1st Edition

Civilization and the Chinese Body Politic

By Yongnian Zheng Copyright 2023
    660 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    660 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this important and hugely ambitious book, one of the world’s leading political scientists working on China demonstrates how Western views of China are flawed because the long tradition of Western scholarship studying China views China from the Western philosophical and intellectual perspective rather than viewing China on its own terms through the lens of China’s own long-established and reputable philosophical and intellectual tradition. Providing a deep analysis of Western scholarship on China, including work from Leibniz to Marx to Weber and then to Wittfogel, and a thorough account of the evolution of China’s own thinking about governance as expressed in the practices of successive Chinese dynasties, the book goes on to examine how the current Chinese body politic fits with and is the natural outcome of China’s own long, well-thought-through and well-practiced intellectual consideration of what the nature of civilized governance should be. By focusing on philosophical and intellectual approaches rather than on theoretical or methodological ones, the book shows how the huge and increasing disconnect between non-Chinese views of China and Chinese ones has come about.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables

    Preface and Acknowledgments


    “Oriental Despotism”

    1 “Oriental Despotism” and Its Problems in China Studies

    2 “Oriental Despotism” and Its Origins: Europe and Imperial China

    3 “Oriental Despotism” From the Ancient Greeks to the Enlightenment

    4 “Oriental Despotism” Since the 19th Century


    The Chinese Body Politic: Its Formation and Evolution

    5 Secularism and Political Order

    6 “Social Natural Law”

    7 The Emperorship

    8 Institutional Differentiation and “Internal Pluralism”

    9 Imperial Politics and Its Constraints

    10 Meritocracy and State–Society Connections

    11 Education, Social Distinction, and Equality

    12 Meritocratic Institutions and Their Evolution

    13 Inequality, Representation, and Responsibilities

    14 Bureaucrats and “Civil Society”


    Modern Transformation

    15 Modern Revolution and Political Power

    16 Nationalism, Sovereignty, and Modern Party Power

    17 “Organizational Emperorship”


    Contemporary Institutions

    18 Structuring Politics

    19 The “New” Paradigm

    20 Bringing Back the Power of Supervision

    21 Party–Society Linkages

    22 A “Party in Society”

    23 Society and Interest Representation

    24 A Theory of Moral Loyalty

    25 The Chinese State and Western State Products

    26 Political Reforms: Grand Discourse and Little Truth

    27 Forms of Political Reform


    The Future of the Chinese Body Politic

    28 A Tocquevillian Dilemma

    29 Scenarios of Political Change




    Yongnian Zheng is Professor and Director of the Institute for International Affairs, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, China.