Subject: Politics and Culture
Reading Level: Adult / High School
The place that is known as China has been four millennia in the making. And while the geographic boundaries have changed over time, there is an essence that is indeed China. More than a physical space, it is comprised of a series of attitudes and values commonly held although realized differently by groups within society. Like all national identities, it is based on perceptions and bias and is true just often enough to have validity. This commonality is both evident in and perpetuated by economic, political, and social institutions. For many in China, the market revolution of the last thirty years has caused drastic changes in these societal institutions. One wonders the extent to which there will be a resulting change in the shared cultural veneer.
There have been periods of chaos and order, flowering and decline, isolation and internationalism. Although geographic parameters may have shifted during the last 4000 years, one constant has been the ability of authoritarian leaders to exert control disproportionate to their numbers. China’s current leadership, the Communist Party, has been in power for almost 60 years and in many ways copies the model of the great dynastic leaders, yet China exists in a modernizing world. Will Party leaders retain this tight control or like so many empires before them, eventually crumble due to internal weakness and foreign aggression?