Contemporary Pragmatism 7 (2):45-69 (2010)

Since Deng Xiaoping came into power, China has been described as pragmatic in its approach to politics and development, and in the nineties there has been a revival of interest in Chinese cultural tradition. What is the relation between these two phenomena? Do they coexist, separately in mutual indifference, or in tension? Has there been constructive engagement, or at the very least does the potential for such engagement exist? More specifically, what roles, if any, do they play in China's quest for democracy? Does Dewey's pragmatism have any relevance to China in the twenty-first century? The issue of cultural tradition was central in the historical encounter between Dewey's pragmatism and Confucianism in the New Culture movement of early twentieth century. It is still salient in the debates about China's future and whether it would or should follow the democratic path. This essay will examine anti-democratic tendencies in the rising cultural nationalism in China and, through a philosophical exploration of John Dewey's views about tradition, it will suggest how Chinese pragmatists today might defend democracy against attacks by cultural nationalists who reject the democratic path as alien and therefore wrong for China
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DOI 10.1163/18758185-90000167
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