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The 9th Issue of RUC Perspectives, NADS

This issue published Political Party and Its Development from the Perspective of Historical Sociology, new work of Zhao Dingxin, Professor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Sociology. This article is compiled based on Zhao’s speech records at RUC, NADS in October, 2016.

On the basic concept and origin of political parties, Prof. Zhao Dingxin stressed that the formation of political parties is a political phenomenon with distinctive imprint of times. “Cliques and factions have long been existing since ancient times while party politics is a modern phenomenon”. To be precise, contemporary political party is a result of British and American politics as the world’s oldest political parties originate from the two countries. Compared to the UK’s Whig and Tory, the US Democratic-Republican Party founded at the end of the 18th century, as deemed by Zhao, is closer to being a contemporary political party in a strict sense. Besides, Zhao summarized the three primary conditions leading to the formation of contemporary political parties, namely a week country with a tradition of liberalism, secular ideology, expansion of election scope and other real social demands.

From the perspective of historical sociology, Zhao summarized four historical stages in the development of world political parties, namely political parties led by liberal and conservative ideological trends (18th to mid-19th century), political parties led by class and democratic ideological trends (19th to mid-20th century) and political parties in the Cold War and their crises (1950s to 80s), and the political parties amidst the “Third Wave” democratic trend (1980s-). Zhao said that, during the above social and historical process, due to varied stages and specific national situations, the overall development of world party politics showed an “East-West double-track” evolution trend, which was rather prominent in the East and the West since the 20th century.

By focusing on the two historical stages amidst the “Cold War” and the “Third Wave” democracy, Zhao also expounded on the crises faced by Eastern and Western political parties and their evolution. In talking about the overall development trend of world political parties, Zhao pointed out that after the tide of the “Third Wave” democracy fell, the sentiment of nationalism was vastly rising worldwide and gradually approached to religion and the simultaneously rising fundamentalism. Together with the continuous split of the left wing, the above factors led to two new trends in world party development: one being the nationalist party, the ethnic party and the religious party continuing to gain power worldwide, the other being the left wing party continuing to fall and vastly turned into “single issue parties” under the dominant politics of sense of identity.

In the future, development of party politics worldwide will still face a series of uncertainties. China must fully consider its national situation and then maintain adequate willpower as to strategies and tactics so as to avoid policy mistakes and political ones. Only by doing this can China stand firm in the complicated historical situation and move towards the ultimate goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in a steady way.

The 9th Issue of Ideas and Comments, NADS: Zhao Dingxin: Political Party and Its Development from the Perspective of Historical Sociology