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China’s ‘Bad Emperor’ Problem – Francis Fukuyama

For more than 2000 years, the Chinese political system has been built around a highly sophisticated centralized bureaucracy, which has run what has always been a vast society through top-down methods.  What China never developed was a rule of law, that is, an independent legal institution that would limit the discretion of the government, or democratic accountability.  What the Chinese substituted for formal checks on power was a bureaucracy bound by rules and customs which made its behavior reasonably predictable, and a Confucian moral system that educated leaders to look to public interests rather than their own aggrandizement.  This system is, in essence, the same one that is operating today, with the Chinese Communist Party taking the role of Emperor.

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