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Traditional Confucian Constitutionalism: Current Explorations and Prospects

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For a relatively long period of time, it has been widely thought that Confucianism and constitutionalism are incompatible, even antithetic. This view is a prominent feature of Chinese thought from the New Cultural Movement of the early 20th century to the “Asian Values” debates of recent decades. Even today, it still holds some currency among many intellectuals, both within and outside China. However, in recent years some intellectuals are breaking with this dominant view by exploring the constitutional resources within Confucianism and challenging previous conceptual frameworks. As we shall see, we can identify three main approaches to the issue of Confucian Constitutionalism in contemporary academia, namely, the institutional approach, the ritualistic approach, and the religious approach. This article will seek to review the respective contents of each approach to Confucian constitutionalism and discuss their main problems as well as examine the prospects of establishing a traditional Confucian/Chinese constitutionalism.


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