Confucianism Was Adopted to Legitimize Government

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Who believes in Marxism anymore as an inspiration for the future?

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<p>In the 1980s, my impression was that students and intellectuals were still in this mode of looking abroad for inspiration. And I think that&rsquo;s the one thing that, overall in the 20th century, and there were some exceptions, like Liang Shuming and Liang Qichao, but Chinese liberals and Marxists, what they had in common was that they looked to the West for thinking about social and political reform and looked down upon their own traditions. It&rsquo;s like this <em>quanpan xihua</em> (complete Westernization), they&rsquo;re saying complete Westernization is the way to go. It really went on for like a hundred years, and it was very strong in the late 1980s. And the idea of looking to China&rsquo;s own traditions, including Confucianism, for inspiration would have been a very strange idea to put forward. But now, 20 years later, it&rsquo;s really a big change. Of course, they still want to learn from other countries, and that&rsquo;s part of the Chinese boom, a willingness to learn from other countries, a very pragmatic outlook, but also a willingness to learn from China&rsquo;s own traditions and to look to China&rsquo;s own traditions for inspiration for social and political reform. That&rsquo;s been the dramatic change. And why did it happen? I think there are many reasons, but one of them is just this economic boom. In the 20th century, China was the sick man of Asia. Once you have a relatively developed society, people begin to think, &quot;Well, maybe our own traditions contributed to that boom. And maybe, looking at what happened in other East Asian countries, with a kind of Confucian culture, South Korea and Japan and so on. And maybe the sorts of Confucian values that we thought were actually incompatible with economic modernization -- it's not just the Chinese that say that, Max Weber as well -- like the values of education, hard work, savings, stable family values, and concern for social order actually contributed to economic modernization. Maybe those contributed to economic modernization. But also, economic modernization has a downside and makes people more individualistic, and atomistic. So, this boom, it&rsquo;s actually a lot of the businessmen and the intellectuals and the educated people who&rsquo;re saying, &quot;Well, hold on second. Now we make money, what do we do?&quot; And they look around and see there&rsquo;s kind of a problem with excessive individualism in society. And I think the kind of obvious place to look for some sort of remedy is Confucianism, which really emphasizes social responsibility and political commitment. So, I think that&rsquo;s part of the boom as well, part of the reason for why Confucianism is being revived. But, of course, there&rsquo;s also the political issue, which is that the Communist Party has a big problem with ideological legitimacy. I mean, who believes in Marxism anymore as an inspiration for the future? The government says it&rsquo;s a first stage, but who really believes that in 50 years time, we&rsquo;re going to move on to higher stage of communism? Not many people believe that anymore. So, there&rsquo;s a need for a new kind of ideological foundation for the government. And that&rsquo;s where, I think, a lot of the interest in traditions, including Confucianism, comes from, which is that it could help to provide some sort of answer to this need for a new ideological foundation that could provide more legitimacy to the government.</p>
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Daniel Bell describes how, in the last 30 years, China has begun once more to look to its rich traditions and culture as an inspiration for social and political reform.