, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 225-248
Date: 02 Oct 2008

Chinese Political Attitudes and Values in Comparative Context: Cautionary Remarks on Cultural Attributions

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Cultural explanations have a long and distinguished tradition in the study of Chinese politics. This paper examines the extent to which standard cultural attributions about the Chinese are supported by survey evidence from the World Values Survey. Moreover, it compares the values and beliefs articulated by the Chinese respondents with those of their Taiwanese, American, Canadian counterparts. Although in some instances the survey data support conventional wisdom, in many other respects they contradict the stylized characterizations often found in the literature. One is therefore led to conclude that cultural attributions should be grounded in empirical evidence, evaluated comparatively, and made with sensitivity to the potential for change and hidden biases.

Steve Chan is a professor of political science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His recent research has addressed topics of democratic peace, power transition, and political culture. His most recent book is China, the U.S., and the Power-Transition Theory: A Critique (London: Routledge, 2008).