Fukuyama on China

In The Guardian, Wesley Yank profiles Francis Fukuyama, whose publications are apparently required reading amongst China’s high level, Communist party members:

There are 300 to 400 million Chinese in the middle class; that number will rise to 600 million in a decade. I had a debate a few years ago with an apologist for the regime. I pointed out that in many regions of the world when you develop a sufficiently large middle class, the pressure for increased political participation becomes irresistible. And the big question for China is whether there will be a point at which its people will push for greater participation, and he said: ‘No, we’re just culturally different.’”

It was, in effect, a rehash of the old “Asian values” argument concerning the hierarchical and deferential social ethic that goes by the name of Confucianism in east Asia – allegedly the reason that Asians lacked the impulse to individual self-assertion that resulted in the demand for self-government in other parts of the world. The democratic transitions in South Korea and Indonesia put an end to that argument decades ago, Fukuyama says, just as the Arab spring debunked a parallel claim regarding Arabs. This is the part of Fukuyama’s argument about the end of history that he still stands behind without reservation or qualification – the Hegelian philosophical anthropology that saw history as the working out of the struggle between masters and slaves for recognition. “I really believe that the desire for recognition of one’s dignity and worth is a human characteristic. You can see manifestations of this in all aspects of human behaviour cross-culturally and through time.”

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