Is it possible to gain more freedom in China through Confucianism?

It is obvious that the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] had been moving cautiously and slowly toward implementing a participatory form of government but slower than they have done to build the highly successful market economy that is driving China’s prosperity today.

I read Moving China Toward Democracy: A Confucian Framework written by Kyle Baxter.  It is a thoughtful piece. It is still to be determined if Baxter’s ideas will work, but evidence suggests that the CCP is moving in that direction.

What has been historically the cornerstone of most Chinese governments has been a legal system known as Legalism that comes with harsh punishments. Recent signs of movement away from Legalism toward more freedoms and transparency might be seen in the open and televised trial of Bo Xilai, a popular and powerful figure in the CCP.

If Confucianism were to be the bedrock of a representative government in China, China’s critics in the West would have less to complain about.

China has never really adopted Confucian principles for political rule. Since Confucianism values individual rights along with family values, this transition would pave the way for China to retain its cultural identity and join the world as a country with more freedoms for its people—but not necessarily a democracy by definition.

Some evidence that this is happening may be seen in the next video about China easing the one-child policy and ending labor camps.

Under Confucianism, Baxter says, “Government, then, becomes an institution to protect the people, and not to control them; to encourage them toward a proper way of life, and not a totalitarian state. … Confucianism is a viable framework for a constitutional democracy, and uniquely positions China for success as a modern nation.”

Deng Xiaoping said it best, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”

Discover the Influence of Confucius


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. 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.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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4 Responses to Is it possible to gain more freedom in China through Confucianism?

  1. Really fine post! Excellent. It’s new year’s eve … and it was more interesting than the fireworks!

  2. “and join the world as a country with more freedoms for its people”?

    Hmm. They’re currently enjoying more “freedoms” than ever in their proud, 2200-year history. Once the country is reunited and it’s last scar begins to fade, we’ll probably see more Western “freedoms”.

    I doubt that more than 15% of Chinese will notice or care.

    • I think you are right. Less than 15% will notice or care because they are too busy living life to be bothered by what others think outside of China where most people have no idea how free the Chinese people are today compared to any other time in China’s history.

      At no time in China’s history have the Chinese lived without fear of drought and famine somewhere in China. And no one in China has died of starvation—a threat that killed Chinese every year for two thousand years until 1960.

      At no time in China’s history has the average life expectancy been so high.

      At no time in China’s history have women been equal to men until after 1950.

      At no time in China’s history has education been available to everyone and if you work hard in school you have a chance to go to university even if you are from a small rural farming village.

      Every economic and educational opportunity exists in China that exists in the United States.

      At no time in China’s history has so many Chinese been able to travel the world. More Chinese travel as tourists today outside China than any other country on the earth.

      At no time in China’s history have so many Chinese left China to go to college in other countries like the United States, Canada and the UK and then choose to return home as many are doing of their own free will.

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