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The Age of OpennessChina before Mao$
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Frank Dikotter

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9789622099203

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789622099203.001.0001

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Open Governance

Open Governance

(p.7) 2 Open Governance
The Age of Openness

Frank Dikötter

Hong Kong University Press

This chapter shows that even if the central government is often believed to have been weak in republican China, it displayed considerable elements of continuity in terms of political vision, administrative practice, and government personnel. It also explores the growth of participatory politics and political diversity, from the electorate of 40 million in 1912 to the fully democratic constitution of 1947. It then reveals that while republican governments may not have been leading beacons of participatory politics, a measure of democracy was achieved before 1949 that has yet to be matched by the People's Republic. In addition, it illustrates how sustained efforts at legal reform also contributed to a much more open environment, despite many abuses of judicial independence and judicial administration. Thus, governance was far more open during the republican period than is usually accepted. Republican China may not have achieved the “rule of law”, as widespread discrepancy existed between the theoretical conception of law and its customary practice, but continued legal reform, sophisticated legal codification, and widespread legal expertise were part and parcel of the entire era.

Keywords:   open governance, republican China, republican governments, political diversity, participatory politics, legal reform, rule of law

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