An article in Caixin looks at the tensions between traditional and modern societies and universal values vs. the “China Model Theory,” and what these ideas mean for the future of China:
Early this century, China’s economy began to rise, but with an unsustainable pattern of economic growth. Thus, issues relating to social equity and justice have become increasingly prominent.
This phenomenon suggests China’s problems must be understood and addressed from the perspective of social transition. Facing this major issue, Chinese society and especially China’s elites are now engaged in a fierce debate, the core of which is a controversy over whether to adopt “universal values” or a “Chinese model.”
…Chinese Model Theory argues that the rise of China and the synchronous decline of the West indicate Chinese values will replace enlightenment values to become a new universal model. Other arguments of Replacement Theory deconstruct enlightenment values while criticizing modern western society.
This kind of deconstruction and criticism has continued while the United States and Europe developed modern societies. This is primarily because modern society has “diseases” and hidden crises. The key question is whether these “diseases” can be cured, and whether these problems are the result of transition from traditional to modern society, or are actually new problems that challenge modern society after a transition.
Is it possible for the society we have built to evolve separately from or after resolving these basic contradictions? I think it is normal for interdependence and mutual restraint to coexist. General notions and established institutions have to live in peace while these two elements interact. This dual structure is also reflected in enlightenment values such as freedom versus public order, democracy versus rule of law, individual rights versus national interests, rationality versus visions and dedication, checks on power versus efficiency, equity versus efficiency, and so on.