows, I recouple this empirical claim with respect to the afterlife of the South Korean technocratic narrative with the methodological consideration of legitimating political and technical facts with which I began this paper.

The case to which I turn in order to flesh out what I have said so far involves a development dispute in the South Korean city of

65 66

Kwon, p. 77. ˘ This point is explored at length in John Law, Aircraft Stories: Decentering the Object in Technoscience (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), from which I draw.

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Kyongju. Kyongju is a regional municipality in North Kyongsang ˘ ˘ ˘ province that in the mid–1990s had some 280,000 residents divided between an urban core, several satellite towns, and surrounding rural areas.67 As the saying goes, however, Kyongju is not just any ˘ city, but rather a major destination for both domestic and international tourism by virtue of its history as the site of the capital of the Silla kingdom of the first millennium and the surviving archaeological wonders that make it, to cite any number of tourist brochures, an “outdoor museum.” Any paper that conjoins Kyongju to a treatment ˘ of legitimacy should probably mention the specific character of the Silla past that Kyongju preserves. At various moments in the twenti˘ eth century, this past has offered a mythohistorical justification for Japanese colonization, anchored a territorialized narrative of a South Korean versus North Korean claim on historical preeminence and thus on the rightful future course of Korean unification,68 and served as a basis for the constructed “clan charisma”69 of South Korean military rulers who sought to clothe themselves in the raiment of noble warriors of distant antiquity. This sort of big–ticket foray into official historical imaginations is not the path I shall pursue here. It is both related and relevant, however, that Kyongju is dense with the kind ˘ of “facts on the ground” that Abu El-Haj chronicles, facts which matter beyond Kyongju to Koreans and non–Koreans70 and which are ˘

The contemporary administrative unit of Kyongju City (Kyongju-si) has resulted ˘ ˘ from the 1995 unification of the former Kyongju City (corresponding to the urban ˘ center) with the surrounding Kyongju (formerly Wolsong) County (Kyongju-gun). ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ For population statistics, see Kyongju-si, Kyongju-si T’onggye Yonbo (Kyongju City ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Statistical Yearbook) (Kyongju: Kyongju City, 1995), pp. 41, 321. ˘ ˘ 68 Cf. Andre Schmid, Korea Between Empires, 1895–1919 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), pp. 272–73. 69 See Weber, p. 1135. 70 Several Kyongju sites and areas, for example, are listed on the UNESCO World ˘ Heritage lists. Though there has been nothing to match the scale or volume of, say, the worldwide outcry that surrounded the destruction of Buddhist monuments at Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in early 2001, “Kyongju under threat” has become a focus of ˘ some international attention on occasions like the one I document below.



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subject to the various interventions of historians, archaeologists, city planners, state agencies, local heritage groups, and other professionals and non-professionals. In the late 1980s, the South Korean government reached a decision to build the nation’s first high–speed railway, using (it was eventually decided) French TGV technology, between Seoul and the southeastern port of Pusan. From the start, the project as a whole was imbued with shifting promises of technocratic modernization: that it would literally become a vehicle of globalization (segyehwa) on desirable terms, or that it would announce South Korea’s arrival at (or catapult it into) “advanced nation” (sonjin’guk) status. Certain ˘ anxieties were also built in. When after many delays a significant portion of the line was completed in the spring of 2004, even some advocates lamented that the high–speed railway (in the meantime modishly re-christened as the KTX) was already dated, since Shanghai now boasted a faster Maglev train.71 In 1990, it was first decided by planning authorities that Kyongju, which for a tourist destination was ˘ underserved by other modes of transportation, would have a station on the high–speed line. Importantly, in 1992, ultimately successful presidential candidate Kim Young Sam made a promise to the same effect during a campaign visit to the city.72 The route the railway would take through Kyongju was selected from among several ˘ options later in the same year, not without initial controversy. A subsequent period of relative quiet, during which the future Kyongju segment seemed a fait accompli, came to an end on ˘ August 31 1995. On that date, the Ministry of Culture and Sports, citing the potential for damage to Kyongju’s cultural objects, formally ˘

Shanghai’s Maglev (magnetic levitation) line boasts a top speed of 430 km/hr, while South Korea’s high–speed train, like most European examples, tops out at approximately 300 km/hr. 72 See Yong-sam Kim (not to be confused with the president!), “Kyongju Simin tul ui ˘ ˘ ˘ Yoron un Musi toeotta” (Kyongju Citizens’ Opinion has been Disregarded), Wolgan ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Choson (Monthly Choson) 16:11 (1995), p. 174. Reporter Kim’s article was excori˘ ˘ ated by many involved in the Kyongju routing controversy for its tone and bias, but ˘ candidate Kim’s 1992 promise is not disputed.


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announced its opposition to the then–established routing plan of the Ministry of Construction and Transportation and proposed its own alternative. This internecine feud opened a space in which pent up concerns about the railway itself, the course of South Korean development and democratization, the government’s attitude towards culture, and the bargain that Kyongju as a “historic city” had received ˘ over the past several decades found expression. A national alliance of Buddhist groups, academic historians, and archaeologists that had been campaigning behind the scenes on the railway issue now more publicly called for “white–paper–ization” (paekchihwa), a return to the drawing board for the Kyongju segment. Some politicians from ˘ the ruling party more clearly went beyond even the Ministry of Culture’s proposal and demanded a substantive resolution: a complete elimination of the proposed Kyongju station and hence direct ˘ routing (chikhaeng or chiksonhwa) of the southern end of the ˘ high–speed railway from Taegu to Pusan. Within Kyongju, mean˘ while, elements of city government, boosterist organizations (such as the Chamber of Commerce), and extant academic and kinship–based social networks73 condemned the Ministry of Culture and called for the fastest possible execution of the Ministry of Construction’s established routing plan. They claimed to speak in the name of Kyongju ˘ citizens, the normative rulers of the post–democratization South Korean 1990s of “citizens’ society” (simin sahoe),74 eventually from

It is a truism of Korean politics that such networks play an important role in the distribution of positions and resources — one alumni organization of a Kyongju high ˘ school, for example, is widely considered a royal road to wealth and influence. What is worth noting here in relation to my turn, below, to igijuui and similar “political ˘ facts” is that such insights ground Kyongju actors’ own reckoning of their environment. ˘ 74 It would, of course, be possible to write “civil society” here. However, on the value of attending to the situational nuances of these sorts of terms–in–translation, and for a discussion of an Indonesian context where the equivalents of “citizens,” “civilian,” “civil” and other such terms also often carry the specific sense of “not military” (see munmin chongbu, below), see Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, “Transitions as ˘ Translations,” in Joan Scott, Cora Kaplan, and Debra Keates, eds., Transitions, Environments, Translations (New York: Routledge, 1997), p. 268.



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within a “citizens’ alliance” that pledged to “defend to the death” (sasu) the established plan. Others in Kyongju, however, among them ˘ local historical organizations and Buddhist groups, initially expressed concern for the damage the Ministry of Construction plan would cause to important historic and religious sites while publicly supporting a Kyongju station in some form.75 They, too, soon formed the ˘ center of a “citizens’” organization. The situation seemed at loggerheads. In early November 1995, however, a nascent Kyongju branch ˘ of a national social movement organization, the Kyongju Citizens’ ˘ Coalition for Economic Justice, unveiled its own “third plan” for a Kyongju routing, different from those proposed by the Ministries of ˘ Culture and Construction. It drew on the expertise of the resident academics in applied technical fields that comprised an important part of the Coalition membership. Over the course of months of debate and public negotiation, this “third plan” gained adherents (eventually including the central government ministries) and neutralized opponents until, by early 1997 (and largely by mid–1996),76 it had won out.77 It is worth noting in passing that this “victory” of a


Both of these Kyongju alliances were enabled and constrained by the ambivalent ˘ results of a November 1995 poll that suggested that 90% of Kyongju residents ˘ favored a Kyongju segment in some location. See “Kosokch’ol Noson Sonchong ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Munhwajae Poho Ch’oeuson Koryo twaeya” (In the Selection of the High–speed ˘ ˘ Railway Line Cultural Object Protection Must be the First Consideration), Kyongju ˘ Sinmun (November 25 1995), p. 7. 76 The “third plan” line routing was basically accepted in a June 8 1996 decision by the Ministry of Construction (reached after three days of private consultations with representatives of President Kim Young Sam) to abandon its original proposal and endorse this alternative (the Ministry of Culture was already on board, if more passively). However, debate over the location of the Kyongju station continued until ˘ early 1997. It should be noted in passing that this was far from the final word in public debate over the South Korean high–speed train and its Kyongju portion, ˘ which soon reopened with different particulars as a result of the Asian financial crisis in early 1998. A Kyongju high–speed segment still has not been built. However, ˘ the 1996–97 decisions did conclude an important phase of the controversy. 77 Anthropologists, perhaps especially, seem attracted to the romantic certainties of two–sided narratives in which large–scale development projects promoted by

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locally–authored plan was, prima facie, a break from the historical pattern of technocratic central monopolization of technical competence and planning authority that I have suggested for South Korea of the preceding several decades. After it was all over, it was possible to tell singular stories about the reason for the Kyongju high–speed railway dispute and how it ˘ had been resolved. A Kyongju newspaper announced a shift in a ˘ Manichean struggle of ideologies, anointing the routing decision “the first triumph of ‘cultural preservationist logic’ since Liberation [in 1945],” an end to the winning streak of developmentalism.78 A history of Korean Buddhism published in 1997 hinted strongly at the base motives of the Kyongju defenders of original 1995 routing, ˘ describing them as “small and middle capitalists” whose special interests had, presumably, been overridden by those with less materialistic and more noble concerns.79 It was possible also to call for a return to the ordinary time of technocratic governance, to write as one editorialist did that “with respect to [the railway routing’s] propriety and soundness, the judgments of specialists in transportation and economics should be respected, while the construction process is something that has to be handled by technical specialists.”80 And of course it was possible to claim with the clarity of hindsight that the self–evident facts of the case had spoken. Yet if one considers the Kyongju high–speed rail routing dispute as it unfolded in time ˘

outside forces are resisted by “local people.” While events of this sort can certainly be found in South Korean development history, and while I do argue elsewhere that locality was an important dimension of the 1995–97 controversy, I hope that even this brief and overly static outline of positions in the Kyongju case will suffice ˘ to suggest that it was more sociologically (and ethically) complex. 78 See “Kosokch’ol Konch’on-Hwach’on-Naenam Noson” (High–Speed Rail Line ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ from Konch’on to Hwach’on to Naenam), Kyongju Sinmun (June 12 1996), p. 2. ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ 79 See Tongguk Taehakkyo Songnim Tongmunhoe, ed., Han’guk Pulgyo Hyondaesa ˘ ˘ (Modern History of Korean Buddhism) (Seoul: Sigongsa, 1997), p. 452. 80 Kwon Ki-an, “‘Kosokch’ol’ Kisulja Uigyon Chonchung ul” (Respect for the ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Opinions of the Engineers of the “High–speed Train”), Tonga Ilbo (Tonga Daily), (May 8 1998), p. 7.


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and as it was negotiated between various parties, rather than retrospectively, neither interests, nor ideologies, nor expertise nor certainly facts pass through unchanged. All are, in Pickering’s terms, emergent; none are determinant while being external to the picture.81 Elsewhere,82 I treat the history of the 1995–97 Kyo ˘ngju high–speed rail controversy and its resolution more thoroughly, focusing on the made persuasiveness of its order, a type of account that since the beginning of this paper I have argued is tantamount to a processual treatment of legitimation. The legitimacy of the “third plan” solution, as I have suggested for legitimacy more generally, was an effect of a relationship between emergent facts, interests, and actors. Tracing the collaboration and “coproduction”83 of actors and technical facts of archaeology, engineering, economics, and urban planning, I suggest, for example, how novel archaeological facts brought “developmentalist” and “preservationist” demands into collaborative harmony, and how the “third plan” solution also “made” the social movement organization that was one of its central backers as a new form of local political actor. Here, however, drawing on the mutually reconstructive dialogue between science studies and political legitimacy theory that I set up above, I will focus on the political facts that were also part of this legitimating ordering. These political facts, categorical entities invested with a certain “hardness” similar to the agency–born–of–materiality of objects, were interactive with one another and with other sorts of facts in the Kyongju routing con˘ troversy. Furthermore, as fragments these political facts encoded aspects of the authoritarian technocratic narrative of legitimacy

The whole structuring distinction of this paragraph between viewing the Kyongju ˘ controversy “after the fact” and considering it “as it unfolded in time” echoes the methodological distinction between approaching science as “ready made” and considering it “in the making” offered by Latour, Science in Action, pp. 1–17. 82 To date, most thoroughly in my “The Place of Projects: Remaking Locality in Kyongju, South Korea,” (Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University ˘ of Chicago, 2003, Chaps. 5–6). 83 See Callon and Latour, “Don’t Throw the Baby.”


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based upon “national rationality,” and thus enframed relationships between this supposedly obsolescent mission narrative and new rhetorics of legitimacy of the 1990s. With these considerations in mind, I turn to the circulation and careers in the Kyongju railway ˘ dispute of a set of “factical” terms: igijuui or “self–interestedness,” ˘ kukch’aek saop or “national–policy undertaking,” and kongyak or ˘ “public promise.” If prior interests, as I have argued, did not simply determine the course of the Kyongju controversy, “self–interestedness” (igijuui) ˘ ˘ was nonetheless an important element of its participants’ own sociological accounting that, as a fact of their surroundings, helped unmake other facts. In South Korean public discourse of the early 1990s, igijuui had more usual geographical and social coordinates ˘ as chiyok igijuui, or “regional self–interestedness.” Sociologist ˘ ˘ Cho Song-yun has described the term as the delegitimating “scolding ˘ voice” of central government agencies deployed most usually against local residents opposing some imposed development project. For Cho, igijuui is thus a “myth” (in a sense simpler than ˘ Ferguson’s), “an ideology made by power that wishes to ignore the opinions of residents,” a holdover of authoritarian technocracy and a recourse of planners unwilling to break old habits.84 The actual terrain of the Kyongju routing dispute, as I have sought to suggest, ˘ was more complex than one could hope to capture with Cho’s dualism of central versus regional positions, and in this situation igijuui ˘ reemerged as a more multivalent delegitimating marker of social disorders of the era of democratization and local self–governance (chibang chach’i).85 Thus in 1995 Kyongju defenders of the estab˘ lished routing decried the “regional self–interestedness” of the Pusan

Cho So ˘ng-yun, “Chiyo Igijuui ui Sinhwa” (The Myth of Regional Self– ˘k ˘ ˘ Interestedness), Hyonsang kwa Insik (Phenomena and Knowledge) 17:2/3 (1993), ˘ pp. 115–16. 85 Local self–governance had been promised for many years; 1995 saw the first direct elections for city and county executives in over three decades.



Robert Oppenheim

forces supposedly behind proposals to skip Kyongju and route the ˘ railway directly from Taegu to Pusan.86 More compromise–oriented Kyongjuites, meanwhile, worried aloud that such stalwart defenders ˘ of the Ministry of Construction plan were giving the nation the (“distorted”) impression that Kyongju citizens themselves suffered from ˘ igijuui, to the ultimate detriment of chances for an acceptable solu˘ tion to the routing controversy.87 Yet the rhetoric of “igijuui ” came ˘ also to be deployed without a geographic logic and in a direction entirely opposite to that suggested by Cho: by Kyongju boosters, as an ˘ accusation that archaeological opponents of the existing (or any) Kyongju routing were seeking to “expand the scope of their academic ˘ authority using Kyongju as a hostage” with a position that amounted ˘ to “a narrow–minded self–interested (igijuuijogin) manifestation ˘ ˘ devised for personal advancement” — by implication, for fame.88 As a semantically stable yet increasingly mobile political category, igijuui was “corrosive,”89 serving to de–realize technical facts and ˘ expert claims with which it was brought into contact. The legitimating effect and very “facticity” of technical facts — such as archaeologists’ propositions, bolstered with a professional marshalling of evidence, about the deleterious effects of Kyongju routing upon ˘ visible monuments and buried artifacts — could be undermined by pointing to the “self–interestedness” of their spokespersons.90

See “Kosokchonch’ol Kyongju T’onggwa: Toenda/Antoenda” (Routing the High– ˘ ˘ ˘ speed Railway through Kyongju: Yes and No), Kyongju Sinmun (September 11 ˘ ˘ 1995), p. 1. 87 See “Songmyongso, Konuiso e Nat’anan Kosokchonch’ol e taehan Kyongjugwon ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Panung” (Kyongju Reactions to the High–speed Railway [Issue] Appearing in Public ˘ ˘ Statements and Recommendations), Kyongju Sinmun (September 25 1995), p. 3. ˘ 88 “Kosokch’ol: Kyongju Noson Ch’olhoe ‘Antoenda’” (The High–speed Railway: ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Withdrawal of Kyongju Segment “Unacceptable”), Saebol Sinmun (September 18 ˘ ˘ 1995), p. 1. 89 See Bruce Lincoln, Authority: Construction and Corrosion (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994). 90 Among science studies authors, Bruno Latour has suggested a strong vision of the realization and de–realization of facts as processes, and hence of the reality (or


Legitimating Rhetorics and Factual Economies


Igijuui’s most direct categorical opposite in circulation in 1995–97 ˘ was a parallel discourse on kukch’aek saop, “national–policy under˘ takings.” This terminology was even more redolent of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, when the technocratic authoritarian state designated projects as such as a way of doing, more or less, whatever it wanted. In the high–speed railway dispute, however, to defend the established routing as a kukch’aek saop was also a claim on democracy and the nor˘ mative “democraticness” of Kim Young Sam’s munmin chongbu.91 It ˘ invoked continuity, predictability, and the closure brought by due process and the “rule of law,” as against routing opponents’ construction of democracy as equivalent to ever–open “debate.” To render a project as a “national–policy undertaking” was thus to render in the past tense both social and technical proofing processes: a kukch’aek saop had been elevated out of the realm where it could carry any ˘ taint of igijuui, and in effect already demonstrated as both substan˘ tively and formally rational. As one defender of the original Kyongju ˘ routing plan wrote, “it is not possible that this sort of momentous undertaking has been sloppily designed and planned.”92 Its constituent facts, in short, were well–made and reliable. Public citation of kukch’aek saop had finally a tactical parallel ˘ in another, more manipulable factual entity: kongyak or “public promises” by government officials. To parody the Weber of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in a Weber–influenced paper, if kukch’aek saop represented projective predestination, ˘ kongyak were meticulously–organizable events through which the

facticity) of facts not as a Boolean quality (something either is or is not a fact) but as “gradient.” See Pandora’s Hope, especially pp. 156–59, 310. 91 “Government of culture and people,” usually translated simply as “civil(ian) government.” One additional resonance is with munmu as a term for and ordering of the two orders of officialdom, “civilian and military,” during the Koryo and Choson ˘ ˘ dynasties; the point of this evocation, for the Kim Young Sam government, was that the mu or military had been vacated. 92 Chong Pyong-u, “Hwakchong Noson Pyon’gyong issul su opta” (The Confirmed ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ Line Cannot be Changed), Kyongju Sinmun (October 23 1995), p. 4. ˘


Robert Oppenheim

will of heaven might be framed as disclosed and solidified in the process. They were sites of intervention, available to non–experts, in an order of both political and technical facts. Defenders of the established Kyongju railway routing in 1995 never tired of pointing ˘ out that candidate Kim Young Sam had promised a Kyongju station ˘ in 1992, but more broadly the generation of kongyak through the maneuvering of officials into tight situations was a recurrent goal of Kyo ˘ngju railway–related alliances and organizations of various stripes. Even for groups that were able to argue for the merits of a given routing option on the basis of technical facts, such considerations often dictated a simultaneous media–based strategy of protest and public visibility for the cause.

It might well be pointed out that in other settings too “special interests” are a salient focus of political consideration, and public promises — like U.S. President George H.W. Bush’s famous “read my lips, no new taxes” — also take on a life of their own. Have I merely performed an anthropologist’s exoticising legitimacy trick in writing the words in Korean? And beyond the hobgoblin of consistency, what is the point of treating political categories in this way, as facts alongside technical facts, when there are so many other options? I might have written instead of the struggle over the sign, or of social relations objectified, naturalized, or reified in state fetishisms. In reply to these more or less “so what” sorts of questions, I would argue for the relative “hardness,” frequency, range of circulation, and specific interactivity of the Korean categorical entities I have discussed. My more methodological contention, meanwhile, has been that technocratic legitimacies, as persuasive orders, should be seen as resting not on expertise simply concentrated and organized in the name of competent pursuit of some substantive goal but in and among emergent facts themselves. Whether we examine Abu El-Haj’s Israeli “archaeological nationhood” or my smaller–scale example of the making and unmaking of the “rightness” of Kyongju development, ˘

Legitimating Rhetorics and Factual Economies


such attention to facts demands an understanding of legitimacy as made, to borrow Bruce Gilley’s terminology from this volume, both “top–down” and “bottom–up” simultaneously. Facts are not eternal and universal but exist in time and history, and yet to speak of facts at all is to imply a degree of durability, of resistance against the flow, and a comprising aspect however comprised an entity may also be. Just because technical facts are so evidently capable of autonomous action does not mean they are not also made; just because political facts are so clearly made does not mean they are incapable of their own relative independence. The political facts that I have argued for here have, in effect, both an interiority and an exteriority. Within themselves, they do not merely contain reverberations or stored memories of, or nostalgia for, modes of political engagement oriented to a technocratic authoritarianism that is supposedly on the wane — a past time when igijuui had a stable ˘ directionality, and kukch’aek saop and the kongyak of a South ˘ Korean president were virtually equivalent. Rather, in their solidity they enframe a relationship between that era and the raucous debate of the 1990s, a coherence of past and present.93 Meanwhile, political facts also interact with other sorts of facts in multiple directions, within factual economies. Beyond conceptualizing the legitimacy of an order as an emergent effect of the relation of emergent facts and interests, reckoning with political facts encourages an understanding of the disintegration of (technical) facts into social interests — precisely what igijuui aims to do — as a distinctive sort ˘ of political operation within such an ordering dynamic. A kukch’aek saop, on the other hand, renders the technical facts with which it ˘ has contact disinterested, and thus more closed, decided, reliable, or


Thus Law, Aircraft Stories, p. 2 introduces his central concept of the “fractional coherence” of objects, the way in which they “[draw] things together without centering them.” I mean to suggest this, but also more specifically to suggest the piecemeal assembly and contestation of a meaningful relation.


Robert Oppenheim

real. One slogan of the science studies literature I have drawn on here has it that “technology is society made durable”;94 the implication is that solidity is shared across registers, that social solidarity (or stable domination) is not a sui generis effect but is made with the technical. But political facts are also technical facts made durable, or soluble, as the case may be.

Bruno Latour, “Technology is Society Made Durable,” in John Law, ed., A Sociology of Monsters: Essays on Power, Technology, and Domination (London: Routledge, 1991).




Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs: Japan’s Case1
Takayuki Sakamoto

Politicians pursue self–interested goals much of the time, as expected from rational choice theory. However, they also sometimes make contested or electorally unpopular policies that are designed to serve more general public interests or that could hurt their own goals. This occurs because the pursuit of self–interest is not the only factor that drives politicians’ decisions and actions. I build on George’s analysis of policy legitimacy and explain policy legitimacy as a factor that affects the legislative success or failure of a contested policy and as a force that has a potential to overcome the forces of

This chapter is part of my book where I fully discuss policy legitimacy and Japan’s policy making. Takayuki Sakamoto, Building Policy Legitimacy in Japan: Political Behavior beyond Rational Choice (Basingstoke: Macmillan/New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999). I would like to thank Lynn White for his helpful comments on this chapter. 253



Takayuki Sakamoto

self–interest.2 Toward that end, I will show why and how it affects policy outputs, investigating five cases of Japanese government attempts to create or increase a consumption tax, to show how the concept of policy legitimacy helps us understand the fates of policy attempts.3 Scholars have often assumed and described politicians to be reelection-seekers.4 When applied to the study of policy making, electoral incentives theory expects that politicians make policies that serve geographically concentrated or group–specific interests as they are elected from small districts, and therefore their efforts to make policies serving broad and general interests (e.g., national interests) are likely to be frustrated more often than not.5 A logical implication of politicians’ electoral concern in democratic regimes would be that they predominantly pursue policies that serve narrow interests. Election–driven, particularistic politics is evidenced by a large number and volume of government programs and subsidies targeted at such constituent groups as farmers, small– and medium–sized businesses, industries, and local governments, as well as various tax breaks for them.6

A.L. George, “Domestic Constraints on Regime Change in U.S. Foreign Policy: The Need for Policy Legitimacy,” in O.R. Holsti, R.M. Siverson, and A.L. George, eds., Change in the International System (Boulder: Westview Press, 1980), pp. 233–62. 3 Japanese politics has undergone many significant changes since the early 1990s — i.e., electoral reform, resulting realignment of political parties and change in the party system, severe economic recessions as well as domestic change induced by changes in the international economy. The entire political economic regime is still in a state of flux. The contention of this paper applies up to the mid–1990s. Its specifics may require modification in analyzing Japanese politics thereafter. 4 See, for instance, D.R. Mayhew, Congress: The Electoral Connection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974); M.P. Fiorina, Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment, 2nd edition, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); R.D. Arnold, The Logic of Congressional Action (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990). 5 For instance, Mayhew, Congress. 6 See K.E. Calder, Crisis and Compensation: Public Policy and Political Stability in Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988); M. Hirose, Hojokin to Seikento (Public Subsidies and the Governing Party) (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun-sha, 1981);


Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


However, although politicians attend to narrow interests much of the time, they sometimes manage to legislate policies that serve broad interests at the expense of particularistic interests7 or electorally unpopular policies that can potentially damage their electoral prospects. Politics in industrialized as well as newly emerging democracies is replete with cases of politicians seeking electorally unpopular policies during economic hardships, including those designed to reduce budget deficits such as expenditure cuts, the termination of government programs, and tax increases, or combinations of all. Increases in welfare spending have also led industrialized countries to restructure or retrench welfare programs partly to make their welfare systems sustainable and partly to enhance their economic competitiveness. Welfare retrenchment typically requires politicians to make electorally difficult policy decisions. Increased international capital mobility and trade have further put the industrial economies under pressure to make their economies competitive to attract mobile capital and to promote economic growth. Market deregulation and liberalization are common strategies adopted by governments, and they entail transitional costs to the public and vested interests at least in the short to medium run and may impair incumbent governments’ and politicians’ abilities to collect votes. Politicians resolve conflicts between electoral and political goals, short– and long–term objectives, party leaders and backbenchers, and constituent and geographical groups which appear irresolvable in light of their self-interested cost/benefit calculations. They sometimes do so without fundamentally satisfying the competing interests.

Y. Kishiro, Jiminto Zeisei Chosakai (The LDP Tax System Research Council) (Tokyo: Toyo Keizai Shimpo-sha, 1985); Nihon Keizai Shimbun-sha, Jiminto Seichokai (The LDP Policy Affairs Research Council) (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shimbun-sha, 1983). 7 For such U.S. cases, see S. Kelman, “Why Public Ideas Matter,” in R.B. Reich, ed., The Power of Public Ideas (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 31–53; P.J. Quirk, “Deregulation and The Politics of Ideas in Congress,” in J.J. Mansbridge, ed., Beyond Self-Interest (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 183–199.


Takayuki Sakamoto

Thus, we confront a puzzle: If legislators are rational reelectionseekers, how do they ever manage to legislate policies that are opposed by major constituent groups or the public? Some scholars have presented rational choice explanations for this question,8 but they are not cogent ones. Certainly, politicians tactically use available strategies to minimize the negative repercussions of a policy, and the strategies may sometimes prove helpful.9 But to the extent that policy conflicts can be too intense or complex for the strategies to be sufficiently potent and that it can be difficult to find a solution that would satisfy everybody’s interests, politicians need to generate support for a policy not only by coordinating interests but also by resting justification for their policy decision upon something other than self–interest. I contend that “policy legitimacy” is such a factor that can preempt or override the forces of self–interest and makes possible the implementation of a contested or unpopular policy that runs counter to the interests of particular groups. In this paper, I elucidate the dynamics of policy processes that affect legislative success and failure by using the concept of policy legitimacy, a concept which was originally proposed by George.10 I explain why policy legitimacy is important to a policy’s obtaining approval and what factors facilitate or impede legitimacy formation. I show also that a conception of policy legitimacy can partly be subject to societal differences and that the norm of consensus decision making, among other factors, plays a role in legitimacy formation in Japan.11

Arnold, The Logic of Congressional Action; Mayhew, Congress. Arnold, The Logic of Congressional Action; P.D. Pierson and R.K. Weaver, “Imposing Losses in Pension Policy,” in R.K. Weaver and B.A. Rockman, eds., Do Institutions Matter?: Government Capabilities in the United States and Abroad (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1993), pp. 110–150. 10 George, “Domestic Constraints on Regime Change.” 11 Legitimacy of states, regimes, and political leaders has been widely studied, as can be seen in the other chapters of this book. The elements of policy legitimacy are similar to those of regime or state legitimacy. One difference is that policy legitimacy


Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


Electoral incentives theory explains, with relative ease, why politicians lean toward particularistic policy making, but has difficulty explicating why they sometimes make unpopular policies or policies that serve general interests, when those policies may compromise their electoral goals. Mayhew — who postulates members of U.S. Congress as reelection–seekers and deduces particularistic policy outputs as its consequence — seeks to solve the puzzle by alluding to the multiplicity of politicians’ goals and the different incentive structures faced by different types of politicians.12 He argues that members of Congress are concerned also with the maintenance of the prestige and power of Congress and that it provides elected leaders with selective incentives to engage in institution–protective activities that go beyond individual members’ electoral interests. Hence, each committee, concerned with institutional maintenance, serves as a check on particularism. This line of argument is found also in Fenno who stipulates three goals of House members — reelection, influence within the House, and good public policy.13 These authors correctly observe the presence of the forces and actor motivations that do not necessarily add up to particularism. But the question remains as to the mechanisms by which committees or their members break free of particularism and serve general interests, and the conditions under which they alternate in aiding individual members’ electoral quests and maintaining the prestige and power of Congress.

can fluctuate across different policies, policy attempts, or issues under the same one government or administration. 12 Mayhew, Congress, pp. 141–158. 13 R.F.J. Fenno, Congressmen in Committees (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973).


Takayuki Sakamoto

Building upon the reelection–seeking assumption, Arnold specifies the conditions under which politicians serve broader interests:
Legislators feel forced to serve diffuse or general interests only if a policy’s general costs or benefits are salient or potentially salient to substantial numbers of citizens, and only if coalition leaders employ procedures that encourage traceability for general effects rather than for group or geographic effects. … When general benefits are highly salient and group and geographic costs appear negligible, legislators often feel compelled to support whatever proposals are put before them.14

While Arnold’s explanation is sound in telling general patterns, it appears unsuitable for explaining some particular cases. Consider the cases of Japan’s consumption tax reviewed later in this paper. In his view, legislators should be the least likely to accept a policy, such as the creation and increase of a consumption tax, that will impose costs upon virtually all economic groups, unless there is a means to conceal identifiable governmental actions producing the costs or to make politicians’ individual contributions to the costs invisible.15 But the costs to citizens of the new tax introduced by Prime Minister Takeshita in 1989 were large — a 3% tax would be levied on all goods citizens purchased. The traceability of the costs back to politicians’ individual actions was also strong, as the tax drew national attention, and political parties’ positions and actions were well covered by the media. Arnold’s theory, then, would expect politicians to kill the tax bills. The governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), however, managed to pass the bills with the tacit help of the Clean Government Party (CGP) and Democratic Socialist Party (DSP). Similarly, the costs of the Murayama coalition government’s tax increase (1994) were large, and the traceability chain was strong. But the coalition successfully legislated the tax hike. Electoral incentives theory also has difficulty explaining situations in which politicians seek unpopular policies and actually lose



Arnold, The Logic of Congressional Action, pp. 142–143. Arnold, The Logic of Congressional Action, pp. 101–102, 164–166, 184–187, 190–191.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


elections. To take Japan’s case again, Prime Ministers Ohira’s and Takeshita’s respective attempts to create a new consumption tax are cases in point. Ohira proposed a new consumption tax in the year of the 1979 general election. Although he withdrew his proposal prior to the poll, his LDP suffered a major electoral defeat. Likewise, the LDP’s loss of a majority in the upper house election followed Takeshita’s introduction of a new consumption tax in 1989. Choice–theoretic scholars might invoke the factors of uncertainty and imperfect information to explain such seemingly “irrational” policy decisions. While the factors accurately characterize many decision making situations, Prime Ministers Ohira’s and Nakasone’s failed tax attempts exemplify cases in which policy decisions resulting in electoral failure go beyond what can reasonably be accounted for by the factors. Both attempts cost the LDP major electoral setbacks, and the possibility of the negative electoral consequences of the tax proposals was readily perceivable before the elections in both cases. These examples show that politicians sometimes show behavior that goes counter to or beyond the expectations of electoral incentives theory.

Policy Dilemmas and Their Solutions
Reelection is certainly one of politicians’ dominant goals. Individuals create organizations to achieve common objectives within a given set of institutional, structural constraints, and political parties formed by individual politicians seek control of government.16 These are not only convenient theoretical simplifications, but also a fair approximation of politicians’ and parties’ actions much of the time. Despite the temptation to serve particularized interests, however, politicians as a whole also face the task of attending to the general needs of society at large, and general and particular interests can be in


A. Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper and Row, 1957).


Takayuki Sakamoto

conflict. Policy needs may arise, for instance, of keeping the national economy in a sound state by balancing national revenue and expenditure. Citizens may understand the need to cut spending or increase revenue or both. But it is no easy task to solve the specific question of who should bear the burden of expenditure cuts or tax increases. The interests of a party as a whole and the needs of its individual members may conflict with each other, as a party represents a larger number and wider range of constituents than each of its members. It is not always easy to aggregate individual members’ diverse interests into a coherent party policy. But the party will be blamed for its incapability to govern if it does not accomplish the task. Politicians may also face conflicts between short– and long–term interests. Making trade–offs between the two can be problematic. A party in power may be disposed toward short–term popularity. Politicians face elections every few years, and the fear of losing the next election may make it difficult for the ruling party to make a policy that will produce long–term benefits but impose short–term costs. Fiscal austerity programs to bring inflation under control or reduce budget deficits exemplify this type of policy. But if the party aims for longer terms of tenure, it must also take into account the long–term costs and benefits of a policy. A policy that woos constituents in the short run may not be in its best long–term interest, as the public may eventually lose trust in the party’s governing abilities. Party leaders and senior politicians — who tend to have greater electoral security than backbenchers — may have the potential to serve as a protective shield against particularistic politics. But despite such potential, backbenchers’ electoral needs may hinder them from pushing a policy opposed by particular interests. For the leaders depend on backbenchers’ support for their power within the party and for legislation of their policies. Further, their control of government and pursuit of their other goals rest on the electoral strength of their party as a whole, not their own electoral performance alone. Thus, they must heed backbenchers’ needs. The result would be the same old particularistic politics. Nevertheless, politicians sometimes manage to overcome difficult conflicts despite the magnitude of stakes involved for politicians or

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


constituent groups and the complexity of interest coordination. And they do so apparently without necessarily satisfying the competing interests. For instance, although many LDP politicians opposed Prime Minister Takeshita’s new tax and their electoral concerns were not alleviated, they complied with his tax decision. Similarly, the opposition CGP and DSP opposed the tax, but agreed to let it pass the Diet. These suggest that a policy may still obtain approval even when the self–interested rationality of relevant actors does not justify it. How, then, can politicians overcome their proclivity toward particularism and make electorally unpopular or contested policies? First, consistent with the expectations of rational choice theory, politicians tactically seek to minimize the repercussions of an unpopular or contested policy. They exploit available strategies and devices to protect their interests, including modifications of the distribution and magnitude of the costs and benefits of a policy; the maintenance of the koenkai as vote mobilization machines; the use of party control as justification for complying with an unpopular policy decision; legislation of an unpopular policy at a time far from elections; and the delegation of politically delicate decisions to regulatory commissions, ad hoc commissions, or Congressional committees and subcommittees that may protect politicians from blame.17 When effectively employed, these strategies can mitigate politicians’ fear of electoral repercussions to some extent. But the strategies may not be sufficiently potent or appropriate to mitigate the negative impacts of a particular policy. The magnitude of policy opposition may exceed the capacity of the strategies. Politicians may also misuse strategies. If politicians were so skillful in counteracting the negative consequences of their actions, they might not lose elections. If they could competently calculate the electoral impacts of a policy, they might not seek an electorally risky policy in the first place. Also, if the distribution of costs and benefits were the major determinant of legislative success and failure, politicians would


Pierson and Weaver, “Imposing Losses in Pension Policy.”


Takayuki Sakamoto

have great difficulty legislating a policy that runs counter to narrow constituency interests. The second and more decisive reason why politicians can sometimes break free of particularism is that self–interest is not the only controlling factor in politics and politicians can also appeal to or contrive the legitimacy of their policy which stands independently of self–interest. That is, if a ruling party successfully engineers legitimacy for an originally unpopular policy, it may be able to have the policy approved while lessening its electoral repercussions.18 One key to politicians’ behavior is whether and how well they can explain and justify their actions to constituents and voters.19 If they can evade electoral punishment, they are more or less free to seek an unpopular policy or pursue whatever other goals they may have. Policy legitimacy gains analytical importance because it provides politicians with such justification to explain an unpopular policy decision even when it does not conform to actors’ immediate interests. It can lead competing actors — interest groups, voters, and politicians — to approve a policy without fundamentally resolving conflicts of interest that might be difficult to settle just by changing the distribution and magnitude of the policy’s costs and benefits. It thus renders the costs of such a policy justifiable or tolerable to the actors.20

Social Foundations of Politics
Political actors’ pursuit of self–interest takes place in a society whose members share a “history, a valued way of life,” a conception of the

The building of policy legitimacy and the exploitation of strategies do not need to be mutually exclusive and can simultaneously assist politicians’ policy attempts. 19 J. W. Kingdon, Congressmen’s Voting Decisions, 2nd edition. (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), pp. 47–54. 20 The logic of my contention on policy legitimacy is somewhat similar to Stern’s argument that political leaders mobilize support for collective efforts such as war by making emotional appeals and thereby preempting or overriding the self–interested calculations of individuals. P.C. Stern, “Why Do People Sacrifice for Their Nations?” Political Psychology 16 (June, 1995), pp. 217–235.


Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


“common good,” and a “common understanding embodied in rules for appropriate behavior.”21 When a solution to a coordination problem that would satisfy everybody’s interests is unattainable, policy makers need to rest justification for their policy decision upon something other than individuals’ self–interest. Aside from the use of force and coercion, “appropriateness” or “legitimateness” is often a criterion by which to make decisions on issues irresolvable on the basis of the coordination of competing interests.22 Meeting the standards of appropriateness does not guarantee conflict resolution. But when individuals come to believe that some problems call for loss–imposing solutions and that government and politicians are sometimes forced to make such decisions, the standards can be a powerful tool to justify loss of self–interest. In this limited sense, a fundamental logic of politics is the “logic of appropriateness,” as well as that of who gets what, when, and how.23 Social norms affect political behavior and outcomes by delineating the parameters of sets of choices available and by prescribing what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior. They impose upon politicians standards for appropriate ways of decision making on an issue salient to many segments of society. Policy legitimacy can be built through following appropriate procedures and taking proper measures that would render a policy justifiable or bearable to the affected actors.


J.G. March and J.P. Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions (New York: Free Press, 1989), p. 161. 22 March and Olsen write:
[P]olitical institutions and the individuals in them need to communicate to their observers that the decisions they make are legitimate. … Legitimacy is established by showing that the decisions accomplish appropriate objectives or by showing that they are made in appropriate ways. … So, political actors establish that they are good decision makers by making decisions in a way that symbolizes the qualities that are valued (p. 49). March and Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions.

March and Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions, p. 38.


Takayuki Sakamoto

I define policy legitimacy as a degree of support, acceptance, or tolerance accorded by relevant actors to a particular policy which is required for it to be approved. It is a continual variable ranging from active support to passive acceptance, to compliance with some explicit objection and to active opposition.24 Similar measures may be taken of legitimacy for other objects (states, regimes, or leaders), and other chapters of this book attempt to estimate these. The legitimacy of a policy is enhanced when actors perceive that it is supported by good and proper ideas and made by decision makers with a popular mandate, and the policy decision is reached in an appropriate way. In other words, in building legitimacy, policy makers communicate to actors how appropriate a policy is and how legitimate they are in asking their constituents to bear the burdens of the policy.25 Policy legitimacy rarely poses a problem to policy makers if a policy is neither contested nor electorally unpopular due, for instance, to a lack of publicity. By this definition, not all approved policies need legitimacy. But it can become a crucial factor in deciding the fate of a policy when it is contested. A lack of legitimacy robs policy advocates of justification for pushing a policy and provides the opposition with justification to oppose it.


George suggests in a study of U.S. foreign policy that a president needs a national consensus in conducting a long–range foreign policy and must achieve policy legitimacy in order to attain the consensus. George, “Domestic Constraints on Regime Change.” 25 Although policy legitimacy is postulated as a force that can counterbalance the forces of self–interest, it is not entirely free from strategic considerations. For actors’ perception of legitimacy cannot help but be affected partly by a match between a policy and their interests. Also, policy makers can strategically seek to contrive legitimacy to advance their own interests, although this sort of action is still constrained by people’s conceptions of appropriateness.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


Three Components of Policy Legitimacy
Three components of policy legitimacy are important in the context of Japanese politics: the idea, democratic, and decision–norm components.26 When policy advocates’ attempts to legislate a contested policy are bolstered by high levels of legitimacy in the three components, the likelihood increases that the policy will obtain approval necessary for implementation. In contrast, when a policy does not enjoy legitimacy, its advocates will have difficulty persuading the opposition to approve the policy, and its approval will depend more on a match between the policy and actors’ interests.

The Idea Component
The idea component concerns the substantive ideas of a policy, including dominant values and beliefs, knowledge about cause–and–effect relationships, worldviews, ideologies, or a conception of collective goods, justice, and appropriateness.27 When a policy infringes on actors’ interests and meets with their opposition, its ideas must be appealing to the actors on their merit alone in order


George conceptualizes two components — the normative and cognitive components. The first concerns the desirability of a policy; he must convince his administration, Congress, and the public that the objectives of the policy are consistent with national values. The second regards feasibility; he must convince them that he has the knowledge, means, and resources to achieve the objectives. George, “Domestic Constraints on Regime Change.” 27 On the role of ideas in politics, see J. Goldstein, “Ideas, Institutions, and American Trade Policy,” International Organization 42 (1988), pp. 179–217; J. Goldstein and R.O. Keohane, eds., Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993); J.W. Kingdon, “Ideas, Politics, and Public Policies.” (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., September 1–4, 1988); R.B. Reich, ed., The Power of Public Ideas (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988); and many political philosophers as well as the sociologist of knowledge Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (London: Routledge, 1936), whose analysis includes disingenuous ideas.


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for it to gain legitimacy. Policy ideas must be compelling to justify the actors’ letting legitimacy counterbalance the dictates of self–interest. Put differently, policy makers seek to build support for a policy through persuasion that appeals to the policy’s normative and moral attributes or arguments and scientific evidence that demonstrate its correctness and effectiveness as a tool to solve a problem.28 Ideas matter also because they constrain policy choices by delineating the contours of viable alternatives. Scientific or commonsensical knowledge of causal relationships, for instance, informs decision makers of how they should go about solving a problem and which policy tool to choose. Further, multiple equilibria in repetitive game–theoretic situations suggest that ideas held by particular individuals may be a factor in explaining which option they will choose over all the other feasible options.29

The Democratic Component
Legitimacy is important in all polities, including democratic and authoritarian regimes. But the particular propositions about the democratic component of policy legitimacy discussed in this short section mainly apply to democracies because, by definition, such things as democratic principles, electoral mandates, and government responsiveness to public will are not at work or weaker under authoritarian regimes. Yet, even authoritarian leaders have difficulty maintaining their rule unless they fabricate a certain level of legitimacy among the public. Thus, while the following observations are specific to democracies, similar principles can be applied to non–democracies with appropriate modifications.

28 29

Kingdon, “Ideas, Politics, and Public Policies.” J. Ferejohn, “Rationality and Interpretation: Parliamentary Elections in Early Stuart England,” in K.R. Monroe, ed., The Economic Approach to Politics: A Critical Reassessment of The Theory of Rational Action (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1991), pp. 279–305; D.C. North, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


Democratic principles expect governments’ rule to be in large agreement with the popular will that originally elected them. But when they need to make unpopular policy decisions, at issue will be whether they can obtain public consent to the decisions, no matter how reluctant it may be. The democratic component of policy legitimacy concerns to what degree an administration is entrusted or empowered to make a policy going against the immediate interests of constituents. Put differently, it is about the degree of freedom an administration has in imposing losses on constituents. A greater electoral mandate may allow an administration to make an unpopular or contested policy more easily or with less electoral repercussion. This component, thus, increases what Pierson and Weaver call governments’ “loss–imposing capabilities.”30 Legitimacy in a democracy is a function of popular mandate. The democratic component of policy legitimacy is determined by the direction and magnitude of public opinion expressed in such forms as election and opinion poll results.31 First, in Japan, the outcomes of the last election for the Diet — particularly, those for the lower house — can influence legitimacy, because they show the degree of the mandate the ruling party obtained when its government was formed and are a measure of electoral support of its policies in general. Second, a governing party can claim the legitimacy of a contested policy, if it wins national or local elections that are held during deliberations on the policy. These elections include upper house elections that periodically come around, lower house elections called for by prime ministers’ dissolution of the house, by–elections, and elections for local legislatures and governors. Conversely, the opposition can claim a lack of legitimacy if the governing party loses them. Thus, these elections function as referenda on a policy.

Pierson and Weaver, “Imposing Losses in Pension Policy.” Public opinion affects policy processes and outcomes both through intervention by politicians’ electoral concerns and through its own normative appeal. Politicians certainly exploit public opinion to advance their interests. But without its independent normative appeals, they would not be able to exploit it.



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For instance, in 1987, the LDP’s losses in the nationwide local elections and an upper house by–election were interpreted to demonstrate public opposition to Prime Minister Nakasone’s sales tax proposal, and they became a factor in forcing him to withdraw the proposal. A third factor is ratings in opinion polls for the current administration and its policies in general, political parties, or a particular policy. Also, included in this category is an “atmosphere” or sentiment among the public on an issue which politicians pick up from their constituents and media reports. When an administration or its policy enjoys favorable scores in these elements of the democratic component of legitimacy, the policy has a higher chance of being approved. Public opinion provides a powerful weapon in policy competition and can aid or hinder politicians’ attempts to achieve their goals. It provides politicians with a means to explain their actions to constituents and voters. And politicians also assess the political feasibility of seeking or opposing a policy by looking at public reaction during policy deliberations.

The Decision–Norm Component
The decision–norm component concerns a way of collective decision making that people regard as appropriate, when a policy conflict is irresolvable on the basis of the coordination of competing interests. Choice of one decision rule or another can be a function of people’s beliefs and values about the nature of the world, conflict, and its resolution. In this sense, the choice can be subject to social differences.32

Mueller explains that different assumptions about the nature of politics and issues lead some scholars to claim the desirability of majority rule and others to advocate unanimity rule. It is natural to suspect that people’s preferences for rules likewise vary with their beliefs and values. D.C. Mueller, Public Choice II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), Chapter 6.


Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


In Japan’s case, the norm of consensual decision making has constituted an integral part of this component of policy legitimacy and has given a distinctive shape to the policy process and outcomes in and outside the Diet. Under the influence of the norm, policy advocates’ efforts at consensus building help increase the legitimacy of an unpopular or contested policy and alleviate opposition. On the other hand, a lack of a consensus building effort works to discredit policy legitimacy. The inconsequential nature of the consensus norm distinguishes it from consequential rationality which concerns the choice of action given one’s end.33 Its essential feature is politicians’ aversion to the use of a majority vote in conflict resolution. It is buttressed by their belief that a majority vote will entail confrontation and impede the sound and orderly conduct of parliamentary affairs. Their preference is for a conciliatory decision making method — often, decisions by “unanimity,” which is admittedly less than perfect unanimity and is a “less–than–unanimity majority.”34 They conduct consensus building until they exhaust deliberations, while knowing that some of the opposition’s claims need to be dismissed in the end. Then, a group typically announces that a decision has been made by unanimity without taking a vote. The opposition grudgingly drops its objections and consents to the group decision. The consensus norm exerts several kinds of impact on policy process and outcome. First, politicians’ concern with the potential political repercussions of norm violation makes it difficult for a

For the definition of the distinction, see J. Elster, The Cement of Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). 34 Mueller, Public Choice II. Despite their emphasis on unanimity rule, they have no general or specific rule for the size of a majority required for a unanimous decision. Incidentally, a former secretary general of the SDPJ told me, “I don’t know what kind of majority you need. It just depends. But I would say I would try to get the consent of 70% of participants before I declare a unanimous decision.” Interview, June 13, 1994.



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majority party to push a contested bill without consensus–building efforts with its member legislators, opposition parties, interest groups, and sometimes the public. Thus, the norm can prolong Diet deliberations, thereby limiting the governing party’s ability to pass bills in a given Diet session which is already constrained by the short length of legislative sessions.35 Second, the norm sometimes forces the ruling party to be forthcoming in making concessions to the opposition — whether they be amendments of a bill at issue or other policy compensations not related to the bill — because an unwillingness to compromise can call into question the party’s sincerity in building consensus. In passing a controversial bill, the ruling party also takes face–saving measures for the benefit of opposition parties so that they can better explain their inability to block the bill to their constituents. Third, by the particular way in which the norm was practiced during the LDP’s one–party rule, the ruling party sought to obtain the consent of at least one other party (typically, the CGP or DSP or both) in legislating any policy, although its majority status should have obviated such a need. In the post–1993 period, in contrast, the emergence of multiparty governments has appeared to reduce the need to seek an opposition party’s cooperation, as a coalition decision already represents a consensus among multiple parties.

35 M.M. Mochizuki, “Managing and Influencing The Japanese Legislative Process: The Role of Parties and The National Diet, (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1982). Although the LDP maintained a majority for its 38–year rule except for 1983–86, the legislative process under its one-party dominance was characterized by opposition parties’ great ability to delay Diet deliberations and a not–so–high success rate for the LDP government in having its bills approved. Due to the use of unanimity rule in Diet committees, the opposition parties stalled deliberations easily and frequently. And bills that do not get voted on within the session they are introduced will be shelved unless parliamentary parties formally agree to continue their deliberations after the session.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


How Policy Legitimacy Affects Policy Approval
Policy legitimacy affects the fate of Japan’s ruling party’s policy attempts by moving the dynamics of the policy process — the unity of the ruling party in support of its policy, the unity of opposition parties in opposing it, and public opinion — toward or away from policy approval. First, policy legitimacy makes possible a high level of ruling party unity in support of a contested policy. The party can mitigate the electoral concerns of backbenchers who are vulnerable to electoral pressures and reduce their policy opposition within the party by exploiting strategies and devices (e.g., modifications of the distribution of a policy’s costs and benefits, party control, the koenkai). But to the extent that the effectiveness of their strategies is limited, party unity will depend on how effectively party leaders engage in consensus–building efforts and persuade the backbenchers to drop their opposition. If successfully engaged, the efforts will equip the backbenchers with a means to explain to their constituents their compliance with a policy opposed by the constituents. In contrast, an ineffective consensus–building effort will leave backbenchers with no such justification and will likely result in a failure to maintain party unity. Second, policy legitimacy makes it difficult for opposition parties — which wish to earn credit from defeating the ruling party’s policy — to persist in opposition to a policy and weakens opposition unity. Side–payments and policy concessions to the opposition parties can make somewhat easier the ruling party’s task of breaking opposition unity and obtaining their acquiescence. But again, the alleviation of policy opposition depends upon whether and how successfully the ruling party engages in a consensus building effort with them and convinces them that the implementation of a contested policy is unavoidable. When a ruling party policy is buttressed by proper ideas and a popular mandate and is made through appropriate procedures, the opposition parties may lose justifiable reasons to continue to block the policy, except for the cause of protecting constituents’ interests.


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If they persist in opposition, they may be regarded as unreasonable or irresponsible. The public criticism that Japan’s opposition parties oppose government policy for the sake of opposition, and are incompetent, derives from this logic. In such a case, the ruling party will be better justified to unilaterally force its bill through the Diet, or such a move will less likely be regarded as illegitimate. If the passage of a bill becomes likely in this manner, opposition unity will weaken, since some opposition parties may now move to win policy concessions from the ruling party in exchange for cooperation on the bill. At the same time, a consensus–building effort by the ruling party and resulting policy legitimacy make it easier for opposition parties to gracefully accept the defeat of their policy opposition, as they provide justification to drop opposition. To give the opposition parties a means to explain their legislative failure to constituent groups, the ruling party also arranges face–saving measures, such as providing a chance for them to stage ritualistic protest against its policy and/or policy concessions and compensations. Meanwhile, a failure to engage in consensus building and legitimize a policy will foster opposition unity, since the opposition parties can condemn the ruling party for not subjecting the policy to proper deliberations. Third, policy legitimacy leads the public to resign itself to a loss–imposing policy as unavoidable and makes it easier to swallow its discontent. This shift in public opinion will be followed by the weakening of opposition unity and the increase of ruling party unity, since it reduces the opposition’s incentive and justification to sustain opposition.36 These functions of policy legitimacy make possible the resolution of a conflict that might otherwise be difficult to resolve, as they make it easier for various actors to accept the costs of a policy to


The flow of influence between policy legitimacy and public opinion, then, goes in both directions; for public opinion also affects legitimacy, as the former is a component of the latter.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


their immediate interests. A lack of policy legitimacy, in contrast, provides opposition parties with legitimate reasons to oppose a contested policy. It also robs ruling party politicians of justification to comply with the policy and impairs their party’s unity. Strong opposition unity leads ruling party politicians to question the political feasibility of pushing their policy and sways their determination, and this increases the opposition’s ability to block the policy. Also, when the opposition parties are united in opposition, the consensus norm deters the ruling party from unilaterally forcing its policy through the Diet. A lack of legitimacy is further likely to turn the public against a policy, and this situation will be capitalized upon by the opposition to the ruling party’s disadvantage. As a result, interparty agreement becomes difficult to emerge. In sum, policy approval is facilitated when a policy achieves legitimacy in the idea, democratic, and decision–norm components. When a policy gains legitimacy, ruling party’s unity, opposition’s unity, and public opinion shift favorably toward its approval.

Politicians are averse to tax increases and have difficulty legislating them, unless they are assured of electoral safety. Tax increases often are visible and meet with opposition from various economic groups, as they directly affect their material well–being. Public opposition instigates politicians’ electoral concerns, and policy advocates have difficulty overriding their opposition. Skillful political persuasion may convince constituents of the need for tax increases. But even then, they may not want to be the ones to bear the costs of the increases and may disagree on how to distribute the costs. While the electoral incentive perspective explains tax cuts with ease, it does not readily explicate why politicians increase taxes knowing their potential electoral unpopularity. From the perspective of policy legitimacy, we expect that the successful enactment of tax increases is accompanied by high levels of policy legitimacy to justify them. The public and those adversely affected need to be convinced that the government is legitimate in asking them to sacrifice


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their private interests. Conversely, we expect that a lack of policy legitimacy characterizes failed attempts at tax increases. If not accompanied by legitimacy, a policy attempt will either be foiled or evoke constituents’ opposition serious enough to cause political costs. Since the late 1970s, the Japanese government and ruling parties undertook three attempts to introduce a consumption tax (Prime Ministers Masayoshi Ohira, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Noboru Takeshita) and two other attempts to increase its tax rate (Prime Ministers Morihiro Hosokawa and Tomiichi Murayama). In 1979, Ohira attempted to introduce a new 5% consumption tax to reduce deficits in the national budget and stabilize government revenues. He announced the intention to introduce the tax in the same year he planned to dissolve the lower house and hold a general election with a view to recovering the effective house majority which his LDP had lost in the previous election. But he was forced to withdraw the tax proposal during the election campaign due to opposition both within and outside the LDP. Despite the withdrawal of the proposal, the LDP suffered a major setback in the lower house election. Eight years later, the LDP leadership led by Nakasone sought again to introduce a 5% new consumption tax to accomplish the fiscal goals unattained during Ohira’s tenure. But this attempt also failed. Nakasone had no choice but to scrap his tax bills in the face of the opposition parties’ obstruction in the Diet and the widespread public opposition that had caused the LDP a historic defeat in the 1987 nationwide local elections. In the following year, despite the two previous failures and electoral punishments, the LDP under Takeshita’s leadership launched another attempt to introduce a 3% consumption tax. The outcome was different this time; Takeshita successfully enacted the new tax. But the LDP again suffered a setback in the 1989 upper house election that followed the introduction of the tax, and lost the majority in the house for the first time since the party’s conception. In 1994, Prime Minister Hosokawa of the eight–party coalition government (the Social Democratic Party [SDPJ], Renewal Party, Clean Government Party [CGP], Japan New Party, Democratic Socialist Party [DSP], New Party Harbinger [Shinto Sakigake], Social Democratic

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


League, Democratic Reform League) that had replaced the LDP in power attempted to raise the consumption tax rate by replacing the 3% tax with a 7% “national welfare tax.” The goal of Hosokawa and the Ministry of Finance (MOF) was to further stabilize government revenue sources and to finance direct tax cuts to be implemented to boost Japan’s economy in recession. The attempt was, however, thwarted by opposition from most of the coalition partners. Lastly, in late 1994, the Murayama coalition government (the LDP, SDPJ and Sakigake) successfully legislated the increase of the consumption tax rate to 5% to cover additional reductions in income and residential taxes and secure financial sources for future welfare spending. What made possible Takeshita’s and Murayama’s successful tax increases, and what caused the failure of attempts by Ohira, Nakasone, and Hosokawa? Why were the latter three unable to legislate the tax increases when they had a parliamentary majority? The three failed cases are easy to explain with the electoral incentives perspective alone — politicians have a hard time making an unpopular policy. But the perspective does not explain the two successful cases. Analysis of five cases shows that, although electoral incentives were still a powerful factor in all the cases, the unsuccessful administrations failed at building legitimacy for their tax proposals and the successful administrations managed to achieve legitimacy for their tax hikes. I will illustrate how one can explain the cases by using the concept of policy legitimacy.

Ohira’s Failed Attempt in 1979
Aside from the question of why Ohira naively sought to create a new consumption tax in an election year, several conditions existed prior to his attempt to make it appear that the political situation was conducive to the legislation of the tax. But apparently favorable conditions prevented the administration from recognizing a need to build policy legitimacy. And more crucially, an unexpected event — the revelation of a bureaucratic corruption scandal — ravaged whatever legitimacy the tax had and made the lack of legitimacy fatal to the policy attempt.


Takayuki Sakamoto

Ohira’s attempt came when electoral support for his LDP was on the rise after a sharp drop in the mid 1970s. Despite the fact that his intent on the new tax was already public knowledge, the LDP won a sizable victory in the nationwide local elections in early 1979. High LDP support continued into the lower house election campaign period, and an opinion survey conducted five weeks before the poll showed that LDP support was the highest (52%) in 15 years.37 Opposition to the tax was also relatively low among the public and politicians prior to the campaign period. In addition, a conservative shift in two middle–of–the–road parties (CGP and DSP) and a pragmatic consensus among political parties on the need for some kind of tax increase to balance the budget made Ohira believe that the tax could not be an issue in the upcoming election.38 Besides, a consumption tax appeared politically the most feasible among other alternatives — spending cuts, administrative reform, income or corporate tax increases. But opposition to the tax became irreversibly strong in late September when a scandal (a “government account heaven”) was revealed involving questionable accounting and spending practices in several government agencies including the MOF which drafted the tax proposal. The scandal made the public refuse the MOF’s easy recourse to tax increases without making efforts to reduce government expenditures. It, thus, served to lend legitimacy to expenditure cuts and administrative reform, not the tax increase, as a means to reduce the fiscal deficits.

Idea Component
Deficit reduction was a justifiable policy goal and an imminent policy need. Tax increases might have been tolerated as a legitimate means to achieve that goal under other circumstances. But Ohira

37 38

Asahi Shimbun, September 3 1979. Yomiuri Shimbun, October 1, 10, 1979.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


and the MOF were unable to claim the legitimacy of the policy ideas of the new tax, when it was revealed that government offices were illegally and wastefully spending tax money. A consumption tax as a means to end deficit financing was no longer justifiable until the government made serious efforts to curtail its spending and end questionable spending practices.

Democratic Component
Ohira’s tax attempt turned out to be also low in this component of legitimacy. While the tax did not initially provoke strong public opposition, it never received support. Neither had the governing LDP gained a popular mandate in the previous 1976 lower house election in which the party won only 249 (48.7%) of the total seats. While the party enjoyed a strong resurgence of public support in 1979, the public turned against both the tax and the party as soon as the scandal erupted. LDP support suddenly fell from 50% to 43% one week before the 1979 lower house election, the period when the list of the ministries involved in the scandal spread to other ministries including the MOF.39 The result was the LDP’s loss in the election. This outcome demolished the democratic component of legitimacy for the tax.

Decision–Norm Component
Ohira’s tax increase lacked legitimacy in the decision–norm component. The MOF made little pretense of building public consensus on the tax. With a view to ensuring its legislation, MOF officials sought to circumvent politicians and the public by minimizing public deliberations and avoiding politicians’ interference and opposition. They


K. Arai, Senkyo, Joho, Seron (Elections, Information, and Public Opinion) (Tokyo: Nihon Hoso Shuppan Kyokai, 1988), pp. 87–111.


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belittled the need for public persuasion, claiming that “no such public exists to favor tax increases.”40 Neither did the Ohira administration seek to cultivate a consensus within his party or among the public. Supported by the favorable political conditions, Ohira failed to recognize the need to engage politicians and the public in consensus building and slighted party backbenchers’ opposition to the tax and overlooked the potential opposition of the public.41

Ruling party’s unity in supporting Ohira’s tax was entirely absent in the face of the upcoming election, the repercussions of the scandal, the lack of policy legitimacy, and opposition from the public and opposition parties. In the absence of consensus building efforts by the administration, LDP politicians were provided with no justification with which to override their constituents’ opposition to the tax. Neither did the constituents and the public find justification to tolerate the tax. In contrast, opposition unity was high, assisted by the same factors that thwarted the LDP’s unity.

Nakasone’s Failed Attempt in 1987
Nakasone’s attempt to introduce his sales tax also came under favorable political conditions. First, the tax would make possible the active fiscal policy needed to boost Japan’s economy in recession, which would be welcomed by virtually all socio–economic groups. There was growing dissatisfaction among LDP politicians with the fiscal austerity policy that had restricted their ability to obtain grants–in–aid and public works for their districts as a means of

40 41

Asahi Shimbun, January 16 1979. Yomiuri Shimbun, October 9 1979.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


vote–mobilization.42 Their demand for active fiscal policy made them receptive to a new tax as revenue source. Second, the LDP had just successfully won the 1986 elections for both houses and expected no other national election in the near future. In terms of timing, LDP politicians needed to be the least concerned about the electoral repercussions of the tax. Nakasone’s tax reform would also provide an opportunity for the LDP to expand electoral support among company employees in big cities by courting them with income tax cuts. Third, the LDP’s solid parliamentary majority and the Nakasone administration’s popularity provided an environment both the party and MOF needed in seeking an unpopular tax. Fourth, Nakasone’s reform would meet foreign governments’ demands that Japan boost its economy and trim its trade surpluses by implementing active fiscal policy. There was little contestation among Japanese politicians over the need for income tax cuts. The disagreement was over how to finance them. Prior to the deliberation, the legislation of Nakasone’s tax originally appeared promising, as it showed some positive elements in the idea and democratic components of policy legitimacy. Nakasone’s attempt miscarried, however, due to his mistakes in choosing an approach to obtaining public approval — that is, the new tax was perceived to be incompatible with his 1986 campaign promise, and he failed to make consensus–building efforts. These two factors crucially drained the legitimacy of the tax in the decision–norm component and also impaired its democratic and idea components.

Idea Component
Nakasone’s tax reform originally had a potential to enjoy greater legitimacy in its policy ideas than Ohira’s, as the former came after several years of the governmental efforts at administrative reform


Yomiuri Shimbun, August 19 1986.


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and expenditure cuts. After Ohira’s failed attempt, the government was virtually barred from resorting to tax increases, as deficit reduction without tax increases became official government policy. Japan’s austerity policy had set limits on the growth of the national budget at zero and, during 1984–88, at minus 10% in current expenditures and minus 5% in capital expenditures.43 The substantive ideas of Nakasone’s reform were sound and justifiable for the most part. The reform would help eliminate fiscal deficits and secure financial sources for expanding welfare spending; make the tax system more equitable; and finance active fiscal policy to stimulate the economy and to fulfill Japan’s international economic commitment. But the idea component of legitimacy for Nakasone’s new tax started suffering from an incompatibility between the nature of the tax and the campaign promise he had made. Faced with the need to win the 1986 elections, he announced only income and residence tax reductions as campaign promises and planned to propose his new tax after the elections to finance the tax cuts. Prior to the elections, he pledged that his administration would not introduce a new large-scale indirect tax that would comprehensively levy tax on goods and services. Nakasone believed that he could evade the criticism of his breach of promise by narrowing the range of taxable firms and items and thus by lessening the magnitude of the tax. However, most actors considered Nakasone’s promise a lie. The negative impact of the promise was magnified by the perception among politicians and the public that the promise made the LDP’s victory in the 1986 elections possible. Instead of convincing the public of the need for the new tax on the basis of its correctness as a policy, Nakasone chose to gain approval by using expedient and


H. Ishi, “The Political Economy of Japan’s VAT,” in D.F. Bradford and K.E. Calder, eds., Tax Reform in The United States and Japan: Comparative Political and Economic Perspectives (Princeton: Center of International Studies Program on U.S.–Japan Relations, Princeton University, 1991), pp. 45–77.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


deceptive rhetoric. This served to delegitimize his tax despite its originally justifiable ideas.

Democratic Component
As with the idea component, the democratic component of the legitimacy of Nakasone’s tax was originally assuring. Although the tax itself never received public support, both his administration and LDP enjoyed a strong electoral mandate up to early 1987. High public support gave the LDP an overwhelming majority in both houses in the 1986 elections, which both the party leadership and the MOF perceived provided the administration with stable parliamentary power to take strong policy initiatives, particularly since no other national election was expected in the near future. But soon after Nakasone proposed the new tax, he met with intense opposition from a variety of actors, as they believed that it was a breach of his campaign promise, and the democratic component of legitimacy also started to dwindle. Public opposition became clear when an LDP candidate lost to an SDPJ candidate in an upper house by–election in traditionally LDP–dominated Iwate. Public approval of the administration also showed a sharp drop, plummeting to 26.1%.44 In the following nationwide elections for local governors and assemblies, too, the LDP suffered the worst losses since the party’s conception. The legitimacy of Nakasone’s tax in the democratic component thus drained away.

Decision–Norm Component
Nakasone’s tax attempt lacked an effort to obtain the approval of the public, constituents, and legislators through deliberation and consensus building. The administration used an uncompromising approach in forcibly pushing the tax proposal through the LDP and


Yomiuri Shimbun, March 26 1987.


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the Diet. The approach pushed the opposition inside and outside of the LDP toward disapproval of the deliberation procedure and drained the tax of legitimacy in the decision–norm component. The MOF sought, for the most part, to bypass public deliberation and to force the tax bills through the Diet quickly, as it wished to include the tax bills in the 1987 budget and to complete both tax legislation and implementation before the next major national elections. Buttressed by the LDP’s overwhelming majority, the Nakasone administration optimistically believed that it could pass the tax bills with the party’s vote alone even in the worst scenario. As a result, the administration paid little attention to accommodating the opposition and was far more high–handed and uncompromising than the consensus norm would permit.45 Nakasone forcibly rammed the tax proposal through the LDP’s decision bodies and depended on threat and coercion rather than inducement and persuasion in disciplining party backbenchers. His party leadership tried to restrict the backbenchers’ opportunities to ventilate objections — opportunities to show their commitment to constituents — which would make it easier to explain their compliance with an opposed policy. As a result, LDP politicians could not find justification to override their constituents’ opposition to the tax. On the contrary, the administration’s high–handed approach and unwillingness to compromise gave the opposition parties justification to oppose the tax and strengthen their unity as well as gave the public a reason to refuse the tax. Nakasone himself knew that his administration had done little to inform the public of the importance and merit of his tax reform. It was only when the opposition parties’ obstructionism endangered passage of the budget bills in mid–February that he directed the MOF to initiate a consensus building effort with the public and small businesses.46 But the effort was far from sufficient and came too late.

45 46

Asahi Shimbun, April 9 1987, January 26 1988. Yomiuri Shimbun, February 15, 19, 1987.

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The norm–incompliant approach to obtaining public approval impaired the legitimacy of Nakasone’s tax in all the components and thwarted the tax attempt despite his LDP’s overwhelming parliamentary power. The lack of legitimacy disintegrated LDP unity and bolstered opposition unity. The public’s refusal of the tax lent further support and unity to the opposition parties’ efforts to scrap the tax bills. As a result, the LDP’s intraparty opposition intensified and came to dominate over the party leadership’s call for the forcible passage of the bills by its majority vote.47 Opposition by the opposition parties and the public left the LDP with no choice but to shelve the bills.

Takeshita’s Successful Attempt in 1988
Prime Minister Takeshita, who succeeded Nakasone, initiated another attempt at a consumption tax immediately after Nakasone’s failure. Despite the largely identical political conditions surrounding the two attempts, Takeshita successfully legislated his new tax. He, in short, succeeded in concerting systematic consensus–building efforts and providing the unpopular tax with legitimacy in the decision–norm component. Combined with its justifiable policy ideas, the efforts also enhanced its democratic component of legitimacy, and the overall legitimacy moved the parliamentary dynamics toward policy approval.

Decision–Norm Component
The Takeshita administration’s tax attempt stood on the awareness that the lack of public deliberation and consensus building were the causes of Nakasone’s failure.48 So the administration placed the

47 48

Asahi Shimbun, March 12 1987. M. Mizuno, Shuzeikyokucho no Sensanbyakunichi: Zeisei Bappon Kaikaku eno Michi (1,300 Days as A Director of the Tax Bureau), Ministry of Finance (Tokyo: Okura Zaimu Kyokai Zei no Shirube Soukyoku, 1993), pp. 187–188; Asahi Shimbun, December 15 1987.


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focus of its efforts on the mitigation of opposition by persuasion and accommodation and sought to ensure sufficient consensus building efforts at every stage of the tax deliberation. Upon assuming office, Takeshita stressed his eagerness to respond to the complaints and suggestions of those opposed to the tax. Pursuant to his strategy, the MOF vigorously met with business and industry organizations as well as such groups as housewives, newscasters, and news editors to propagate the need for tax reform and seek their cooperation.49 The LDP leadership, too, took care not to forcibly suppress its backbenchers’ opposition and made efforts to contain their opposition by showing its willingness to heed their needs and providing sufficient opportunities to ventilate their grievances. Takeshita also successfully coopted the opposition CGP and DSP. He believed that solid unity between them and the SDPJ was another cause of the failure of Nakasone’s tax and that it was critical to drive a wedge into their unity. Toward that end, the LDP made a series of efforts to gain the cooperation of the CGP and DSP. Takeshita’s consensus–building efforts were also made credible and effective by policy concessions he made to the opposition. He lowered the tax rate from 5% in Nakasone’s tax to 3%; implemented income and other tax cuts, the amount of which exceeded that of the tax increase; chose a tax credit calculation method which would require of businesses less complicated accounting work; and set the tax exemption level at the annual sales of ¥30 million ( US$300,000) which would exempt 99.6% of farmers — one of the LDP’s major support bases50. Businesses with annual sales of ¥500 million ( US$5 million) or below could also choose a simpler calculation method which would make the calculated amount of the value added smaller than the real value.51

Interviews, May 24 and June 9 1994; Mizuno, Shuzeikyokucho, pp. 299–300; Y. Kuribayashi, Okurasho Shuzeikyoku (The Tax Bureau of The Ministry of Finance) (Tokyo: Kodan–sha, 1991), pp. 211–213. 50 Kuribayashi (1991), pp. 262–263, 282–283. 51 Ishi, “The Political Economy of Japan’s VAT,” p. 72.


Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


The administration also responded to the CGP’s and DSP’s demands by agreeing to virtually postpone the implementation of the new tax by six months and also to implement a ¥300–billion ( US$3 billion) welfare plan for sick elderly citizens and income tax deductions (totaling ¥10 billion US$100 million) for their families as well as to grant cash subsidies to welfare and pension recipients to ease their new tax burdens.

Democratic Component
The effects of Takeshita’s consensual efforts manifested themselves in change in the nature and magnitude of opposition to the new tax. Many business organizations, industries, and labor unions — which had vehemently opposed Nakasone’s tax — chose the strategy of lending conditional support to Takeshita’s tax to obtain favorable measures in the tax. Public opinion showed a similar shift, enhancing the democratic component of the legitimacy of the tax. While public support for the tax (32–34%) never exceeded opposition, public opposition — which had exceeded 80% in March 1987 (Nakasone’s reform) — fell to 50–56% between March and September 1988.52 In another poll, only 16% expressed opposition, while 34% supported and 35% showed receptiveness to the tax.53 Favorable trends were also seen in public support for the Takeshita administration and the LDP. The administration came into office with a high approval rate (51.5%), despite the fact that it had already publicized its intent to introduce a new tax.54 The approval


M. Muramatsu and M. Mabuchi, “Introducing A New Tax in Japan,” in S. Kernell, ed., Parallel Politics: Economic Policymaking in The United States and Japan (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1991), pp. 184–207; Nihon Keizai Shimbun, September 26 1988. 53 Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2 1988. 54 Yomiuri Shimbun, November 19 1987.


Takayuki Sakamoto

rate remained fairly high thereafter (41–48%), and the LDP, too, earned high public support during this period.55 The democratic component of legitimacy was further enhanced by the outcomes of a gubernatorial race and an upper house by–election in Fukushima in which LDP candidates won landslide victories against candidates who stressed their opposition to the tax as a campaign issue. Without a doubt, the modifications in the magnitude of the costs of the tax also contributed to alleviating the opposition, and self–interested calculations were clearly a factor for Takeshita’s success. But the changes in the opposition’s attitudes had already begun before any modification was made in ways that could affect their cost/benefit calculations. This means that self–interest is not a sufficient explanation for the changes and that it was Takeshita’s accommodative approach that served as an initial impetus to the changes and persuaded many actors to tolerate the tax.

Idea Component
Takeshita’s reform mostly followed Nakasone’s in policy ideas and goals, and they were justifiable (the redress of the tax system’s heavy reliance on direct taxes, the generation of revenue sources for an expansion in welfare costs, and the stimulation of the economy). Takeshita was also not constrained by Nakasone’s campaign promise of no new tax.

The consensus–building efforts and resulting policy legitimacy gave many actors justification to accept or tolerate the tax. The LDP leadership’s accommodative approach made it easier for recalcitrant backbenchers to comply with the party decision once it was


Asahi Shimbun, September 23 1988.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


reached. LDP unity was consequently strong. Conversely, policy legitimacy and the concessions by the administration deprived the opposition parties of justification for opposition, and this disintegrated their unity. The administration’s consensual approach also induced a favorable shift in public opinion. The decline of public opposition helped the opposition’s CGP and DSP change their positions from absolute opposition to conditional support.56 This further boosted LDP unity, opening the way for legislative success. It should be noted that while the Recruit scandal had a marginal effect on the outcome of Takeshita’s tax reform, public criticism mushroomed after the tax legislation, when Takeshita’s own involvement in the scandal (Recruit scandal) was revealed and the tax came into effect in April 1989. The public resented that politicians were making enormous profits from insider stock–trading while imposing the new tax on them. A poll showed that 80% of respondents now opposed the tax, and the administration’s approval rate dropped to 3.8%. As a result, Takeshita resigned, and the LDP suffered a historic loss in the upper house election in July 1989.

Hosokawa’s Failed Attempt in Early 1994
Prime Minister Hosokawa — who led the eight–party coalition that replaced the LDP in power in mid–1993 — attempted to raise the consumption tax rate in 1994. The attempt was compelled by the policy exigencies of both the domestic economy and international politics. Japan’s protracted economic recession intensified demand among virtually all domestic economic groups and foreign governments for income tax reductions to stimulate the economy. Japan also expected spending increases in welfare programs that would require additional revenue sources. The MOF — which had longed to raise the consumption tax rate ever since its introduction — sought to seize the opportunity and raise the rate to generate a financial source


Interview with a former SDPJ chairperson, February 18 1994.


Takayuki Sakamoto

for the tax cuts, and obtained Hosokawa’s consent to the creation of a 7% “national welfare tax” to replace the current 3% consumption tax. The intensity of opposition to the consumption tax was significantly reduced in 1994, compared to when it was introduced in 1989. Visible public opposition was nonexistent, and various economic and societal groups expressed conditional support for the tax increase. Reflecting this tendency among the public and constituent groups, politicians were not nearly as averse to seeking the increase. Most politicians of both the coalition and opposition parties also understood the unavoidability of a tax increase to finance the income tax cuts and future welfare spending. Nevertheless, Hosokawa’s attempt failed. His national welfare tax seriously lacked legitimacy in the decision–norm component. Although the tax hike flowed justifiably from legitimate policy needs, its policy ideas were also not developed cogently enough to sustain legitimacy in the idea component.

Idea Component
The principal idea of Hosokawa’s tax increase as a means to finance the income tax cuts for economic stimulation and to secure financial resources for future welfare spending needs was a justifiable one and appealed to taxpayers as well as politicians. But its specifics — which, if appropriate, should lend credence to the tax proposal — were ill–formulated and premature, so the proposal subjected itself to legitimate criticisms. The proposal was weak in its contention, as it lacked a concrete vision of future welfare programs and a credible analysis of their spending needs for which the MOF and Hosokawa argued the tax increase was necessary. It was also not founded on a critical analysis of future fiscal conditions and lacked a justifiable explanation of why the new tax rate needed to be 7%.57 Further, it contained no


Yomiuri Shimbun, February 4 1994.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


specification of whether and how the additional revenue would actually be spent for welfare programs. These weaknesses in argumentation made it difficult for the administration to claim the legitimacy of the tax hike, especially when its overall legitimacy was discredited by procedural inappropriateness in its decision making, as we will see below.

Democratic Component
Hosokawa’s tax was blessed with largely positive but mixed scores in the democratic component of legitimacy. His administration enjoyed a clear popular mandate up to his announcement of the tax, as indicated by its historically high level of public approval rate. His eight–party coalition as a whole also received positive public support. But this component of legitimacy was mixed in terms of its electoral mandate in the Diet where his coalition only had a slim majority (260 of 511 total seats in the lower house; 131 of 251 in the upper house). This meant that the coalition’s bill could be rejected by the dissension of several coalition politicians in either house. This was a factor in the coalition’s decision to withdraw the tax proposal after its announcement. For the tax increase faced the SDPJ’s opposition, and the coalition had earlier learned how detrimental one coalition party’s opposition could be to the legislation of a coalition policy when its political reform bills were rejected in the upper house as a result of SDPJ members’ dissent.

Decision–Norm Component
When Hosokawa’s popularity considered alone, he would have had a strong mandate to take his policy initiatives, and that was why the MOF presumed that it was a good occasion to seek an unpopular tax hike. But Hosokawa’s tax attempt failed, above all, due to the approach he took in proposing it — a decision making approach which many inside and outside the coalition viewed as unacceptable.


Takayuki Sakamoto

Put simply, he violated the consensus norm and failed to build legitimacy for his new tax. Prior to Hosokawa’s announcement of the tax, the consensus among his coalition parties was to legislate the income tax cuts first and then deliberate on a consumption tax increase to generate their financial source. Coalition leaders including Hosokawa himself had publicly stated that they had no intention to simultaneously increase the consumption tax to finance the income tax cuts. But the MOF persuaded top coalition leaders to legislate the consumption tax hike and the income tax cuts at the same time. Hosokawa then announced the national welfare tax, bypassing consensus building, despite opposition among his coalition partners, which had delegated the decision to Hosokawa, anticipating that he would make a decision in line with the general consensus on separate legislation. His announcement of the tax increase, thus, took most coalition politicians by surprise. As a result, the coalition parties criticized Hosokawa for bypassing consensus building and refused his tax. Hosokawa himself had to apologize to the public later that he had neither followed proper decision making procedures nor exhausted deliberation.

Hosokawa erred in choosing the approach to making the tax decision and building support for it. His abrupt decision despite opposition reflected his administration’s overconfidence in its mandate. It resembled the way Nakasone believed he could override opposition to his sales tax bills with the electoral mandate from the 1986 elections. The absence of consensus–building efforts not only provided the coalition members with no justification to swallow their opposition to the tax, but also made even those sympathetic to the tax hike question the legitimacy of Hosokawa’s proposal. As a result, the coalition showed no semblance of unity in support of the proposal. In contrast, although Hosokawa’s proposal was scrapped by his own coalition before it reached the negotiation table with the opposition LDP, the lack of consensus building and of policy legitimacy

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


would have provided the LDP with strong reasons and means to reject it. If it had been submitted to the Diet, the LDP could have easily blocked it, taking advantage of the coalition’s disunity and of public opinion which turned against Hosokawa.

Murayama’s Successful Attempt in Late 1994
A three–party coalition government (the LDP, SDPJ, and Sakigake) under Prime Minister Murayama’s leadership — which replaced the Hata government (the successor to the Hosokawa government) — successfully legislated a consumption tax increase from current 3% to 5% in late 1994.58 In Murayama’s attempt, as in Hosokawa’s, politicians’ concerns with the repercussions of the increase were not so much of a nature to cause them to question whether they should increase the tax; for various economic groups including businesses, labor unions, and housewives gave conditional support to the hike as a means to finance welfare spending increases and to alleviate income tax burdens on company employees,59 and many politicians felt resigned to the inevitability of the increase as a policy need. Instead, the issue was more a matter of how to make SDPJ politicians drop their opposition, as there was still significant opposition in the party, particularly among its upper house members who had won their seats with their anti–consumption–tax stance in 1989 and faced reelections in 1995. What distinguished Murayama’s successful attempt from Hosokawa’s failure? In short, Murayama’s was better supported by policy legitimacy in the decision–norm and idea components. His administration successfully built legitimacy necessary for policy approval by conforming to the consensus norm. While its legitimacy in the democratic component was mixed, his tax reform was also better sustained in its idea component.

58 59

The Hata government collapsed two months after inauguration. Yomiuri Shimbun, March 3, June 8, 11, 1994; Asahi Shimbun, September 3 1994.


Takayuki Sakamoto

Idea Component
The goals of Murayama’s tax hike were the same as those of Hosokawa’s — to finance income tax cuts for economic stimulation and to secure financial resources for future welfare spending — and were justifiable policy goals to the public and politicians. But the policy justification for Murayama’s hike was better substantiated than Hosokawa’s. Immediately after Hosokawa’s failure at the tax increase and during the Hata administration, the MOF initiated efforts to address the criticisms leveled against its policy justification. As a result, it was better armed with proper justification by the time Murayama came into office. The MOF drafted various reports to explain the national financial conditions and corroborate the correctness of its contention on the fiscal need for the revenue increase. The Ministry of Health and Welfare also prepared a detailed plan for future welfare programs to assist the MOF’s effort and justified a consumption tax increase as a means to sustain them. These elaborate reports laid the solid foundations for the public debate. Murayama’s tax hike still contained elements of deficiencies that could have worked against its legislation. But it was less vulnerable to charges in its policy justification than Hosokawa’s. Further, the government’s efforts to improve the idea component also served to enhance its decision–norm component of legitimacy, since they helped create the image that the government was trying to build public consensus.

Democratic Component
Murayama’s tax increase enjoyed mixed scores in the democratic component of legitimacy. On the one hand, his three–party coalition held a comfortable majority in both houses of the Diet — 302 seats (59.3%) in the lower house and 163 seats (64.7%) in the upper house. Its majority power made the management of the Diet deliberations and votes reliable and smooth and was certainly a factor in its legislative success.

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


On the other hand, the Murayama administration did not enjoy high public approval (40% in September). The opposition parties also contested the legitimacy of the coalition by claiming that the coalition between the LDP and SDPJ did not reflect the popular will because their alliance was unimaginable at the time of the last election. When considered on these scores alone, Murayama’s tax increase did not have more advantages than Hosokawa’s. The Murayama coalition was, in fact, sensitive to these charges of the lack of popular mandate and tried to compensate for the weakness by ensuring the consensual nature of its decision making.

Decision–Norm Component
The key to the successful legislation of the consumption tax increase was how the coalition made it easy for the SDPJ to swallow its opposition. For there was virtually a broad consensus among the coalition and opposition parties on the need for the tax hike, and the opposition parties themselves had sought the same tax hike when in power during the Hosokawa and Hata administrations. The Murayama coalition accomplished the task of winning the SDPJ’s compliance through conscious consensus–building efforts. The coalition sought to ensure that the opposing SDPJ members would not feel that the coalition and their party leadership forcibly imposed the tax decision upon them. To facilitate their dropping opposition, the SDPJ leadership provided forums for airing their grievances. The coalition also postponed the final decision several times to wait for the SDPJ to exhaust its internal deliberation, instead of overriding the opposition. The coalition also made concessions and compensations to make it easier for the SDPJ to accept the tax increase. It met the SDPJ’s demands by agreeing to reduce the amount of income tax cuts to make the new tax rate as small as 5%; to allocate 20% of the revenue from the consumption tax to local governments; and to allocate ¥300 billion ( US$3 billion) to welfare programs during 1995–1996 and disburse subsidies to welfare recipients as compensation for the tax increase.


Takayuki Sakamoto

The SDPJ’s opposition did not completely disappear. But as a result of the coalition’s efforts at accommodation, most SDPJ members resigned themselves to the coalition’s decision, and their opposition became small enough to absorb. The coalition consequently maintained unity in legislating the tax increase throughout the Diet process. As the opposition parties were unable to oppose the hike, the deliberations and votes on the tax went smoothly.

Policy substance does not explain the different outcomes of Hosokawa’s and Murayama’s tax reform attempts. For their policy ideas were identical. Mitigated opposition to the tax increase among economic groups, the public, and politicians also does not account for the differences, since the situation applied to both attempts. True, Murayama reduced the magnitude of the tax increase, and the MOF substantiated the policy ideas. But policy substance still does not satisfactorily explain the outcomes, as the magnitude itself was hardly an issue in the debate over Hosokawa’s tax. It was the decision making approach that mattered.

I have explained how policy legitimacy affects legislative attempts involving contested policies in Japan. Standards of policy legitimacy similar to Japan’s decision making norm are also found in other democracies. For instance, George suggests that, in order to build a national consensus on his foreign policy, a U.S. President must meet the requirements of procedures such as consultation with members of Congress, the avoidance of secrecy, the pursuit of national interest, and bipartisanship.60 Consensual decision making also characterizes policy making in Nordic countries such as Sweden and


George, “Domestic Constraints on Regime Change.”

Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


continental European countries such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In Sweden, the importance of such consensual politics has declined over the last few decades.61 But in Germany, consensual policy making is still at work and is one of the factors for the slow pace of economic and welfare reform in recent years. Since consensus building seems an important element of politics in many countries, a systematic cross–national study of the role of consensus building will enhance our understanding of how politics and policy making work. By stressing policy legitimacy and its normative properties, I do not wish to argue that political actors are irrational when they let normative forces affect policy outputs. Politicians not only are constrained by policy legitimacy, but can also strategically exploit it to advance their own goals. The building of legitimacy can provide policy makers with a means to carry out an unpopular policy while saving uncertain electoral calculations and minimizing the costs of miscalculations. Further, a policy inducing positive outcomes can sometimes serve to enhance the legitimacy of policy makers, governments, or regimes themselves. But political actors are not rational in the way some rational–choice scholars depict them. Policy makers make mistakes and act to correct them after learning. The Ohira, Nakasone, and Hosokawa administrations misjudged the political feasibility of their tax increases and suffered electoral losses or other negative consequences because of their misjudgment. The Takeshita and Murayama administrations learned from their predecessors’ mistakes, corrected them, and accomplished their policy goals. This demonstrates not only the limits of human rationality, but also the indeterminacy of policy legitimacy and its normative factors in influencing policy attempts. For the cases also show that policy makers do not always succeed in building or even recognizing a need to build legitimacy for their policies.


Sven Steinmo, Taxation and Democracy: Swedish, British and American Approaches to Financing the Modern State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).


Takayuki Sakamoto

This indeterminacy in the effects of both rational and normative factors complicates the analysis of policy making. Tsebelis notes that rational choice explanations may be less applicable when actors’ goals are fuzzy or rules are fluid and imprecise.62 But indeterminacy is caused not only by such ambiguity and fluidity in goals and rules, but also by the fuzziness and uncertainty of social norms and rules. Norms have ambiguity in their interpretation, prescription, and application and can be situation–specific.63 They sometimes give actors equivocal cues to their action. Politicians may be unsure about under what conditions a norm will be invoked, what it prescribes or proscribes, or even which norm of all the others will be invoked. Policy legitimacy makes room for leadership and persuasion to play a role in politics. Policy makers build policy legitimacy to carry out a contested policy that may otherwise be difficult to implement because of a conflict of interest. Building legitimacy should require that policy advocates either make relevant actors forgo their private interests or alter their preferences. Strong and skillful leadership and persuasion are a necessity in such an effort. By taking leadership, politicians can strive to transform actors’ preferences, redefine meanings, and persuade them to espouse new beliefs and commitments with a view to mobilizing support for a policy.64 Before concluding, let me discuss some general theoretical and empirical issues which confront researchers studying legitimacy. First, legitimacy is a difficult concept to measure. The standards of legitimacy may be equivocal. Legitimacy of governments, regimes, or policies can also sometimes be subject to multiple interpretations.

G. Tsebelis, Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 32–33. 63 S. J. Majeski, “Comment: An Alternative Approach to The Generation and Maintenance of Norms,” in K. S. Cook and M. Levi, eds., The Limits of Rationality (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 275. 64 G. J. Miller, “Managerial Dilemmas: Political Leadership in Hierarchies,” in K. S. Cook and M. Levi, eds., The Limits of Rationality (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 324–348.


Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


In such cases, competing groups may strive to make their own conceptions of legitimacy dominate over others’ through political competition or power struggle or by appealing to dominant social values and norms, and whose version eventually dominates may be determined by power balance among those groups. Political actors can also exploit the normative aspects of legitimacy to promote their own personal interests, in which case politicians’ efforts to gain legitimacy for their actions can be indistinguishable from the pursuit of their own interests. Second, and relatedly, political actors’ conceptions of legitimacy can be fluid. Standards of legitimacy may be relatively stable and reliable when political conditions are stable and procedural rules are firmly established and in equilibrium. But there can arise situations where political conditions are destabilized and the procedural rules to follow are no longer clear or easily predictable. An extreme example of an event that can trigger such a situation is civil war, revolution, and severe economic crisis. A milder form of such disequilibrium is currently experienced in Japan. In the past decade, Japanese politics has undergone many changes — electoral reform, party realignment and resulting change in the party system, economic recessions lasting more than a decade, and changing conditions in the international economy and their impact on the domestic economy. As a result, Japanese politics is still in a state of flux, and the informal rules of the game of politics are not as clear as before the changes. In addition, more breakups and mergers of political parties are conceivable, which can further change the configuration of party competition. Japanese policy makers have also been trying to carry out a relatively large–scale restructuring of the economic system. Change in economic institutions or conditions can alter the power balance among different socioeconomic groups, and this can lead to a reconfiguration of constituency interests for political parties and politicians, bringing about further change in the political economic regime. Third, and importantly, it is difficult to precisely specify ex ante the objective conditions under which a policy or a regime will gain legitimacy among citizens. For example, Weyland argues that


Takayuki Sakamoto

whether or not the public supported economic austerity programs in Latin America depended on the severity of economic problems (inflation).65 He writes that in countries where the prospects for future losses were great, the public supported austerity programs, whereas in other countries, the public refused austerity because they did not have an urgent sense of future losses. This argument must be correct as a tendency, but it is also true that it is extremely difficult to know a priori the threshold for the conditions under which the public accepts or refuses loss–imposing policies, partly because different people accept or refuse the same policies depending on various conditions. We also do not know whether it is the objective conditions of the economy or people’s perception of the conditions that affect their acceptance or rejection of a policy. I believe the answer to this question also depends on other conditions. Furthermore, legitimacy–giving and legitimacy–gaining can also be a bi-directional phenomenon. The difficulty of measuring people’s according of legitimacy to a policy or a regime is similar to that faced by researchers studying voters’ policy and candidate preferences. A voter may support a certain candidate because, she claims, she likes a certain policy and the candidate supports that policy. But we may not be able to eliminate the possibility that the direction of the causation is reverse; that is, it is possible that she liked the candidate first, and this has led her to like the candidate’s policy, but she is not aware that her candidate’s preference molded her policy preference. The same thing can happen to people’s giving of legitimacy to decision makers’ policy; they may give legitimacy to a policy because they support the decision makers who proposed it. If this happens commonly, the results of opinion surveys may not be helpful in measuring the legitimacy of a policy. In order to make the concept of legitimacy analytically useful, we should be able to distinguish to a certain extent whether the public supports a political

Kurt Weyland, “Swallowing the Bitter Pill: Sources of Popular Support for Neoliberal Reform in Latin America,” Comparative Political Studies 31:5 (October 1998), pp. 539–568.


Policy Legitimacy as a Determinant of Policy Outputs


leader’s policy because the policy enjoys legitimacy or because the leader enjoys public popularity and the public more or less unconditionally supports the leader’s policy. In this respect, my framework of policy legitimacy may need refinement because the popular mandate of policy makers is postulated as one of the important elements of policy legitimacy. Lastly, it is important to analyze the role of institutions in investigating politics and policy making because certain institutions make contested policy making easier than other institutions. For instance, Westminster systems, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand (before its electoral reform in the early 1990s) make it easier for governments to implement contested or unpopular policies despite policy opposition, because their single–member electoral district system produces a single–party majority government, and such a government can override the minority’s opposition more easily than multiparty or minority governments can. In majoritarian systems like Westminster ones, thus, policy makers may be able to more easily push forth a contested policy despite lack of policy legitimacy than in countries with multiparty, minority, or divided governments. The drastic economic liberalization and deregulation measures pursued by various New Zealand governments in the 1980s and 1990s are a good example. South Korea’s economic reform after the financial crisis of 1997 is also a case where the presidential system with a powerful president made it possible for the government to swiftly and decisively take economic measures that imposed painful economic hardships on citizens. The South Korean case marks a striking contrast to the Japanese government which was unable to implement necessary reform to save its economy from recessions for a decade due to the seriously constrained policy making power of the prime minister.

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16th Party Congress 211 Abdullah Badawi 48 aberration 154 Abu El-Haj 229, 232, 241, 250 Academia Sinica 84 accountability 5, 12, 185, 188 Aceh 18 active opposition 264 active support 264 actors 230 ad hoc commissions 261 Adam Przeworski 25, 69 administrative reform 279 advanced nation 242 affirmative action 57 affluence 126 African tribalism 39 age 89, 101, 104, 131 AIDS prevention 206 Almond and Verba 37

American 42 ancien regime 69 ancient civilization 179 Andre Schmid 151 Andrew Nathan 79 Andrew Pickering 227 Ann Stoler’s 229 Anthony Smith 150 anthropologist 228 anthropology 147 anti–American 16 anti–Corruption Agency 51 anti–imperialistic struggle 173 anti–Japanese 16, 156 Anti–rightist campaign 159, 160, 161, 173 anti–Semitic 58 Anwar Ibrahim 50, 51, 58 appropriateness 265 archaeologists 232 archaeology 229 301

302 Index area specialists 62 Arif Dirlik 154 armed insurgency 51 Arnold 258 Asad regime 148 Asian financial crisis 190, 194 Asian tiger 29 Asian Values 43, 56, 61, 64 associational rights 94 austerity policy 280 austerity programs 298 Austria 14, 295 authoritarian 7, 26, 29, 31, 48, 61, 70, 71, 75, 90, 105, 117, 122 authoritarian regime 33, 135, 137, 266 authoritarian repression 215 authoritarian state 149 authoritarianism 113 authority 81 autocrat 218 backbenchers 260, 271 Bali 18 Bangladesh 44 Basic Survey of Social Transformation in Taiwan 84 Beetham 33 Beijing 18, 142 Beijing Broadcasting College 171 Beijing City Transport Office 202 Beijing Normal University 171 Belgrade 16, 142 beliefs 265 Bendix 72, 81 Berinsky 110 Berlin Wall 72 Bi Yuxi 202 Bianco 156 Biblical 229 Bikol 18 bipartisanship 294 Blue Book of the Chinese Society 195, 196, 199 bottom–up 37, 38, 41, 251 bourgeois 158, 159, 161, 164 bourgeois–democratic 156 Brazil 38, 53, 89 breathing space 123 bribery 61, 68 broader interests 258 Bruce Gilley 5, 6, 251 Bruno Latour 232 budget deficits 255, 260 bull’s–eye 230 bumiputra 47, 53 bureaucracy 51, 217 bureaucratic organization 228 bureaucrats 56 business organizations 285 capitalist class 200 capitalist development 158 Case 57 CCP (Chinese Communist Party) 14, 185 CCP constitution 199 CCTV (China Central Television) 174 Central Committee 77 CGP (Clean Government Party) 258, 274, 276, 284, 285, 287 Chamber of Commerce 243 charismatic leader 44 Charles Franklin 100 Charles Ragin 68 Chen and Shi 124 Chen Xitong 202 China 3, 5, 8, 15, 27, 44, 114, 157, 184 Chinese authenticity 181 Chinese capitalism 159 Chinese civilization 171, 172, 178 Chinese nationalism 165 Chinese socialist system 189 Chinese society 161 Chinese stagnation 163 Chineseness 176 Chong-Min Park 75 Chu, Chang & Hu 87

Index 303 civic associations 77 civil liberty 137 civil organizations 204, 213 civil resistance 160 civil rights 95 civil servants 33 civil service 56, 114, 116, 120, 121, 122 civil society 78, 141, 154, 205 civil violence 7, 65 civil war 297 civilizational achievements 175 class consciousness 179 class struggle 160 Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement 203 clothing 39 coalition 288 coercion 23, 61, 68, 145, 263, 282 coercive compliance 24 coercive power 137 collective goods 265 colonial administration 56 colonial rule 47, 56, 58 Comaroffs 181 commodity economy 159 common law 55 common sacrifice 237 communal nationalism 63 communism 26, 115, 142 Communist Party 114, 116, 120, 122 communitarian 14 competence 220, 228 competing interests 268 complaints 284 compliance 30, 52, 80, 225 confidence 119, 139 conflict resolution 263 Confucian 38 Confucian traditions 8 Confucianism 172 Congress 115, 257, 294 Congressional committees 261 consensual policy making 14 consensus 14, 269 consensus building 269, 270, 278, 281, 283, 284 consent 34 conservatives 12 constituents 267, 281, 282 constitutional democracy 207 constitutionalism 12, 185, 186, 204, 207, 213 constitutions 32 consumption tax 258, 276, 277, 283, 290, 293 contextual 19, 37 contextual universalism 41 corporatist approach 206 corrupted 137 corruption 35, 50, 51, 55, 201, 215, 275 Corruption Perception Index 202 courts 85 co–optation 49 Cretan shepherds 152 crisis of democracy 114 critical citizen 126, 129, 130, 134 cross–national study 295 cultural ethnicities 8 Cultural Revolution 144, 156, 162, 173, 207 culturalist 37 culture fever 167, 168, 169 DAP (Democratic Action Party) 51, 57 dark age 154 David Beetham 187 David Easton 82, 94 David Laitin 145 David Yang 6, 8, 25 Dayaks 9 deceptive rhetoric 281 decision making 289, 294 decision–norm 265, 268, 277, 283, 291, 292 deductive 39 defiance 147

304 Index deficit financing 277 deficit reduction 280 delegitimate 16 deliberation 281 democracy 60, 105, 119, 126, 130, 131, 137 democratic 26, 48, 265, 266, 281 democratic component 11, 277, 279, 283, 285, 289, 291 democratic consolidation 80 Democratic Orientation Index 96, 98 democratic principles 83, 119, 120, 266, 267 Democratic Progressive Party 77 democratic transition 80, 84, 104 democratic tutelage 83 democratization 21, 31, 62, 78, 183 democrats 14 Deng Xiaoping 185, 204, 207, 210 Denmark 45 Diaoyu Dao/Senkaku 16, 141 dictatorial 26 Diet 267, 269, 272, 282, 291 direct elections 77 direct taxes 286 distribution 41, 52 distributional essentials 39 divided governments 299 divorce 92 domination 80, 81, 144, 155, 217, 224, 252 dragon 176 DSP (Democratic Socialist Party) 258, 274, 276, 285, 287 Duara 181 dynastic changes 164 early–Qing 159 East Asia 2, 68 East Asian nationalism 150 East Forest Bandit 160 Eastern Europe 26, 68, 72, 142 Eastern European 148 Eckstein 37 economic boom 76 economic competitiveness 255 economic crimes 92 economic crisis 215, 297 economic development 71, 73, 122, 128, 129, 132, 133 economic goods 193 economic growth 8, 255 economic hardships 255 economic liberalization 299 economic miracle 135, 194 economic performance 12, 72, 75, 102, 125, 128, 135, 137, 138, 183, 184, 193, 212, 213 economic security 136 economic stimulation 292 economy and society 223 education 39, 89, 92, 101, 104, 138 educational background 131 educational status 90 efficiency 228 egalitarian 92 Egypt 8 Einsteinian relativity theory 231 Election Commission 51, 52 elections 52, 281 election–driven 254 electoral fraud 92 electoral incentives 275 Electoral incentives theory 257, 258 electoral interests 257 electoral landslides 36 electoral mandate 266, 267, 289 electoral performance 260 electoral punishment 262 electoral reform 297 electoral returns 30 electoral safety 273 electoral strength 260 electoral support 48, 276, 279

Index 305 electoral system 15 electoral turnout 36, 52 electoral unpopularity 273 electorate 87 elites 2 embedded nationalism 167 Emperor Kangxi 175 empirical 39 employment 90, 92 enlightenment 175 environmental pollution 92 epistemological 69 epistemologies 165 Erap Estrada 3 essentialism 152 ethnic cleavages 9 ethnic identity 45 ethnic pluralism 57 ethnicity 58, 60, 150 ethnographic analysis 152 ethnography 153 Eugene Weber 152 Europe 114 executive branch 115 executive selection 40, 52, 54 experienced well-being 88 experts 219, 220 explicit objection 264 face–saving measures 272 facts 230 false consciousness 55, 60 Falungong 181 Fan Wenlan 158 fatwa 58 Fenno 257 Ferdinand Macros 3 feudalism 161, 178 financial resources 288, 292 financial source 290 First Five–Year Plan 157 First World 74 fiscal austerity policy 278 fiscal policy 278, 279 Fisherman Island 141 force 224, 263 foreign capitalism 162 foreign policy 294 fourth wave 116 France 8 Franco Spain 27 Franz Fanon 146 Frederic Wakeman 175 Frederick Cooper 229 Fredric Jameson 169 freedom 137 Freedom House 42, 54 free–market 57, 59 French TGV technology 242 Fujian 205 Fukuyama 38 Funston 51, 54 fuqiang 156 G.V. Efimov 158 Geddes and Zaller 90, 104 gender 89, 101, 104, 131, 237 general election 259 general interests 257 general will 11 George 253, 254, 256 Germany 14, 125, 295 Gi-wook Shin 151 Gini coefficient 92, 201 globalization 21, 31, 242 globalization of politics 64 goal-rational 71 Goddess of Democracy 141, 167 gold–standard 23 government institutions 117, 119 government performance 125, 130, 132, 133 government responsiveness 266 government scandals 124

306 Index governmental performance 88 Gramsci 24, 37 Great Leap Forward 156, 170 Great Wall 172 Greek 152 Haggard 38 Hamyon toenda 234 ˘ Han people 158 Hanoi 18 Harrison 165 Hata 293 He Shang (River Elegy) 144, 168, 171, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178 health 39 Heavenly Peace 157 Hebei 205 Heckman’s Selectivity Model 110 hegemonic concept 155 hegemonic ideology 143 hegemonic system 79 hegemony 16, 28, 37, 144, 145, 146, 155 Herbert Simon 69 hidden transcript 145, 147 high–handed approach 282 high–speed railway 242, 245, 246, 249 historical development 154 historical materialism 163, 179 Historical Studies 161 historiography 154, 159, 160, 162, 165 homogeneous 9 Hong Kong 18, 49, 202, 203 Hosokawa 11, 287, 288, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295 housewives 284 housing conditions 90 Hu Fu 2, 94, 95 Hu Jintao 15, 16, 185, 204 human rights 62 Huntington 38, 138 Hwang 55 Iberia 27 iconoclasm 180 idea component 11, 265 ideal motives 226 ideological chaos 167 ideological domination 145 ideological justification 73 ideological stripes 71 ideological vacuum 142 ideology 12, 142, 146, 189, 265 igijuui or self–interestedness 247 ˘ illegitimacy 4 illegitimate 4, 272 imagined state 13, 114, 122, 123 impartial 40 imperialism 161, 179 income 89, 101, 104 income tax 290 incumbent government 131, 134, 255 India 38 Indians 47 individual rights 94 individual well-being 129 individuals’ satisfaction 125 indoctrination 124 inducement 61, 282 inductive approach 2 industrial development 22 industrialization 14, 126, 128, 215 industries 285 inflation 92, 260, 298 influence 224 Inglehart 37, 62 Inner Mongolia 205 institutions 299 instrumentally–rational (zweckrational) compliance 224 intellectuals 8, 57, 74, 75, 166, 168 interest 224, 225, 230 interest groups 262, 270 internal political compromises 184

Index 307 International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance 65 International Monetary Fund 66 Internet 18 interpretive approach 7 interregnum 154 intimidation 123 intra–governmental accountability 95 intra–party democracy 185, 186, 204, 210, 213, 214 invented community 150 invisible state 36 Iran 68 Iris Jean–Klein 153 ISA (Internal Security Act) 54, 62 Islam 58, 60 Islamic community 40 Islamic laws 55 Israeli archaeologies 229 J.H. Schaar 187 James Ferguson 235 James Scott 145 Japan 9, 14, 44, 114, 125, 256, 294, 297 Japan New Party 274 Japanese colonization 241 Jean and John Comaroff 144 Jiang Zemin 14, 16, 180, 185, 189, 204, 205, 210 Jiangxi 205 Jing Wang 170, 176 judges 33 judiciary 15, 51 Jungmin Seo 16 justice 11, 265 Juvenile Delinquency 92 Karl Marx 157 Kaufman 38 Keizo Obuchi 181 Kenneth Arrow 15 Kim Young Sam 215, 239, 242 kinship 150 KMT (Guomindang) 9, 75, 77, 106, 107, 174 kongyak 247, 249 Korea 8, 151 Korean Buddhism 245 Korean Central Intelligence Agency 215 Korean citizens 238 Korean War 157, 238 Kuala Lumpur 51, 55 kukch’aek saop 247, 249 ˘ Kwangju massacre 3 Kwon T’ae-jun 238, 239 ˘ Kyongju 216, 222, 241, 243 ˘ Kyongju Citizens’ Coalition for ˘ Economic Justice 244 labor unions 285 laissez–faire 53 landslide victories 286 language 150 late–Ming 159 late–Qing 154 Latin America 9, 68, 298 Laura C. Nelson 236 law and order 39, 92 LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) 258, 276, 277, 279, 281, 282, 285, 286, 291 leadership 296 legal system 15 legalism 4, 13 legality 49, 50 legislature 15 legitimacy 1, 39, 225 legitimate domination 22 legitimating facts 233 legitimation 8, 18, 19, 27, 39, 47, 217, 221 Leninist 75 liberal democracy 48, 62, 115, 167 liberal neutrality 40 liberal values 43, 127 Liberals 7, 15

308 Index lifelong tenure 210 Lipset 73 Lisa Wedeen 148 Liu Danian 162, 180 living conditions 196 local elections 76, 276 local resistance 153 Loh and Khoo 48, 60 Louisiana 18 lower house 267 loyalty 165 Lucian Pye 70, 78, 166 Lynn White 8, 220 Lysenkoism 226 Maglev train 242 Mahathir Mohamad 29, 47 Maine 18 mainlanders 6, 78, 98 Malay Muslim 47 Malays 9, 53 Malaysia 29, 36, 47, 54 Manchu 159 Manila movement 3 Mannheim 24 Mao Zedong 13, 144, 157, 189 Maoist ideology 167 Mark E. Lincicome 151 market economy 199 market reform 154 martial law 70, 77, 79, 83, 84 Marxism 16, 37, 165 Marxist 38, 60, 156 Marxist historiography 158 Marxist humanism 168 Marxist–Leninism 157 Masayoshi Ohira 274 mass campaigns 181 mass media 121 mass obedience 148 Max Weber 7, 80, 187, 217 May Fourth 143, 156, 171 Mayhew 257 means of production 228 media 51, 90, 99, 100, 101, 122, 124, 250, 258 Meng Xuenong 211 Meredith Woo–Cumings 234 Mexico 47, 53, 79 Michael Herzfeld 152 Michael Robinson 151 middle class 74, 77, 89, 105, 237 Ministry of Civil Affairs 206 Ministry of Culture and Sports 242 Ministry of Health and Welfare 292 minority 299 modern China 157 modernist 150 modernity 152, 169 modernization 62, 73, 88, 89, 169 MOF (Ministry of Finance) 275, 276, 277, 279, 281, 287, 288, 289, 292, 294 Molière 18 monarchies 60 Mongols 159 monopolistic 224 moral degeneration 92 moral doctrine 40 mufti 58 multiparty 299 multivariate analyses 117 multi–faceted concept 30, 31 Munro–Kua 48, 49, 54, 58, 60, 62 Murayama 291, 292, 294 Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia 58 Muthiah Alagappa 3, 18, 187 Nadia Abu El-Haj 228 Nakasone 11, 259, 278, 286, 295 nanxun (Southern Tour) 190, 193 nation 143, 151, 155, 182 nation building 238

Index 309 national advancement 122 national agents 179 national beliefs 232 National Bureau of Statistics 201 national champions 76 national development 234 national dignity 180 national election commission 54 national essence 181 National Front 29, 36, 47, 48, 51, 52, 58, 59 national government 114, 120, 129 national heroes 164 national history 179 national humiliation 179, 180 national identity 60, 78, 151 national institutions 121 national interest 254, 294 national legislative elections 35 national mission 233, 235, 237 national myth 153 national nihilism 175 National People’s Congress (NPC) 114, 116, 201, 207 national pride 131, 132 national self–determination 78 national survival 234 nationalism 16, 44, 60, 105, 143, 144, 149, 150, 155, 182 nationalist agenda 165 nationalist aggrandizement 71 nationalist revolution 156 nationalist writings 141 nationalistic consciousness 155, 159 nationalistic discourses 143, 175 nationalistic fever 142 nationalistic sentiments 141 national–policy undertaking 249 nation–state 150, 152 nativist literature 79 Negro 146 neo–liberalism 37 neologism 233 new “three people’s principles” 214 New Economic Policy 57, 60 New Party Harbinger [Shinto Sakigake] 274 New Zealand 299 news consumption 137 news editors 284 newscasters 284 NGOs 185, 204, 205, 206, 213 Noboru Takeshita 274 nonemergent 227 nonperformance 10 non–agentive power 145, 146, 147 non–government networks 17 Nordic countries 294 normative 19 normative and performance aspects of legitimacy 188 normative order 22 norm–incompliant 283 North America 114 North Kyongsang 241 ˘ northern Song 158 nostalgia 152, 153 O’Donnell and Schmitter 83 occidentalism 178 official corruption 92 official establishment 17 official historiography 163 official ideology 181 official rhetoric 153 Ohira 11, 259, 295 open door and reform policy 198 opinion poll 267, 268 opinion survey 298 Opium War 161, 164, 178 opposition movement 74, 77 opposition parties 270, 278, 288, 293 Oriental Despotism 39, 177 Othman 55

310 Index outcomes 11 over–population 92 Pampanga 18 Pareto’s 12 Park Chung Hee 7, 215, 218, 234 Park study 102 Parliament 116, 117, 120 Parti Bersatu Sabah 51 partial legitimacy 7 participatory demands 75 participatory pressure 74 particularism 257 party control 261 party realignment 297 Party Secretary 120 party unity 271 party–state 120, 129, 141, 179 PAS (Parti Islam Semalaysia) 51, 58 passive acceptance 264 patriotic hegemony 17 patriotism 4, 16, 179 PC (People’s Congresses) 207 peasant insurrections 164 peasant rebellion 164 peasant uprisings 164 peasants 199 pension 285 People’s Daily 174, 205 People’s Liberation Army 174 People’s University 159 perceived well–being 88 perennialism 149 performance legitimacy 5, 32, 190, 213 performance–based legitimacy 138, 184 personal finance 90 personal liberty 95, 96 personal satisfaction 111 Personal Satisfaction Index 90 personal well–being 132 persuasion 266, 282, 296 Petronas towers 59 Philippines 21, 53 philosophers 19 Pippa Norris 82, 85 plural society 9 pluralism 45, 56, 58, 59, 61, 62, 78, 95, 96 pluralist neutrality 39, 44, 45, 52, 63 Poggi 34 Poland 38, 47 police 51, 55, 85, 114, 116, 120, 121, 122, 137 police repression 32 police state 54 policemen 33 policy advocates 264 policy concessions 284 policy justification 292 policy legitimacy 253, 256, 262, 263, 264, 267, 271, 275, 278, 279, 291, 294, 295, 296, 299 policy makers 264, 266, 295, 299 policy making 254, 295, 296 policy neutrality 40, 56 policy outputs 295 policy process 40 political accountability 96 political actors 295 political awareness 99, 101 political behavior 263 Political Bureau Standing Committee 211 political change 46, 135 political community 33, 120, 131, 143, 146 political competition 297 political concept 155 political conditions 278 political consciousness 143 political correctness 159, 162 political corruption 10 political cultural 88 political culture 88, 94, 95

Index 311 political demands 73 political development 32, 46 political discourses 155 political dissidents 54 political domination 8 political economy 38 political equality 95, 96 political fear 123 political feasibility 268 political hibernation 55 political ideology 145 political implications 172 political incrementalism 185 political instability 113 political institutionalization 61 political institutions 84, 85, 119 political legitimacy 30, 69, 80, 84, 183, 186, 193, 222 political liberalization 87, 106, 185 political mechanisms 6 political mobilization 220 political opposition 76, 78, 105 political order 15 political participation 74, 78, 87, 99, 111, 204, 210 Political Participation index 110 political parties 116, 120, 259, 276 political philosophy 1, 20, 39, 45 political pluralism 60 political power 31 political procedures 10 political process 73 political reform 47, 126, 130, 131, 132, 137 political rights 137 political satisfaction 108 political socialization 73 political stability 81 political struggle 150 political support 84, 85, 88, 104 political system 69 political tension 157 political theory 20 political trust 113, 114, 116, 117, 120, 129, 132, 135 political uncertainty 166 political values 94, 108 political violence 36 politicians 119, 262 politics of consumption 237 Polyarchy 54 popular consciousness 179 popular mandate 264, 271, 277, 293, 299 popular nationalism 168 popular sovereignty 95, 96 popular vote 79 popular will 267, 293 pornography 92 Portugal 27 post–industrialization 128 Postmaterialist 127, 136 postmodernism 168, 169 postmodernist 60, 62, 150 post–modernization 88 post–Tiananmen 167 power 224, 225 power balance 297 power network 2 power struggle 297 Prasenjit Duara 150, 179 prescriptive 19 pre–Zhou 165 primary stage of socialism 200 primordialism 149 private interests 274 pro–democracy movement 116 procedural element 22 procedural legitimacy 75, 188 procedural–based legitimacy 184 procedures 10, 22 proletariat class 159, 164 propaganda 25, 90, 117, 122, 124, 136, 143 property–less class 160

312 Index protest movement 51, 81 Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism 249 Proton 59 proto–capitalism 162 pro–people orientation 214 public consent 267 public criticism 272 public cynicism 148 public deliberation 282, 283 public discourse 121 public good 32 public norms 13 public opinion 267, 271, 272, 291 public opposition 268, 273, 277, 281, 285, 288 public persuasion 278 public popularity 299 public promises 249 public safety 92 public struggle 237 public support 281, 285 publicity 264 Pusan 242, 243 Qin Yongmin 180 Qing government 162 Qin–Han 158 quantitative indicators 30 Rahim Noor 55 Rangoon 3 rational choice theory 253, 261 rationality 88 Rawls 45 Raymond Williams 181 real state 114, 122 rebellion 81 recession 278, 287 recruit scandal 287 reelection–seeking 258 Reformasi 51, 59, 62 reformers 12 regime collapse 166 regime institutions 82, 86 regime legitimacy 70, 75, 85, 101, 113, 114, 120 regime performance 82, 84 regime principles 82, 117, 119 regime satisfaction 102 regime stability 67, 72 regime support 104 regime transition 69 regime’s legitimacy 129 regimes 296 regression analyses 131, 136 regression analysis 86, 105 Regulations on Discipline Penalties 211 Regulations on Internal Supervision 211 regulatory commissions 261 relegitimation 4 religion 150 Renewal Party 274 representative government 136 Republican era 154 resistance 144, 147, 153, 155, 180 restricted democracy 54 reunification 98 revolution 156, 164, 297 revolutionary capacity 164 revolutionary credentials 210 revolutionary history 178 revolutionary leaders 164 revolutionary tradition 165 Richard Lowenthal 73 rights 41, 52 rights essentials 39 Robert Dahl 54, 107 Robert Oppenheim 7 Ronald Rogowski 20 Rousseau, Jean Jacques 36 rule of experts 219 rule of law 15, 49, 208, 209, 210, 249 ruling class 145, 146

Index 313 ruling party 270, 271 ruling regime 143 rural autonomy 205 Sabah 51 Saigon 18 Sakigake 291 Salazar/Caetano 27 Sampoong Department Store 238 Samuel Johnson 16 sanctions 23 SARS 203 Sato Shigeki 151 scandal 137, 276, 277, 278 Scandinavian countries 92 science studies 226, 230, 231 SDPJ (Social Democratic Party) 200, 274, 281, 284, 289, 291 selection 41 selective incentives 257 selective repression 49 self–expression values 127, 128, 130, 134, 135, 138 self–interest 253, 256, 266, 286 self–sufficiency 234 senior welfare 92 Seoul National University 238 Shaanxi 205 Shakespeare 18 Shang Yue 17, 157, 159, 180 Shanxi 205 shelter 39 Silla kingdom 241 Singapore 47, 54, 57 Sino–Japanese War 164 Slavoj Zizek 148 small government and big society 206 small to medium-sized enterprises 76 social action 80, 223 social contract 190, 214 Social Darwinism 150, 179 social democracy 185, 204, 213 Social Democratic League, Democratic Reform League 274 social equality 6 social harmonization 218 social identity 40 Social Justice Movement, or ADIL 51 social movement 62, 78, 79, 220, 244 social norms 263 social problems 91 social revolution 156 social satisfaction 91 social scientists 23 social solidarity 252 social stratification 74 social structure 78 Social Transformation Survey 85, 90, 99 socialist 45 socio–cultural 37 socio–economic 69 socio–psychological 37 socioeconomic 137 sociology of scientific knowledge 226 sociopolitical theory 230 socio–political stability 197 sodomy 51 Song Qiang 180 sons of the soil 47 sources of legitimacy 185, 187, 212 South Africa 38 South Korea 9, 38, 44, 72, 74, 219, 233, 299 South Korean 75 Southeast Asia 3, 54 Southeast Asian 57 sovereign governments 4 sovereignty 94 Soviet Sinologists 158 Soviet Union 156, 157, 190 Soviet–bloc 72 special interests 250 specialists 219 speed bump 232

314 Index Spenser 18 spy plane 142 state 32, 33, 38, 41, 49, 123, 143, 181, 182 state actors 234 state apparatus 121 state authority 167 state campaigns 234 state capitalism 235 State institutions 33, 35 state legitimacy 62 state lie 137 state penetration 81, 153 State-embedded polity 33 state–led developmentalism 233 steel production 163 Stinky Old Ninths 173 structured nostalgia 179 Su Xiaokang 17, 171, 180 sub–ethnic 104, 105 subcommittees 261 subjective evaluation 82 suggestions 284 Suharto 38 Suharto regime 194 Susan Brownell 167 Sweden 14, 294, 295 Switzerland 14, 295 Syria 148 T.H. Marshall 95 Taegu 238, 243 Taiwan 3, 6, 16, 27, 38, 44, 70, 72, 74 Taiwanese 6, 78 Taiwanese identity 78, 96, 97, 98, 103, 105, 111 Taiwanese nationalism 98 Taiwanese sub-ethnicity 89, 101 Takayuki Sakamoto 10, 14, 253 Takeshita 258, 259, 283, 285, 286 Talcott Parsons 73, 217 Tamils 9 tax 52, 273, 278, 285, 289 tax collectors 85 tax increase 290, 292, 293 tax policies 11 tax proposal 281, 282 tax reform 282 tax system 34 teachers 173 technical knowledge 220, 228 technical specialists 245 technocracy 4, 223 technocratic 216 technocratic apparatus 219 technocratic legitimacy 219, 220 technocratic modernization 242 Technocrats 8, 47, 168 temporally emergent 227 Thailand 57 The Social Contract 36 Third Wave 21, 31, 39, 70 Thorstein Veblen 218 threat 282 three represents theory 189 Tiananmen 157 Tiananmen Democratic Movement 143, 154, 166 Tiananmen demonstrations 3 Tiananmen incident 180 Tiananmen Massacre 27 Tiananmen Square 141 Tianjin 205 Timothy Mitchell 219 Timur Kuran 26 tolerance 6 top–down 37, 38, 41, 251 totalitarian 83 totalitarian regimes 28 Toynbee 172 trade unions 53, 59 traditional symbols 176

Index 315 traditionalism 153 traffic 92 Translations of Historical Questions 158 transparency 5, 12, 185, 188 Transparency International Corruption 65 Transparency International 35, 49 trust 13, 123 Tsebelis 296 U.S. presidential elections 14 UMNO (United Malays National Organization) 47, 48, 50, 52, 54, 57, 60 unanimity 269 United Kingdom 299 United Nations Development Programme 42, 53 United States 14, 45, 125, 157, 294 universal 19, 22, 37, 39 universal history 181 universal legitimacy 18 universalist 63 unpopular policy 262 upper house 267, 291 urbanization 74 urban–rural 201 values 265 value–rational (wertrational) orientation 225 vectors of legitimacy 5 Verma 60, 62 views of justification 34 views of legality 34 village election system 204 village elections 12, 185 villagers’ committees 205 Vision 2020 60 volleyball 167 vote mobilization machines 261 voters 262 Wan Azizah 51 Wang Luxiang 171 wealth polarization 92 Weapons of the Weak 60 Weber 37, 70 welfare programs 287 welfare spending 255 Wen Jiabao 15, 202 wenhua re 155 West European 115 Western imperialism 158, 162, 165 Western philosophy 168 Westminster systems 299 Weyland 297 white man 146 white–paper–ization (paekchihwa) 243 widening gap 199 widening income gap 200 Winston Churchill 15 working class 199 World Bank 6 World Bank Institute 42, 49, 50 World Cup 167 World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators 35, 65 World Values Survey 35, 64, 116, 125 World War 128 World War II 81 worldviews 265 Xia Jun 178 Xiaomei Chen 178 Yan’an 172 Yang Zejun 158 Yangsun Chou 79 Yangtze River 177 Yasuhiro Nakasone 274

316 Index Yellow Emperor 175 Yellow River 171, 172, 176, 177 Yue Shang 180 Yugoslavia 38 Zaller 98, 101 Zambia 236 Zeitgeist 216 Zhang Wenkang 211 Zhang Xudong 168 Zhao Ziyang 174 Zhengxu Wang 6, 12, 19

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