China Today: Post-Confucian, Post-Maoist, Post-Communist


For over a century, China has struggled to come to terms with the post-Industrial Revolution world.  As I hope I have shown in these posts on modern Chinese history, the path China has taken has been painful and erratic.  Much of the soul-wrangling during China’s modernization march has been focused on exactly how much China needed to change– some argued for a complete break with the Confucian, authoritarian past… others wanted to make more superficial changes while maintaining the traditional Chinese core.

Reviewing some of our story’s main characters, we had…

1) Li Hongzhang – who believed China must follow the Japanese model, and adopt Western methods– making not just superficial changes, but adopting deep reforms– improving infrastructure and finance and increasing research

2) Feng Guifen – the Confucian scholar who believed in self-strengthening through democratic reforms and the studying of Western methods

3) Liang Qichao –  who advocated Destructivism, the complete tearing-down of China’s Old Ways in order to build-up new citizens prepared to take on the responsibilities of freedom and democracy

4) Yan Fu – the social Darwinist who believed the Chinese must develop a since of Nationalism and graduate from subjects to citizens

5) Lu Xun – the renowned writer who said that the Chinese must shake-off their slave mentality if they wished to take on the responsibility of self-government

6) Sun Yat-Sen – the “father of the nation,” motivated by Han ethnic pride to see China stand firm and proud

7) Chiang Kai-Shek – who used Leninesque organizational methods to subdue the bandits, warlords, and Communist rebels vying for power in the new Republic Of China, and who felt that he and his wife’s Christian-Confucius hybrid religion could provide a new ethical core for modern China

8) Chen Duxiu – who had visions of a free-thinking, youthfully vigorous,  and communist China;  he worked to garner respect for “Mister Democracy” and “Mister Science”

9) Mao Zedong – the Eternal Rebel who advocated Permanent Revolution and believed in a strictly communistic China; his reforms caused suffering and death to millions of Chinese

10) Deng Xiaoping – an pragmatic politician and excellent organizer of men;  he pushed through several free-market reforms after Mao’s death, but worked just as hard to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party never lost its grip on its monopoly of power

***   ***   ***

As our authors point out, after a century of revolution, it is no longer clear exactly what the “essential core” of China is…  The new China is “post-Confucian, post-Maoist, and post-Communist.”  Looking back upon China’s long march to modernity, they state that “the only real constants were the yearning for a strong, prosperous, respected nation, and faith that it could be achieved through strong leadership and a strong party, as well as a more open China.”

[this is my last post on modern Chinese political history]


Other HAMMERING SHIELD posts on the politics of modern China…

Third Generation Rulers & Recent Dissidents In China

Deng Xiaoping & Tiananmen Square

Deng Xiaoping’s Counter-Capitalist Revolution In China

Permanent Revolution: The Rise And The Ruthlessness Of Chairman Mao

China Under Chiang Kai-Shek

China Goes Red: The Forgotten Chen Duxiu And The Founding Of China’s Communist Party

China’s May Fourth Incident (and another reason why the Treaty Of Versailles sucked)

Liang Qichao, Yan fu, and China’s Post WWI Disenchantment With The West 

The Transition Of China From Dynasty Rule To Republic, 1912

China Stumbles:  Opium Wars and the Tiaping And Boxer Rebellions

China In The 19th And 20th Centuries:  The Time Of Writhing



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