The “Chinese Dream” and the Choice of the Path of Democratic Politics

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The Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation is a major strategic thought collectively put forward by the central leaders, and is a political declaration for the future development of the Party and the country. Realizing the “Chinese Dream” requires a choice for the correct democratic political path. Recently, in the discussion concerning the “Chinese Dream”, constitutional governance has become a focus point again. In the view of some, the “Chinese Dream” is the “dream of constitutional governance”: constitutional governance represents the future of China, the orientation of constitutional governance is the path for political structural reform in China, constitutional governance and democracy are the highest interests of the country. In the present public opinion discourse, the “dream of constitutional governance” may express the longing of a few wordsmiths for a beautiful life. But, longing is one thing, the process of realization is a different matter. The ““Chinese Dream”” clearly is not something that can be described with the single term “constitutional governance”, and it cannot be substituted with “dream of constitutional governance”. 

I, What is inside the “dream of constitutional governance”?

What is constitutional governance? What is inside the “dream of constitutional governance”? There is a sort of representative answer that is: the core content of constitutional governance is liberty, democracy and human rights. From their normal meaning and abstractly speaking, democracy is a good thing, human rights are good thing, and how could it be that liberty is not a good thing! If we understand constitutional governance as the collection of liberty, democracy and human rights, then constitutional governance naturally would also be a good thing. But, when looking at the practical level, and from acts, processes and history, liberty, democracy as well as human rights, and especially constitutional governance, have been dynamic processes, and there are no fixed models for them.

For example, in 1899, Liang Qichao believed in his essay “On the Similarities and Differences of Constitutions in Various Countries” that constitutional governance is an abbreviation for a constitutional monarchical system. UK-style politics with a monarchy, a Constitution and a Parliament, was the most ideal form of constitutional governance in the eyes of Liang Qichao, and was even the only form of constitutional governance. Liang Qichao’s “dream of constitutional governance” was in fact an “English Dream”. As another example, learning from the success of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, Sun Yat-sen put forward the slogan “Taking Russia ad a Master”. In Sun Yat-sen’s view, Russian party politics where a step ahead from English, French and US party politics, therefore, Russian-style party politics became the politics that Sun Yat-sen aimed for. According to the roadmap of going from “military governance” to “political tutelage” and to “constitutional governance” Sun Yat-sen put forward, his “dream of constitutional governance” may not have been equal to a “Russian Dream”, but in his theory and logic, the “Russian Dream” was the prelude to the “dream of constitutional governance”, and the “dream of constitutional governance” could only be realized with the assistance of the “Russian Dream”.

China’s history of more than half a century indicates that the “dream of constitutional governance” sometimes has been the “English dream”, and sometimes has been the “Russian Dream”, etc. This shows that the form of constitutional governance and the practical process of constitutional governance are plural and varied. At different times and under different circumstances, different people cherished completely different “dreams of constitutional governance”: although they all talk about  “constitutional governance”, your constitutional governance of this very moment may be completely different from the constitutional governance dreamt of at other times. It can be seen that the “dream of constitutional governance” is not a single, clear and concrete dream.

Looking from the global level, democratic political practice cannot be unitary. Any country’s democratic political practice, including constitutional design, parliamentary structuring, the judicial framework, and especially the protection of democracy, free expression, the protection of human rights, etc., must start from the real situation of that country, and corresponding institutional arrangements must be based on concrete situations in a specific context. Any country’s democratic political practice cannot be as simple as drawing a picture on a white piece of paper, cannot be done as one pleases, cannot be powerful and unconstrained, and cannot be unrestrained or unimpeded.

This very plain matter reminds us that a country’s democratic political situation in fact is the outcome of the mutual interaction, mutual function and even mutual games of all sorts of subjects, it is shaped by a country’s historical tradition, territorial size, population size, economic situation, belief patterns and many other factors. Because of this, strictly speaking, the concrete form of a country’s democratic politics can be expressed only by proceeding step by step through the process of mutual interaction of subjects. In the construction of democratic politics, attempts to ludicrously imitate some country rarely are successful; this is especially the case for the huge country that China is.

In the pens of some wordsmiths, as long as a US-style judicial review system or investigation system for constitutional violations is established, an ideal balance of powers may be realized, power corruption may be eliminated, and clean politics established; as long as direct election of county heads, provincial heads and heads of state are established, ideal democratic policies may be realized, etc., This sort of “as long as we do this, we ill be able to do that” thinking, looks logically to be very strong, and causal relationships are very clear, but in fact, it deals with a very complex question by oversimplifying it. Any reform of the political system is systemic engineering where one slight move might affect the whole situation, and requires consideration of factors on all sides,  that sort of thinking model where success comes at the first try, or that sort of thinking model where longing substitutes for action, although they are straightforward and forthright, may very well miss the main point.

II, The “Chinese Dream” is higher than the “dream of constitutional governance”

In a pluralist time, the different contexts and different meanings of democracy and freedom should be noticed. Under the banner of democracy, there is representative democracy, there is also consultative democracy, there is direct democracy, there is also indirect democracy, there are other kinds of democracies as well; under the banner of liberty, there is positive liberty, and there is also negative liberty, as well as other kinds of liberty. These different democracies and liberties remind us that we must treat our democratic political structuring, as well as our political structural reform, with different but coexisting ways of thinking. On this issue, it is still Mr Fei Xiaotong who put it best: “If people appreciate their own beauty as well as the beauty of others, and work together to create beauty in the world, all under Heaven will be in harmony.”

Different countries have different dreams, different countries’ dreams should be “working together to create beauty in the world”. Under the present context, to speak more concretely and purposefully, the “American Dream” should be “people appreciate their own beauty”. The sort of thinking model that lets the “American Dream” represent the “dream of constitutional governance”, or lets the “dream of constitutional governance” replace the “Chinese Dream”, is both a sort of cultural lack of self-confidence, and a sort of “lazy thinking”. Look at the logic behind this thinking model: because the United States have presidential and gubernatorial elections, we must also have such elections; because the “American Dream” represents the “dream of constitutional governance”, therefore, the “dream of constitutional governance” may replace the “Chinese Dream”… This sort of logic is, in fact, oversimplified.

Now, what is the “Chinese Dream” after all? The answer from the angle of civilizational development is: the “Chinese Dream” is the image and desire that the Chinese civilization holds on to in reality and will carry out in the future, that is to say, it is a description of the Chinese civilization’s future state. The content of the “Chinese Dream” is the orientation of the Chinese civilization. The reason that the “Chinese Dream” is a “dream”, lies in the fact that it has not been ultimately completed, has not been ultimately realized, and is still waits to be pursued by the Chinese nation. Such a “Chinese Dream” clearly is something that can be described by the single term “constitutional governance”, and cannot be replaced by “dream of constitutional governance”.

On this issue, Fukuyama’s “The End of History” provides a different explanation, that at the same time is also very attractive: the state of US-style civilization has been manifested to be the final state of the future of other civilizations, the future of China’s civilization is naturally no exception. This conclusion of Fukuyama’s is, in fact, the basis for some Chinese wordsmiths to say that the “dream of constitutional governance” is the “Chinese Dream”. Even so, as stated earlier, politics are pluralist, civilizations are pluralist, the coexistence of, competition and even conflict between plural civilizations will exist for a long time.

Against such a background, the “Chinese Dream” and the future prospects of China’s civilization can absolutely not be interpreted on the basis of Fukuyama’s “End of History”. This is an issue with the “Chinese Dream”, and at the same time is an issue for the cultural self-confidence of a country and a nation.

III, Where does the confidence in the “Chinese Dream” come from?

One necessary precondition to understand the “Chinese Dream”, is that we must form cultural self-confidence. Without cultural self-confidence, there is no way to start talking about the “Chinese Dream”. What is called cultural self-confidence, means to establish confidence about China’s culture and its future. Where does the basis for cultural self-confidence lie? Where does confidence in the “Chinese Dream” come from? This text believes that the “great history” of Chinese culture can provide a basis for confidence in the “Chinese Dream”.

The evolutionary process of Chinese culture, underwent two successive attacks from “Western culture”. The first was Indian Buddhist culture. Buddhism came to China approximately during the 2nd Century AD. From both Han Dynasties to the Wei, Jin and later to the Sui and Tang, in four to five hundred years time, Buddhist culture completely influenced the spiritual life and belief world of the Chinese people. Both in the ruling circles as in popular society, Buddhist culture had broad and sincere followers: there were temples in every place, Buddhist masters were greatly revered. But, even though matters were so, has Buddhism really fundamentally conquered China? The answer clearly is negative. Although Buddhist culture has extremely greatly influenced China’s indigenous culture, but Chinese culture has not changed into Buddhist culture because of this. On the contrary, Buddhist culture has merged into Chinese culture, further enriching the content of Chinese culture. Because of this, the correct way of putting it is: it wasn’t so that Buddhist culture conquered and superseded Chinese culture, but it was Chinese culture that transformed and absorbed Buddhist culture.

After the 19th Century, Chinese culture ran into foreign culture a second time, which was Euro-American Christian culture.  Around the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, the attack of this foreign culture brought a shock “reversing heaven and earth” to the Chinese people, and the Chinese people’s confidence in China’s indigenous culture began to waver. From then onwards, the lack of cultural self-confidence became a shadow that was hard for China to cast off. But, Euro-American Christian culture has equally not been able to conquer Chinese culture, but has equally been transformed and absorbed by Chinese culture, and has become an additive or nutriment for the self-renewal and self-growth of Chinese culture in the present and the future.

In the recent past, Euro-American culture seemingly was very charming, it seemed as if it represented the “endpoint” or “final state” of human civilization. But, things are always developing and changing. Basically, although Chinese culture may absorb Euro-American culture, Chinese culture will not evolve into a reproduction of Euro-American culture. Chinese culture, after absorbing Euro-American culture, can only become richer, more tolerant, and at the same time fuller of vitality. This is the basis for self-confidence in Chinese culture, and is a precondition for us to realize the “Chinese Dream”.

IV, How to understand the “Chinese Dream”?

If we let the “Chinese Dream” point towards the future of Chinese civilization, then, what are the prospects for this future? This article believes that understanding of the “Chinese Dream” may be developed in the following few aspects.

First and foremost, looking from the cultural origins of the “Chinese Dream”, the “Chinese Dream” facing the future is the outcome of many origins of different historical periods that flow together and merge. This looks like a large river, which can only become a large river if it flows together, accepting many tributaries. The “Chinese Dream” is like this. The earliest source of the “Chinese Dream” was written in a classic work such as the “Classic of Mountains and Seas”. The boastful father, the punishing Heaven, the mythical bird and the Nüwa goddess bore the wright of the earliest “Chinese Dream”. The Duke of Zhou, Confucius and Dong Zhongshu, who came later, expressed the “Chinese Dream” of different periods. After Buddhism was introduced to China, Huineng expressed the most profound part of the “Chinese Dream” of that time. Even later, Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming realized a re-expression of the “Chinese Dream” against the great background of absorbing Indian culture. After the Late Qing, following China’s stride into the “global” era, Euro-American culture completely poured into China. In this period, as an ideal prospect for China’s future, the “Chinese Dream” inevitably would bear the imprint of Euro-American culture. Despite this, the “Chinese Dream” is still the “Chinese Dream”.

Second, looking at the different levels of the “Chinese Dream”, the “Chinese Dream” is composed of a number of different layers. It resembles the legal system that we know well, which contains a Constitution at the higher level, and has a number of laws subordinate to the Constitution, under the law, there are administrative regulations, local regulations and local government rules, as well as other normative documents that are ranked the lowest. The “Chinese Dream” may also be understood from different levels: its highest level is spiritual culture, this is the most hidden core of the “Chinese Dream”. Next, there is the institutional culture of the “Chinese Dream”. For example, the “organic unification of the leadership of the Party, the people mastering their own affairs and governing the country according to the law” as included in the 8th Party Congress Report. Last, there is the technical level or technical culture in the “Chinese Dream”, for example, the consultative democracy as a practical method of democracy, mediation as a method to settle disputes, etc., all fall into this level.

Moreover, looking at the numerous areas that the “Chinese Dream” horizontally involves, the “Chinese Dream” may be understood and described from politics, economics, culture, society as well as theory, morality, law, religion and other different aspects. Generally speaking, in the areas of politics, theory, morality, culture, etc., the “Chinese Dream” may let China’s inherent factors continue more. In economic, scientific, technological and other such areas, the “Chinese Dream” may let even more foreign factors be absorbed. In the legal area, the situation is relatively complicated: laws in the areas of politics and households may continue China’s inherent factors more (including newly formed modern traditions); laws in the spheres of the economy, science and technology may absorb foreign factors more. Because of this, looking from all horizontally involved areas, the content of the “Chinese Dream” presents a more diversified picture.

Naturally, the “Chinese Dream”, as an exploration into China’s future, is an extremely important, big question, and it is absolutely not something that this shirt article can resolve. The above brief analysis is only a narrow view, I hope that it draws knowledgeable people to ponder this over more, more deeply and with more viewpoints.

(Yu Zhong, the author, is the Dean and Professor of the Capital University of Finance and Economics Law School)

“中国梦”与民主政治道路的选择
民族复兴中国梦,是新一届中央领导集体提出的重大战略思想,是党和国家未来发展的政治宣言。实现“中国梦”,需要选择正确的民主政治道路。最近,在关于“中国梦”的讨论中,宪政再次成为焦点。在一些人看来,“中国梦”就是“宪政梦”:宪政就代表了中国的未来,宪政的方向就是中国政治体制改革的方向,宪政民主是最高的国家利益。在当前的舆论话语中,“宪政梦”也可能表达了一些立言者对于美好政治的憧憬。但是,憧憬是一回事,实践过程是另一回事。“中国梦”显然不是“宪政”一词可以概括的,不是“宪政梦”可以指代的。
一、“宪政梦”里有什么?

宪政是什么?“宪政梦”里有什么?有一种代表性的回答是:宪政的核心内容就是自由、民主、人权。从一般意义上看,抽象地看,民主是个好东西,人权是个好东西,自由何尝不是一个好东西!如果把宪政理解为自由、民主、人权的汇聚,那么,宪政当然也是一个好东西。但是,从实践层面上看,从行为、过程和历史来看,无论是自由、民主还是人权,特别是宪政,都是一个动态的过程,都没有固定的模式。

例如,1899年,梁启超在《各国宪法异同论》一文中认为,宪政是君主立宪政体的简称。英国式的有君主、有宪法、有议会的政治,就是梁启超眼中最理想的宪政,甚至是唯一的宪政。梁启超的“宪政梦”其实就是“英国梦”。再如,鉴于1917年俄国十月革命的成功,孙中山提出了“以俄为师”的口号。在孙中山看来,俄国的政党政治比英法美的政党政治更进了一步,因而,俄国式的政党政治就成为孙中山向往的政治。按照孙中山提出的从“军政”到“训政”再到“宪政”的路线图,孙中山的“宪政梦”虽不等同于“俄国梦”,但在他的理论逻辑中,“俄国梦”实为“宪政梦”的前奏,“宪政梦”必须借助于“俄国梦”才能实现。

中国半个多世纪的历史表明,“宪政梦”有时是“英国梦”,有时又是“俄国梦”,等等。这就表明,宪政的形态、宪政的实践过程是多元性和多样化的。在不同的时代、不同的情境下,不同的人怀有截然不同的“宪政梦”:虽然都在说“宪政”,但你此时此刻梦想的宪政,可能完全不同于他人彼时彼刻梦想的宪政。可见,“宪政梦”并不是一个单一的、清晰的、具体的梦。

就世界范围来看,民主政治的实践不可能是单一的。任何国家的民主政治实践,包括宪法的设计、议会的体制、司法的框架,尤其是对于民主和自由的表达、对于人权的保护等,都必须从本国的实际情况出发,必须根据特定语境下的具体情况做出相应的制度安排。任何国家的民主政治实践,都不可能像在一张白纸上画图那样简单、那样随心所欲、那样天马行空、那样无羁无绊。

这样一个再明白不过的事实提醒我们,一个国家的民主政治状况,其实就是各种主体之间相互交往、相互作用甚至是相互博弈的产物,它受制于一个国家的历史传统、规模大小、人口多少、经济状况、信仰方式等诸多因素。因此,严格说来,一国民主政治的具体形态只能在各种主体相互交往的过程中循序渐进地达致。在民主政治建设上,试图东施效颦式地模仿某个国家,很少有成功的;对于像中国这样体量庞大的国家来说,尤其如此。

在一些立言者的笔下,只要建立了美国式的司法审查制度或违宪审查制度,就可以实现理想中的权力制衡,就可以消除权力腐败,就可以建立清廉政治;只要建立了县长、省长以及国家元首的直选,就可以实现理想中的民主政治,等等。这种“只要如何,就能怎样”之论,看上去逻辑性很强,因果关系也很清晰,其实是把复杂的问题进行了过于简单化的处理。政治体制的任何改革,都是牵一发而动全身的系统工程,需要考虑方方面面的因素,那种一蹴而就的思维模式,那种以憧憬代替行动的思维模式,虽然很明快,也很痛快,但很可能是不得要领的。

二、“中国梦”高于“宪政梦”

在一个多元化的时代,应当看到民主、自由在不同语境下的不同含义。在民主的旗帜下,有代议民主,也有协商民主,有直接民主,也有间接民主,还有其他类型的民主;在自由的旗帜下,有积极自由,也有消极自由,还有其他类型的自由。民主、自由的这些不同提醒我们,要以差异、共存的思维看待我们的民主政治建设,以及政治体制改革。在这个问题上,还是费孝通先生说得好:“各美其美,美人之美,美美与共,天下大同”。

不同的国家有不同的梦想,不同国家的梦想应当“美美与共”。在当前的语境下,更具体、更有针对性地说,“中国梦”与“美国梦”就应当“各美其美”。那种以“美国梦”来代表“宪政梦”,再以“宪政梦”来代表“中国梦”的思维模式,既是一种文化上的不自信,也是一种“懒汉思维”。试看这种思维模式背后的逻辑:因为美国有总统与州长的大选,所以我们也要有这样的大选;因为“美国梦”代表了“宪政梦”,所以“宪政梦”就可以代表“中国梦”……诸如此类的逻辑,实在是过于简单化了。

那么,“中国梦”到底是指什么呢?从文明发展的角度回答是:“中国梦”是对中华文明的现实坚守和未来进行的想象与憧憬,或者说,是对中华文明未来形态的描绘。“中国梦”的内容,就是中华文明的方向。“中国梦”之所以是“梦”,就在于它还没有最后完成,还没有最后实现,还有待于中华民族去追求。这样的“中国梦”,显然不是“宪政”一词可以概括的,不是“宪政梦”可以指代的。

在这个问题上,福山的“文明终结论”提供了不同的、同时也是颇具诱惑力的解说:美国式的文明形态已经展示了其他文明的未来或最后归宿,中华文明的未来当然也不例外。福山的这种言论,实为当代中国的一些立言者以“宪政梦”指称“中国梦”的依据。然而,正如前文所言,政治是多元化的,文明是多元化的,多元文明之间的共存、竞争甚至冲突必将长期存在。

在这样的背景下,“中国梦”或中华文明的未来图景绝不是福山的“文明终结论”所能够解释的。这既是“中国梦”的问题,同时也是一个国家和民族的文化自信的问题。
三、对“中国梦”的信心从何而来?

理解“中国梦”的一个必要前提,就是要形成文化自信。没有文化自信,“中国梦”就无从谈起。所谓文化自信,就是要树立起对于中国文化及其未来的信心。文化自信的依据在哪里?对“中国梦”的信心从何而来?本文认为,中国文化的“大历史”可以为“中国梦”的信心提供依据。

在中国文化的演进过程中,先后经历了两次“西方文化”的冲击。第一次是印度佛教文化。佛教大致是在公元二世纪传到中国来的。从两汉到魏晋再到隋唐,四五百年之间,佛教文化全面影响了中国人的精神生活与信仰世界。无论是在统治集团还是在民间社会,佛教文化都拥有广泛而真诚的信奉者:每个地方都有寺庙,佛教大师备受尊崇。但是,即便如此,佛教文化是否从根本上征服了中国?回答显然是否定的。佛教文化虽然极大地影响了中国本土文化,但中国文化并没有因此而变成佛教文化。相反,佛教文化融入中国文化之中,使中国文化的内容更加丰富。因此,准确的说法是:不是佛教文化征服、取代了中国文化,而是中国文化转化、吸纳了佛教文化。

19世纪之后,中国文化第二次遭遇了外来文化,就是欧美基督教文化。在甲午战争前后,这次外来文化的冲击给中国人带来了“乾坤颠倒”般的震撼,中国人对于中国本土文化的信心开始动摇。从那以后,文化上的不自信,成为中国难以摆脱的一道阴影。但是,欧美基督教文化同样不会征服中国文化,它同样会为中国文化所转化、所吸收,并成为中国文化在当代和未来自我更新、自我生长的添加剂或营养品。

在近期内,欧美文化看上去很有魅力,似乎代表了人类文明的“终结”或“终极形态”。但是,事物都是发展变化的。从根本上看,中国文化虽然会吸收欧美文化,但中国文化不会变成欧美文化的复制品。中国文化在吸纳了欧美文化之后,只会变得更丰富、更具包容性,同时也更有生命力。这就是中国文化自信的根据,也是我们实现“中国梦”的前提条件。

四、如何认识“中国梦”?

我们以“中国梦”指代中华文明的未来,那么,这个未来的图景又是什么呢?本文认为,对“中国梦”的认识,可以从以下几个方面展开。

首先,从“中国梦”的文化渊源来看,面向未来的“中国梦”是不同历史时期多种渊源汇聚、融合的结果。这就像一条大河,总是汇聚、接纳了多条支流才成为大河一样。“中国梦”也是这样。“中国梦”最早的源头,书写在像《山海经》这样的典籍中。《山海经》中的夸父、刑天、精卫、女娲,承载了最早的“中国梦”。后来的周公、孔子、董仲舒,都表达了不同时期的“中国梦”。佛教传入中国后,慧能表达了当时“中国梦”中最精微的部分。再往后,朱子、王阳明又在中国文化吸收了印度文化的大背景下,实现了对“中国梦”的重新表达。晚清以后,随着中国迈入“万国”时代,欧美文化全面传入中国。在这样的时代,“中国梦”作为中国未来的理想图景,必然会打上欧美文化的痕迹。尽管如此,“中国梦”依然是“中国梦”。

其次,从“中国梦”的不同层次来看,“中国梦”是由若干层次叠加起来的。这仿佛我们熟悉的法律体系,其中既有位阶最高的宪法,也有仅次于宪法的法律,法律之下还有行政法规、地方性法规和地方政府规章,以及位阶更低的其他规范性文件。“中国梦”也可以从不同的层次来认识:其中最高的层次是精神文化,这是“中国梦”中最隐秘的内核。接下来是“中国梦”中的制度文化。譬如,十八报告中归纳的“党的领导、人民当家作主与依法治国有机统一”。最后是“中国梦”中的技术层次或技术文化,譬如,作为民主实践方式的协商民主,作为纠纷解决方式的调解等,都属于这个层次。

再次,从“中国梦”横向涉及的众多领域来看,可以从政治、经济、文化、社会,以及伦理、道德、法律、宗教等不同的方面来认识和描述“中国梦”。大致说来,在政治、伦理、道德、宗教、文化等领域,“中国梦”将会更多地延续中国固有的因素。但在经济、科学、技术等方面,“中国梦”将会更多地吸纳外来的因素。在法律领域,情况则较为复杂:政治、家庭方面的法,可能会更多地延续中国固有的传统(包括新近形成的现代传统);经济、科技方面的法,则可能会更多地吸纳外来因素。因此,从横向展开的各个领域来看,“中国梦”的内容将呈现出更加多样化的色彩。

当然,“中国梦”作为对中国未来的探索,是一个极其重要的大问题,绝不是这篇小文章能够解决的。以上简略的分析,只是一孔之见,希望引起有识之士更多、更深、更有见地的思索。(喻中 作者:首都经济贸易大学法学院院长、教授)

2 thoughts on “The “Chinese Dream” and the Choice of the Path of Democratic Politics

    […] The “Chinese Dream” and the Choice of the Path of Democratic Politics (Yu Zhong, Red Flag Manuscript, 9 June) […]

    […] the official point has been forcefully made in a number of theoretical and editorial articles in major Central journals and newspapers, the […]

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