Theorizing nationalized paternalism to demonstrate Chinese state legitimacy, 1902-2012

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The primary objective of this paper is to reveal one aspect of the process of how Chinese states from 1902 to 2012 have attempted to more broadly and effectively demonstrate their paternalism, in the interest of state legitimation, through the management of moral-political education text production and use. One fundamental task of such management is prescribing content objectives determining the actual substance of texts. Analysis of prescriptions for moral-political education text content in over 200 government and party directives issued between 1902 and 2012 finds that these directives collectively theorize paternalism, the historically authoritative model of good governance, in a way that abstracts it from its explicitly Confucian denotation and integrates it with the idea of a national community of citizens. Through processes of endogenous institutional change associated with the mutual accommodation of logics of paternalism and the nation-state within contemporary political contexts, this nationalized paternalism has been periodically retheorized around several different core ideas or emphases, namely preservation, unity, critique, and legality. Aspects of each of these themes are apparent in most periods, but certain periods particularly exemplify specific themes. Prescribed content also progressively elaborates the qualities and activities that an identity of Chinese citizen entails, transforming the people from, ideally, obedient and loyal subjects into active participants in the very projects by virtue of which governments can claim legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


Fairbrother, G. (2015, March). Theorizing nationalized paternalism to demonstrate Chinese state legitimacy, 1902-2012. Paper presented at the 59th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society: “Ubuntu! Imagining a Humanist Education Globally”, Washington Hilton, USA.


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