Racing Ahead, China Resurrects Its Past – Kent Ewing

From Asia Times:

As China races into its capitalist future, it is also rediscovering its philosophical and religious past.

But can the country move backward as it goes forward? Chinese leaders think so, and they are enthusiastically supporting a revival of the ancient philosophical traditions of and . Late last month, for example, the government sponsored a six-day forum dedicated to the interpretation and promotion of Tao Te Ching (or Dai De Jing, "The Book of the Way and Its Virtue"), the foundational text of Taoism, both as a school of thought and a religion, written 2,500 years ago by Lao Zi.

The forum, hosted simultaneously in Hong Kong and Xian, capital of Shaanxi province, reportedly cost US$1 million to stage and received widespread coverage in the state media. It was another sign that the Communist Party, steeped for nearly 60 years in an atheistic doctrine, now hopes to rediscover the Chinese soul at the same time that it encourages people to heed the words with which Deng Xiaoping launched China's phenomenal economic rise nearly three decades ago.

"To get rich is glorious," the country's then paramount leader proclaimed, and the Chinese economy has been roaring ever since. Pairing ancient philosophical traditions with Deng's famous mantra for mammon may seem odd, but it only makes sense in today's China, where "communism" now refers to a ruling party, not an ideology, and an empty materialism rules the day. With too many of the country's 1.3 billion people now stepping on their countrymen in their greed for profit, the government is tapping into the ancients in the hope of meeting President Hu Jintao's goal of creating a "harmonious society". [Full Text]

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