Crisis of Chineseness: Value Changes in the Face of Modernization in China

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Tateyama, Jotaro
Erik Pratt
Phil Wittman
Mary Pietrukowicz
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Crisis of Chineseness: Value Changes in the Face of Modernization in China
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My association with China goes back more than a decade. I have been familiar with Chinese culture since my childhood. Its history, literature, philosophy, martial arts, kungfu movies, and food-all these cultural attributes have fascinated me for years. However, it was not until my sophomore year at Carroll College that I became captivated by the Reform and Opening Up and contemporary Chinese politics. That is when I learned of the Reform and Opening Up from a Japanese magazine specializing in international affairs. It has been eighteen years since China changed its course of development. The policy called Reform and Opening Up was adopted in the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee in December, 1978. Since then, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has promoted market-oriented economic reforms, coupling these with an opening up to the outside.1 For the past two decades, its economic development and potential, vast market have attracted the attention of the world. I was fascinated by the dynamic process of reform and Chinese politics connected with these policies. Richard Baum summarized the reform in the following precise manner: In place of Mao's insistence on austerity, egalitarianism, self-sacrifice, self reliance, and perpetual class struggle, they [new leaders in the post-Maoist era] advocated incentive driven production responsibility systems, decentralized state administration, expanded use of market mechanisms (euphemistically known as "economic methods"), and sharply increased international economic and technological involvement.2 Increased interaction with the outside, especially the West, has brought foreign technology, business people, and tourists, as well as foreign ideas, into China. Some of the newly introduced ideas have the potential to challenge the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Alarmed by the encroachment of such ideas, leaders of the CCP name this phenomenon peaceful evolution and denounce it as "alleged Western attempts to undermine socialism and promote the growth of capitalism and bourgeois democracy in China through the extension of economic, cultural, political, and ideological influence and pressures from abroad."3 The term peaceful evolution first appeared in early history of the PRC when Mao Zedong said, "We have to ruin the hope for peaceful evolution in China which an imperialist prophet claims."4 This statement was an objection to what U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said in the context of containment, "I want to entrust our hope to the third and fourth generation of the People's Republic of China."5 Mao described peaceful evolution as attempts to convert socialism into capitalism in peaceful ways.6 As China's leaders see it, the manifestations of peaceful evolution include growing numbers of protests calling for democracy (in Marxist terms, bourgeois democracy), expansion of capitalist mentality, and moral degeneration, all characteristic of a decadent, Western, popular culture. However, this notion of peaceful evolution is problematic. It is difficult to find evidence that Western foreign policy makers congregate in a back room and conspire to subvert Communist rule. More problematic is determining whether cultural changes W (including political attitudes) in China are an intended result of subversive attempts by the West or an unintended result of modernization and internationalization. These puzzles provide the foci of this paper. One of the goals of this paper is to investigate the logic of the peaceful evolution and the campaign against it. Another goal is to examine the validity of the claim of peaceful evolution. Moreover, this paper investigates the role of Chinese students in the United States as one of many media of infiltration of foreign ideas. More specifically, do these Chinese students play a substantial role in changes in Chinese culture, such as Chinese's increasing inclinations toward democracy, capitalism, and individualism? In order to understand the enormity of the changes occurring in China and the context within which the campaign against peaceful evolution developed, some back-ground on the changes in the Chinese economy will be necessary.
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Political Science & International Relations