Professor Yang Wei speaks on 17th-century China

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs professor lectures on “Institutional Innovations and Political Decay in 17th-Century China.”

Harry Hobart, Contributing Writer

Professor Yang Wei from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs spoke on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center. Wei’s talk was titled “Institutional Innovations and Political Decay in 17th-Century China.” The University’s China Institute hosted the event. Launched in the fall of 2013, the China Institute, as stated in their mission statement, strives to “promote teaching, research, and learning about China and China-related studies on campus.”

Wei earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He teaches courses on early China, modern China, contemporary China, U.S.-East Asia Relations since 1950, and classical Chinese thought. In his current research, Wei focuses on the intersection of intellectual history and social history, specifically how ideas and social contexts inform one another. His areas of interest range from classical thought in early China to political history of the People’s Republic of China with a focus on the late imperial period, specifically the Ming-Qing dynasties spanning from 1368-1911.

Since its inauguration, the China Institute has presented several lectures by faculty at the University, invited speakers, and hosted three national China Town Halls in cooperation with the National Committee on United States-China relations.

In his panel, Wei discussed the rise of a majority ruled political system in 17th-century China. He recognized how, in China, many of these policies are still evident in the socialist ideas of the government. In order to change this, Wei argued strongly for the the use of schools as the center for forming popular opinions. He stated that public institutions should be subject to public opinion. He believes that opinions should be widely sought-after in China for a strong basis of government.

“What we can find in debate is the most optimistic views through a wider position of debate,” Wei said in the discussion portion of his talk. Moreover, when asked if democracy can lead politicians to the right decision, Wei responded, “Democracy is about building a consensus in the community, providing negotiations and compromise.”

Wei also discussed the role of leaders in both past and contemporary China. Historically, within the Chinese government, the Emperor is the leader in power. Wei said that today, “criticizing the Emperor does in fact give you more power.” This criticism is more prevalent in 21st-century China, where individuals are given more opportunities to present their opinions through platforms such as the internet.

In the government today, Wei argued that in the process of decision-making, the power must be shared. When Mao Zedong was the Chairman of the Communist Party, he possessed too much power, and this made it impossible to make reforms in China. Even though the power is still only distributed among a few individuals, this change reflects progress and improvement since 17th-century China.

(Visited 69 times, 1 visits today)