Skip to main content

Liberalism in Between Europe and China

Final Report Summary - LIBEAC (Liberalism in Between Europe and China)

The LIBEAC (Liberalism In Between Europe And China) project aims at studying the interaction between liberalism and Chinese recent economic development, also examining China’s neighbors and relationships with Europe. It is funded by the European Commission as an FP7/PEOPLE-International Research Staff Exchange Scheme to foster the emergence of multidisciplinary and multicultural research networks.
LIBEAC sheds light on challenging issues framing Europe’s evolving partnership with China: economic development, political freedom and human rights. It elucidates China’s recent concerns about slowing growth and transition to an innovation economy. With G. Campagnolo (CNRS/Aix-Marseilles University) as Network Coordinator, LIBEAC involves 8 institutions from France, Italy, the UK, Czech Republic, China (Beijing U., Tsinghua U.) and Japan (Hokkaido U.). Individual experts from Korea, Taiwan and Russia joined the program and contributed to the collective book that was LIBEAC’s main deliverable. The project also publishes individual papers in international journals (English, French, Japanese and Chinese, all languages of the LIBEAC website ) and was presented to the public in the press and in public talks (in institutions in France, China, for instance in Chinese Social Sciences Today, and in Japan) since its start in 2013.
The research objective of the project is to assess the validity of the Liberal paradigm in Chinese context. Liberalism has, since earlier than the Enlightenment, implied at least the following two components: a component of economics and one of politics. Economic liberalism may therefore, under given circumstances, equate to “Capitalism”; Political Liberalism may, also under given circumstances, equate to “Democracy”.
Among numerous publications and lectures generated simultaneously by the research team of the leaders of the three WPs (WP2: culture; WP3: economy; WP4: law), the three most important results for now are 1. Liberalism and Chinese Economic Development (WP3) (London & New York: Routledge, 288 p.) the deliverable collective volume published in 2016) and focus of Final Meeting held at leader institution Aix-Marseilles University (September 2016) ; 2. China's Influence on Non-trade concerns in International Economic Law (WP2 & 4)); 3. Intellectual Property Rights, Law and Development: A Case Study On China, India And The Asian Context (WP4) (accepted for publication by Routledge). Moreover a special issue of the Review of economic philosophy is already scheduled (WP3), and another book (WP2 & 4) and special issue (WP2) are also in preparation (see table of contents in annex).
Some structural correlation is often assumed between Economic Liberalism and Political Liberalism, as well as between Capitalism and Democracy: it goes at a par with the assumption that the more developed the economy in one country, the freer the persons living in this country. Now, does Liberalism truly work as a Western Ideology? And, in any case, is this correlation stable, in particular in the case of non-Western economies? Japan has been the first example, in the Meiji times, to face this dilemma. South Korea and Taiwan followed. And China is the most significant example in our times.
Now, if Liberalism works both at the level of expected economic welfare for the people and of political rights that it endows people with, shall we expect to observe such correlation in China as well? Is China following the rule? Is China an exception to the general “rule”, regarding its peculiar cultural background (notably its Confucian heritage, its adoption/adaption of Marxism) or is China a counter-example demonstrating that there is nothing as such a Rule, i.e. that the correlation between economic and social liberty purported by Liberalism is merely a matter of belief?
As researchers who gathered in LIBEAC came from various backgrounds, we are able to see the diverse potential meanings of liberalism emerge. We share a common goal of unveiling past, present and future opportunities for East Asian liberalization. And some believe major features can be added to the process of liberal ideology, going from the sources of liberal thought to well beyond traditional Western views.
Future research after LIBEAC ends in 2016 will follow four different tracks:
1. Chinese leadership. WP3 research team will continue to investigate (neo)-liberalism in cross-level terms between Europe and East Asia. The adoption/adaption process by East Asian scholars from Western philosophers yesterday still applies to Rawls, Hayek, Beck or Habermas: moreover, genuine Asian liberal thinking needs to be clarified. Economic philosophy goes at a par with East Asian (China, Japan and now South Korea as well, as individual experts and new partners join). Schedule: 1°) A workshop at Paris Institute of Political Sciences (June 2017) on this topic; 2°) one special thematic issue of Review of Economic Philosophy devoted to “East-West: sources of Liberalism and Its Counterparts”.
2. Ecological constraints. WP2 research team will continue to investigate the possible contradictions between the economic objectives of Chinese developmental State and the constraints of China’s environment. A workshop participated by 3 LIBEAC members and new partner researchers will be hold in Paris Institute of Political Sciences in June 2017 on this topic and an ERA-NORFACE project has been submitted on this topic.
3. Legal predicaments. WP4 research team will continue to investigate the connection between economic liberalism and law around the question of Property Rights.