Here Is Why China May Be Moving towards 'Confucian Democracy'

Here Is Why China May Be Moving towards 'Confucian Democracy'

Here is how President Trump and Xi may be able to reconcile their differences.

On the eve of President Donald Trump’s first state visit to China, President Xi Jinping just made a drastic foreign policy reversal. Beijing would now accept South Korea despite China’s previous objections of having the American anti-missile THAAD deployment in South Korea. This diplomatic rapprochement between Beijing and Seoul would put the Trump White House in a more challenging position on the North Korean issue.

The growing trade and economic relations between China and South Korea are not the only reasons for this policy reversal. Apparently, China has now gained an ally—and perhaps a friend—while President Trump tweets negatively on bilateral trade and South Korea’s leadership. Soon after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Beijing also signed several trade and investment agreements with Russia.

The calculus of these two diplomatic endeavors is purpose-driven to send a clear message to Washington that the “accidental” president in the United States is no longer the world leader to resolve global issues.

Three Revolutions: Comprehensive and Systematic

This diplomatic maneuver is a display of Xi’s Thought that is now enshrined in the Constitution of the CPC. It may be called the modern “Communist Manifesto” for the New Era but it was an evolutionary process to stage the “Third Revolution” of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).


The First Revolution started with Chairman Mao Zedong in 1949. He led the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward to get rid of the backward “feudal” society. The founding generation of PRC considered that the dynastic heritage was an outdated relic of Confucian traditions and a stumbling-block for modernity until the end of Qing Dynasty in 1911. For them, the republicanism that ensued under Dr. Sun Yat-sun and Gen. Chiang-Kai-Shek of the Republic of China was also a transplant of Christian missionaries, Western doctors and English educators to make China a Western nation. For the PRC leadership, Mao’s efforts crystallized the revolutionary force to create an “egalitarian and socialist” society, which eventually ended-up in disaster and tragedy for China.

With Mao’s passing in 1976, the Second Revolution was engineered by Deng Xiaoping. His economic reform and trade liberalization led to unleash the entrepreneurial zeal of the Chinese people. The Deng Revolution made China a manufacturing powerhouse and the largest economy after the United States within a generation.

Now that President Xi has consolidated absolute power as the “chairman of everything”—from the Party, state, military, economy and most importantly the culture—he has sent a “comprehensive and systematic” message that the PRC now has the “cultural confidence” of Confucius to rejuvenate the Chinese nation and its cultural heritage in “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era.” This is the Third Revolution to create a “moderately prosperous society.”

The Confucian Party of China

The Communist Party is in name-only, but the socialist aspects of Xi’s Report resonate with the egalitarian ideas that Mao once espoused through his First Revolution.

President Xi’s “rejuvenation” of the Chinese culture with Confucian values is the hidden message of the New Era of transformation for progressive and assertive China . It would reinvent the Communist Party into a Confucian Party of China—the New Era of CPC—to unify the nation as a Confucian Union.

The Confucian vision of cultural confidence is now combined with Deng’s foundation of a capitalist economy with Chinese characteristics; i.e., running the economy by the “visible hands” of the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). President Xi highlighted the importance of SOEs in his long-speech as high-value for Beijing’s new leadership.

The implementation of the Third Revolution of Xi is to restore the DNA of China’s ancient “Confucian” culture of hierarchical authority that Mao tried unsuccessfully to destroy, and to continue Deng’s market reform by giving primacy to SOEs, where Xi is the chairman. Indeed, there is an enduring Chinese philosophy of “ I Ching ” ( The Book of Change ) of “continuity and change” to explain President Xi’s Thought, which is now synchronized with the Party’s Constitution as a unified force of Confucian doctrine.

Confucian Democracy?

President Xi’s notion of “concentrated power” is antithetical to the democratic values of the West. It is natural for the Western media to characterize Xi in a reflection of “the Great Man Theory” in action as if the accumulated power of populist leader derived from his ruthless anticorruption campaign.

The theory then arguably explained the realities of becoming heroes and leaders of the past. Xi may not have personal charisma, innate intelligence and practical wisdom Mao seemed to have during the brutal First Revolution. Yet Xi has demonstrated the validity of the theory with his political acumen like Deng, a transformative leader.

During his first term, President Xi promoted Confucian values as part of the Chinese DNA in his revival theme of Chinese culture and the “ China Dream .” Confucian teachings are now coming of age in China and around the world as President Xi’s “China brand.” All these things were made possible by Deng’s Thought on openness and market reforms, enabling Beijing to spend and invest money on Xi’s projects like the Confucius Institutes and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It seems that Xi will continue the Deng approach of openness and “globalization” as he reaffirmed to the global community at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland earlier this year.