Treating Them differently from Us, and hoping nobody notices

A society needs to reflect its values. It cannot stray far away from them.  Unfortunately, nearly all societies do just that, with neither remorse nor hint of guilt.  We have no nostalgia for the “old days”.   But what if a society has publicly pledged to do just that?  Not to reflect, but to publicize…honor, and venerate?   That is, to venerate a cultural moral standard.

For all to see.

Yeah, I’m talking about China.

And I’m talking about Confucius.

First a simple disclaimer.  No country is purrrrfeccct.  Right?  I get it.  (But when you fly in my corn field, you are fair game for my shotgun.)   Confucianism is making a comeback in the Heavenly 
Kingdom.  Someone say “calculated”.    That may be….but I would prefer to think it is overdue.  Confucianism as a guide to live one’s “life” is a high bar for any individual.  But to elevate it to a national level for all to see is a bit daring.

With China, it’s simple; 

“Watch not what I do, but hear what I say.”  

It is the irony of ironies that the same philosophy that Mao and the Party Elders believed kept China down is now to be the tool used to save it.  Confucius "treachery knew no bounds".   Now "he"(the person) and "it" (the philosophy) is being asked to keep China together,  and to serve as a stone, a very large stone, in the dam to keep Chinese society intact and "harmonious".

The moral building block of Confucianism is the The Analects. 

Confucius seriously predated Jesus.   But by only 500 years.   However, while it only took the Roman Empire around 400 years to adopt Christianity, the Chinese did not seriously adopt Confucianism until the Tang, in 600 AD.  Still, as a nation, Confucianism utterly dominated Chinese culture, and it’s way of thinking until the 20th century. 

The Analects, however, were written after Confucius’ passing, around 400 BC, earliest.  2400 years ago.   And surprise, surprise, they were almost certainly not written by Confucius. 

As the West has its Ten Commandments, China has its Analects, or more accurately, the “5 virtues of Confucianism”. 

One would think 5 rules on “how to live” would be much easier to deal with than 10, right?  Shall we take a quick gander?  Yes, we shall!

  the virtue of benevolence, charity, and humanity




Funny when one reads these words, one cannot but without question think of China, right?
Benevolence….oh yes, as in China’s great benevolence towards its own People. 

Charity and Humanity….?  China was foremost amongst nations when it donated $100,000 to the Philippines in the aftermath of its recent typhoon.

of honesty and uprightness

Something tells me Zhou Yongkang was not a follower of Confucius. Neither was Bo Xilai.  Nor apparently any official in China today.

reciprocity, altruism, consideration for others, and Confucius’ version of the Golden Rule, what you don’t want yourself, don’t do to others.  (Ahhhconsideration for others!)

the virtue of faithfulness and integrity;  Ok, I think every man in China has had issues with this.  Including laowai.   (Cause if you haven’t, than you ain’t been livin’…..)

correct behavior, or propriety, good manners, politeness,(hmmm…)
Meanwhile, the Ten Commandments are approximately 3600 years young.  They come from God, via Moses.  These are the building blocks of Christianity.

Take away either or, and quite frankly, neither civilization would remotely resemble its modern day appearance.  Confucianism is the Soul of China, and though other countries won’t admit it, very heavily influenced Korea, Vietnam, etc.  

This is where the resemblance ends.  Historically, while the concept of separation of Church and State gradually established itself in the West, Confucianism was a State Religion, embraced by all Dynasties.
And therein lays the rub:  While one would never imagine a Western Leader, (or much less an Asian), using his power and influence to popularize one religion over another, in China it is entirely at the 

Whim of The Leader.   

The separation of Church from State in the West is so deeply entrenched that the public espousal of say, Catholicism over a Methodist, by a Western Leader would quite possibly lead to a national crisis.  It’s a well known slippery slope.  It is avoided.  

Yet in China it has been, and now is, being used as a guide to instill into The People a sense of being, a moral compass, to better strengthen the public spirit of the Han.
OK….so what?

China’s leaders are now on that slippery slope.  Hurtling downwards into the abyss of ridicule.  When one so publicly advocates a Way of Thinking and yet so publicly acts contrary to what is spoken, are you not open to ridicule?

In America, state governors go out of their way to show how “righteous” they are, and build inscribed, stone versions of the Ten Commandments on their State Capital Grounds, with one eyelash towards God and the other towards Re-election.   My Home State included.  These people are, and should be, held in public disdain.

But the influence of a state with a burgeoning population of 3 million people is one thing….and a nation with 1.5 billion people (at least) is another.   Which government is more dangerous?   My hometown is already a laughingstock.  It’s ignored.  No matter how silly and ridiculous China’s leadership is however, on this subject, one can never responsibly ignore a country with a billion people. 

I’m not against the encouraged use of Confucianism in China.  One can say it is not a religion but a philosophy, a guide towards better living.   And I would accept that.  What one cringes at though is the realization that it is only used for political purposes when it is not applied towards its relations with other countries.  Can one customize the creed of Christianity for just a domestic audience, and ignore its impact overseas?  No.   It makes no sense to apply it towards a domestic audience if one does not intend to use it towards a foreign audience as well.

However that appears to be what China is doing.  That is, praise the wisdom of Confucius at home, but act like an ass towards foreigners.  China is on the precipice of new cold war within Asia.  Basically, every country that matters within Asia is against China.

What would Confucius think?

Sayeth Brother Xi:

“The Chinese nation has always been peace-loving. Our love for peace is also deeply rooted in Confucianism.”

Tell us more about your peace loving intimidation of the Philippines and the rest of Asia, please?  No wait, let’s get Confucius’ take:

Coordinate and seek harmony with all nations" (let me explain:  “harmony with Chinese characteristics” means I seek self fulfillment of my needs and desires first….then I’ll think of you)

"Associating with the benevolent and befriending neighbors is a precious virtue of the state"  (This is Confucius talking?)

"Within the four seas, all men are brothers" (say what?)
Neighbors wish each other well, just as loved ones do to each other"….(unless you are in my fucking
way and have something I want)

"A warlike state dies inevitably, no matter how big it is"  (how big?  Say China big?)

As one can tell from above, China is somewhat selective with what it wishes to learn and pass on to its people and what it wishes to ignore.  (as are other countries)

Again, every country has a very big problem living up to its own ideals….but when a nation so goes out of its way to paint a policy to its people of both righteousness and “how to live”, and then so publicly and quickly abandons such in its treatment toward other nations, kinda puts a bad spin on your motive, does it not?

I don’t see any nations telling its people to live by the Ten Commandments.                                      

Know why?  That’s not the job of government!  And here lies the problem China has.  In China the CCP is the Church.  The Temple of Higher Learning.   Its doctrine is paramount.  Tis the priest and the altarboy rolled into ONE.   It is the propagator of how to think, and what to chant.   The CCP has a bully pulpit and no one is allowed to use it….except the Masters of the CCP.

Pretty nice gig, eh?

Maybe we should “Hear not what you say…..but watch what you do…. “


  1. Ah, good old Confucius, that out of favor court-isan, sucking up to the emperor trying to get back to the status of insider. You know, it's not a religion cuz it's not deist thinking, but Confucianism sure seems like a religion with the way the good, noble-sounding parts are cherry-picked, and the pro-authoritarian, operational parts are always there but not put on bumper stickers. Rule #1: Nobody messes with the ruler. Rule #2: Everyone has their place in the social hierarchy. Rule #3: Women are best kept stupid. Now you can add all the fine-sounding moral teachings you want, but once you legitimatize a social structure, those above you have the means and justification to maintain their position even if they don't abide by the moral prescripts. And today, is there a more hierarchical society whose rulers will do whatever it takes to suppress change--all the while spouting moral homilies--than China? It's so very Catholic, er, I mean Confucian. Now, there is hierarchy and inequality everywhere; it's part necessity and part human nature, but to codify it, to laud it, leads to authoritarianism interrupted by revolution because there is no means for gradual change.

    Interestingly, Confucianism may be the CAUSE of China's backwardness. I know you listen to CHP, China History Podcasts. Remember (or ever hear) the one about Joseph Needham, the man who loved China? Spent his life documenting China's innovations and then trying to figure what the hell caused China's thinking to essentially stop? No inventions, no progress, just overall stagnation. His best answer was: the lack of a thriving merchant class. Well, what does Confucius say about the merchant class, the 商? Not much good; they are essentially profiteerers, and are accordingly placed on the bottom rank of Confucius' four occupations. Now, China has always had thriving merchants, but they were stuck socially. Couldn't force the king's hand with some sort of Magna Carta or come to power as in the Netherlands. But it has been shown historically that merchants are engines of innovation because they are always looking for new ways to make money. But they were stuck socially. In point of fact, it is the ruling class that is the profiteerers in China. THEY produce NOTHING; it is they who only profit from others' creations. China's social structure as envisioned by Confucius and implemented by successive rulers was counter-productive to social, economic, and technological growth.

    So here we are, with the new emperors and ruling class cherry-picking from Confucius with their only goal being to maintain their position in society. Along with some of what you have above, another form of evidence of this is any time you hear "pick-any-noun with Chinese characteristics". Guarantee you that the "Chinese characteristics" are based on Confucian tenets.

    I just shake my head anytime anyone, especially a woman, becomes more interested in Confucius. Well, I'm sure I do more than just shake my head; I ask, incredulously, why? People are just seemingly helplessly drawn to the nice-sounding parts of religion and just either ignore or don't know about or something, that they create hierarchical social structures that are not in the best interest of either the individual or China. I just don't get it.

  2. Well, Mike, good points all around. The merchants were historically placed at the bottom of the Confucian pecking order. Perhaps this is what drove them overseas. To eventually either dominate or just play a big role in the economies of several countries. You can't keep the DNA of a people forever in a bottle. Confucian scholars tried, and succeeded in doing just that, for centuries. That's why I say it wasn't the laowai, as much as it was the Chinese themselves, that "kept China down". And eventually allowed the West to catch up.

    China is nothing more than a sad history of squandered opportunity. And it will continue to be that way, until China has developed the ability that all successful nations have mastered. The talent of introspection. Alas, introspection by default means a nation must have the wherewithal to shine a light on all that is wrong, and needs to be addressed, in a public manner for ALL to see. And be debated, and be discussed.

  3. This leads me to ask a couple of questions...

    Would you say that Taiwan has made an attempt at trying to be introspective, especially after its pre-1949 population became a legitimate force in politics and culture? Watching them have the battles they have within and sometimes immediately outside their legislature can be intense, but I see that as part of the process of becoming the society that is more representative of its people, versus various power structures that will resist such activity.

    If you consider the first question valid, is what then goes on between the mainland and Taiwan potentially part of a larger issue of the relationship between those who have power and the larger societies of each, and that in effect the KMT and CCP are "brothers in arms" in that they will both accept repressive oligarchy because they cannot imagine (or can only imagine through the lens of an 1850s to 1930s China) a world where they maintain control and thus maintain what they perceive as a necessary form of order?

  4. haha is this a political science class?

    To answer your questions as I see it:

    1st paragraph: Taiwan indeed has been quite introspective. The Secret Police, the torture, the massacre in 1947. Yes, the fights within the chamber once full fledged democracy came to the floor were wrenching, but I'd say Taiwan to this point has been far more introspective than China. Of course, it's easier for Taiwan to be just that, as the risk, compared to China is less.

    2nd paragraph:
    China sees "control" as a way to prevent chaos. The bump in the road you saw with Taiwan in the 80's and 90's would be a thousand times worse in China. I don't think any one in Taiwan today would justify a repressive form of govt as a means to an end, but in China I wouldn't be surprised if the majority would.


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