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Chinese scholar Lanxin Xiang has written a book The Quest for Legitimacy in Chinese Politics, that is arguably the most extraordinary effort in decades trying to bridge the East-West politico-historical divide.

It’s impossible in a brief column to do justice to the relevance of the discussions this book inspires. Here we will highlight some of the key issues – hoping they will appeal to an informed readership especially across the Beltway, now convulsed by varying degrees of Sinophobia.

Xiang delves right into the fundamental contradiction: China is widely accused by the West of lack of democratic legitimacy exactly as it enjoys a four-decade, sustainable, history-making economic boom.

He identifies two key sources for the Chinese problem: “On the one hand, there is the project of cultural restoration through which Chinese leader Xi Jinping attempts to restore ‘Confucian legitimacy’ or the traditional ‘Mandate of Heaven’; on the other hand, Xi refuses to start any political reforms, because it is his top priority to preserve the existing political system, i.e., a ruling system derived mainly from an alien source, Bolshevik Russia.”

Ay, there’s the rub: “The two objectives are totally incompatible”.

Xiang contends that for the majority of Chinese – the apparatus and the population at large – this “alien system” cannot be preserved forever, especially now that a cultural revival focuses on the Chinese Dream.

Needless to add, scholarship in the West is missing the plot completely – because of the insistence on interpreting China under Western political science and “Eurocentric historiography”. What Xiang attempts in his book is to “navigate carefully the conceptual and logical traps created by post-Enlightenment terminologies”.

Thus his emphasis on deconstructing “master keywords” – a wonderful concept straight out of ideography. The four master keywords are legitimacy, republic, economy and foreign policy. This volume concentrates on legitimacy (hefa, in Chinese).

When law is about morality

It’s a joy to follow how Xiang debunks Max Weber – “the original thinker of the question of political legitimacy”. Weber is blasted for his “rather perfunctory study of the Confucian system”. He insisted that Confucianism – emphasizing only equality, harmony, decency, virtue and pacifism – could not possibly develop a competitive capitalist spirit.

Xiang shows how since the beginning of the Greco-Roman tradition, politics was always about a spatial conception – as reflected in polis (a city or city-state). The Confucian concept of politics, on the other hand, is “entirely temporal, based on the dynamic idea that legitimacy is determined by a ruler’s daily moral behavior.”

Xiang shows how hefa contains in fact two concepts: “fit” and “law” – with “law” giving priority to morality.

In China, the legitimacy of a ruler is derived from a Mandate of Heaven (Tian Ming). Unjust rulers inevitably lose the mandate – and the right to rule. This, argues Xiang, is “a dynamic ‘deeds-based’ rather than ‘procedure-based’ argument.”

Essentially, the Mandate of Heaven is “an ancient Chinese belief that tian [ heaven, but not the Christian heaven, complete with an omniscient God] grants the emperor the right to rule based on their moral quality and ability to govern well and fairly.”

The beauty of it is that the mandate does not require a divine connection or noble bloodline, and has no time limit. Chinese scholars have always interpreted the mandate as a way to fight abuse of power.

The overall crucial point is that, unlike in the West, the Chinese view of history is cyclical, not linear: “Legitimacy is in fact a never-ending process of moral self-adjustment.”

Xiang then compares it with the Western understanding of legitimacy. He refers to Locke, for whom political legitimacy derives from explicit and implicit popular consent of the governed. The difference is that without institutionalized religion, as in Christianity, the Chinese created “a dynamic conception of legitimacy through the secular authority of general will of the populace, arriving at this idea without the help of any fictional political theory such as divine rights of humanity and ‘social contract’’.

Xiang cannot but remind us that Leibniz described it as “Chinese natal theology”, which happened not to clash with the basic tenets of Christianity.

Xiang also explains how the Mandate of Heaven has nothing to do with Empire: “Acquiring overseas territories for population resettlement never occurred in Chinese history, and it does little to enhance legitimacy of the ruler.”

In the end it was the Enlightenment, mostly because of Montesquieu, that started to dismiss the Mandate of Heaven as “nothing but apology for ‘Oriental Despotism’”. Xiang notes how “pre-modern Europe’s rich interactions with the non-Western world” were “deliberately ignored by post-Enlightenment historians.”

Which brings us to a bitter irony: “While modern ‘democratic legitimacy’ as a concept can only work with the act of delegitimizing other types of political system, the Mandate of Heaven never contains an element of disparaging other models of governance.” So much for “the end of history.”

Why no Industrial Revolution?

Xiang asks a fundamental question: “Is China’s success indebted more to the West-led world economic system or to its own cultural resources?”

And then he proceeds to meticulously debunk the myth that economic growth is only possible under Western liberal democracy – a heritage, once again, of the Enlightenment, which ruled that Confucianism was not up to the task.

We already had an inkling that was not the case with the ascension of the East Asian tigers – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea – in the 1980s and 1990s. That even moved a bunch of social scientists and historians to admit that Confucianism could be a stimulus to economic growth.

Yet they only focused on the surface, the alleged “core” Confucian values of hard work and thrift, argues Xiang: “The real ‘core’ value, the Confucian vision of state and its relations to economy, is often neglected.”

Virtually everyone in the West, apart from a few non-Eurocentric scholars, completely ignores that China was the world’s dominant economic superpower from the 12th century to the second decade of the 19th century.

ORDER IT NOW

Xiang reminds us that a market economy – including private ownership, free land transactions, and highly specialized mobile labor – was established in China as early as in 300 B.C. Moreover, “as early as in the Ming dynasty, China had acquired all the major elements that were essential for the British Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.”

Which brings us to a persistent historical enigma: why the Industrial Revolution did not start in China?

Xiang turns the question upside down: “Why traditional China needed an industrial revolution at all?”

Once again, Xiang reminds us that the “Chinese economic model was very influential during the early period of the Enlightenment. Confucian economic thinking was introduced by the Jesuits to Europe, and some Chinese ideas such as the laisser-faire principle led to free-trade philosophy.”

Xiang shows not only how external economic relations were not important for Chinese politics and economy but also that “the traditional Chinese view of state is against the basic rationale of the industrial revolution, for its mass production method is aimed at conquering not just the domestic market but outside territories.”

Xiang also shows how the ideological foundation for Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations began to veer towards individualist liberalism while “Confucius never wavered from a position against individualism, for the role of the economy is to ‘enrich people’ as a whole, not specific individuals.”

All that leads to the fact that “in modern economics, the genuine conversation between the West and China hardly exists from the outset, since the post-Enlightenment West has been absolutely confident about its sole possession of the ‘universal truth’ and secret in economic development, which allegedly has been denied to the rest of the world.”

An extra clue can be found when we see what ‘economy” (jingji) means in China: Jingji is “an abbreviate term of two characters describing neither pure economic nor even commercial activities. It simply means ‘managing everyday life of the society and providing sufficient resources for the state”. In this conception, politics and economy can never be separated into two mechanical spheres. The body politic and the body economic are organically connected.”

And that’s why external trade, even when China was very active in the Ancient Silk Road, “was never considered capable of playing a key role for the health of the overall economy and the well-being of the people.”

Wu Wei and the invisible hand

Xiang needs to go back to the basics: the West did not invent the free market. The laisser-faire principle was first conceptualized by Francois Quesnay, the forerunner of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”. Quesnay, curiously, was known at the time as the “European Confucius”.

In Le Despotisme de la Chine (1767), written 9 years before The Wealth of Nations, Quesnay was frankly in favor of the meritocratic concept of giving political power to scholars and praised the “enlightened” Chinese imperial system.

An extra delicious historical irony is that laisser-faire, as Xiang reminds us, was directly inspired by the Taoist concept of wu wei – which we may loosely translate as “non-action”.

Xiang notes how “Adam Smith, deeply influenced by Quesnay whom he had met in Paris for learning this laisser-faire philosophy, may have got right the meaning of wu wei with his invention of “invisible hand”, suggesting a proactive rather than passive economic system, and keeping the Christian theological dimension aside.”

Xiang reviews everyone from Locke and Montesquieu to Stuart Mill, Hegel and Wallerstein’s “world system” theory to arrive at a startling conclusion: “The conception of China as a typical ‘backward’ economic model was a 20th century invention built upon the imagination of Western cultural and racial superiority, rather than historical reality.”

Moreover, the idea of ‘backward-looking’ was actually not established in Europe until the French revolution: “Before that, the concept of ‘revolution’ had always retained a dimension of cyclical, rather than ‘progressive’ – i.e., linear, historical perspective. The original meaning of revolution (from the Latin word revolutio, a “turn-around”) contains no element of social progress, for it refers to a fundamental change in political power or organizational structures that takes place when the population rises up in revolt against the current authorities.”

Will Confucius marry Marx?

And that brings us to post-modern China. Xiang stress how a popular consensus in China is that the Communist Party is “neither Marxist nor capitalist, and its moral standard has little to do with the Confucian value system”. Consequently, the Mandate of Heaven is “seriously damaged”.

The problem is that “marrying Marxism and Confucianism is too dangerous”.

Xiang identifies the fundamental flaw of the Chinese wealth distribution “in a system that guarantees a structural process of unfair (and illegal) wealth transfer, from the people who contribute labor to the production of wealth to the people who do not.”

He argues that, “deviation from Confucian traditional values explains the roots of the income distribution problem in China better than the Weberian theories which tried to establish a clear linkage between democracy and fair income distribution”.

So what is to be done?

Xiang is extremely critical of how the West approached China in the 19th century, “through the path of Westphalian power politics and the show of violence and Western military superiority.”

Well, we all know how it backfired. It led to a genuine modern revolution – and Maoism. The problem, as Xiang interprets it, is that the revolution “transformed the traditional Confucian society of peace and harmony into a virulent Westphalian state.”

So only through a social revolution inspired by October 1917 the Chinese state “begun the real process of approaching the West” and what we all define as “modernization”. What would Deng say?

Xiang argues that the current Chinese hybrid system, “dominated by a cancerous alien organ of Russian Bolshevism, is not sustainable without drastic reforms to create a pluralist republican system. Yet these reforms should not be conditioned upon eliminating traditional political values.”

So is the CCP capable of successfully merging Confucianism and Marxism-Leninism? Forging a unique, Chinese, Third Way? That’s not only the major theme for Xiang’s subsequent books: that’s a question for the ages.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: China, Confucianism, Marxism 
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  1. All these authors that pretend to have some deep knowledge are just bullshit artists with an opinion, nothing more. Soon there will be another BS artist with a different slant.

    Who cares?

    • Agree: anonymous coward
  2. Gee, some writer isn’t sucking up to the west to sell a book or two or nothin’.

  3. Icy Blast says:

    China was the world’s leading economic power until the 13th Century. How can we expect Western commentators to understand China when they don’t even know European history? Pepe is another victim of the Enlightenment propaganda he ridicules.

    • Agree: GomezAdddams
  4. Xiang stress how a popular consensus in China is that the Communist Party is “neither Marxist nor capitalist, and its moral standard has little to do with the Confucian value system”. Consequently, the Mandate of Heaven is “seriously damaged”. The problem is that “marrying Marxism and Confucianism is too dangerous”. Xiang identifies the fundamental flaw of the Chinese wealth distribution “in a system that guarantees a structural process of unfair (and illegal) wealth transfer, from the people who contribute labor to the production of wealth to the people who do not.” He argues that, “deviation from Confucian traditional values explains the roots of the income distribution problem in China better than the Weberian theories which tried to establish a clear linkage between democracy and fair income distribution”.

    Xiang makes some good points but seems oblivious to the CCP’s Confucian roots and policies.

    The Party’s goals are the establishment of a Confucian xiaokang society as a precondition for establishing a Confucian dàtóng society. That has not changed in 100 years.

    China will officially enter its xiaokang phase on June 1, 2021 and intends to complete it by October 1, 2049, by which time its Gini coefficient will be below Finland’s current .27, and falling.

    It will continue falling until it reaches the level seen under Mao (probably the lowest ever recorded) in order to establish a Confucian dàtóng society–a goal Mao constantly reminded colleagues to keep goal in mind, and quoted his favorite description of dàtóng as he found it in Kang Youwei’s Commentary on Liyun:

    Now to have states, families, and selves is to allow each individual to maintain a sphere of selfishness. This infracts utterly the Universal Principle (gongli) and impedes progress. …Therefore, not only states should be abolished, so that there would be no more struggle between the strong and the weak; families should also be done away with, so that there would no longer be inequality of love and affection [among men]; and, finally, selfishness itself should be banished, so that goods and services would not be used for private ends. … The only [true way] is sharing the world in common by all (tienxia weigong) … To share in common is to treat each and every one alike. There should be no distinction between high and low, no discrepancy between rich and poor, no segregation of human races, no inequal- ity between sexes. … All should be educated and supported with the common property; none should depend on private possession. … This is the way of the Great Community [dàtóng] which prevailed in the Age of Universal Peace.

    Mao himself urged the adoption of capitalism as necessary means to this end and as a means to quickly strengthening China against outside aggression, but he never abandoned his Confucian vision and, thanks to him, the country is closer today than ever in history.

  5. karel says:

    Many years ago I attended a conference in Hong Kong, where several lecturers from the mainland opined on the best principle of governing future China. Although not always clearly stated, the dominant line of their arguments was that some form of Confucianism would be the best way forward. This line of thought was documented by numerous pictures flashed on the screen that presented the simple rule that a big brother gives orders to the little brother, who has to obey. The other way around would disturb the heavenly harmony and lead to chaos.

    • Replies: @showmethereal
  6. Wyatt says:

    I have no confidence in the dog-eaters to successfully overthrow their self-preserving-at-all-costs government without some MASSIVE fuckup on the part of the CCP or mass Christianization creating a secondary identity for the chinky bugs to clatter around. They’ve no mind for independent thought and no stomach for the initial stages of rebellion.

    What we need is a giant can of Raid. That’ll do the trick.

    • Troll: Mikael_, Mary Marianne
    • Replies: @GomezAdddams
  7. Mikael_ says:

    Good article, but the last 6 paragraphs are difficult to understand and unpack for me.

    So what is to be done?

    That’s not coincidence that Pepe echos Lenin’s title here?
    Then I’d need a mention about the pros of the Westphalian peace accord, before outright condemning and wanting to dispense with it. Also if you don’t like monopolization of power by the state, then what about the monopolization of rule of the law by the judiciary?

    To me the central question seems to be if Confucianism has all the (necessary) ingredients that Christianity has. Specifically the concept of non-perfectism within this world.

  8. Avianthro says:

    Suggested reading:

    “The Good Earth” by Pearl Buck

    “Behave” by Richard Sapolsky

    and the following brief article: https://www.wrightswriting.com/post/2018/06/07/against-idealism

    Philosophies, be they from the East or the West, are just epiphenomena and, at most, only proximate causes. To really understand what’s happening in China or anywhere in the world, one must go into the underlying realms of ultimate causes, the “nonphilosophical”-“non-ideological”.

  9. Marcali says:

    When a one party system runs a capitalist economy we are talking about a fascist state.

    • Replies: @RoatanBill
    , @karel
  10. The first three-quarters of this article is good; the last part about whether Confucius will marry Marx is nonsensical drivel.

  11. Anon[106] • Disclaimer says:

    No idea who this Xiang guy is from Pepe, or why he is even worth listening to. Buy why would the Chinese even change their governance as wished by Pepe or Xiang is beyond me. Consider that:
    Over the past 40 years, they have achieved the near impossible:
    They vanquished a virus ( that possibly could have been a heinous bio attack) within a mere three months, while most of the advanced economies still struggling with their “first wave”;
    They have almost completely alleviated extreme poverty within China, lifted 800 millions;
    They have had peace, highest level Of prosperity and personal freedom the Chinese ever experienced for the past 200 years;
    They are catching up to the west in so many areas that the West, led by the US, is suffering from Pre Traumatic Stress Syndrome…, shocked by a reality that is totally contrary to their long held beliefs that “ a one party state can never succeed”;
    The government has anywhere from 86 to 93 % approval rate, based on western polls by Harvard and Pew Research!

    • Agree: showmethereal
  12. @Marcali

    How, exactly, is this different when multiple parties run things? Please elaborate.

  13. Chinese culture, historically, lacked individualism & dynamism characteristic of the West (not Christianity).

    Be as it may, contemporary universal modern technological culture is mostly about success, greed etc. There is no spiritual umbrella of any kind. Successful peoples are mostly secular & any religious/spiritual idea doesn’t mean much to them.

    The dividing line is nationalism & national historical culture- Chinese remain nationalists (along with Russians & some Europeans), while wealthy secular European West is anational, and US is a mosaic of cultures undergoing identity crisis.

  14. SteveK9 says:

    He asks an interesting question, but then does not answer it. Why did the industrial revolution not occur in China? Also, why not consider the principles of the Enlightenment for China? It’s really hard to overestimate the accomplishments of Europe. Look at the Art, Architecture, Science, and Political Development (of course the constant warfare was not positive). China may have been the World leader up to the 12th Century, but after that, was left far behind by Europe. Why isn’t there something to be learned there?

  15. As I have commented previously, Adam Smith taught Philosophy, not economics. He was very close to those pushing for the final dismantling of the Craft Guilds. The Craft Guilds controlled the means of production, the quality and number of the people performing the work, and were concentrated on local not national or international trade.
    What people ignore about Smith, is that he wrote of the “political economy”, understanding full well that political decisions shaped the economy. Additionally, he stated the goal was the greatest happiness of all. Given where economics are today, using Smith as the excuse for everything is a bit of a stretch.

  16. karel says:
    @Marcali

    When two indistinguishable parties run the conomy in the capitalist mode, it is a fascist state,

  17. d dan says:
    @SteveK9

    “He asks an interesting question, but then does not answer it. Why did the industrial revolution not occur in China?”

    He did answer it. There was no need for industrial revolution in China – China was self-sufficient, in full employment and had good environment. Industrial revolution had plenty of drawbacks at that time, if you didn’t notice, e.g. pollution, destruction of traditional businesses, unemployment, social dislocation, exploitation of child labors, not to mention the needs to look for external markets and raw resources (which caused colonization)

    “China may have been the World leader up to the 12th Century…”

    China was still the world leader in many areas up to the late 19th century, especially non-military ones. For examples, China produced the best porcelains, silk, tea, fine arts, etc coveted throughout the Western world – otherwise there would NOT be the need to have the Opium Wars.

    • Replies: @jay
    , @showmethereal
  18. Vidi says:

    The problem is that “marrying Marxism and Confucianism is too dangerous”.

    I doubt the Chinese Communist Party, despite the name, will be dogmatically communist or Confucianist. As they have done successfully for decades, I expect them to use whatever works, and dump the rest.

  19. gay troll says:

    Will Jesus marry Rothschild?

  20. Anon[401] • Disclaimer says:

    No, China does not need to “ marry Confucius with Marx”. What China really really needs to improve now is their kindergarten level propaganda, as described here:

    https://worldaffairs.blog/2020/10/10/chinas-terrible-propaganda-and-journalism/

    • Thanks: d dan
  21. jay says:
    @d dan

    “China was still the world leader in many areas up to the late 19th century, especially non-military ones. For examples, China produced the best porcelains, silk, tea, fine arts, etc coveted throughout the Western world – otherwise there would NOT be the need to have the Opium Wars.”

    I believe the Chinese capacity of Aesthetics may have declined since the Tang Dynasty. Considering all the design of the Qing Era Architecture and Art.

    Was not as great as the Tang.

    Compared to the Western Palaces of Versailles or the Catherine Palace. The Forbidden City is far inferior.

  22. Xiang is a sellout, no doubts there. This article and the previous one make that sufficiently clear.

    What I find interesting to think about, is why Pepe Escobar espouses this kind of thinking. For the 5 years that I have read his articles, every single one was very clear in its support for China’s development.

    The last two articles indicate a change of course in his thinking. I cannot help but think, that the murder of Andrej Vltechek might have something to do with that

  23. DB Cooper says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    “Mao himself urged the adoption of capitalism as necessary means to this end and as a means to quickly strengthening China against outside aggression, but he never abandoned his Confucian vision and, thanks to him, the country is closer today than ever in history.”

    What a bunch of BS. Mao hates Confucius and denounced Confucianism and everything traditional Chinese which he detested (The traitorous piece of shit did write poem that compares him to emperor Qin, a figure that is historically denounced by Chinese people for his tyranny). Nobody dares talked about Confucianism during Mao’s time. It is simply politically not correct and was a life threatening offence. On the other hand Mao paraded huge portraits of Karl, Lenin, Stalin and Engels in Tiananmen square year after year, a most disgusting act since Russia is historically China’s largest land grabber and invaded China’s northeast just a few years before Mao seized power. Mao is the reason Mongolia was carved out to be a Soviet satellite because the Soviet Union was Mao’s patron. Note that for good reasons anti Russia’s sentiment in China was always high and Mao’s collusion with Russia amounts to treason. The reason the great martial artist Huo YuanJia rose to fame is because he challenged a Russian wrestler who insulted China. Huo YuanJia would be turning in his grave if he knew what Mao did to China. Mao is the reason the Diaoyutai dispute persist because the PRC did not make any noise when the issue first arose. It is the Nationalist government protest to the US and the Hong Kong people and the Taiwanese people protest in the US (mainly in the large campus where there were large Chinese (in those days means Taiwanese and Hong Kong people) students population during the 70s that it is still in dispute and not gifted to Japan. Mao even offer to concede South Tibet to India but the Indians were too stupid and didn’t take up the offer.

    You are a piece of shit. When you first wrote about China I thought you know something. But it turns out you are just as clueless as most other people. Some of the things you wrote are right, but that is only because a broken clock is right twice a day. Go fuck yourself white boy. I hope the CIA tracked you down and cut your fucking head off you worthless piece of filth. You live in Thailand is it not?

    • Troll: Godfree Roberts
    • Replies: @DB Cooper
  24. Erebus says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    … (Mao) never abandoned his Confucian vision…

    So he only temporarily strayed from it when he (in)famously touched on the topic of nuclear war in a speech at the Nov ’57 Moscow Conference?

    “… if it came to the worst and half of mankind died, the other half would remain while imperialism would be razed to the ground, and the whole world would become socialist. After a number of years, there will again be 2.7 billion people or more.”

    Doubtless the shocked Soviet leadership began to wonder whether giving Confucian visionaries the Bomb was such a good idea after all.

  25. DB Cooper says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    Did you God fucking free fucking Roberts know that Confucius temples (including the main one in Qufu) were vandalized during the cultural revolution?

    • Troll: Godfree Roberts
  26. @Wyatt

    USA –it had the Marbles since WWII but did nothing constructive with it except create a war machine and this made big profits for the 1% and now the results are showing manufacturing off-shoered –Baltimore – South Chicago – Kenoshee- Milwaukee- St Louis- Portland- Seattle – Los Angeles are prime time for Hallowe’en. When is the 99% going to wake up and take back America? Both mainline pearties are in a BIG LOVE IN and forgot the taxpayer who put them there. Donald Trump employs 4,000 IRS directly —checking his tax returns to find 1,500??? Tis is hardly value added !!

  27. @SteveK9

    How about the technology recvolution today but USA scared senseless of Tick Tock and Ant? China at G5 nationwide –how about Dunlop Kansas —? STEM is all about China —math-science- tech–not law and history—

  28. Refer to the good old” Bible” Fester. When you read Book of Acts ( Written by Doctor Luke) he pens something at 4:35 and further at 11:29. This is very important “Pugsley” because these 2 sections is the conclusion of Karl Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’. Now –either Marx is Wrong and therefore the “Bible is Wrong” but this latter is wrong!! IF the Bible is correct —and Marx is in alignment with the Bible’s ACTUAL wording –then Marx is correct. Further–at 4: 33 is a pair who sold land and kept back part of the proceeds ( as any good person applying the invisible hand would do —keep some of it) but when they approached Peter and tossed in the funds Peter asks these 2 why they LIED —not to Peter but to the Holy Spirit —and both died on the spot,. Makes a person think “Wednesday”—–MY Ways are NOT your ways —-and the love of money—the root of all evil —-enter the narrow gate—makes a person think doesn’t it “Thing” ?

  29. DB Cooper says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    You have no better response than called me a troll. What you wrote is just nonsense. Let me school you some more dumb ass. The traitorous piece of shit of shit Mao detest Confucius. Not only intellectuals especially Confucius scholars were called 臭老九, which is an extremely derogatory slur, the traitorous piece of shit has a special word reserve for Confucius himself and it is 孔老二, literally second brother Kong. On the surface this seems like a rather innocuous term but if you are a Chinese and know the context you will know this is extremely insulting to Confucius. For the benefit of Chinese reading commenters here I copied below:

    https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/78194496.html

    [MORE]

    孔老二是文革时期对bai先秦思想家孔子的du代称.孔子的父亲名叫叔zhi梁 ,武力绝伦。元配生有九个女儿,dao无子。妾虽生了一个儿子,可惜是个残障儿。于是在六十四岁时,又娶了颜氏,才生下了孔子。所以孔子是家里第二个男子,字亦为“仲尼”,“仲”,是第二的意思。 因在孔父叔梁纥家的男孩里,孔子排行老二[注1]。始自1967年以学术权威、牛鬼蛇神为打击目标的批孔,流行于1974年开始的批林批孔运动,结束于1978年夏季以后对把四人帮与孔子联系起来(《评“四人帮”的假批孔》论定“四人帮”是“按着孔丘的钟鼓,跳着林彪的舞步”)的反思。
    用前缀“老”加于数词“一、二、三……”前作排行次序来称呼人,在家族内部长辈对晚辈或同辈之间使用这样简化指称方法,有亲切感。但用于一般性称呼,含有轻慢意味。尤其与历来称“夫子”、“文宣王”、“大成至圣先师”,礼数惟恐不周相比,直呼其名、字“孔丘”、“孔仲尼”,已经是不敬;称“孔老二”当然更加是带有强烈贬低、讥讽和否定色彩的侮蔑性称谓了。
    五四运动“打倒孔家店”以后,孔子地位虽不复至高无上,但在民间影响变化不大。林彪被清除后一度批极左,毛泽东极为忌讳、不满;认定林是极右。从毛家湾找到“克己复礼”条幅为把林彪与孔子联系起来批判,提供了勉强的根据。毛泽东曾有《七律·读呈郭老》(1973年8月),诗中颔联说:“祖龙虽死秦犹在,孔学名高实秕糠。”用秕糠称孔子思想,评价之贬抑、尖刻,古来罕有其匹。写于1974年5月的一首五言更称:“郭老从柳退,不及柳宗元。名曰共产党,崇拜孔二先。”以其地位至尊,这横扫一切的气派风尚,对当时影响自大。
    通过妖魔化塑造,迂腐、愚昧、反动、呆板、专制、下流成为孔子的同义词,所以孔老二被当作当时对孔子的普遍称呼。如果谁要仍称孔子,就是无视时代进步、组织定论,冒天下之大不韪了。仅此一端,就足以致祸获咎。
    时有歌谣:“叛徒林彪、孔老二,都是坏东西。嘴上讲仁义, 肚里藏诡计。鼓吹‘克己复礼’,一心想复辟。红小兵齐上阵,口诛笔伐狠狠批。嗨!”[注2]曲调简单,易学易唱,流传极广。对于儿童来说,漫画和辱骂,当然比说理更容易使人留下深刻印象,从而起到记忆作用。在有能力真正了解、认识孔子以前,无意识就被这样的儿歌定型,会形成不易纠正的刻板印象。中央党校唐晓文著有《柳下跖痛骂孔老二》。还有评法批儒的对口词、快板、评书故事等创作,被编为《工农兵狠批孔老二(曲艺集)》(32开,36页),由辽宁人民出版社1974年出版。
    以此为题材,当时出版了多种普及性连环画(据称有数百种):人民美术出版社1975年出版有任梅编、鲁展美绘《历史上劳动人民反孔斗争的故事》(64开) ,2006年“夫人城旧书超市”以8成品相叫价40元。上海人民出版社1974年出版顾炳鑫和贺友直绘制的连环画《孔老二罪恶的一生》(60开,84页),在“连趣网”上有9.2品旧书叫价155元。广西人民出版社出版有署名“本社通讯员编绘”的连环画《林彪与孔老二》(1974年3月),初印10万,在“红色收藏”网上叫价145元。
    1980年代后,此一称呼迅速消亡。自现代新儒家盛行,孔子风光借伟大复兴再现矣。曲阜、浙江衢州、上海、广东德庆、台北、香港、旧金山等地祭孔香烟缭绕,读经(蒋庆)呼声不绝,并有专门网页推出,“全国各地区代理现正火热招商”。

  30. DB Cooper says:
    @DB Cooper

    You have no better response than called me a troll. Let me school you some more dumb a$$. During Mao’s time intellectuals especially Confucius scholars were called 臭老九, which is an extremely derogatory term but the traitorous piece of shit Mao has a special slur word reserved for Confucius himself and it is called 孔老二, literally second brother Kong. On the surface this seems like a rather innocuous term but if you are a Chinese and know the context you would know that this is extremely insulting to Confucius. But what do a clueless white boy know?

    For the benefit of Chinese reading commentators I copied below:

    https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/78194496.html

    Here is a cartoon produced during those times to insult Confucius. The title of the cartoon is “The criminal life of 孔老二”.

    https://www.bilibili.com/read/cv2684863/

    If people who have time and can read Chinese please translate some of the cartoons to the Western readers.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  31. DB Cooper says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    “Xiang makes some good points but seems oblivious to the CCP’s Confucian roots and policies.”

    There is no such thing as CCP’s Confucian roots dumb a$$. This is an oxymoron. CCP’s root is Lenin and Marx.

  32. I suggest you educate yourself about Confucius, Mao, and the PRC.

    Start with this boyhood memoir, Mao Tse-Tung and I Were Beggars, by Siao-Yu.

    Though Siao-Yu became a prominent KMT supporter, his account of Mao’s love of Confucius is moving.

    Let me know when you’ve finished it and I’ll dig up some quotes of Mao discussing Confucius.

    Btw, when Mao created by the expression, socialism with Chinese characteristics, what specifically did he say are its Chinese characteristics? Can you guess?

  33. @DB Cooper

    Can you provide a direct Mao quote, so we might begin a civilized discussion, or is this a religious matter?

  34. @karel

    The fact that they spent money to establish “Confucian Institutes” all around the world should sum it up. Though Mike Pompeo and crew claim it is a front to teach Marxism – SMH.
    But yeah all of East Asia and a couple of SE Asia use Confucianism PLUS – something else – to govern…

  35. @d dan

    Agreed overall… But missing industrialization did hamper China – not economically – but militarily. In the same way the Ming ending their navy – which they were advanced at – allowed China to fall behind militarily. Those led to the invasions from the Opium Wars forward. Had the Ming kept their navies there is a chance China would have stayed ahead in naval tech and wouldn’t have fallen behind militarily overall… But hindsight is 20/20.

  36. Adûnâi says: • Website

    I have read the entire article, thanks for the summary, although I do view it as quite myopic.

    Xiang is extremely critical of how the West approached China in the 19th century, “through the path of Westphalian power politics and the show of violence and Western military superiority.”

    Had the West been rational and ruthless, China would have stopped existing as a biological entity by 1950. The fact that a scholar such as Xiang cannot throw off the shackles of Christian theology is telling.

    …the current Chinese hybrid system, “dominated by a cancerous alien organ of Russian Bolshevism…

    How much are the Chinese conscious of this loan? Do they admit it themselves? Because in Juche Korea, for example, the official Party line outright rejects the meddling of the Chinese in the Korean struggle for liberation, and the August 1945 Russo-Japanese War is depicted as a Korean-Japanese War (with minuscule Soviet help). Is it so hard for the Chinese Party to rewrite its history to cement future prosperity likewise?

    Xiang turns the question upside down: “Why traditional China needed an industrial revolution at all?”

    To have a population explosion? To improve their artillery? To invent machine guns? To acquire the capacity to wage total industrial war?

    Oh wait, the invasion of the genocidal Aryans from the sea never followed. My error.

    • Replies: @Joe Levantine
  37. @SteveK9

    “ China may have been the World leader up to the 12th Century, but after that, was left far behind by Europe. Why isn’t there something to be learned there?”

    According to most Western historians, China was the leading technological, economic and military power until the sixteenth century when the Ming dynasty decided that it did not need to trade with the outside world, especially Europeans, as the Chinese looked down upon them as barbarians with a penchant to violence. The Ming dynasty ordered the burning of the Chinese commercial fleet which numbered around 3500 ships, and decided to stop buying anything from the West. That isolation gradually pushed China into economic decline, yet by the beginning of the nineteenth century, just before the industrial revolution took roots in Europe, China was still the world’s largest economy. China was leading before the renaissance in the fields of medicine, biology ( they had the most extensive botanical encyclopaedia) and technology as their merchant ships were far superior to the European ones and they could extract salt from of a depth of 400 feet.

    As for Pepe’s question if China will get to marry Confucianism with Marxism, I think that this would be an impossible combination. Marxism got hold of China because of Western imperialism that humiliated China and treated its people as cattle which led the Communists under Mao to triumph with the covert help of many Westerners who were communist undercover agents of the Harry Dexter White or the Alger Hiss types ( Richard Nixon suspected the loss of China to have been mainly an American mistake). China responded to Western hegemony through a Stalinist industrial development plan that built the heavy industry base and Deng’s opening up of the economy allowed China to make the true Great Leap Forward. Though it would be a mistake to ignore the immense boost that China got from joining the WTO, on China’s terms right when the world was distracted by the 9/11 farce, like the requirement that any foreign company operating in China would have at least a 51% Chinese stake, a caveat granted to no other WTO member. From there on the West was keen to sell communist China the proverbial Lenin rope she would use to hang the Capitalist economies with. The West transferred its technology to the Chinese factory floors on a silver platter in search of cheap labor and new markets and the rest is history.

    Had it not been for the reckless European treatment of the Chinese, Marxism would have never taken hold of China. Which ideology is bound to prevail overtime, I would bet my money on Confucianism as it has survived in China for millennia whereas Marxism is a recent ideology that would gradually take the back seat once China’s emergence as the greatest world power materialises again, though America’s belligerence against China will lengthen the lifespan of the Chinese Communist Party.

    • Thanks: showmethereal
  38. @Adûnâi

    “ The fact that a scholar such as Xiang cannot throw off the shackles of Christian theology is telling.”

    Always blaming the Christians for failing to annihilate the enemy when the opportunity was there. I would thank Christianity for rendering mankind less rapacious in their pursuit of power and hegemony. Yet, we can hardly credit the Christian influence for the shameful Western colonisation of China and the opium war that was instigated by the drug dealing Sassoon family. Western Christians have always been malleable tools at the service of the bankers and their Talmudic ways in exchange of a pittance.

  39. Those who claim that the Chinese were never interested in conquest or empire have to answer this question: How did China get so big? Was it the same way the other big countries, like Russian and the US, became big?

    • Replies: @d dan
    , @showmethereal
  40. d dan says:
    @The_seventh_shape

    “Those who claim that the Chinese were never interested in conquest or empire have to answer this question: How did China get so big? Was it the same way the other big countries, like Russian and the US, became big?”

    No, it was different. Chinese was defensive in most of its thousand years history. It built the Great Wall, it placated the invaders – sending them gold, silver, silk, women and even princess. When all else failed, they fought. If they won, they destroyed the invaders and conquered their lands. If they lost, they sinicized the invaders culturally and eventually made them part of the China empire.

  41. @The_seventh_shape

    Conquest? No… Empire? Yes.. If you look at most of the expansion of what we know has China – what became the “Han” people were actually a bunch of different ethnic groups who decided to band together under one dynasty. The major expansions of what is China were other empires who attacked the Han and lost (northwest China aka Xinjiang as well as Tibet) or who conquered the Han but after ruling over them as a continuation of the Han dynasty in power – eventually got absorbed by the Han (Mongols and Jurchen – which is also known as Manchuria). Han people sometimes innocently and sometimes arrogantly sought to be separate from the rest of the world. Hence the Great Wall (which there are actually others besides the most famous one) and the Ming decision to self destruct what was the largest and most advanced navy in the world at the time.
    And just for the record – China has VOLUNTARILY (and involuntarily in the case of Outer Mongolia) shrunk by millions of square kilometers versus its size in 1910. In fact the PRC gets blamed by the ROC in Taiwan for giving up so much Chinese territory.

  42. @Joe Levantine

    Great comment… Especially noting that if there was no western imperialism there would not have been a communist revolution (Marxism also being a western import).
    I also agree that if China regains it’s status as most advanced nation – the name “Communist Party” will disappear. No question people like Xi still hold on to Marxism – even as they realize China needed to bring back it’s own culture and morality… I’d say that as that generation retires and dies off – Marxism will be even less spoken about. BUT – I still believe the Chinese people will hold on to a strong central government and a collective structure. Mainland China – in my view will be more like a giant version of today’s Singapore rather than Taiwan.

    • Thanks: Joe Levantine
  43. @Joe Levantine

    It’s no surprise China was more advanced in the Ming period. This coincided with the middle ages (the latter part) when Europe went into decline and stasis due to Christianity.

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