Daniel Bell: The Chinese Confucian Party?

In the Globe and Mail, Daniel Bell offers his proposal for an alternative to the Communist Party:

…The revival of Confucianism is not just government-sponsored. On the contrary, the government is also reacting to developments outside its control. There has been a resurgence of interest in Confucianism among academics and in the Chinese equivalent of civil society. The renewed interest is driven partly by normative concerns. Thousands of educational experiments around the country promote the teaching of Confucian classics to young children; the assumption is that better training in the humanities improves the virtue of the learner. More controversially – because it’s still too sensitive to publicly discuss such questions in mainland China – Confucian thinkers put forward proposals for constitutional reform aiming to humanize China’s political system.

Yet, the problem is not just the Chinese government. It can be an uphill struggle to convince people in Western countries that Confucianism can offer a progressive and humane path to political reform in China. Why does the revival of Confucianism so often worry Westerners? One reason may be a form of self-love. For most of the 20th century, Chinese liberals and Marxists engaged in a totalizing critique of their own heritage and looked to the West for inspiration. It may have been flattering for Westerners – look, they want to be just like us! – but there is less sympathy now that Chinese are taking pride in their own traditions for thinking about social and political reform. But more understanding and a bit of open-mindedness can take care of that problem.

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