Communist China

The future of communism in China is unknown, as the world economy becomes more
international. Communism has been in China since 1949 and is still present in
the country’s activities. Presently China is undergoing incredible economic
growth and promises to be a dominant power early in the next century. China’s
social tradition has come under heavy pressure from forces of modernization
generated in a large part by the sustained contact with the West that began in
the middle of the nineteenth century. The Western incursion, not only refined

China militarily but brought in its course new ideas- nationalism, science and
technology, and innovations in politics, philosophy, and art. Chinese leaders
have sought to preserve the nation’s cultural uniqueness by promoting
specifically Chinese blends of tradition and modernity. China has undergone
several major political transformations from a feudal-like system in early
historical times, to a centralized bureaucratic empire that lasted through many
unpredictable changes till 1911, to a republic with a communist form of
government in the mainland since 1949. Economic geography and population
pressure help account for the traditionally controlling role of the state in

China. The constant indispensability for state interference, whether for great
public works programs or simply to keep such a large society together, brought
up an authoritarian political system. The family prevailed as the fundamental
social, economic, and religious unit. Interdependence was very prominent in
family relations while generation, age, sex and immediacy of kinship strictly
governed relations within the family. Family rather than nation usually created
the greatest allegiances with the result that nationalism as known to the West
came late to the Chinese. In principle, the elite in the authoritarian political
system achieved their positions through merit rather than birth or wealth. There
was an examination system that provided a vehicle for recruiting talented
citizens to serve the emperor, which was a valuable and unusual institution in a
society characterized by personal connections. Democracy, individualism, and
private property were kept carefully in check. Central state authority, however,
rarely penetrated to the local level. Chinese leaders invented bureaucracy to
keep the country unified and mastered the art of keeping government small. The

Chinese search for a modern state began in the nineteenth century when two major
sources of disorder overwhelmed the imperial institutions: domestic
disintegration and foreign invasion. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, Chinese population had doubled and redoubled. The problem of the
population explosion created tremendous pressure on the limited farmland to
provide sufficient food supply. For economic, religious, of ethnic reasons,
peasant uprisings began to erupt. Moreover, beginning with the Opium War of

1832-1842, the imperial army suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the
industrial powers of the West. The image of a shattering imperial dynasty
directed rebellion and dissolution within China, exemplified by the Taiping

Rebellion of 1851-1864 that nearly toppled the Qing dynasty. (Zheng, Party vs.

State in Post-1949 China, 30) The reform measures in the first decade of this
century were aimed at replacing dynastic rule with a new form of government.

Among the most significant changes was the abolition of the civil service exam
in 1905, which virtually cut off the connections among the emperor, the ruling
ideology, and the official gentry. This time the imperial rulers hoped to save
themselves by experimenting with some new institutional adaptations. A
revolution was menacing; students who had returned from abroad came with ideas
harmful to the imperial rule. Following the overthrow of the imperial regime in
the Revolution of 1922, central authority dissipated and the country was divided
among regional warlords. Reunification, begun by the Nationalist government
under the Kuomintang (KMT); was interrupted by the Japanese invasion in the

1930’s. The unparalleled institutional crisis hastened the Chinese search for
alternative means of reorganizing China. Since the last dynasty, Qing, collapsed
construction of a modern Chinese state had been the goal shared by many Chinese
modernizers. For them, this magnificent goal meant that China could one-day
stand in the world community on an equal footing with other member states. While
the first two decades of this century may have saw China in Chaos, this time
period also produced a "free intellectual environment." (Qtd. Imfeld, China
as a Model of Development, 10) A country in an emptiness of state power was
ambiguously full of new ideas and new experiments. Chinese scholars disputed
almost every Western Concept that was known to them. Some preferred a
parliamentary system, whereas others favored a presidential system. Some
supported a restored monarchy, and others sought a constitutional system of the

American type. Within a decade or two, China in search of a modern state had
experienced a remarkable shift of focus from