“Change is referred to as any modification in the social and cultural organization of a society as a result of changes in social structures and processes” (Bukisa 4).
As such, change can be described as the willingness to adapt new ways of doing things after realization that some things are different from how they were practiced before. On the other hand, continuity refers to the social and cultural factors that remain unaltered within a society (Bukisa 4). Therefore, continuity allows for stable transitions of various values from one generation to another.
In the Chinese society, the attachment of specific values and the introduction of free will resulted in major reforms that allowed both continuity and change to take form. In this paper, the aspects of political, religious and ideological systems are discussed in relation to their influence on both continuity and change respectively. As such, the influence of these systems on China’s change and continuity are as discussed under the following titles.
2. China’s Political System
Dating back to around 3,500 years ago, China has been recorded as the oldest and continuous major civilization in the world (Fact Monster 14). The country has been established through successive dynasties that existed over several centuries ago. The formation of powerful dynasties allowed the Chinese to exercise authority over existing forces around their territories. Also, the development of a means of communication through establishment of a national language increased China’s growth and political stability.
Established in 1644, the Quing (Ching) dynasty served as the longest dynasty in the history of China. In addition, it was the last dynasty to be established in China that gained control of many borders in a short-term period of half a century. “Some of the borders that were gained by the dynasty included the Xinjiang, Yunnan, Tibet, Mongolia, and Taiwan” (Fact Monster 14). As the founders of the Qing dynasty, the Manchu established and maintained their rule through their mastering of martial arts.
However, the dynasty was weakened during the 19th century due to inversion by western powers such as the United States and Britain. Interested in resources and power, the western powers exploited the Chinese and attempted to take control of most of their territories, thus, weakening the Qing dynasty even more.
The weakening of the Qing dynasty resulted in Reformist Chinese officials proposing the adoption of Western technology in order to regain their powers and eliminate the intruding authorities (Fact Monster 14). However, the Qing court blocked the move by undermining any possibilities of the Western powers being a threat to the dynasty.
Inspired by revolutionary ideas of Sun Yat-sen, military officials, students and sections of the population started campaigning against the dynasty in order to allow the creation of a republic.
By October 1911, the dynasty was overthrown and General Yuan Shikai was selected as the first president of the republic of China (Fact Monster 14). Later in 1949, Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C) (Fact Monster 14). This marked a major change after which P.R.C adopted the political and economic models of the Soviet example. Change was an integral part of the Chinese political stability and general growth, therefore, it was inevitable.
Chinese leaders initiated change and identified reform of government industries with a global perspective of attaining economic stability. The willingness to accept and implement change in the political system of the Peoples Republic of China has encouraged tremendous growth of its economy. Furthermore, the government is determined in promoting the rule of law in order to initiate better governance. “For instance, the establishment of the Administrative Procedure Law gave citizens the power to sue any government official for abuse of authority or malfeasance” (Fact Monster 14).
In 1979, China adopted the pinyin system as a strategy of increasing its recognition in the global arena. The system helped in the simplification of the Chinese language and was used as the basis for renaming all its cities. In the long run, the system happened to be very beneficial as more uses were attached to the simplified language. Some of the new uses of the simplified language include; naming of Chinese streets, writing of textbooks and writings for commercial signs.
An example effect of the pinyin system is the change in the spellings of names such as Beijing which was spelled as Peking before adoption of the system. In order to allow for uniformity in names of places in China, the United States later adopted the system.
3. China’s Religious System
In the last half a century, China’s religious policies have evolved and more religious freedom is now experienced. Despite the fact that the ruling Communist Party advocates atheism, it respects the freedom of worship by the accepted religions (Xiaowen 1).
However, there are only five religions that have been accepted in China and include; Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism and traditional Taoism. “Buddhism is the largest religion with approximately 100 million adherents; while, other religions assume lower figures” (Fact Monster 14). “For instance, there are an estimated 5 million Catholics, 15 million Protestants, and 20 million Muslims” (Fact Monster 14).
Religion has a significant influence on the Chinese people and plays an important part in the lives of many of them. However, since the Chinese government controls the religious movements within the country, unidentified religions sects can result in afflictions.
Being the only ancient civilization that had never been interrupted by outside culture, their religions enjoyed the pride of being patriotic (Xiaowen 1). The government was well known for its etiquettes and rites and most of its religion was slightly influenced by the continual invasions of foreign powers. The Chinese population value and will always advocate for peace and good morals within the society. Very strong implications may result from wrong doing and crimes within the Chinese society.
4. China’s Ideological Systems
“An ideology refers to a unified set of ideas that binds together a set of beliefs in a society setting” (Bukisa 4). This can be described is simple terms as the ideas or thoughts that influence a persons goals, actions and expectations. In China, the role of ideology has played a key role in molding it into the current state (Gimenez 1). Some of the roles played by ideology in China are described in the paragraphs that follow.
The Marxist-Leninist and Maoist ideologies played a significant role in influencing the Chinese foreign policy that adversely affected the government’s interpretations of world events. As such, the influence of China’s foreign policy in relation to its ideological components has introduced the notion that conflict and struggle are inevitable, and is characterized by the following (The Influence of Ideology 3):
A strong focus on imperialism opposition.
Determination to spread communism throughout the world, and specifically via the Chinese model.
Implementation of the Maoist concept of using flexible response while adhering to fundamental principles.
“The assumption that conflict is always present in the world has been the most basic aspect of China’s ideological view of the world” (The Influence of Ideology 3). However, the conflict is assumed not to be necessarily a military conflict. From the Marxist-Leninist perspective, all past transformation and development occurred through a series of struggles between the nations, divisions within nations, or wider forces like imperialism and socialism (The Influence of Ideology 3).
“According to Mao, when such contradictions are understood, they can be exploited by winning over the many, opposing the few, and crushing the enemies one after the other” (The Influence of Ideology 3).
Powered by the Leninist policy of combining forces to oppose others in a united front, Chinese leaders believe in uniting forces so as to be able to counteract the perceived future contradictions in the world (The Influence of Ideology 3).
For many years China has believed that there must be disagreements between nations in the world. Their argument for this notion is that when nations disagree, they come up with a solution and understand one another in a better way. “As such, the notion that world events depict a struggle between opposing forces remains stable and an unchanged idea in China” (The Influence of Ideology 3).
The second key ideological component of the Chinese foreign policy is the opposition to imperialism or dominion by foreign powers (The Influence of Ideology 3). Chinese leaders have implemented the Leninist ideology which placed strong emphasis on the campaign against imperialism; especially as a result of their exploitation by foreign forces during the 19th century. Since 1949, China’s implementation of the Leninist ideology has had it focus on the following oppositions (The Influence of Ideology 3):
In the 1950s, China focused on opposing the United States Imperialism.
In the 1960s, it focused on opposing collusion between the Soviet revisionism and United States imperialism.
In the 1970s, it focused on opposing Soviet hegemony or social-imperialism.
In the 1980s, it focused on opposing hegemony by the United States and Soviet.
“The third component of China’s foreign policy is the extent of its determination in advancing communism throughout the world” (Gimenez 1). During the 1950s and 1960s Chinese leaders played an important role in the worldwide armed struggle against all colonial powers.
China increased its support to forces opposing the colonial powers by exposing them as exploitative and a barrier to the progress of people in the victimized societies (The Influence of Ideology 3). China has since continued to show its solidarity in following principles, but also, they allow some degree of flexibility (The Influence of Ideology 3).
In conclusion, China’s political, religious and ideological systems have influenced both change and continuity from various perspectives as described above. Despite being a strong communist society, China has created room for change with regards to culture, religion and political aspects. “As a result, the government of China has encouraged the peaceful coexistence with all other nations regardless of their social systems or ideology” (The Influence of Ideology 3).
Bukisa. “Belief Systems and Buddhism.” Share Your Knowledge. Bukisa.com, 3 Feb. 2010. Web. 18 June 2011.
Fact Monster. “U.S. Department of State: China.” From Information Please. Factmonster.com, Aug. 2007. Web. 18 June 2011.
Gimenez, Martha. “Ideology in China.” University of Colorado. Colorado.edu, 1978. Web. 18 June 2011.
The Influence of Ideology. “China: The Influence of Ideology.” Ita. Photius.com, July. 1987. Web. 19 June 2011.
Xiaowen, Ye. “China’s Religions Retrospect and Prospect.” China. China.org.cn, 19 Feb. 2001. Web. 18 June 2011.