Self-cultivation and the legitimation of power: Governing China through education

Educational Philosophy and Theory 50 (13):1192-1202 (2017)


A revival of Confucianism in post-Mao China helped the government legitimate its power in the face of a new socio-political and economic situation. This paper specifically explores the role of Confucian self-cultivation in China’s governance. Drawing on Beetham’s theory of legitimation of power and Weber’s tri-typology of authority, we argue that self-cultivation, appealing to ingrained cultural values and traditions, fulfils the criteria of legitimation of power through two principles, namely, differentiation and community interest. In the context of suzhi education and China’s national university entrance exam, we interrogate tensions and paradoxes between the need for a presentation of modern and liberal authority and the CCP’s one-party rule. The paper illustrates the complexity of China’s authoritarianism and the intricacies and intrinsic relevance of self-cultivation in current practice.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,694

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

16 (#671,556)

6 months
1 (#388,319)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Nesta Devine
Auckland Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Emerson and China: Reflections on Individualism.Mansu Qian - 1992 - Dissertation, Harvard University
Cultivation : The Goal of Xunzi’s Ethical Thought. [REVIEW]Shiyou Zhan - 2007 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 2 (1):25-49.
Theory on the Cultivation of Cognitive Subjects in Chinese Philosophy.Quanxing Xu - 2008 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 3 (1):39-54.
On Responsibility in China: Understanding and Practice.Xiaohe Lu & Daryl Koehn - 2015 - Journal of Business Ethics 127 (3):607-622.
China, Economic Regionalism, and East Asian Integration.Wang Yuzhu - 2011 - Japanese Journal of Political Science 12 (2):195-212.