The Book about The Helmsman Ruler System

This second Helmsman Ruler blog was set up to facilitate my contribution to China Daily Mail for my book which was published in March 2013.

More postings can be found in my primary blog

Book Title

Helmsman Ruler:

China’s pragmatic version of Plato’s ideal political succession system in The Republic



[1] interpret and give a formal name to the “once-in-a-decade” transition of power in China as a pragmatic version of Plato’s ideal,

[2] systematically examine the system’s features, and

[3] provide a platform for future analyses.


A Comparative Study of China’s political succession with other non-democratic thoughts and/or systems:

[1] Plato’s rotational philosopher ruler in The Republic,

[2] the liberal Germanophiles’ open-yet-authoritarian elite theory of the 1890s-1920s,

[3] the rotational governorship of colonial Hong Kong in the 1950s-70s,

[4] the British cadet system of Hongkong Bank in the 1940s-70s’ and

[5] Carl Schmitt’s autonomous economic administration (1932) proposed for the Weimar Republic.

It is written in a style for general readers.


It is argued that three key features of China’s present experimental political succession system, named the Helmsman Ruler System (HRS) in this book, parallel Plato’s rotational ruler model: “those who have (i) come through all our practical and intellectual tests with distinction must be brought to their final trial … and when their turn comes they will, (ii) in rotation, …do their duty as Rulers… And so, when they have (iii) brought up successors like themselves to take their place as Guardians, they will depart to the islands of the blest…”(Plato: The Republic < 540a-b>, translated by Desmond Lee, Penguin Books, first published in 1955). The “open recruitment” and “possession of private property and family” in China are pragmatic differences from Plato’s prototype.

Under the System, the leading positions are handed over to persons without kinship to the predecessors.  The rulers are openly recruited, purposively trained and educated, and competitively selected.  It has also been an institutionalized practice that they take turns to be at the helm, and retire when their tenure ends.  Two paradigms, the “debate” and “struggle” models, are constructed to analyze the ruler-selection process.

Through the Helmsman Ruler System, the Chinese Communist Party has not only remolded the authoritarian state into an open-yet-authoritarian state by providing fluid socio-political mobility to the ordinary citizens, but also succeeded in managing China as a gigantic business conglomerate to serve the national interest.  With the System and based on the Platonic dichotomy between the state and economy, China has coincidentally tri-partitioned its political economy with an intermediate domain called autonomous economic administration, which is composed of state-owned enterprises, business chambers and occupational organizations, to train its helmsmen and draw allegiance of the capitalists and professionals to the state in a Hegelian way.

The Helmsman Ruler System as the embodiment of the national affirmation of the Platonic virtue of propriety may enable China to chart out a new path of development, and avoid the vicious cycle of technocentrism and consumerism.

A free preview is now available at Amazon Look Inside and Scribd the digital library .
Video presentation to provide a brief introduction to the Helmsman Ruler System is available on YouTube in EnglishGermanTurkishBulgarian and Spanish.

I wrote the book simply out of my intellectual interest in Plato’s philosophy and China’s politics.   I have no connection with the Chinese Communist Party except my uncle who has been working in a small town hospital is a party member.

Questions and comments can be sent to


Ch 1    Helmsman, not Philosopher

From Plato to China

Leaders at Helm

Concepts and Definitions

Effects of the Helmsman Ruler System on China

Ch 2     From Plato’s Ideal to Building an Open-yet-authoritarian State

Plato’s Dichotomy between Authoritarian Governance and Economy

A Platonic experiment in Latin America

China 1978: Could Authoritarianism co-exist with Capitalism?

A Platonic Dichotomy in Colonial Hong Kong 1950s-70s

Inclusive Administration and State Building

Germanophilism and the open-yet-authoritarian elite theory 1890s-1920s

The Chinese national aspiration for socio-political mobility

Citizens as (co)nationals

An Open-yet-authoritarian Definition of “Democracy”

Ch 3    Helmsman Ruler at work: For Socio-political Mobility

Power and Institutionalization

Open Recruitment of the CCP and the Civil Service

The Communist Youth League of China

CCP membership

Increasing emphasis on recruiting civil servants from ordinary families

Education and the Party Schools System


A rite of passage

The political functions

Examination, Rotational Posting, Promotion and the Lists


Rotational posting as dialectic

Party patronage

Bianzhi and Nomenklatura

Party Discipline

Ch 4    Helmsman Ruler at work For Selection of Rulers

Succession and Retirement

Two selection paradigms

Debate Model

Struggle Model

An analysis by applying the Struggle Model

An analysis by applying the Debate Model

The Models and Institutionalization of the System

Ch 5    Helmsman Ruler at work with a Tri-partitioned Political Economy

China and Western Economics

From rapid growth to slowdown

Economics in crisis

The Tri-partition

Carl Schmitt’s domain in between the state and the private sector

China’s Autonomous Economic Administration (AEA)

China’s AEA: The Occupational Organizations and the Party Organs

The red capitalists and the business associations


Experimental application of a Plato-Hegel-Schmitt approach to authoritarian governance

China’s AEA: The State-owned Enterprises

From Sir A Morse to GM Sayer at Hongkong Bank 1950s-70s

Guardianship as a factor of production for China plc

From China plc to the new nomos of the Earth

Ch 6   Helmsman Ruler at work in the Anthropocene

Anthropocene and the Helmsman Ruler System

Adam Smith’s propriety, prudence and benevolence

A feasible alternative

About the Author:

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration, a Fellow of The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), and now a retired businessman.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s