Chinese decision-making in response to



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China That Still Can Say No (Song, Zhang, Qiao, Tang and Gu, 1996), How China Can Say No (Zhang,
1996), Renminbi Can Say No (Tong, 1998).
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demonstrations across China in April 2005 (mainly against Japan’s quest for the UN Security Council Permanent membership, among other historical grudges. The latter demonstrations, the largest anti-Japanese incident since the end of World War II, were well-organized, and even utilizing Internet and mobile phone text messages. While quickly quieted down by the government, both events vividly suggest that public nationalistic and patriotic sentiment can be easily ignited against a foreign power.
Beijing’s handling of the protests was notably cautious, in contrast to its nationalistic rhetoric against the US and Japan. The CCP leaders clearly were trying to avoid any chance that the mass nationalist movement might backfire into widespread demonstrations against their own ruling status. In the meantime, even in a fast changing era, China has by and large maintained two aspects in its political system – bureaucratic authoritarianism
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and Chinese traditional thinking and philosophy. China has managed to integrate the CCP’s Marxist-
Leninist organizational life and its millennial bureaucratic tradition into a bureaucratic authoritarianism of its own (Solomon, 1999). China had developed the largest and most sophisticated bureaucratic system in the world centuries prior to Marx Weber’s classic discussions of bureaucracy.
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Bureaucracy always has been an important source of influence in policy-shaping and policy-making, although the decisions were ultimately made by the emperors indifferent dynasties. In the early years of the PRC, the Guillermo A. O’Donnell (1979) uses bureaucratic authoritarianism in Modernization and Bureaucratic-
Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics (Berkeley, CA Institute of International Studies, University of California. Bureaucratic authoritarianism refers to authoritarian systems in which (1) bureaucracies and technocrats play a pivotal role in politics and policy-making and (2) social sectors have strong organizational strength.
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Weber’s concept of bureaucracy represents a more developed, mature model than the Chinese bureaucratic system that gradually evolved through different dynasties and emperors.
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personality cult of Mao greatly shadowed the decision power of the bureaucracy. Although Deng had a similar dominance over Chinese politics as Mao, Deng Xiaoping’s era marked a gradual transition from Mao’s totalitarian control toward more institution- boundless idiosyncratic policy-making. Nonetheless, the transition in the political sphere was not significant, even with the force of extensive economic reforms. Political authority, in a general consensus among China scholars, still flows from top down, although in the recent decades the central government’s power has gradually declined with growing bargaining power for provincial and local governments (e.g., contributors in Hamrin and Zhao, The CCP remains the sole, powerful, political party without Western-style electoral competition. Societal interests continue to be represented, articulated and aggregated from channels within the CCP. The same is true for resolutions to disputes or conflicts among different societal interests. Policy-making still heavily relies on the policy and/or political directives from the centralized, hierarchical bureaucratic institutions that are firmly controlled by the CCP without an independent legislature and judiciary. Horizontally, the intra-Party political authority and decision-making rules have struggled between the individualistic principle and the institution principle (Sullivan,
1986). Since 1949 some of the CCP leaders (e.g., Liu Shaoqi) have committed to establishing an impersonal, institutional structure with authority vested in party committees and with procedurally rational collective decision-making (Sullivan, 1986:
607). Some scholars suggest that Mao Zedong, only first among equals in general, By contrast, literature on fragmented authoritarianism looks at the mid-level bureaucracy and focuses creatively on the shift from bureaucratic central command through the planning apparatus to interunit bargaining in economic governance (Hamrin and Zhao, 1995: xxvii also see Lampton, 1987; Lieberthal and Oksenberg, 1988)
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followed the principle of collective leadership in the early s (Solomon, 1971: 257-
260; Sullivan, The first session of the 8
th
CPC National Congress in 1956 downplayed arbitrary leadership and personal authority and strengthening the institutional collective leadership at all levels of the CCP, although Mao appeared to be the biggest obstacle in implementing the structural reforms (Sullivan, 1986). The Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) of the CCP is the most important decision-making institution in the party-state.
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The few political elites within the PSC – normally between five and nine – determine fangzhen (general principles) as well as issues of paramount importance (such as major foreign policy decisions. How decisions are made within the PSC is never clear to those outside. The mechanism is widely believed to be built on consensus among the PSC members. However, the PSC’s decisions, to a great extent, ultimately have to follow the opinions of the predominant leader (i.e., Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao) given the hierarchical structure within the PSC.
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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is a vital institutional organ that is responsible for most aspects of foreign affairs.
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In general terms, the MFA serves three The exception of Mao’s consensus leadership style was the decision to enter the Korean War, which was opposed by many senior leaders in the CCP and the PLA (Teiwes, 1984). Sullivan (1986) argues the opposite by showing how Mao ignored the collective leadership principle and purged colleagues who disagreed with him in the s.
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Hermann and Hermann (1989, Table 2) specifically points out that the PSC was the ultimate decision unit in China between 1959 and August 1966, when the Cultural Revolution began. The Cultural Revolutionary Group was the ultimate decision unit during the Cultural Revolution. A good example is the CCP’s decision to use force to end the 1989 Tiananmen protests. Although the majority of the PSC had opposed doing so, Deng Xiaoping, along with the minority of the hardliners (e.g., Li Peng), still managed to order the troops. After the crackdown, those who opposed the decision within the PSC (including Zhao Ziyang) were ousted from the top leadership. In addition, the Ministry of Commerce (previously known as the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, or MOFTEC) shares responsibility with the MFA in foreign economic affairs, e.g.,
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primary functions – routine information gathering, policy-making, and memory. It provides vital information channels to the decision-makers in the Politburo and other decision-making bodies (e.g., the People’s Congress. The MFA also is responsible for routine foreign-policy making and implementation of most foreign policy decisions. Many MFA officials particularly specialize in the foreign affairs in certain geographic regions where they are posted and seldom rotate to any of the other regions. Nonetheless, the nature and functions of the MFA determine some of its major weaknesses (1) the MFA officers are mostly bureaucrats who are technically incompetent in many specific policy areas and (2) the MFA has no domestic constituency and thus no accountability Hill, These problems potentially could create gaps and lags in their policy- making and implementation. Solomon (1999: 162-170), among other scholars, emphasizes that fundamental differences exist between Chinese and American political cultures. The influence of political culture on the handling of domestic and/or foreign politics is profound, which, however, usually is subtly and even undetectably manifested through world outlooks, conceptions of social and international relations, approaches to political conflict, bureaucratic structure, informational management and decision-making. negotiations on international trade and accession to the GATT/WTO. As far as national security and foreign policy crises are concerned, the Ministry of Commerce is not of particular importance therefore I choose not to discuss its function and impact in detail here. The previous footnote serves as a good example. In terms of specific technical aspects of international trade, the Ministry of Commerce, rather than the MFA, played a more significant role in the negotiations on
China’s accession to the WTO with the member states. Examples of other technical matters, which are beyond the MFA’s capability and thus require its coordination with other relevant agencies and organizations, include international environmental disputes, protection of intellectual property, international civil aviation administration, etc. Other institutional weaknesses of the MFA include overextension of mini-foreign offices and lack of resources (Hill, 2003).
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Generally speaking, on the philosophical level, contemporary Chinese politics inherits and maintains traditions in Chinese political culture rooted in Confucianism and Taoism that emphasize hierarchy, loyalty and guanxi (or relations, connections, also known as patron-client relations or network-based clientelism). In the high time of the communist propaganda and the personality cult of Mao, Confucianism was completely denied as one of the feudal legacies from the past in numerous ideological campaigns
(e.g., the “Anti-Lin Biao, Anti-Confucius” Campaign during the Cultural Revolution. Revolutionary campaigns destroyed not only historical artifacts from the imperial time but also attempted to eradicate Confucian way of thinking from people’s minds. In recent years, however, Beijing seems to have started quietly restoring the attachment of Confucian traditions to the current regime.
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For instance, the Chinese government has sponsored the establishment of dozens of Confucius Institutes worldwide (e.g., South Korea, the US, the UK, Bangladesh, Kenya, among many others) via coordination of the MFA and the Ministry of Education. The purpose of the institutes is to promote Chinese culture and spread China’s influence in those countries through training in the Chinese language and traditions. From the constructivist perspective, this clearly demonstrates that an implicit restoration of Chinese traditional values and thinking have become another means for the CCP to legitimize its governing status and enhance the peaceful image of China’s rise, as well as its soft power (Nye, 1990, 2004).
Guanxi is another crucial, widespread component in traditional Chinese culture, It is quiet in the sense that it has not been actively promoted to the public only the bureaucratic institutions (e.g., the MFA, the Ministry of Education, etc) and some institutions of higher education are involved in the actual implementation.
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developed through the influence of Confucian political tradition.
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Pye (1967, 1982), among other scholars, offers the earliest comprehensive look at guanxi and its implications for Chinese politics. Walder (1987) coins the term ‘neo-traditionalism’ to describe the resurgence of network-based clientelism in the CCP after the period of
Mao’s personality cult and how the resurgence of clientelism shapes and manages society. Solomon (1999) also offers an insightful observation of Chinese negotiating practice featuring the games of guanxi (or relationship games. The traditional Confucian society is built on cultivation and management of interpersonal connections that often embody a sense of friendship; people do not trust impersonal legality. In the Chinese perception, terms such as friendship and old friends indicate a strong sense of obligation to provide support or help because Chinese society values collectivism and interdependence. Moreover, western scholars find three distinctive unknowns associated with Chinese foreign policy decision-making (Bobrow, Chan and Kringen, 1977: 27): (1) elite perceptions and policy responses (2) participants in decision-making and their interactions and (3) the analytic-cognitive basis for decision-making. In particular, fundamental complexity is found in differences between Chinese and Western belief systems about the structure and dynamics of international crises. For instance, the term
wei ji’ (or crisis) embeds two layers of meaning in Chinese danger as well as opportunity, reflecting the Chinese dialectic way of looking at a crisis situation. Chinese leaders perceive the relative capability of actors and China’s domestic economic and political crises in a more nuanced fashion. Chinese doctrine stresses The influence of Confucianism is far reaching in many other Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc.
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dialectical reasoning, which is seen as part of the orthodox worldviews in Marxism-
Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought (Bobrow, Chan and Kringer, 1979). In dealing with international crises, four bimodal attitude pairs – (1) optimism-pessimism; (2) boldness- caution (3) rigidity-flexibility; and (4) emotional arousal (subjectivity)-analytic distance objectivity) – provide mental readiness and cognitive heuristics for management of long- term Chinese foreign policy strategies as well as short-term decision tactics for situations requiring immediate action (Bobrow, Chan and Kringen, 1979: 54-67). Another example is the deliberate ambiguity, even covert or secrecy demonstrated in Beijing’s handling of foreign (and military) affairs. From a cultural perspective, Gaenslen (1986) contends that the cultural differences between China (along with Japan and Russia) and the US have significant implications for their different patterns of collective and individual decision-making. In particular, laboratory experiments indicate that Chinese decision-makers prefer secrecy in decision-making compared to their American counterparts, because secrecy helps maintain not only decision-makers’ public persona but also psychological distance from the outsiders
(Gaenslen, 1986: 96, 100). In the eyes of many American foreign-service officials, in diplomatic negotiations, their Chinese counterparts are skilled in not revealing their position until the other side’s position is fully exposed (Solomon, 1999: In the eyes of Western observers and analysts who are accustomed to abstracting logical analyses with clear definitions, categorization and propositions, lack of transparency in China’s Based on memoranda of conversation (or ‘memcons’), interviews and memoirs of a number of US foreign-service officials who have had firsthand experiences with their Chinese counterparts, Solomon
(1999) provides a comprehensive account of Chinese negotiating strategies and tactics. Solomon (1999:4-5) argues that the distinctive Chinese negotiating style derives from a distinct combination of three major sources of influence (1) the Western diplomatic practice (2) the Marxist-Leninist tradition learned from the Soviet Union and the International Communist Movement and (3) most importantly, China’s own cultural tradition and political practices.
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defense research and development programs, military budget and expenditures is usually attributed to one of the fundamental institutional pathologies in the communist system. While this is true, another source deeply rooted in the traditional Chinese strategic thinking and military stratagem is frequently ignored. This tradition emphasizes ambiguity and secrecy as the kind of wisdom with which victory is possible even when the opponent has greater physical strength in the battlefield (Zhang and Yao, 2004). The spirit of this kind of strategic thinking is evident in Deng Xiaoping’s character principle for handling international affairs, as brought up in 1991 at a Politburo meeting Observe the development soberly, maintain our position, meet the challenge calmly, hide our capacities and bide our time, remain free of ambition, never claim leadership Furthermore, traditional Chinese military thinking holds a different view on the causes and aims of war from traditional Western thinking (Zhang and Yao, 2004). The philosophers and thinkers in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period (770-221 BC, including Mo Zi, Guan Zi, Mencius and Xun Zi, all emphasize yi
(or moral justice) of war and condemn pursuit of li (or interests) in a war.
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Mao
Zedong’s military doctrine inherited from this tradition by upholding the dao (or moral justice. He firmly believes that the side that acquires dao can always win regardless of its power and physical strength.
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Although contemporary Chinese foreign policy under the Western influence becomes more and more realist and interest-oriented, a traditional focus on the moral and ethical dimensions of peace and conflict still is influential in
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“Zi” in Mo Zi (or Micius), Guan Zi, Xun Zi, Kong Zi (or Confucius, and Meng Zi (or Mencius) is a respectful suffix (usually added after their surnames) for great thinkers and philosophers. Many scholars believe that Mao’s beliefs and perceptions of this nature contributed to his decision to enter the Korean War (e.g., Chen, 2001).
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China’s Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and the most recent Peaceful Rise theory. It was not until Deng Xiaoping’s era that Beijing explicitly put forward national interests in its foreign policy rhetoric (Deng, 1993; from Zhao and Yao, 2004). In summary, studies of Chinese foreign policy have traditionally emphasized factors pertinent to strategic culture and political psychology, along with their interactions with domestic institutions and interests, international factors and other system-level variables.
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For these reasons, the rational choice approach is viewed as seriously limited when it comes to explaining and predicting Chinese foreign policy- making. Western rationality, with its emphasis on cost-benefit analysis, is considered to be especially incompatible with Eastern or Oriental (or simply Chinese) ways of thinking
(Whiting, 1975; Chan, 1978; Bobrow, Chan and Kringen, 1979; Adelman and Shih,
1993; Shih, 1990, 1998; Yu, 1994; Johnston, 1998; Solomon, 1999; Huang, Given the great power held among the small number of top political leaders, these elements are likely to play an even more important role in Chinese foreign policy decision-making.

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