The Rise of Legalism

NI: China's Legalist Revival
Her study amounts to a cogent call for cultural realism, a realism that entails an effort to understand the political cultures of our allies and adversaries and how those cultures might influence their internal and external behavior. This is a vital enterprise now as Western political ideas have been largely discredited, or at least are in significant decline, in much of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The response has been a resurgence of ancient, indigenous political ideas and movements now redefined in modern terms. The cataclysmic rise of political Islam in the Middle East is clear to all. Equally consequential over the long term are an emerging national Hinduism in India and the reassertion of Great Russian power in Moscow and Eastern Europe.

In East Asia, the major question is China. There are many factions in the Chinese political debate: New Left intellectuals, neo-Maoists, Westernized reformist liberals, nationalists and militarists. There is also a great deal of talk of a “New Confucianism” promoted in Chinese official discourse as a form of soft authoritarianism that emphasizes harmony, stability, benevolence and avoidance of conflict.

Recent trends in Chinese politics, however, argue for a new look at an ancient political philosophy that has never been far from the center of Chinese political thought and practice—Legalism.

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