Chinese scholar Lanxin Xiang has written a book, The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics, that is in my view the most extraordinary effort in decades to bridge the East-West politico-historical divide.
It’s impossible in a brief column to do justice to the relevance of the discussions this book inspires. Here we will highlight some of the key issues hoping they will appeal to an informed readership – especially denizens of the Beltway, now convulsed by varying degrees of Sinophobia.
Xiang jumps right into the fundamental contradiction: China is widely accused by the West of lack of democratic legitimacy exactly as it enjoys a four-decade, sustainable, history-making economic boom.
He identifies two key sources for the Chinese problem: “On the one hand, there is the project of cultural restoration through which Chinese leader Xi Jinping attempts to restore ‘Confucian legitimacy’ or the traditional Mandate of Heaven. On the other hand, Xi refuses to start any political reforms, because it is his top priority to preserve the existing political system, i.e., a ruling system derived mainly from an alien source, Bolshevik Russia.”