Freedom and its limitations: The contemporary mainland Chinese debate over liberalism

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    The emergence of Chinese liberalism carries with it a specific China-centric character that reflects both a Chinese and a foreign focus on the nation's complicated domestic situation. As part of the research dialogue on the intellectual public sphere in China, this article provides a historical perspective of the development of contemporary Chinese liberalism and explores the complexities of those Chinese liberals' engagement with a number of key issues in political thought, both among themselves and with their principal opponents, the New Left. We review four themes in these ongoing debates: the relationship between freedom and equality; the liberals' demands for a more open civil society; their call for balanced social structures, including a mechanism for expressing interest; and their search for a new synthesis of Chinese tradition with a strong nation state. Contemporary Chinese liberals propose their visions for a China that operates within and against a Euro-American-dominated system. Thus, their interpretation of classical liberal texts is characterized by one of creative adaptation, and informed by both local and foreign intellectual resources. The article's ultimate goal is to provide a deeper understanding of the internal debates among Chinese liberals, which may give a sense of the multifarious predicaments and opportunities that China's intellectuals face as China attempts to pursue wealth, power, and a revitalized role in a new world order.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)315-335
    JournalChina Information
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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