Op-Ed: "China Might Practise What Confucius Was Preaching" By: Errol P. Mendes

August 16, 2008

Author: Errol P. Mendes

Source: The Ottawa Citizen


The spectacular opening show (despite the lip-synching) at the Beijing Olympics featured the great contributions of China to global civilization and advancement.

In addition to showcasing through dazzling special effects, artistry, choreography and fireworks, the first discovery and use of gunpowder, paper, printing and the compass, awe-inspiring homage was paid to the wisdom of Confucius.

Thousands of men dressed as disciples of the great philosopher chanted the Analects of Confucius. With such a momentous spot in the sun for China's leaders, the showcasing of the wisdom of Confucius must have been approved at the highest levels as a coming out for this new champion of Chinese culture and governance.

This is reinforced by China allocating millions of dollars to promote Confucianism in China and to sponsor a network of more than 200 Confucius institutes in over 65 countries around the world (including at least five here in Canada) promoting not only all forms of Chinese culture and language, but also promoting Confucius as China's gift to the world.

Such a demonstration of the emergence of the philosophy of Confucius as the most desirable form of social and political governance could bring the unintended consequence of freedom and human rights to the one in five people who walk this planet and live in the Middle Kingdom.

Many China experts have proclaimed there is an unquestionable revival of Confucian thinking among China's Communist party leaders.

The focus is now on how to promote his wisdom in the education and political systems of the country. Other proponents of Confucianism point to the Tang (618-907 A.D.) and Song (960-1279 A.D.) dynasties as successfully implementing Confucian principles in governance, society and laws. The result was that in those eras China was the richest and most stable country in the world and as close to being a peaceful superpower as was possible in those times.

The wisdom of Confucius is centered on the core importance of "ren" which has been translated as "humanity" which holds that human nature is not necessarily nasty, brutish and short. Confucius believed that humankind can be benevolent and moral if properly instructed.

Many human rights scholars, including this author and activists also interpret "ren" as "human rights," which opens up the possibility of Confucius being a possible messenger of fundamental rights and freedom to the Chinese people. If it is to be translated as human rights, it is, however, a uniquely Chinese form that emphasizes social hierarchy and moral leadership by Chinese rulers that sets an example of moral conduct to citizens.