Unique and versatile governance

Deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) leave the Great Hall of the People after the closing meeting of the fourth session of the 13th NPC in Beijing, capital of China, March 11, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The United Nations institutions and all the international and multilateral agreements that span the globe are not the only source of global governance. It rests, as does the order of any society, on the shared beliefs and practices of people, in this case the peoples of the world, taken in their entirety.

For this reason, the example of China’s governance becomes ever more important.

The contribution that China will make to the world of tomorrow arises from its own unique form of governance with roots in millennia of history.

China has always been different. It has a history of predominantly centralized administration that spans many centuries. It grafted education onto social status. Its governance system perpetuated the lifelong study and practice of traditional culture on the part of its personnel and all who aspired to office.

Although associated with the name of Confucius, that culture is rooted in a moral code governing family life and social relations that has permeated Chinese society since time immemorial.

There is a special emphasis in Chinese culture on the embodiment of rules in relationships and the fusion of moral principles with social interaction. Only a neologism like “recipropriety” can begin to convey this unique cultural character of Chinese social relations.

The Communist Party of China’s watchword, socialism with Chinese characteristics, is as easily understood in China as a message of continuity. With more than 90 million members, the Party is featured at every level of social organization, from the village or the factory up to the highest levels of government, as the contemporary guardian of Chinese values and moral order.

China boasts a versatile governance system that responds to the changes of the present. Matching principles with pragmatism, it rivals the fabled frameworks of the West, summed up widely as “liberal” or “representative democracy”.

If one mistakenly treats China’s present system as a momentary anomaly, then the converse and equivalent mistake is to regard the Western order as the long-standing and abiding expression of universal values.

To understand China’s place in the world today, we have to recognize how peculiar the West is. China’s unique governance system escapes the conventional categories of Western political thought. Technocracy has been one Western term attempting to convey the transformed nature of modern governance. For China, my suggestion is that a new term is needed. “Humanocracy” comes closer to conveying the pervasive, societywide relations between the people and the Party, and the Party’s role in guarding social values.

The world needs the virtues of China’s own governance system to be applied to global governance. China has proved through its attainment of national goals, notably this year in the Party’s first-centenary goal of achieving moderate prosperity for all, how its governance delivers results. The Belt and Road Initiative, meanwhile, is extending this capacity to mobilize people for collective goals far beyond its borders.

It is in goal orientation that China demonstrates the distinctive cultural capacity of its governance. Its system, people, Party and the State continue to prove how an alternative to Western models of representative government can prosper.

The author is a fellow of the British Academy of Social Sciences and honorary president of the Global China Academy in the United Kingdom. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.