Confucius on Food Scandals & Mozi on Foreign Policy

Daniel K Gardner explains his reaction to an Al Jazeera report on beef-flavoured pork sold as real beef:

Consequently, a passage in the Analects, one that I had never given much attention to, for the first time jumped off the page. A disciple, describing Confucius, said,

“He wouldn’t drink wine bought from a wine shop or eat dried meat bought in a market.” (Bk. 10.6)

To be sure I wasn’t reading into the passage what the Al Jazeera piece had earlier put in mind, I turned to the standard commentaries on the passage. They all agreed on its meaning, expressed best perhaps by Huang Kan of the 6th century:

“As for wine that one hasn’t prepared oneself, one can’t be sure that is pure and clean; as for meat that one hasn’t prepared oneself, one can’t know the animal from which it has come.”

… The moral is clear: be careful about the wine you buy in China and the beef you eat there. And read your Analects. Confucius is still relevant—sometimes.

At The Useless Tree, meanwhile, Sam Crane takes issue with the China Daily’s claim that China’s policy in the South China Sea embodies a Mohist approach:

Mozi said defensive strategies are more conducive than offensive for a country’s survival. He was strongly against unjust wars, which, he said, would only provoke fierce resistance and trigger moral condemnation from all quarters. The price of aggression would include not only material loss, but also the loss of prestige and reputation. This means the cost of offensive strategy far outweighs the gains.

Ironically, the article invokes these ideas in reference to the recent tensions in the South China Sea. While it is nice to see a PRC analyst saying that China does not seek hegemony, it must be remembered that the PRC claims, effectively, the entirety of the South China Sea, a position that antagonizes several other countries in the region.

That claim, in its explicit challenge to long-standing territorial claims of other states, is violation the the Mohist principles mentioned in the CD article. It is inherently offensive.

But I want to turn this in another direction: toward Taiwan.

If the PRC is really serious about embracing the Mohist aversion to offensive warfare, then consistency would demand that it renounce the use of force in its dealings with Taiwan. Such a renunciation is not forthcoming, as fas as I know.

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