Journal of Chinese Political Science

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 119-141

First online:

China’s Harmonious World: Beyond Cultural Interpretations

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A culture “specter” is haunting the ongoing discourse regarding China’s declared policy of “peaceful rise” for a “harmonious world.” While some Western scholars “cherry-pick” “evidence” of China’s aggressiveness from Confucius legacies, the same cultural heritage is heavily tapped by many Chinese scholars to interpret the current policy of striving for internal and external harmony. Both seem to ignore, though to different degrees, the historically specific political environment, within which the cultural elements function and interact with other socio-political variables. China’s current pursuit of harmony is possible and desirable only at a time when China is able to achieve sustained sociopolitical stability (30 years) in the past 160 years and after its protracted encounter and experiment with Western liberalism, Marxism and capitalism. Although it has not explicitly rejected any of these Western ideologies, China has tested the limits of all of them—hence China’s search for its own identity and policy alternatives at the onset of the new millennium. It is toward a more historical and holistic explanation that this paper constructs the political space and historical trajectory of China’s search for modernity and for itself in the past two centuries and into the future.

Key words

harmony peaceful rise traditional culture liberalism Marxism capitalism