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Democracy and, for that matter, autocracy are not about measuring rights or equality, but about balancing dominance and belonging. To that extent, it is unlikely to empathize with how the Chinese socialist autocracy evolves without analyzing the governmental impacts of Confucianism. This book suggests that neither democracy nor autocracy can operate without a level of relational imagination to prepare the members of its political system to mind the needs of each other, especially between those acting in the name of the authorities and their people. Relational governmentality attends to the systemic capacity for limiting any system from segregating and suppressing the people. Democracy and autocracy, as stereotypical categories, can each suffer such involution but tentatively adopt each other’s relational style when attempting to restore the relational default. These cycles of relational order and chaos are not uniquely liberal or Confucian. In a nutshell, autocracy and democracy are not linear in time, nor binary in space, since the same population is always capable of shifting between relationalities that yield the two categories. Rather, the same processes of belonging and dominance constitute them.

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This chapter brings together all the main arguments and findings discussed throughout the key chapters, highlighting the key constituents and the nature of the ‘belonging-assemblage’ of unaccompanied young people living under the constraints of the UK asylum and immigration structures. Reiterating the key findings and arguments of previous chapters, it emphasizes the main argument of the book, which is that unaccompanied migrants’ belonging is also understood as an ‘assemblage’, taking place in-between and in the middle and is always in the making; therefore, it is nomadic and rhizomatic in its nature and exists in its potentiality and actuality.

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Liberal political science misconceives socialist autocracy in China as the opposite, reinforcing its incapacity to explain the worldwide democratic recession in the 21st century and the failure of any democracy to recover. A fatal flaw of liberal scholarship lies in the conceptualization of politics as influencing the choices of independent individuals in aggregate. Practical consequences include a desire to avoid or convert allegedly illiberal systems according to a self-image of being participatory. Confucianism instead provides a governmentality clue to how all human gatherings evolve upon leadership struggling to balance dominance and belonging. Through Confucian enlightenment, leaders are convinced that all bad autocrats fall. So, leadership cannot survive without the willing following of the population. A derivative, tightly in line with the thrust of socialism, is that the population must be well-fed and protected. Such a relational lens considers people in their entirety while, epistemologically, desensitizing individual differences. However, political science tends to consult individual preferences, with the ironic consequence of a leadership losing sight of the entirety. A political science reconfigured through Confucianism reveals the false binary of democracy versus autocracy. It interrogates how leadership everywhere rebalances dominance and belonging to restore its relational sensibilities.

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This chapter introduces the main conceptual and theoretical resources of the book after giving an in-depth, critical appraisal of the existing conceptual literature on belonging, exposing its limitations in understanding the complexity and multiplicity of the notion of belonging in general and the belonging of unaccompanied migrants more specifically. It discusses in detail Deleuze and Guattari’s theoretical terms of assemblage, molar, molecular and nomadic lines alongside others and shows their value in developing the concept of belonging and in our understanding of the belonging of unaccompanied young people in precarious positions. This chapter argues the case for a new conceptual understanding of belonging that is capable of capturing the shifts, multiplicities, complexities and paradoxes in experiencing and conceiving belonging in migration in relation to those in precarious positions.

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Chapter 3 elaborates on the autocratic governmentality that is challenged by the culture of solidarity. Comparing Western and Chinese political thought, the chapter pays particular attention to differential love for relational others, as opposed to universal love for humanity. Specifically, it will employ Confucianism to illustrate this kind of differential love – benevolent love between the autocrat and their claimed population. Benevolent love is, therefore, hierarchical rather than equal and yet potentially universal, because all necessarily play a role in the Confucian hierarchy, and yet are peculiarly equal nonetheless, to the extent that different identities outside these roles do not invite discrimination or even matter. It will also employ the concept of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ (OCTS), which is Beijing’s policy for arranging Hong Kong’s way of belonging to China, to illustrate how the belief in benevolent love has caused a sense of repulsion toward the OCTS and critiques of it among those subscribing to a belief in universal love. Ironically, among activists who insist on Hong Kong’s autonomy, a differential sense of solidarity develops and challenges Beijing’s pursuit of benevolent unity.

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This book relies on Confucianism to explore contemporary socialist governmentality in China and asks how, empirically as well as theoretically, China’s autocratic practices have strategized mainly Confucianism’s great ideas in different contexts as reification, revision, or resistance in terms of human relations of dominance and belonging. Chinese autocracy has been incomprehensible to a social science that is preoccupied with liberal assumptions about the rights of nature, particularly since the literature does not attend to the relational governmentality through which the autocrat and the people constitute each other. This book integrates Chinese autocratic governmentality into a cosmological translation that is informed by the hearts of the people to enable the self-unlearning of the Chinese autocrats and their Western watchers and create a more inclusive, non-binary understanding of both autocracy and democracy worldwide.

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This chapter sets the scene for and gives context to an in-depth, theoretically informed study of the belonging of unaccompanied young people seeking asylum in the UK. It begins by introducing the story of displacement, migration and belonging of one of the participants. The participant’s accounts of the challenges of migrating to and resettling in the UK provide an anchor into which the analysis of the main findings are woven in the coming chapters.

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Drawing on the case of the Wuhan pandemic in 2019, Chapter 4 considers how nationalist discourses, informed by the culture of unity, took root and were transformed within China’s autocratic context during the period of quarantine. Following this, it adopts a relational perspective to argue that, just as the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted countries’ vulnerability to all forms of nationalism and the danger that this represented, it also revealed an irony: that, despite being treated as a ‘solution’ to the pandemic, nationalism could only exist and thrive insofar as its ‘alter’ – represented by the novel coronavirus itself and, for some countries, the ‘China threat’ – also thrived. Given that nationalism rarely lasts long or enjoys much stability, Chapter 4 contends that, empirically as well as philosophically, nationalism is no solution to crises and that new thinking on coexistence is the vaccine needed to stabilize the post-COVID-19 world order.

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Chapter 1, adopting a Confucian lens, connects the respective literature on state-in-society and Foucauldian governmentality by extending their application to autocratic resilience. First, the chapter points out that the state/society dichotomy is inapplicable where there exists no tradition of the rights of nature. The naturalness of the autocrat as part of society calls for an explanation of not only how and why people should accept the autocrat but also how and why the autocrat should care for or fear the people. The chapter uses narrative analysis to show that all references to the autocrat in the Chinese premodern texts imply a readiness among the people to alienate abusive autocracy and cause it to fear isolation. The people’s hearts constitute the ultimate regime of all regimes, which connotes the counter-governmentality of an autocracy to yield. The chapter thus suggests that in addition to the autocrat preparing the people to cooperate in certain ways, the imagined agency of the people to disengage likewise prepares the autocrat to cooperate. Counter-governmentality explains how autocracy is state-in-society or state-as-society.

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Chapter 7 seeks to bring the relational concepts of Southern African Ubuntu and Chinese Tianxia into a dialogue. It compares the ontological and epistemological positions of Tianxia and Ubuntu and elaborates on the implications of the encounters between these two lenses. They similarly treat the self and the universe as mutually constituted relations. As both inspire the spontaneous pursuit of multiple relations, they can serve as either a resource or a constraint to preach autocratic governmentality. Ubuntu is closer to the micro-universe, while Tianxia lies at the macro end of the spectrum. Ubuntu is often criticized for being used/idealized as a macro theory. As this chapter argues, however, the pluriverse is co-constituted by both the micro and the macro. The chapter likewise translates the Western notion of the state of nature as well as both Ubuntu and Tianxia into a universal language to adapt them to suit an audience who lies outside each’s familiar cultural zones. Such communication reveals how the coexistence of different cosmological relations is plausible, unilateral assimilation is unlikely, and pluriversalism is always an ongoing process.

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