Something America and China Could Do Together

Author Robert Fuller proposes a new strategy for the U.S. and China to improve their relationship: what he calls “dignified governance,” based on many of the principles espoused by Confucius. From the Huffington Post:

Each nation would draw on its own traditions and could borrow from the other’s. As many have noted, the political philosophies of Confucius, Mo Zi, and Huang Zongxi are no less rich than those of the Founding Fathers.

Confucius taught that a harmonious relationship is one in which both partners take care to protect each other’s dignity. To affirm dignity is to confirm belonging and grant a voice in decision-making while disallowing exclusion, paternalism, and coercion.

Dignity is a universal desire, not something liberals favor and conservatives oppose, or vice versa. So, too, every faith and every political system supports equal dignity in principle, if not in practice. This suggests that instead of choosing between libertarian and egalitarian models of governance, we should seek a dignitarian synthesis that incorporates both Jeffersonian and Confucian principles.

Though he didn’t call it dignitarian governance, Confucius was one of its earliest advocates. argues that rulers should be chosen on the basis of merit, not entitlement, and that the governing class is not above the law, but rather, honor-bound to serve not their own but the people’s interests.

Interpreted in today’s language, good governance means honoring legitimate rank, but abjuring rankism — abuse of the power inherent in rank. Dignitarian governance–be it academic, corporate, or civic — rests on precisely that distinction. Rankism, not rank, is the source of indignity, so by barring rankism, dignity is secured.

CDT’s Xiao Qiang and Perry Link earlier wrote an op-ed on the need for the concept of “dignity” to be incorporated into the Chinese Dream. Read more about Confucianism via CDT.



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