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Political Culture

in China

How do Chinese people pursue their


political interests?
Two key questions:
1. Does Chinese culture affect the way Chinese people
engage in politics? Are Chinese people passive, or does
the impact of culture change as education, wealth and
political institutions change?
2. What modes or methods do Chinese citizens employ to
press their claims, why do they employ the ones they do
use and how effective are they?

Defining Political Culture


A particular distribution of political attitudes, values,
feelings, information, and skills that affects the behaviour of
a nations citizens and leaders throughout the political
system
What people know or feel about their political system affects
their behaviour towards it
Variations among countries can be measured through
surveys

Three Views of Chinese


Political Culture
Chinese Political
Culture

System-wide characterization or
Culturalist Approach

Political culture as a
characteristic of an entire
society

Political culture determined


by rules and incentives
within organizations

System-wide characterization or
Culturalist Approach
China seen to have a passive political culture
Based on traditional peasant, and Confucian cultures
under which citizens accept hierarchy, respect for
political authority, conflict avoidance
Leadership based on virtue of the
emperor, not on political institutions,
rule of law, limited political authority
Creates system with limited
leadership accountability

Chinese Political Culture

System-wide characterization
or Culturalist Approach

Political culture as a
characteristic of an entire
society

Political culture
determined by rules and
incentives within
organizations

Anticipated Results of
Culturalist Approach
Popular demands for participation should be quite low.
Citizens should be comfortable with authoritarian rule.
People easily bought off by increased wealth.
China should be unable to establish modern political
institutions, particularly democracy, as people do not have
the right values.

Anticipated Results of
Culturalist Approach for Elite Politics
Elites not pressured to respond to social demands.
Elites prone to mistrust, court politics, and factionalism.
Elites reject diverse opinions needed for democracy.
Unwilling to yield authority when in power in fear of
reprisals.

Political culture determined by rules and


incentives within organizations
Organizations rules and incentives determine how people
behave within the organization, leading to variations in
behaviour based on the incentives
Negative impacts of tradition can be overcome
Change possible by creating new
organizations with positive,
non-traditional incentives

Chinese Political Culture

System-wide characterization
or Culturalist Approach

Political culture as a
characteristic of an entire
society

Political culture
determined by rules and
incentives within
organizations