Political Sociology in China
Political power is of particular importance in life of any society irrespective of its type. It structures and organizes society, overseeing its resources. The importance of political power is not only that it affects society as a whole. In fact, it affects primarily the lives of individuals, extending or limiting their abilities as the members of the society. Each of the members of a particular society or class is under the influence of the political power of the country. The influence can be either negative or positive. This paper examines the influence of political power on a single person using the information from my personal experience.
The Types of Political Power. The Political Power in China
First, it should be noted that political sociology helps to understand the relationship between society and political power. At its broadest level, political sociology is concerned with the relationship between politics and society. Its distinctiveness within the social sciences lies in its acknowledgement that political actors, including parties, pressure groups and social movements, operate within a wider social context. Political actors therefore inevitably shape, and in turn are shaped by, social structures such as gender, class and nationality. Such social structures ensure that political influence within society is unequal.
Due to the research of political sociology, one can distinguish such types of political power, as economic, military, and ideological (Hall and Schroeder 2006). Economic power is that the control over economic resources (the resources of nature and human resources); it is unevenly distributed, as it belongs to the ruling part of the society. Military political power is primarily in the benefits provided by highly developed weapons. For example, according to Mann, the USA first is a military country, since its potential is primarily military. Finally, ideological political power is based on ideology as a set of ideas, opinions and values, which determine the relationship between government and society. In other words: "An ideology is a set of beliefs that affects our outlook on the world. Our ideology is our most closely held set of values and feelings, and it acts as the filter through which we see everything and everybody. In fact, these beliefs are often so close to us that we do not realize that they are there. We simply think that our beliefs are natural and obviously true. Religion is one type of ideology, and religious belief affects a person’s views” (What is an ideology? n.d.)."
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In my opinion, the political power represented in contemporary China is ideological and affects the lives of individuals. My personal life experience is a proof of the idea that political power has a direct impact on the life of every person. I came from a middle class family in China. In my country, any negative assessment of the government and its politics is prohibited. Anyone, who violates this prohibition, should be punished by the law. For instance, the first Nobel peace Prizewinner in China, Liu Xiaobo, was arrested because of his writing against the human rights violations in China. The political power in China has a strong ideological basis. In turn, the ideology of China is based on socialism. A brief digression into the historical past of the political sphere in China will help to understand the current situation.
It is believed that the following two factors influenced the formation of China's political culture:
- The role and value of an individual as well as place in the hierarchy of family and kinship were determined in patriarchal and clan structure of society by social (clan) utility. In turn, the state was represented as the authority of the father of all the people.
- The features of the economic activity, which was based on the need in massive public work on the construction and maintenance of the agricultural and transport infrastructures.
- These two factors gave rise to such features of the political culture as:
- Mandatory submission from younger (due to his/her age or social status) to senior.
- A total prevalence of collective interests (social, family, clan, and state) over the interests of an individual.
- Routine socio-political passivity.
- The possibility of social elevation of an individual based on protecting the interests of their society.
In ancient China, the presence of a strict hierarchical ladder of state officials with a set of privileges and obligations led to the fact that in the minds of Chinese it was traditionally important to determine who is worth over anyone. As a result, in the political culture of the Chinese the relationship between equals causes even more discomfort than the one between leaders and their subordinates. This problem occurs today. Historically the bureaucratic nomenclature in China traditionally formed its own special elite circle where access, however, was not limited to clan boundaries. However, each person who was a part of it had to adhere to the certain rules and regulations, regardless of his/her social status. The specificity of the Confucian model of political culture is that the authority of the head (the supreme ruler or a local chief) is defined by his/her high virtues. What is more, he/she is obliged to confirm it using everyday activities for the benefit of others, and the compliance with the relevant official rituals.
It is recognized that such a model of political organization spawned and cemented such elements of political culture as strict adherence to official subordination and submission of a ruler as the supreme embodiment of virtue, which legitimizes his/her position of a leader. Thus the traditional culture founded on the essential components of Confucianism emphasizes that the collective (society and state) is more important than a single individual, who is first considered to be as a member of society and not as an individual. Unlike Western culture, the Chinese traditional culture was focused not on the free existence of an individual but on his/her subservience to human society and the duty before the community group. As a result, this policy became the theoretical basis of the concept of autocratic rule (Cohen n.d.).
However, Confucianism was not the only factor, which determined the traditional political culture in China. Legalism and its basic doctrines had also great impact on it (Wong 2013). There are the following main ideas of Legalism: 1) Systematic updating of the state apparatus by nominating officials.
- The concept of equal opportunities and a clear gradation within the ruling class.
- The unification of the thinking of bureaucracy.
- Censorial supervision, mutual responsibility and personal responsibility of an officer.
One might also observe the influence of Daoism on the traditional political culture of China (Hansen 2013). The main idea of Daoism of "inaction" implied that the ruler should to govern the people using the example of his own merits. Then the state will be well managed by its own order. The political culture of China is often referred to as a "compromise". The reason for this designation lies in the stereotypes of a Chinese social behavior. It is determined by the correlation between such basic functions as demonstration defined by the requirements of the Official Confucian culture and latent based on the desire to achieve the goal at any cost.
In the 19th century, China got acquainted with Western ideas, including liberalism and socialism in the face of Marxism. Marxism claimed the equality of all classes in matters of distribution of various resources, including financial, food, etc. (Katsiaficas, Kirkpatrick & Emery 1987). Marxism was easily perceived by the Chinese traditional society. The reason for this lies in the fact that some Marxist postulates were similar to the elements of the traditional Chinese political culture. There are collectivism, egalitarianism, social utopianism, and the legitimacy of the overthrow of the "bad" government among them. Thus, the list of the most stable features of the traditional political culture of China, which are still being played in contemporary Chinese society, includes the following ones:
- The priority of the state over society.
- A paternalistic perception of the state and its supreme ruler.
- A critical attitude toward individualistic orientation, the priority of a collective before an individual and collective human existence.
- The concept of a supreme ruler as the embodiment of virtue.
- A socio-political passivity and willingness to participate in the movement initiated from above.
- Unconditional subordination of junior to senior and a strict hierarchy of government officials.
- A compromise nature of the political thought.
- The Chinese perception of themselves as the objects rather than the subjects of power.
Thus, summing up one needs to recognize the fact that modern China continues to implement the ideology based on the ideas of Confucianism, Legalism, and Marxism. Any member of the Chinese society is obliged to follow the rules of the dominant ideology, which is provided by the Chinese Government. In turn, the Chinese ideology is based on the idea that the head of the country is “the father of his people”. In China, people do not have a right to oppose the government and its leader. Otherwise, according to the current ideology, they will violate the principles of obedience and submission, approved primarily by Confucianism.