Political development is a concept that has a long history, but it is one of the most challenging concepts to understand. Worth noting is that societies have undergone challenging times in the efforts to define themselves politically. On the same aspect, various philosophers and political scholars have struggled with the efforts to come up with a clear definition of the concept and explain how political development occurs. While some have defined the concept from the perspective of modernity (Dussel 65), other academics have assumed a democratization viewpoint (Shils 3) in trying to explain the concept of political development. From the western view of the concept, political development suggests the instituting of the structures to support political leadership as well as the participation of the people (Bendix 296). From this perspective of defining the concept, the Chinese people and leaders faced challenges in accomplishing the tasks of “political development.” Evidence from the political processes indicates that the reformers provided a better solution to the challenges.
Defining Political Development
A clear and universally agreed definition of the concept of political development is yet to be established. Indeed, the confusion in defining the concept is founded on the way the idea relates to or departs from economic development (Hintze 425). However, the clear aspect in the description is that political development has to do with changes within the political structures of a society. In defining the concept, Shils considers the loss of the old political regimes and replacement of modern, more democratic ones. The concept characterizes the new structures, which is being based on the idea of modernity (Dussel 66). From the political development point of view, there is the emergence of new democratic states from the older ones, some of which were founded on autocracy. The transformation is a part of the development of new political systems that would ensure increased social equity and engagement in the development of the society. Political development is considered a way of making life better for the people through better leadership.
From the Europeanized view of the concept, the idea of modernity takes another very interesting shift. In this case, Fukuyama presents an interesting view of political development. From the macro theory of political development, the philosopher looks at the connection between the political, economic and social elements of development (Fukuyama 207). The problems that have affected society for ages have emanated from the lack of the link between these areas of development. Hence, political development can be considered to be possible where these areas are working in conjunction instead of operating differently. The ideas are borrowed from those proposed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in relation to modernity or development. Political development is associated with the directional change within human society over a period of time. From the western perspective, the idea of development has been a move away from the traditional political systems and structures to the more modern ones, which are democratic in nature (Schwartz 71). Societies, including China, have felt the impact of the changes, but not without some challenges.
The Challenges Faced by Chinese People and Leaders
The efforts geared towards political development in the Chinese context experienced some problems. In this case, the changes were taking place within an environment that was not so welcoming. The traditional political system where the emperors were the rulers was not conducive of the new changes (Chai-bong 93). The emperor was more than just a political leader, but an individual with the “mandate of heaven,” or a “son of heaven” (tianzi; 天子). Creating political structures that were contrary to this view was not an easy task. The underlying philosophies at the time did not align to the western views of modernity (Burns). The observation of development at the time was based on Confucianism (Wei-ming Tu 5). The focus of this school of development was the restoration of virtue and order, which the Zhou Dynasty has until now distorted. Hence, any other view, such as democracy, did not go well with the school of thought. Changes were taking place in society which was not generally welcome because it would take time to take root.
Political development was taking place in the rest of the world and China was not left behind. However, the process was not easy because of the ineffective bureaucracy and political corruption, which characterized the dynasties. Though the establishments had worked in the past, including allowing economic development, they were no longer effective for the sweeping change to ensure modernity and increase democratization in the country (Hoston 18). The dynasties ruled amid social uprisings brought about by inequality. The conflicts between the ruling class and the marginalized people in the country created a challenge for the modernity ideals that were taking place. Regardless of the teachings on virtue, the idea of loyalty to the state made the situation worse for the people (Wei-ming Tu 5). Political development favored introduction of new systems and a participation of the people within it, which was not easy in the traditional state of the Chinese society. The move to achieve democratization or modernity in China was marred with serious problems, but reformers achieved a lot in creating a modern China.
The reformers achieved a considerable success in changing the view of the Chinese people that the world was flat. Until the 1850s, the Chinese people did not know about the changes in the political systems that were taking place elsewhere, mostly in the West. The reformers brought into the country the pressure to modernize and made some structural changes that would allow the transformation in the country. In this case, they introduced the novel structures of justice, the idea of freedom, and the importance of the change from the autocratic system of government. It was time for the traditional notions about Confucianism and the emperor view of being mandated by the Supreme Being to be abandoned in favor of more democratic ideals. The reformers were responsible for the introduction of the ideas from the West associated with modernism, capitalism, and eventually Marxism and socialism. It was a time to struggle against communism in the country (Bianco 5). The reformers were bringing in some solutions to the problems that were associated with the traditional view in China.
Political development introduced to China had one of the roles dealing with the social problems that the people were experiencing. The traditional system was not good for all the people as indicated in the period leading to the Tongzhi Restoration and the 1898 Reform Movement. Thus, the reformists were coming with some solutions to make lives better for the people, through the introduction of social justice. Whenever the idea of reforms came to the fore, the efforts were geared towards changes in the political, social, and economic lives of the people. The reformers were coming up with strategies that could see major transformations in society. Although some of the reform efforts, including the 1898 Reform Movement failed, the movement laid down the foundation for modernity in the country. The reformers were working during a time when the country was entrenched in the traditional ideas that had gained roots until the 19th century (Bianco 12). They worked towards ensuring that the country would not be marred with the challenges related to communism and instead, they anticipated that the nation would embrace democracy and other related standards.
Political development is a change process in the political structures of a state which is experienced over an extended period of time. The transformations that were taking place leading to the 19th and 20th centuries were meant to achieve development from a western view of modernity or democratization. While some states, mostly in the West, did not have challenges achieving the ideas of political development, the same did not happen in other parts of the world such as in China. Political development was taking place in the country amid traditional ideals that were deeply rooted within the society. The leadership in the country was founded on conventional ideas that promoted autocracy. Corruption and other social problems characterized the system that was in place. The reformers came up with promises of a better and more just society. They provided a better solution and the promise that things could become better only if the people and leaders embraced the western ideals of democracy and modernity.