Commentary on Taisu Zhang, “China’s Coming Ideological Wars”

Commentary on Taisu Zhang, “China’s Coming Ideological Wars”

FLIA experts comment on a recently published essay: Taisu Zhang, “China’s Coming Ideological Wars: In the reform era, economic growth reigned supreme. But now, a revival of competing beliefs has polarized Chinese society,” Foreign Policy March 1, 2016.


Larry Backer:

I very much enjoyed reading Taisu Zhang, “China’s Coming Ideological Wars: In the reform era, economic growth reigned supreme. But now, a revival of competing beliefs has polarized Chinese society,” Foreign Policy March 1, 2016.  It very nicely complemented the reading of Jerome Cohen’s view into China also published by Foreign Policy 22 February 2016 (here) and my comments (here).  Both suggest the emerging orthodoxy in approaches to ”reading” China that tells us as much about ourselves as it may about the Chinese.  Most bracing perhaps for me is the window it opens on the elite project of reading China for consumption by our masses and perhaps theirs as well. Both as well got me thinking about ideology and elites…    Continue Reading


Flora Sapio:

Science is made by moving gradual challenges to old paradigms, and slowly constructing new paradigms. I enjoyed reading Professor Zhang Taisu’s article, because the article contributes to the collective enterprise of constructing a new paradigm for China studies. The article does so by challenging part of the conventional wisdom about the role ideology plays in China, and putting forward a new thesis that explains why ideology is witnessing a resurgence…    Continue Reading


Jean Christopher Mittelstaedt:

Professor Taisu Zhang argues that scholars have neglected the importance (and current rise) of ideological factors in their analyses of China. While in the early 2000s, “the notion that Chinese elites no longer believed in Communism was still a novel one,” today anyone “who insists that Communist ideals still hold sway over Chinese policymaking does so at considerable risk to his or her reputation as a serious China hand.” Professor Zhang maintains that while “the signs of an ideological revival are everywhere,” the impossibility to acknowledge their importance means that their “policy implications have gone largely understudied, if not outright dismissed as insignificant”. This means that there is no incentive for China scholars to acknowledge the importance of ideology because the field looks at it with disdain. Also, while being studied for itself as rhetoric, the implications of ideology on policymaking are understudied. This argument (or way of looking at policy) presupposes that it is possible to decouple ideology from pragmatism (or practice/ policy) in the case of China…    Continue Reading


Shaoming Zhu:

Recently, ideology has become a popular conversation piece in China. A recent illustration is the Cyberspace Administration of China ordering Sina to shut down Ren Zhiqiang’s microblog accounts on their platforms. Ren Zhiqiang is a property mogul in China who has more than 30,000,000 followers on his social media account. Last summer, Ren shared and commented on a post of the “Youth League Central Committee” about “Faith in Communism.” Ren stated that “Communism has been a lie for decades.” His comment was strongly protested by the “Youth League Central Committee” and some party media. In February, he made another post criticizing President Xi Jinping’s recent speech that Party media should always uphold Party’s will. Ren is not only a party member who used to be rewarded as “the outstanding CCP member” but also a typical businessman who has benefited from and is strongly vocal on economic reform. This event has caused a serious fermentation in terms of ideology. People have started discussing the relationship between ideology and the recent policies of the anti-corruption campaign, legal reform, and cultural supervision…    Continue Reading


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