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SU CHANGHE: ‘Liberal democracy’ is not the only development model

| 2015-04-07
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Fukuyama’s dilemma lies in the ideological anxiety that the dominance of Western liberal democracies has come to an end. In my opinion, we need to pay attention to the following three points in order to have a deep insight into the Western theories of democratic politics while reading works about modern liberty and democracy by Western authors, including Fukuyama.

First is the theological way of thinking. The English-language academic world believes that the concept of liberty and democracy is unassailable and almighty while opposing concepts are immoral and backward. Liberty and democracy are analogous to deities in theological politics. And one questions a “deity,” he or she is branded a “heretic.” It is clear that such logic is not founded on objective analysis.

Second is ideological promotion. Hegemonic states are very inclined to elevate  their particular and local values to the status of universal values and claim their ideologies are the only reasonable ones. This practice is expounded upon in The German Ideology by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Therefore, the ideas of Fukuyama, in fact, corresponded to the diplomacy and external propaganda of the US for the short time after the end of Cold War. And that is the reason for the short-lived popularity of “universal value.” However, the constant state of international relations should be multipolar rather than unipolar.

The third is national governance. On one hand, we should recognize that liberty and democracy play a role in improving national governance. On the other hand, we should be aware that politics is in essence the science of governing a country and that all roads can lead to the same goal. The ideology of liberty and democracy is not the only means of national governance. Faced with a barrage of questions, Fukuyama modified his opinions and began to examine the performance of national governance, which is a focal point of Chinese political sciences.

In fact, varied development paths also can be found in the West. For instance, Germany follows a path different from that of Britain and America. Britain once established many colonies and the US set up innumerable military bases overseas. As a result, wars frequently occurred in the 20th century. By contrast, China adopted a different path and has committed itself to a peaceful development that attaches equal importance to internal development and mutually beneficial cooperation with the outside world.

At present, international relations are undergoing historic changes. A new world history is unfolding. In 2015, which marks the 70th anniversary of the victory of World Anti-Fascist War and the establishment of the United Nations, all nations are turning their attention to the international order, showing that we are at a critical juncture of choice and development.


Su Changhe is a professor from the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University.