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China and Magna Carta
Liberty’s Great Charter
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  • Andrew Allison

    It’s not “constitutionalism” of which the Chinese government is afraid but liberty. Hence the distaste for the “Great Charter of the Liberties” (Magna Carta Libertatum).

  • Fat_Man

    The Chinese Communist Party and their fellow travelers on American University faculties (most of the “humanities” and “social science” professors) are on the same page here, they hate liberty and fear the rule of law. They only differ in their tactics, which they must because their environments are different.

  • Jim__L

    Radical change never leaves enough structure behind; you have to spend so much effort rebuilding what *wasn’t* wrong with the old system that you run out of energy before you can fix what was supposed to be fixed.

    You’d think that China would embrace an incremental system like the Anglo-American one. “Some get freedom first”, to paraphrase Deng.

    • Tom

      The problem with incremental change is that it’s not as satisfying as just burning it all down–and, let’s be real here, the rise of Trump and Sanders and Corbyn indicates that we have this problem as well.

      • Jim__L

        On the other hand, wiping the radical slate clean and restarting from a previously known good position has been demonstrated to work pretty well – see 1815.

        • Tom

          Sort of? The Bourbons did not last very long.

          • Jim__L

            In that nation the radicals had done a pretty thorough job of killing enough of the previous players that rebuilding was wasn’t wrong with the old system was just as hard when they reverted. The Terror worked as designed.

            The other countries of Europe did a bit better than France, once Wellington, Metternich, et al had done their work. Peace for a generation, not a bad record, and not a peace of weakness either. That generation saw Europe advancing over the rest of the world by leaps and bounds. This, as opposed to the peace after 1945, which just saw the acceleration of European decline.

            All this is to argue that the Chinese could benefit from (rapidly) imitating the incrementalist approach to freedom, starting with the Magna Carta. (Hooray! Back to the main point of the post.) The sooner they start, the better… they may developmentally catch up with the West soon. Instead of having our stars to steer by anymore (mercantilism, industrialization, etc), they’ll be just as clueless as we’ve been for the last, oh, 500 years — when Europe went from backwater to master of the world.

            This period, not coincidentally, is not too far from the time the eunuchs burned Zheng He’s ships. For that length of time (roughly, from Columbus) Europe had the groundwork laid to pull ahead of China. Our authorities were diffuse, so no single set of eunuchs had the power to burn all the ships. Even if the bankers of Genoa consulted experts who promptly told Columbus “You’re an idiot, the globe is a lot bigger than you’ve calculated”, he could talk Isabella into backing him. China needs just this sort of freedom, the freedom of independent actors that the Magna Carta guarantees, to keep advancing.

            And the rest, as they say, is history. Which is still ongoing, much to the delight of this armchair historian. =)

      • Boritz

        A more moderate position on the Republican side would be to tell Karl Rove and friends that this time we simply must insist that someone receive the candidacy who is not his first choice. Even if he’s not 101% enthusiastic about the person. It’s called a “compromise”, big K.
        The impracticality of such an approach has led directly to Trump.

  • ltlee1

    Don’t understand why Beijing’s Renmin University should display the Magna Carta. China has passed the stage of feudalism long time ago.

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