Reflections on the Concept of Representation and Its Application to China
This paper presents both a literature review on the issue of political representation and the preliminary framework of a sub-project on new political claims of representation in China. It is primarily concerned with portraying and typing diverse schools of thought in both a “Western” and a Chinese context, while the sub-project is part of the French-German Joint Cooperation Project “New Political Representative Claims: A Global View: France, Germany, Brazil, China, India”. The paper is organized as follows: (1) The concept of representation is examined by a brief review of the history of this concept, including the existence of two diverging strands of representation in “Western” discourses. (2) We then examine the meanings of representation, its definitions, and its peculiarities. Points (1) and (2) in particular are based on a literature review. (3) We discuss the issue of representation in a non-democratic, authoritarian setting in general and in China specifically in light of the fact that almost no literature on representation in authoritarian polities exists. (4) We outline the Chinese domestic discourse on political representation. (5) Finally, we clarify the distinction between political representation and participation on the one hand and elections as a specific feature of representation on the other. We then conclude with a summary of our preliminary findings.