Teaching Democracy in Beijing

Over at The American Prospect, I have a piece up based on the research I did while studying political liberalism in China (courtesy of a fellowship from the U.S. Fulbright program). As part of my research, I interviewed liberal scholars, teachers, and writers in various cities around China, learning a lot about the intellectual landscape of Chinese liberalism. I also saw how, despite the constraints placed on public debate in China, these thinkers manage to have earnest political conversations with each other, students, and readers in print and online:

For Liu Yu, serious discussion of fundamental political principles is key to China’s future. “In a way, China now is like the 18th century of America or Europe,” she says. “You’re at a crossroads, you’re in a place of encountering all different possibilities.” She worries that the Internet, often considered the home of Chinese liberal dissent, is more conducive to rumors and polarizing disagreement than real debate. In China’s academic circles, discussions abound over how China’s political institutions could improve. The ideas on the chalkboard range from complete laissez-faire capitalism to new forms of communism, including institutions inspired by traditional Chinese thinkers like Confucius or Mencius that don’t easily fall into Western political categories of left- or right-wing.

Liu Yu is one of two professors featured in the article; I’m currently working on publishing more of the interviews other material I have from my research, and will be sure to post here as I do.


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