May 9 - "China, Past and Present" with Dr. Bill Johnson
As the first in a series of speakers for this years Policy-makers
seminar, professor Johnson gave a general overview of Chinese history
in the context of major traditions or periods. Beginning in the imperial
period, he explained the importance of the Confucian gentry class
and differentiated between the meritocracy of ancient China and the
feudal system of ancient Europe. The second tradition, according to
professor Johnson, attempted to refute the Confucianism of the first.
In response to the western powers that were encroaching on Chinese
sovereignty, the focus turned to liberation from subservience to authority,
including the emperor. The Japanese threat to China's survival reinstated
statism in the third tradition. Sun Yat-Sen felt that to make the
nation free China must sacrifice the freedom of the individual. This
sentiment carried through the era of Mao Zedong. Mr. Johnson described
this third tradition, which encompasses early Chinese Communism as
an aberration in the line of overarching Chinese history. The Reform
Era after Mao's death makes up the fourth tradition. Deng Xiaoping's
economic reforms have been accompanied by a resurgence of traditionalism.
Marxism becomes less applicable as private interests and capitalism
grow more acceptable. Clearly change is occurring in this period.
Professor Johnson indicated that China is more open than many in America
recognize and that the responsibility for China's political future
is in the hand of policymakers because since the imperial period China has been extremely subject to its external environment and America's
behavior toward China will make a great impact its direction.