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Confucianism and Meritocracy: Light from the East

Ex oriente lux. With the spring academic term finished, I am in Japan and China, ostensibly to give papers at several Japanese and Chinese universities, but really to learn more about meritocracy debates in contemporary Asia. There has been a heated debate going on there among political theorists about the forms of governance most consistent with ancient Confucian political thought. The debate tracks the theoretical shadowboxing Confucian scholars have been doing for the last two…

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Winning the Race in Quantum Computing

Imagine a computer solving the mathematical problems that today’s fastest supercomputers can’t begin to unlock, in less than a blink of an eye. Imagine a technology that can enable an observer to see through walls, or see into the darkest depths of the world’s oceans. Imagine a technology that can build essentially unhackable global networks,…

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The “Surprise” of Authoritarian Resilience in China

Ever since the domino collapse of Communist regimes in the Soviet Bloc in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the world has been waiting for China to follow suit. Indeed, the fall of the Chinese Communist government would probably mean the real end of history given the size of the country. Yet nearly thirty years…

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The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective

The Evangelical Christians I have met in the United States often talk about how reading the Bible changed their lives. They talk about being born again. I am not an Evangelical Christian. I am a Chinese atheist who came to the West to study at the world’s best universities and, later, to work at one…

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China, America, and “Nationalism”

“Fire and fury” were expected at the annual CLSA conference in Hong Kong in September. Stephen Bannon was to deliver a frontal assault on China—on Chinese soil—and advance the proposition that the United States and China are, or should be, engaged in an epic struggle for world domination in the twenty-first century, according to the…

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Reforming Elites the Confucian Way

Meritocracy has become a theme of great interest in contemporary politics, both in Western and Eastern societies. But attitudes toward meritocracy in the two regions differ sharply. In the West, the concept of an elite constituted by its most intellectually gifted and energetic members came into its own in the later nineteenth century with the adoption by the British government of civil service…

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The New Class War

The Cold War has been followed by the class war. A transatlantic class war has broken out simultaneously in many countries between elites based in the corporate, financial, and professional sectors and working-class populists. Already this transnational class conflict has produced Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency. Other shocks are…

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The Digital Age Produces Binary Outcomes

The digital age produces binary outcomes. Winners tend to win overwhelmingly—in war as well as in business. The Soviet Union crumbled in the late 1980s when American technology bested Soviet military spending, then estimated at a quarter of GDP. The enormous Russian bet on military power lost and Communism fell. America emerged from the Cold…

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The New Shape of Globalization

It was a telling moment when China’s President Xi Jinping rose on January 16, 2017, to proclaim himself the new champion of free trade in the great conference hall of Davos, Switzerland, the citadel of globalization. This proclamation came just four days before the inauguration of the newly elected U.S. president, who has traditionally served…

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