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« Two (more) defects of the "China Model" | Main | Kylo Ren, Finn, and Confucian Morality »

December 09, 2015


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A wondrously Western, individualistic interpretation of Confucian teachings. Two of your points deserve comment:

"what I have learned from contemporary Chinese politics is that the CCP tried very hard to destroy Confucianism, and the philosophy and way of life survived largely because it was cultivated in politically freer contexts outside of the PRC". This would surprise most Chinese, I think. Confucianism was in no danger from the CCP and is thriving today–much as the Amazon ignores children's miniature dams on its shores. Mao's criticisms were directed at the ways Confucianism has been corrupted by generations of officials and landlords. He himself always aspired to be seen as a Confucian gentleman and, for a head of state, made a pretty good fist of it, judging by his calligraphy and poetry.

As to your assertion, "Perhaps apologists for PRC authoritarianism might want to argue that all that terrible Great Leap Famine and Cultural Revolution stuff are things of the past", I might.

For Mao, the most discouraging aspect of the GLF three year famine was the attitude of the starving peasants towards the local Party officials who were misreporting crop yields. The peasants simply starved to death rather than speak up or overthrow the officials.

That was the germ of the Cultural Revolution, Mao's attempt to democratize the Chinese people where it mattered: face to face with little local tyrants. It was a real revolution, 'not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. An insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another'.

It upset a billion people for 10 years and, though it was the least violent revolution in history, it achieved its goal: today the Chinese people criticize their government more enthusiastically than we do.

And thanks to Xi (who lived at both ends of the revolutionary spectrum) they can safely denounce the little vampires who suck the blood of local communities.

While all still being true Confucians, of course.

Dear Sam,

thank you for continuing to post these informed and piercing refutations of apologists like Daniel Bell.

I only wonder if you aren't slightly too romantic about Confucianism itself. The reality is that state-Confucianism has always been an oppressive ideology for the average person, and it continues to be so nowadays.

Anyway, keep up the good work!


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