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Photo: “Tiannanmen square-Mao Tse Tung Mosaleum.Beijing-China – panoramio,” by Haluk Comertel licensed under CC Attribution 3.0 Unported. Hue modified from the original.

Gao, Gengsong. “Post-Tiananmen Chinese Liberal Intellectuals’ Political Uses of Confucian Tradition and Chinese History.” Journal of Contemporary China (2021): 1-17.


Recently, Chinese leaders’ and intellectuals’ use of Chinese history and Confucian tradition to justify the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) one-party dictatorship at home and advance its influences abroad have raised serious concerns and criticisms among China watchers and scholars. However, little attention has been paid to the anti-authoritarian Chinese liberal intellectuals’ reconstruction of Confucianism and Chinese history. This article examines the major reasons and approaches of post-Tiananmen liberal intellectuals’ turn to tradition. It argues that despite their internal differences and lack of rigorous argumentation, liberal intellectuals’ reconstructions of Chinese history and Confucian tradition are mostly intended to justify an institutional restraint on the authoritarian regime and engage in dialogue with different civilizations and refine, rather than replace, the existing liberal world order.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.