China’s Progress in Achieving ‘Modernization’

10 May

In the late 1970s, Deng Xiaoping launched the “Four Modernization” plan along with the construction of democratic and legal systems as the self-improvement of socialism, rather than its abandonment. To do so, Deng emphasized the need to build Socialism with Chinese characteristics in order to separate China from the traditional Western path of capitalist modernization. Nevertheless, the main tenets of socialism with Chinese characteristics involved the market economy and opening up to the West.

But what is modernization? While some would mention secularization, the development in science and technology, industrialization, urbanization and to some extent, capitalism, philosophers would emphasize rationality. To achieve modernization is to arrive at a rational way of organizing society.

Rationality can be distinguished between two kinds: Dogmatic and critical rationality. The former believes the importance of objective truths and universal values, to which society can be built on its basis. The latter holds a critical attitude against such truth claims and dogmas, and contends that the most rational way of organizing society is through continuous local interactions and experimentation.

An example of dogmatic rationality can be traced back to the resurgence of neoliberalism in the 1970s, in which the ‘market’ was prophecized as an amoral arena where “individuals maximize their material interests provide the best means for satisfying human aspirations” (Crouch, 2011: 1). Consequently, major powers in the West adopted the dogma of neoliberalism and began the process of deregulation and the removal of trade barriers. Unfortunately, the flaws within the neoliberal doctrine, exposed after the global financial collapse of 2008, caused detrimental global repercussions. The significant point of the neoliberal story is the dangers of dogmatic rationality, where an idea not only becomes righteous, but also performative in the sense that society begins to be re-organized in line with these ideas. If these ideas turn out to be false or delusional, then society are led down a dead-end without realizing it.

Therefore, to achieve modernization, to realize modernity, a crucial element besides economic and social advancement is the importance gaining a level of critical rationality, not just within the government, but at an individual level, without which the potential for exploitation and political / economic domination becomes much more susceptible.


Crouch, Colin (2011) The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. Polity Press. Cambridge.

Cao, T (2005) The Chinese Model of Modern Development, Rutledge. USA.


2 Responses to “China’s Progress in Achieving ‘Modernization’”

  1. cw12g11 May 11, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Kevin Rudd argues that the ‘central challenge for China and its relations with the wider world will be managing its own inexorable rise. Xi Jinping – China’s new President has appeared seemingly comfortable with the huge pressure placed upon his position. He has taken the helm at a time when China is emerging as the world’s largest economy. This will be the first time since George III that a non-English speaking, non-Western, non-democratic state will dominate the global economic order. Last 5 years Xi spent lots of time deepening understanding of international matters, especially Sino – US relations. He is the sort of leader the US leadership can do business with as he seeks to continue China’s modernisation while maintaining strategic stability in East Asia.

    But the core challenge for China and the rest of the world will be managing the rise of China while maintaining and strengthening the current international rules-based order that has underpinned global strategic stability and economic growth since World War II. Will China’s rise fit in with the global multi polar world that we live in? How will China fit in with the globalised world of the UN etc? While China’s economic power has grown rapidly, its military capabilities are significantly less than those of the US. Militarily, the US will remain the world’s only superpower until the middle of the century – that is, a power with truly global strategic reach. China has a great deal of ‘soft power’ but limited ‘hard power’ – to be a true great power you need to excel in both scopes which China will need to achieve if it aims to become the world’s leading hegemon.

    But within the East Asian theatre or within the wider Indo-Pacific region, China’s capacity is becoming greater. Chinese strategic capabilities, the force structure of its military together with its emerging military doctrine are aimed at supporting China’s “core interests” – in which the Chinese include long-term political unity with Taiwan, and the protection of China’s territorial and maritime claims in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

    These claims are hotly contested by a large number of other regional states. Whereas the United States remains neutral on the merits of each of these claims and counter-claims, the South China Sea as well as the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands represent significant flashpoints for the future.

    Political nationalism is alive and well across East Asia. Despite the fact that the economies of the region are increasingly integrated, the fires of political nationalism can easily be stoked. These in turn become increasingly difficult to manage for the governments of the region – be they democratically elected or otherwise. This indicates the problem of East Asian nationalism which is rife in China.

    The key challenge for the region therefore is to build regional security including confidence and security-building measures between the militaries. This is emerging as a crucial task for the East Asia Summit – the pan-regional institution with high-level political participation and an open political and security agenda.

    Beyond the eastern hemisphere, there is an open question of how China will exercise its foreign policy influence across the world. A question that will be answered in the coming months no doubt? Kevin Rudd ‘The West isn’t Ready for the Rise of China’

  2. sb2g10 May 14, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    While defining modernization you state ‘To achieve modernization is to arrive at a rational way of organizing society’. I would question this idea that the fact a nation has achieved modernization means they’re society is organized in a rationale way. If we take the example of the UK, many would argue that troubles amongst the youth today stem from family breakdown which in turn came from policies introduced under Thatcher rule. These policies were all part and parcel of a capitalist drive for modernization. However, whether our society in the UK is ordered in a more ‘rational’ way now than say a hundred years ago is up for debate.

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