Third Question [Lofthouse]:
In your book trailer, you claim that China has nothing to offer the world culturally and in a stereotyped blanket statement say that the Confucian hierarchy of China’s culture causes businesses and industries to have a rigid chain of command that exerts total control over the people below them. Due to this, you say it leads to inefficiency and a lack of coordination.
However, how do you explain that under the same collective, cultural Confucian hierarchy you criticize, China was the wealthiest, most powerful and technologically advanced nation on the planet for more than two thousand years until the 19th century?
In addition to directing the reader toward a particular conclusion, begging-the-question language assumes a premise has already been established. However, it hasn’t been established that China was the world’s greatest nation from the Qin (221 BCE) to 1800. Was China really wealthier, more powerful, and more technologically advanced than the Roman Empire (44 BCE – 1453 CE)? Says who?
Most cultures devise a gilded-age myth. Conspicuously, China’s gilded-age spans two millennia, from the First Emperor to the Opium Wars. It speaks to patriotism and victimization, and is a Communist Party fabrication. An eighth-grade social science textbook begins, “Our motherland… was once an advanced and great nation… but after the invasions of the… capitalist powers, a profound national crisis occurred.”
Specious and hyperbolic declarations only obscure a reasoned analysis of China’s contributions. A relevant example is Gavin Menzies’s 1421: The Year China Discovered the World. China’s 15th-century age-of-exploration is truly remarkable, but Menzies overreaches to where the Chinese built a Danish granary in America and a Loyalist farm in Canada. Like many Sinophiles, he specializes in mythomania. The Cambridge scientist Joseph Needham (1900–1995) is guilty of overstatement, too. Needham accurately noted China had made contributions to science never documented, but he grossly inflated their scope and importance, explicating that the Chinese had invented virtually everything – only to forget it all just before the Europeans arrived.
In Jonathan Spence’s The Search for Modern China, no gilded-age appears and European presence is not treated as the prevailing theme. Chinese civilization is portrayed as highly complex but infinitely troubled, by poverty, lawlessness, chaos, violence, warlordism, rebellion, warfare, despotism, etc. Spence, the foremost China scholar, does not indicate China represented the most advanced nation, nor does he propose its achievements were the result of Confucian values.
China’s achievements have occurred despite Confucian values. Overwhelmingly, Confucianism works only to stifle creativity, stymie critical thinking, and nullify questioning. It is a form of authoritarianism, tyranny of the mind and soul. If the Chinese wish to genuinely advance, they must scrutinize this antediluvian rubric. They must ask if it has served to advance them, or kept them subjugated.
Spence is not “the” foremost China scholar. At best, he is widely recognized as “a” leading scholar of Chinese history, among “many” others.
As for China’s Han Dynasty being superior to Rome during Emperor Marcus Aurelius time (161- 180 AD), Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford and Archaeologist Charles Higham, a world famous authority on ancient Asia, sets the record straight in Xi’an (Chang’ an).
In ‘The Indiscreet Charm of Tyranny’, Buruma writes, “Confucius, and especially Mencius, believed in the people’s right to rebel against corrupt rulers,” and the Chinese people are aware, explaining The Mandate of Heaven.
In addition, “Ancient Chinese Inventions” published by Cambridge University Press reveals that China gave birth to numerous scientific and technological inventions, and for centuries led the world in such innovations.
In conclusion, Spence explored ‘Why Confucius Counts’ and said, “In the hands of major current thinkers it (Confucianism) is neither farce nor fraud.”
Final Word [Parfitt]:
Whether the Han dynasty was “greater” than Marcus Aurelius’s Rome has nothing to do with the claim that China represented the greatest civilization on Earth.
I don’t deny China’s scientific achievments; I have read about them and Science and Civilisation in China, the pertinent, authoritative work. Chinese innovations should not be disregarded. However, it must be asked why so few have appeared in modern history. Of the 976 Nobel laureates to date, only 1 has been a citizen of China: Liu Xiaobo, awarded the 2010 Peace Prize while in prison for subversion.
If Confucius had focused more on reasoned thinking than tautology, and encourged his compatriots to question and investigate rather than imitate and obey, the Chinese might not have a government working under the directive of an inanimate entity with a dubious existence. The Mandate of Heaven is no more meaningful than the Mandate of Earth, Wind, or Fire.
Continued on December 1, 2011 in Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” – Part 5 or return to Part 3.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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