Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The old is new

The Party in China has been ambivalent about Confucius for a long time. It's current enthusiasm may wane if the results are unpredictable.

Ancient wisdom of Confucius reverberates in modern China
[The birthplace of Confucius is] the center of a burgeoning personality cult built around a philosopher who died in 479 B.C. It's a movement endorsed by the government but one that is also providing cover to some who question China's direction…

A revival of interest in Confucius and other aspects of what Mao Zedong vilified as China's noxious feudal past has been underway for years… The Communist Party, tapping into a deep vein of cultural nationalism, has encouraged the trend, in part as an antidote to Western ways...

But a Confucian revival sanctioned and initially steered by the party has grown into something more vibrant and also more unpredictable. It has become a quest for alternative ideas that challenge not only foreign imports such as democracy but also some of the homegrown results of China's dash to modernity.

Confucianism, an elaborate system of moral philosophy and political theory, has always been a two-edged sword, both deeply conservative and potentially subversive…

China's current government is still backing Confucius and has adopted as its own one of his favorite concepts: harmony…

"For the past 30 years, China has constantly stressed the economy, not culture, philosophy and reflection," said Michael Ning [who works] for a chemical company in Beijing.

The result, said Ning… is that people "don't have any fixed values" and often feel at sea. "But after you reach a certain economic level, you can start to think," he said.

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