How the West Shaped China’s Ideological Battles

As China’s leadership transition approaches, the public battle of political ideals is becoming more acute. Despite their sharply divided positions, those on the left and the right share one thing: most of the vocal theorists from both sides received their education at prestigious western universities, particularly in America. From Mukul Devichand at the BBC:

Zhang [Jian, a professor of political science at Peking University who studied at Columbia University] counts himself on the classically liberal “right” wing. He supports free markets and political reform.

“I would love to see the country become more similar in its general system to that of the UK or United States,” he says. This camp – sometimes called China’s New Right – have been most successful in economics. They influenced China’s liberalisation in the 1980s and since.

[…] But in the last few years, a rival camp to this free-market, right-leaning set of intellectuals has emerged – again, after being educated in the West.

[…] Rather than being impressed by how the West worked, these new writers were often disenchanted after seeing it for themselves.

[… Daniel Bell, a professor at Tsinghua University] says the invasion of Iraq, and the financial crash, have strengthened the hand of China’s New Left: “Iraq… led to fairly extreme cynical views not just among intellectuals but I think also among ordinary citizens,” he says.

In the sensitive period ahead of the coming leadership transition, the government has tightened control over online discussion about these different ideas. How far the debate will shape China’s future ruling style remains to be seen. Read more about New Left political ideas in China via CDT.