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« Is the Tao Te Ching Democratic? | Main | More on the New Legalists: The Philosophical Problems »

February 27, 2008


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A comment on the "nationalist, anti-globalization, anti-Westernization mindset" of the New Legalists:

1. How comes advocating protecting national interests from the intrusive and destructive International Private Bankers be so bad? There should be differences between protecting legtimate national interests and seeking national interests at the expenses of other nations. I don't see they are advocating invading other nations; Isn't the one aspects of the democracy is supposed to protect the livinghoods of the people?

2. As to their attitude toward the globalization, isn't it a legitimate question that the globalists are only promoting the freedom (of movement) of the capital and not the freedom (of movement) of the labor? Isn't it true that the gaps between the developed world and developing world and gags even within the developing world are getting bigger every day? How advocating harnessing the trend of the globalization should be treated as pariah of the polite society? What happened to the so-called academic freedom of the West?

3. There are two kinds of Westernizations: outside imposed and self motivated. The first one is often the victim of colonization. Philippines is the perfect case... with all the western institutions as a facade and tutorships of two imperial powers it is still a backward country... perfect for the U.S. sailors to have a good time. Of course, China doesn’t want to follow that example, except the Liu Xiaobe who was (is) advocating 400 years of colonization for China from the Anglo Saxon's. (He is still live and kicking and writing in Beijing and that shows how much freedom China has currently.)

I don't believe many elites in U.S. seriously want China to imitate U.S., they want China to do what is told but not want China to follow its examples.( with good reasons ). They know too well that all the resources of the world couldn't sustain U.S. style lifestyle for the Chinese people and the westernization is a whole package.

I believe a lot of Chinese are starting to understand the situation, too, that China couldn't imitate U.S. for the goodness of World and what China is doing have no reference book available. That is why all the available orientation tools in the box have to be polished. Legalism is one of them. Apparently it is out of favor in Beijing by the current administration so they don't have the mandate from Hu-Weng. It is actually using their so called New Legalism discourse to criticise current policies and try to make serious policy changes.

I agree that there are certainly legitimate arguments to be made about defending national interests (the trouble is coming up concrete definitions of interest that do not expand in destructive ways, as with the US in Iraq), and that there are many critiques of globalization that are important and useful. I just don't see why Legalism is needed to make them. Indeed, the invocation of Legalism suggests a certain ruthlessness and disregard for human life and selfish defense of the particular interests of the ruler himself, and not the people, all of which moves the critique of globalization and the definition of national interests toward a brutal authoritarianism that is unnecessary and historically regressive (to put a bit of a Marxist shine on it).

Possibly the first book I read on China was "The Tiger of Ch'in" by Leonard Cottrell. Grim.

Thinking of bronzes, the quiet National Museum in Taipei has them in abundance. Perhaps the most striking is a big, beautifully shaped drum. With such quality, who would think of quantity? If the drum were at the grand National Palace Museum, I'm sure it would be noticed and appreciated, but it would be just another marvel.

The New Legalist website is certainly zippy-looking.

I'm not surprised that Legalism is being used as a nationalist discourse: it's the first, and perhaps the only, native Chinese tradition which justifies militarism, expansionism, strength as opposed to humility, humanity, revolution or communism (Mohist or Maoist, whatever).

The rest of it reminds me of the Roman tradition of asking the priests of Janus whether a war was justified by self-defense before going to battle: it always was. It's always possible to rationalize conquest as "consolidation," "pacification," "self-defense," "defense of an ally," or "defense of principles." You're right that it's ahistorical: but nationalism always is.

Talk about the purple prose on their website's mission statement, which shows just the (alarmingly wing-nut) extent of their nationalistic sentiments:

"Amid the myriads of stars in the Milky Way, one of the billions of galaxies in the boundless universe, only our tiny little Earth has been nurturing blossoms of human wisdom.

While so many an empire and civilization once powerful and prosperous are now buried under tropical forests and vast desserts, only the Chinese civilization has developed in harmony with Nature and survived all vicissitudes.

Across time and space, the Chinese civilization is the only one not based on any religious mythology, but on pure Reason. The naturalist world outlook of the Tao school is not only the spiritual guide for the Chinese people in their thinking and living for thousands of years, but also a great philosophy, based on which the Chinese people have built up a unique and comprehensive thought system covering medicine, economics and politics. This system aims at a dynamic balance between different parts of the human body, between different groupings of people within a society, and between human society and nature. All its subsystems follow the principle of “guiding changes towards balance” (from The Yellow Emperor’s Four Cannon ): economically, arranging production and consumption in accord with the change of seasons and with nature’s productive capabilities at the time; and politically, allocating limited resources among people according to their respective contributions to the society…"

Their mission statement reads very much like it was ripped off of any hardline Chinese editorial you might find nowadays that oddly enough follows the Communist Chinese penchant for rhetorical flair and odd whitewashing of facts. I'm very skeptical about the claim that "only the Chinese civilization has developed in harmony with Nature." What does that even mean? They do try to explain it in the next paragraph but all of a sudden you're equating "harmony with Nature" and "pure Reason"? I'm not quite sure if it's an error of translation, but I don't really think Nature (based upon the appreciation of the Intuitive mind) is the archetype of Reason (if they mean the Logical mind). In any case, there seems to be an incompatible mixing of concepts that is invoked here.

Furthermore, to say that the Chinese have no religious mythology-- well, they might not have personal "Gods" or an Abrahamic God, but I have yet to encounter a civilization without any appreciation of extra-mundane things that can be classified as belonging to a connected mythos. Daoist divinities and their various temples and customs, for example, arise arguably not a result of "pure Reason", but as an appreciation of the extra-mundane linked in a Daoist universe. I am not going to delve into other religions that have made an impact in China (although not rooted in China), but certainly other traditions have permeated the Chinese civilization, including Buddhism and Islam.

I honestly just hope that this site eventually stops trying to distort history and not infect nationalistic Chinese with blatantly "pro-neo-Legalist" rhetoric, but can instead start debating from a more academic viewpoint.

An Apology for New Legalism in Reply to Prof. Sam Crane

Who is “Distorting Chinese History and Chinese Philosophy”: The New Legalists or Prof. Sam Crane, Part I: THE CHINESE NATION AND NATIONALISM

Who is “Distorting Chinese History and Chinese Philosophy”: The New Legalists or Prof. Sam Crane, Part II: LEGALIST QIN AND CHINESE FORM OF GOVERNMENT

Dear Friend of New Legalism,

Yes, I know. I'm very aware of the New Legalist thing. And you'll notice that I have, by and large, given up that fight. They did not convince me that they are anything but nationalists who are turning aspects of Chinese philosophy to contemporary political ends. Not much interesting in that, really. And not much original or, even, consistent with the spirit of Daoism. So, they can do their thing. I hope not too many people are duped by their nationalist appropriations and, yes, distortions. And I'll do mine, keeing always in mind one of my favorite lines from the Daodejing, 22: "In yielding is completion..."

There is community and there is culture and when their meanings become lost all that is left is the unloving dogma of nationalism. They have lost the root and so try to throw on more branches. Such doctrines are self-abortive and carry a great human cost as has happened before. Is this a buried device in the human mind to destroy a society that has lost its vitality? It reminds me of love that turns to jealousy.

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