chapter  2
35 Pages

The Dragon and the Phoenix: The Chinese Civil Service State

In terms of territorial and demographic extent, material prosperity, social stability and inventiveness, the historical experience of China stands out in world history. China is credited with having the world’s oldest living state/ civilization.1 It is also credited with pioneering concepts such as meritocracy, performance legitimacy, an administration based on laws and regulations, and a humanistic system of ethics.2 China’s infrastructural and architectural achievements, ranging from the iconic Great Wall and Forbidden City, to the canals and roads of the imperial era, are also testaments to endurance and capability. From a South Asian perspective the patterns of Chinese history and the achievements of Chinese culture and civilization almost inevitably invite comparison. To some, China and India are Asia’s two distinct ancient civilizations and their ongoing economic transformation heralds the return of these cultures to their historical preeminence. Without taking anything away from the cultural or intellectual achievements of the South Asian region, there is one point on which the two civilizations diff er fundamentally. That point is the experience of the state.3