Global themes in the Chinese state's claims to legitimacy


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State-directed citizenship education can be viewed as a method for demonstrating the state’s legitimacy to the new generation. In the Chinese case, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has made use of citizenship education to demonstrate its paternalism, appealing to a traditional, but still relevant, justification for the appropriateness of state rule. Such a paternalistic character in the Chinese tradition has been described as strict, authoritarian, and awe-inspiring; self-disciplined and morally exemplary, with a strong concern in turn for the moral education of the people; magnanimous and willing to treat the people with respect, grant them favours, and listen to their views; inspired by and faithful to ideology and thus knowledgeable of the best interests of the people; concerned for the harmony, unity, and stability of society as a whole and for individuals’ material and spiritual well-being, nourishment, education, protection, and safety; and inspiring among the people commitment, dedication, participation, and willingness to make sacrifices. This paper addresses the question of how themes related to global affairs are treated in Chinese citizenship education in this context of such education serving primarily to put forth the state’s claims to legitimacy. Drawing on the texts of nearly 60 citizenship education directives issued by the Party and state organs since 1979, the paper explores several themes related to China’s relations with the world. Among these themes are those related to accomplishments of the CCP, including how the Party has fought against imperialism and hegemony; defended the nation militarily and ideologically from foreign enemies; enhanced China’s international prestige, position, and role; and strengthened the nation’s “comprehensive national power.” Other themes relate to China’s program of economic development, including the importance of peaceful international relations and overall international peace for domestic economic development; the importance of maintaining China’s policy of openness to the outside world; promoting favourable attitudes among youth towards openness to the outside world while at the same time calling for them to always uphold national dignity; and promoting unity of spirit in the face of international competition, globalization, and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Finally, some themes relate to ideology, including internationalism in Marxist ideology and claims to the superiority of the socialist over other types of politicaleconomic systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Fairbrother, G. (2009, June). Global themes in the Chinese state's claims to legitimacy. Paper presented at the 5th CITIZED International Conference: Globalising Citizenship Education: Ambitions and Realities, Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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