New Conservatism (China)

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In China, New Conservatism or neoconservatism (Chinese: 新保守主义; pinyin: xīn bǎoshǒu zhǔyì) is a school of contemporary Chinese political thought arguing for political and economic centralization and the establishment of shared moral values.[1][2] The movement originated from the "neoauthoritarian" school of the 1980s and 90s, and has been described in the West by political scientist Joseph Fewsmith.[3] Neoconservatives are opposed to radical reform projects and argue that an authoritarian and incrementalist approach is necessary to stabilize the process of modernization.[4]

An important neoconservative document was the 1992 China Youth Daily editorial "Realistic Responses and Strategic Options for China after the Soviet Upheaval", which responded to the fall of the Soviet Union.[5] "Realistic Responses" described the end of the Soviet state as the result of "capitalist utopianism", and argued that the Communist Party of China should transform from a "revolutionary party" into a "ruling party".[6] The authors believed that the party should depart from the legacy of the Bolshevik Revolution and reformulate socialism according to China's particular national conditions.[7]

The neoconservatives enjoyed the patronage of Jiang Zemin during his term as Chinese leader (1989–2003), and Jiang's theory of the Three Represents has been described as a "bowdlerized form of neoconservatism".[8] Prominent neoconservative theorists include Xiao Gongqin, initially a leading neoauthoritarian who promoted "gradual reform under strong rule" after 1989,[9] and Wang Huning,[10] who became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party's highest executive body, under Xi Jinping in 2017.[11]

Other than the name, the movement has no connection with neoconservatism in the United States, though, from the standpoint of philosophy, it can be identified as a form of conservative thought, albeit ideologically different from "old conservatism" (旧保守主义).[citation needed]

A 2018 study of schools of political theory in contemporary China identified neoconservatism, still alternatively named neoauthoritarianism, as a continuing current of thought alongside what are now the academically more prominent Chinese New Left, New Confucianism, and Chinese liberalism.[12]


  1. ^ Fewsmith 1995, pp. 637–9.
  2. ^ Zhao 2015, p. 33.
  3. ^ Fewsmith 1995.
  4. ^ Liu 2005.
  5. ^ van Dongen 2019, p. 58.
  6. ^ van Dongen 2019, p. 59.
  7. ^ van Dongen 2019, p. 60.
  8. ^ Moody 2007, p. 151.
  9. ^ van Dongen 2019, p. 53.
  10. ^ Fewsmith 1995, p. 637.
  11. ^ Yi 2017.
  12. ^ Cheek, Ownby & Fogel 2018, p. 112.


  • Cheek, Timothy; Ownby, David; Fogel, Joshua (March 14, 2018). "Mapping the intellectual public sphere in China today". China Information. 32 (1): 108–120. doi:10.1177/0920203X18759789.
  • van Dongen, Els (2019). Realistic Revolution: Contesting Chinese History, Culture, and Politics after 1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1108421300.
  • Fewsmith, Joseph (July 1995). "Neoconservatism and the End of the Dengist Era". Asian Survey. 35 (7): 635–651. JSTOR 2645420.
  • Liu, Chang (2005). "Neo-Conservatism". In Davis, Edward L. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Moody, Peter (2007). Conservative Thought in Contemporary China. Plymouth: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739120460.
  • Yi, Wang (November 6, 2017). "Meet the mastermind behind Xi Jinping's power". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  • Zhao, Suisheng (2015) [2000]. "'We are Patriots First and Democrats Second': The Rise of Chinese Nationalism in the 1990s". In McCormick, Barrett L.; Friedman, Edward (eds.). What if China Doesn't Democratize?: Implications for War and Peace. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 21–48.

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