This article takes as its point of departure contrasts between China’s fundamental philosophy of governance and the Anglo-American classical-liberal tradition, to show the differences between a mode of thinking that sees binary opposites as forming interactive unified wholes rather than mutually exclusive either / or opposites. It reviews the Chinese state’s relationship with village communities by looking back at the history of the past century, in North China and in the Yangzi Delta. The article summarizes the traditional mode of governance in the Qing period, undergirded by both state leadership and village self-governance, as well as both moralism and practicality, in the management of village affairs and mediations of disputes. That was followed by the decline and partial breakdown of the system in the Republic, and then excessive state control in the collective era, followed by the opposite of nearly complete state withdrawal in the late Reform period. What is needed is a more balanced relationship between the state and the village, with both top-down leadership and bottom-up participation. Within the party’s own “mass line” tradition, we can separate out the excesses of movement politics from positive practices like the emphasis on investigation and study in public policy-making, on test-point trials before enacting public policies, and on popular participation. Such popular participation should be developed further today to build a better and more balanced relationship between state and society, and prevent recurrences of tendencies toward either too much or too little state involvement in village affairs, in order to implement better the moral ideals of “humane government” and “serve” “the people.” Voluntary popular participation should actually be established as the sine qua non for enacting major public policies affecting the people’s livelihood.
MannMichael (1986) The Sources of Social Power, I: A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press.
MillJohn Stuart(1859) On Liberty, in On Liberty and Other Writings, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, edited by Stefan Collini. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press2000.
(1859) On Liberty, in On Liberty and Other Writings, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, edited by Stefan Collini. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000.)| false