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Confucian ethic affect China’s development

Confucian ethic affect China’s development

How did the concepts of the Mandate of Heaven, dynastic cycles, and Confucian ethic affect China’s development?

Chinese People get their economics. Not yet acknowledged, it is contained in the Confucian thought. Called by me ‘Confucian economics’, it sharply differs from the Western ‘Liberal economics’. Individuals seek posterity through offspring, rather than ‘instant gratification’. Resources are not seen as scarce but as abundant. Rather than take resources from others, people work to make a living. The work ethics and not the profit margin is a key motive. Individuals work not for themselves but for their family. The family is a source of moral sentiment, understood as responsibility for others. This is why the main institution is family and not market. To Confucians, the key principle is equality, which precedes efficiency. Inequality upsets ‘social peace’, as a precondition for growth. Built on Liberal principles, the Western capitalist system is a market one. The Chinese system, which I call ‘Confucian system’, is also market-based. The former is a ‘free market’ animated by individuals, the latter is a ‘familial market’ built around households. Both approaches advocate ‘minimal state’, but for Liberals the state is a ‘night watchman’ to ensure the security of resources, while for Confucians, the state is a moral guide to enable social harmony. As a theory, Confucian economics is a form of ethics and the Liberal is not. China has never abandoned Confucianism. The recent reforms are not about rolling back the Soviet model to establish a capitalist system. Relying on Confucian economics, China is reviving Confucian system. Paradoxically, the ancient Confucian economics has become the engine of China’s modernity. This is a key reason for China’s ‘longest boom’. To extend it, China needs to refocus its policies from ‘capital formation’ to the ‘moral cultivation’, along the Confucian principles.

Confucianism is often characterized as a system of social and ethical philosophy rather than a religion. In fact, Confucianism built on an ancient religious foundation to establish the social values, institutions, and transcendent ideals of traditional Chinese society. It was what sociologist Robert Bellah called a “civil religion,” (1) the sense of religious identity and common moral understanding at the foundation of a society’s central institutions. It is also what a Chinese sociologist called a “diffused religion”; (3) its institutions were not a separate church, but those of society, family, school, and state; its priests were not separate liturgical specialists, but parents, teachers, and officials. Confucianism was part of the Chinese social fabric and way of life; to Confucians, everyday life was the arena of religion.

The founder of Confucianism, Grasp Kong (Confucius, 551-479 B.C.E.) failed to intend to identified a fresh faith, but to translate and bring back the unnamed religious beliefs of the Zhou dynasty, below which many individuals thought the traditional process of religious tip was bankrupt why couldn’t the gods avoid the social upheavals? The burning issue of the day was: If it is not the ancestral and nature spirits, what then is the basis of a stable, unified, and enduring social order? The dominant view of the day, espoused by Realists and Legalists, was that strict law and statecraft were the bases of sound policy. Confucius, however, believed that the basis lay in Zhou religion, in its rituals (li). He interpreted these not as sacrifices asking for the blessings of the gods, but as ceremonies performed by human agents and embodying the civilized and cultured patterns of behavior developed through generations of human wisdom. They embodied, for him, the ethical core of Chinese society. Moreover, Confucius applied the term “ritual” to actions beyond the formal sacrifices and religious ceremonies to include social rituals: courtesies and accepted standards of behavior– what we today call social mores. He saw these time-honored and traditional rituals as the basis of human civilization, and he felt that only a civilized society could have a stable, unified, and enduring social order.

Thus one side of Confucianism was the affirmation of recognized ideals and norms of conduct in primary sociable establishments and standard human being partnerships. All human relationships involved a set of defined roles and mutual obligations; each participant should understand and conformto his/her proper role. Starting from individual and family, people acting rightly could reform and perfect the society. The blueprint of this process was described in “The Great Learning,” a section of the Classic of Rituals:

Provided that the situation is looked into is knowledge expanded if only knowledge is substantial are opinions honest just once thoughts are truthful are heads rectified only when heads are rectified are definitely the stats of individuals designed just once persona is cultivated are our people controlled only when family members are controlled are promises well controlled only when shows are managed will there be peacefulness on the planet.(3)

Confucius’ honest sight went versus the grain of the legalistic imagination set of his working day. Only under the Han Emperor Wu (r. 140-87 B.C.E.) did Confucianism become accepted as state ideology and orthodoxy. From that time on the imperial state promoted Confucian values to maintain law, order, and the status quo. In late traditional China, emperors sought to establish village lectures on Confucian moral precepts and to give civic awards to filial sons and chaste wives. The imperial family and other notables sponsored the publication of morality books that encouraged the practice of Confucian values: respect for parents,loyalty to government, and keeping to one’s place in society—farmers should remain farmers, and practice the ethics of farming. This side of Confucianism was conservative, and served to bolster established institutions and long-standing social divisions.

There was clearly, however, one more part to Confucianism. Confucius not only stressed social rituals (li), but also humaneness (ren). Ren, sometimes translated love or kindness, is not any one virtue, but the source of all virtues. The Chinese character literally represents the relationship between “two persons,” or co-humanity—the potential to live together humanely rather than scrapping like birds or beasts. Ren keeps ritual forms from becoming hollow; a ritual performed with ren has not only form, but ethical content; it nurtures the inner character of the person, furthers his/her ethical maturation. Thus if the “outer”side of Confucianism was conformity and acceptance of social roles, the “inner” side was cultivation of conscience and character. Cultivation involved broad education and reflection on one’s actions. It was a lifetime commitment to character building carving and polishing the stone of one’s character until it was a lustrous gem. Master Kong described his own lifetime:

At 15, I set my coronary heart on understanding. At thirty, I was firmly established. At forty, I had no more doubts. At fifty, I knew the will of heaven. At sixty, I was ready to listen to it. At seventy, I could follow my heart’s desire without transgressing what was right. Analects, 2:4

The interior pole of Confucianism was reformist, idealistic, and faith based. It generated a high ideal for family interaction: members were to treat each other with love, respect, and consideration for the needs of all. It prescribed a lofty ideal for the state: the ruler was to be a father to his people and look after their basic needs. It required officials to criticize their rulers and refuse to serve the corrupt. This inner and idealist wing spawned a Confucian reformation known in the West as Neo-Confucianism. The movement produced reformers, philanthropists, dedicated teachers and officials, and social philosophers from the eleventh through the nineteenth centuries.

The idealist wing of Confucianism experienced a faith based persona. Its ideals were transcendent, not in the sense that they were other worldly (the Confucians were not interested in a far-off heavenly realm), but in the sense of the transcendent ideal—perfection. On the one hand, Confucian values are so closely linked with everyday life that they sometimes seem trivial. Everyday life is so familiar that we do not take its moral content seriously. We are each a friend to someone, or aparent, or certainly the child of a parent. On the other hand, Confucians remind us that the familiar ideals of friendship, parenthood, and filiality are far from trivial; in real life we only rarely attain these ideals. We all too often just go through the motions, too preoccupied to give our full attention to the relationship. If we consistently and wholeheartedly realized our potential to be the very best friend, parent, son, or daughter humanly possible, we would establish a level of caring, of moral excellence,that would approach the utopian. This is Confucian transcendence: to take the actions of everyday life seriously as the arena of moral and spiritual fulfillment.

The outer and internal facets of Confucianism—its conforming and reforming sides—were in stress throughout Chinese background. Moreover, the tensions between social and political realities and the high-minded moral ideals of the Confucians were an ongoing source of concern for the leaders of this tradition. The dangers of moral sterility and hypocrisy were always present. Confucianism, they knew well, served both as a conservative state orthodoxy and a stimulus for reform. Great Confucians, like religious leaders everywhere, sought periodically to revive and renew the moral, intellectual, and spiritual vigor of the tradition. Until the 1890s, serious-minded Chinese saw Confucianism, despite its failures to realize its ideal society, as the source of hope for China and the core of what it meant to be Chinese.

Although since the revolution, everyone ideology of your People’s Republic has deserted Confucian lessons, you can claim that there is a continuity of type: like Confucianism before it, Maoism shows a commitment to modifying the planet by using the teachings of autopian ideology to the steps and establishments of everyday routine. This is not to claim that Mao was a “closet Confucian,” but to emphasize that the Confucian way was virtually synonymous with the Chinese way.