September 24, 2006
A Critique of “China’s Hidden Democratic Legacy” by Orville Schell
In “China’s Hidden Democratic Legacy,” Orville Schell, states that it has been because of
a balancing act of political and economic reform that China has remained intact as a nation; it is
through the considerable divide of political parties and economic policies that determines
whether or not China will advance globally.
According to Schell, this is not a possibility until
China converts completely to democratic ideals. Schell concludes his article with the fact that it
is prominent that China will need to find an alternative to their current political system, and one
can refer to Kang, Liang, Sun, Hu, and Fang for guidance.
Shell refers to five political reformists, and uses them as references as to what direction
China needs to take for reform.
Four of the reformists were alive during the fall of the Qing
dynasty (Kang, Sun, Hu, and Liang), Fang, however, was not.
Schell uses Kang Youwei as a significant primary source to his argument, presenting
China as an inferior nation unless it can turnover its historical approach of Confucianism and
Shell thought negatively of Confucius and saw him as a hindrance to the modernization
Similarly, Sun Yat-sen, a Cantonese nationalist, maintained the belief of China as one
of the slowest runners in the race towards modernization and in order to catch up China needed
to adopt and accept nationalism.
Sun believed in democracy, however, not for the typical cause
of spreading it, but for the goal of China to one day be able to defend itself against other