This is fascinating:
The retired Peking University professor of Chinese literature Qian Liqun has proposed a useful typology of current intellectual positions, which he divides into six clusters:
- the ‘China Model’, based on nationalism, statism and populism: encouraged by the government, with a strong popular base
- Mao-nostalgia, supported by certain old cadres, intellectuals and laid-off workers
- ‘New Democracy’, brought back into the limelight in recent years by Liu Yuan and Zhang Musheng and supported by the ‘Red Boomers’, based on absolute preservation of the power of the Party but more flexible on policy matters
- Social democracy inspired by the theories of the late Xie Tao, allying constitutionalism and social protection, supported by publications like Yanhuang Chunqiu 炎黄春秋
- Liberal constitutionalism (Charter 08), supported by a strong majority of the metropolitan media and NGO workers
- New Confucianism, which supports a return of the state and the use of National Studies (guoxue 国学) as an element of soft power, with a strong anti-Western streak.
The context here is China as a country with a very large state apparatus (which basically owns all the land), including a large SOE sector, providing minimal social services depending largely on local hukous, and fostering brutally competitive forms of capitalism, and where the state, the party and the corporation, whether private or state owned, are all different aspects of the same power structure. So concepts of Left, Right and Centre have to relate to the above and do so in a way which permits them to continue to exist.
We can take the ‘China model’ as roughly the government’s current position and one which gives formal ideological shape to the actual conditions described above: as centrism with Chinese characteristics, so to speak (though personally I’d identify the Party’s current self presentation to the public more as conservative in the old non-market, legitimist sense). On that basis, as Sebastian Veg goes on to show, we can locate the neo Maoists, New Democrats (who I’m taking to be heterodox Marxists) and Social Democrats to the left and Liberal Constitutionalists and Neo-Confucians to the right.
How does this map on to public opinion? The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences did a large survey in China’s cities last year which found that 51% of respondents identified themselves as middle of the road, 33% as leftists and 8% as rightists. You’re clearly going to have problems surveying for politics in any authoritarian society. And in China, where anti-rightist campaigns are part of living memory, you’re going to encounter a certain reluctance to identify as such politically. But it does seem to roughly equate with the intellectual contours outlined above. It’s also worth noting that the critical Chinese voices we tend to hear from distance are overwhelmingly in the Liberal Constitutionalist camp, yet there seems to be a much wider spectrum of opinion operating in China itself.
Anyway, that fine essay comes from The China Story Yearbook for 2013, which covers the whole territory with considerable elan and is yours to download absolutely free and gratis. So give yourself an early Christmas present.