Daniel A. Bell: The Confucian Party

In the New York Times, Daniel Bell, professor at Tsinghua University, writes about the revival of Confucianism as a potential for a political reform movement in China:

For the Confucians, any long-lasting and stable political reform must be rooted in China’s own traditions. So should we view them as narrow nationalists? Quite the opposite. Jiang Qing, a leading exponent of the new Confucianism, explicitly criticizes the idea of state sovereignty, saying that sovereignty lies with “heaven” rather than the state. He argues for a democratic institution that would offer more opportunities for political participation, while criticizing democracy for being too narrowly focused on the interests of the current generation of voters.

Jiang proposes another political institution designed to represent non-voters whose interests are typically neglected in democratic states, such as foreigners, future generations and ancestors. Is democracy really the best way to protect future victims of global warming, he asks?

Confucian intellectuals have also put forward ideas for educational reform. Communism is dead as a unifying myth that can sustain the Chinese people, they argue, so what does China stand for now? Here’s where Confucian values become relevant. There are currently thousands of educational experiments to promote such Confucian values as harmony and compassion.


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