china’s confucian revival

ConfuciusBy James Miller

In a recent article entitled Two Big China Stories You Missed This Year Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a respected professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine, highlighted the rehabilitation of Confucius as one of the most significant trends in contemporary China. As a historian, his main point was, well, historical. To outsiders it may seem perfectly normal that Chinese leaders want to associate themselves with Confucius, China’s most famous philosopher. But this would be to ignore the fact that for most of the 20th century, Confucius was distinctly out of favour among the CCP leadership. According to Communist revolutionaries, Confucianism was a patriarchal feudal ideology that could have no place in the “new China.” How staggering it was, therefore, to see Confucius at the heart of the mega-spectacle of the Beijing Olympics. 

Wasserstrom writes:

This revival reached new heights during the torch run, when the flame’s arrival in Qufu, the sage’s hometown, was celebrated lavishly. It was then taken to an even higher crescendo during the Opening Ceremony, when Confucius was quoted as Hu [Jintao] and other leaders looked on with approval. Then 3,000 actors took the stage at the Bird’s Nest, dressed up to represent a massive contingent of the sage’s disciplines.

The question here is whether this revival of interest in Confucius actually means anything, or whether it is window dressing on the part of China’s elite.


pan yue’s vision for ecological civilization

By Mary Evelyn Tucker

Pan Yue

Pan Yue

In a world where eco-systems are unraveling and where water, soil, and species are rapidly diminishing, there are few places on Earth where environmental problems are of greater concern than China. The sheer size of the population, over a billion people, and the rapid speed of modernization are creating a collision course for a sustainable future. As China modernizes with an unprecedented rapidity, the destruction of its environment is becoming increasingly visible and ever more alarming. This is affecting not only China but also the entire world. Our interconnected global markets, trade, cultural exchange, and travel are pushing us up against one another as never before. The way China resolves its environmental problems may have an immense affect around the globe.

There are many signs now that these problems are being felt strongly in China with some 60,000 protests a year occurring and with government officials recognizing that the prized Confucian value of political stability may be eluding them. Clearly some new approaches are needed that are not simply punitive, drawing on traditional Chinese Legalism – laws and regulations. Rather, many are looking to Confucianism and other Chinese traditions for a humanistic approach that would create new grounds for environmental protection and social harmony.