This issue published two articles, namely Reflecting on China’s Governance by Francis Fukuyama, a famous Japanese American political scientist and Observing China’s Politics with “Theory of the End of History” as the Undertone-In Responding to Fukuyama by Prof. Yang Guangbin.
The Chinese government and its governance issues have always been a key research area of attention to Fukuyama. In recent years, Fukuyama’s two new works: the Origins of Political Order: From Pre-human Times to the French Revolution and Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy are all related to Chinese themes. He believes while these two works have been widely read and received lots of comments and suggestions in China, they also received quite some “criticism” or even “misunderstanding”. To clarify some views on the nature of the Chinese government and its future development, he offered detailed explanation in his response article by focusing on its concept framework and adaptability to China’s current situation and further analyzed and forecasted some possible future developments in China’s political system.
In terms of the basic concept framework, he continued with the basic idea in the above-mentioned new works, that is, the contemporary political system is mainly composed of three basic institutional pillars-strong nation, rule of law and democratic accountability. In his eyes, a legal and well-managed country needs to place the three pillars at proper locations and strike a balance among them. A political system in a powerful country without power restriction mechanism is doomed to head towards dictatorship. On the contrary, a political system in a weak or even invalid country with democratic election and legal system will unable to provide necessary public products for citizens. Of course, the realization of balance among the three can be quite difficult. Such balance, though achieved, will change as time goes by.
Starting from a review of the Chinese history, Fukuyama applies the “3 institutional pillars” framework to analyze China’s institutional evolution issues. He believes that compared to other countries and regions, China in early history was already an “early-mature” “modern” country with mature bureaucracy being a most prominent feature that exerted certain institutional constraints to state power. Meanwhile, Confucianism-based moral elements also formed restriction to power. Besides, from the angle of legality, Fukuyama studied the CPC’s inheritance and development of China’s historical tradition and Confucianism and the extent to which the modern Chinese government relates and deviates as to such tradition. Lastly, focusing on the angle of reinforcing rule of law and expanding political participation, he analyzed and forecasted possible directions and issues in China’s future political development.
In his article Observing China’s Politics with “Theory of the End of History” as the Undertone, Prof. Yang offered full response to Reflecting on China’s Governance by Fukuyama. Yang believes that, seen from epistemology, Fukuyama’s “3 institutional pillars for modern government”-strong nation, rule of law and democratic accountability-are the revised version of the “Theory of the End of History” and bear severe epistemology flaws. The so-called “strong nation” is completely a Weber-type idea as many developing countries are “weak countries in a powerful society”, hence no existence of “strong nation”; the idea that the rule of law only exists because of religion is completely against the Roman history, because Christianity became popular in the later stage of the Roman Empire while laws protecting property right had long been existing; the idea that accountability only exists because of elective democracy is a confusion of concepts. Elective democracy may be accompanied by political stability, but such democracy is very likely a sort of “invalid democracy” in stability. How to hold an immoral and invalid government accountable? Seen from the Chinese history, China is not a country lacking in the rule of law and accountability as Fukuyama said. The ancient “forefathers’ law” and people-oriented thoughts are special law-related thoughts and accountability mechanism in China, which saw no rival in other dynasties or countries in the same period. Solely taking election and authorization in the West for the legal basis doesn’t go against Chinese people’s views on political order, nor does it go with Western knowledge. Legality should be about governments established by laws, participated by people and governing as per the justice principle. According to this standard, Fukuyama’s “prescription” to China featured by prioritized rule of law and inner-party competition obviously doesn’t work. This is because it’s hard for China in the “universal time” to progress step by step as scheduled by Fukuyama. It has to simultaneously build a strong nation, the rule of law and accountability politics and on this basis, achieve a more inclusive goal-“a capable but limited government”. State capability, confined power and restricted power are three indispensable core variables.
The 8th Issue of Ideas and Comments, NADS: Observing China’s Politics with “Theory of the End of History” as the Undertone