New Authoritarianism


New Authoritarianism
(Xin quanweizhuyi)
The political ideas associated with the ‘New Authoritarianism’ emerged in the mid 1980s, when urban social problems produced by the economic reforms in China had already become palpable. The advocates of New Authoritarianism argued that a strong, authoritarian government was indispensable both to maintain political order and social stability and to further the economic reform necessary to begin to establish a liberal democracy. They drew their lessons from the modernization experience of developing countries, especially from that in East Asia, arguing that modernization in a non-Western developing country like China could not follow the Western model. Rather, economic modernization and political modernization should be carried out in two separate stages, with economic development taking precedence over political democratization and led by a reform-oriented authoritarian government. Thus, authoritarian governments were responsible for providing the favourable conditions for sustained economic development, which meant, first of all, a stable social and political order. Thus economic reform and modernization could avoid being interrupted by frequent social and political turmoil, eventually giving rise to a strong middle class, which would then press for political democracy. The leading proponents of the New Authoritarianism were Wu Jiaxiang, Zhang Bingjiu, Wang Huning and Xiao Gongqin, while the latter two also exemplify the transition from the New Authoritarianism to Neo-Conservatism. The New Authoritarians positioned themselves between the ‘Old Left’ and the radical reformers (i.e. Liberals), who maintained the necessity of political reform to accompany or even precede economic reform.
Though they shared a set of basic principles, there were some differences among them, especially on economic issues. People usually divided this political trend into two schools: the Northern school in Beijing and the Southern school in Shanghai. Wu and Zhang belonged to the former, and Xiao to the latter. New Authoritarianism stimulated a heated debate in 1988 and early 1989. Though the debate was silenced after 1989, some of its basic ideas were inherited by a new ideological and political trend of the 1990s, Neo-Conservatism.
Ma, Shuyun (1990–1). The Rise and Fall of Neo-Authoritarianism in China’. China Information 5.3 (Winter): 1–18.
Qi, Mo (ed.) (1991). Xinquanwei zhuyi: Dui Zhongguo dalu weilai minyun de lunzheng [New Authoritarianism: Debates on the Fate of the Chinese Mainland]. Taipei: Tangshan chubanshe.
Sautman, Barry (1992). ‘Sirens of the Strongman: New-Authoritarianism in Recent Chinese Political Theory.’ China Quarterly 129 (March): 72–102.
LIU CHANG

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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