avatar
Rachel Lu

Chinese Professor’s Widely-Mocked Essay: Democracy Held Back By “Insufficient Theory”

Let's talk about how to make China democratic, in theory.

Political theorists, put on a suit, shine your shoes, and brush up on your Mandarin. Your finest hour may be about to arrive.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has yet to embrace democracy, but not because of a fear of people power or the entrenchment of interest groups. Instead, it is “largely because of insufficient preparation of theoretical backing,” {{1}}[[1]]很大程度上缘于理论准备不足 [[1]] according to a recent essay written by Professor Gong Fangbing of China’s National Defense University, published on People’s Net, the news site owned by People’s Daily. 

Professor Gong argues that although the Chinese Communist Party became the sole ruling party of China more than 60 years ago, the political theories that inform and direct its organization and its policies have yet to make the transition from those of a “revolutionary party” to those of a “ruling party.” He believes that a new political theory needs to be formed in order for the Communist Party to come to terms with new political realities and to share power.

You can have this when there is sufficient theory

That all sounds good and reasonable in an ivory tower, but the essay quickly became the laughing stock of China’s social media, with “insufficient theory” emerging as a new Internet meme. 

The official account of New Weekly, a Guangzhou-based magazine, tweeted on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, “Lunch is delayed due to insufficient theory.” @丽江诺壹咖啡屋主人 goes a step further, “Because of insufficient theory, constipation continues.” {{5}}[[5]]因为理论准备不足,所以还在便秘当中。[[5]]

@wj771 quips, “Now I get it, the Chinese soccer team did not win the World Cup because of insufficient theory; I also didn’t win a five-million yuan lottery because of insufficient theory. The Party papers are incisive indeed.” {{2}}[[2]]这才知道,国足没有得到世界杯,是因为理论准备不足;我没有中500万,也是因为理论准备不足。党报看问题就是透彻!!![[2]] 

The unintended hilarity of its headline aside, the essay actually acknowledges the urgent need for democratic reforms of China’s political system and the possibility of power-sharing by the Communist Party, leading some commentators to speculate that its publication is a sign that China’s incoming leaders may be contemplating serious steps towards political reforms.   

Where is Locke when you really need him?

Others are less forgiving, believing that the essay simply makes poor excuses for the lag in Chinese democratic reforms. Attorney Yuan Yulai (@袁裕来律师) tweets, “It’s only natural to conduct democratic reforms and return power to the people. If you steal something, you return it to the owner. Why does that need theoretical proof?” {{3}}[[3]]民主政治改革,还政于民,天经地义。偷了东西,要还给主人,还需要理论认证?[[3]] @禅宗七祖 tweets, “The real reason they blame lack of theory is that they need democratization but also want to keep their ruling position. This is a tall order for political theorists. Can you draw a circle that’s also a square?” {{6}}[[6]]怪罪理论不足的根子在于:既要民主化,又要维护领导地位。这就给理论界出了难题,你给我画一个方的圆看看[[6]]

Arm-chair political theorists, if you have a solution to this problem, Chinese leaders in Zhongnanhai are all ears. 

5 Comments
Jump To Comments
avatar

Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • Pingback: The Sinocism China Newsletter For 10.12.12 | Sinocism

  • Pierre d’ici

    Funny!
    The right point I believe: “The real reason they blame lack of theory is that they need democratization but also want to keep their ruling position. This is a tall order for political theorists. Can you draw a circle that’s also a square?”

  • Pierre d’ici

    Funny!
    The right point I believe: “The real reason they blame lack of theory is that they need democratization but also want to keep their ruling position. This is a tall order for political theorists. Can you draw a circle that’s also a square?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Laudig/1188014994 Steve Laudig

    “Where is Locke when
    you really need him?” If you must ask then here are some possible answers:

    If you are to believe
    some, he was making some profit on the slave trade. In “1671 Locke, along with
    Lord Shaftsbury and many others, buys shares in the Royal Africa Company – the
    company chartered by the crown to carry out the slave trade for Great Britain;
    he sells the shares at a profit in 1675.”

    http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/locke.html

    or perhaps helping to “draft
    the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas, which created a feudal
    aristocracy and left slaves under the complete control of their masters.”

    While some “argue that
    “Locke’s statements regarding unenclosed property helped justify the Native
    American displacement. These critics often accuse him of hypocrisy.”

    http://onlinephilosophyclub.com/john-locke.php

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Laudig/1188014994 Steve Laudig

    “Where is Locke when
    you really need him?” If you must ask then here are some possible answers:

    If you are to believe
    some, he was making some profit on the slave trade. In “1671 Locke, along with
    Lord Shaftsbury and many others, buys shares in the Royal Africa Company – the
    company chartered by the crown to carry out the slave trade for Great Britain;
    he sells the shares at a profit in 1675.”

    http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/locke.html

    or perhaps helping to “draft
    the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas, which created a feudal
    aristocracy and left slaves under the complete control of their masters.”

    While some “argue that
    “Locke’s statements regarding unenclosed property helped justify the Native
    American displacement. These critics often accuse him of hypocrisy.”

    http://onlinephilosophyclub.com/john-locke.php