China's Sprouts of Democracy [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 4 (1990)

December 2, 1990

A basic premise of Confucianism rests in the intellectuals' responsibility to speak out against an oppressive government. This tradition continued well into the Maoist era, along with "the mandate from heaven," which provided an additional fundamental right of the people to dispose of an unfair leadership. Why was it not until the mid-1980s that the intellectuals, the "democratic elite" of China, initiated a public dialogue on the necessity of "inalienable" rights in the Western sense? The reason may lie in the impact the events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had in inducing political reform in post-Mao China. The traditional Confucianist beliefs remained at the core of the emerging ideology. Despite Deng's crackdown in Tiananmen Square, the "sprouts" continue to reappear from time to time, and the author predicts that they will be stronger with each comeback.


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