Understanding the importance of harmony in China

Most Chinese do not like anarchy—but who does except the libertarian anarchist.

The Chinese have had their fill of anarchy. Every time a dynasty collapsed, decades or centuries of anarchy would be ushered in and chaos ruled. For instance, when Mao died in 1976, Deng Xiaoping put a stop to the madness of the Cultural Revolution and ushered in an era of harmony and prosperity that continues to this day.

In fact, Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism all place a heavy emphasis on harmony and because of this, harmony is probably the most cherished ideal in Chinese culture from the leader to the poorest peasant.

While some claim that Confucianism is promoted by the Chinese Communist Party as a way to maintain order, these same critics often miss the Taoist message of living in harmony with the Tao. The term Tao means “way”, “path” or “principle” and may also be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. 

Taoism in general tends to emphasize wu-wie—action through non-action—and the Three Treasures: compassion, moderation, and humility. In addition, Buddhism, for instance, has six rules of harmony taught by the Buddha to his followers in order to bring about unity and harmony.

And that explains why most Chinese—even today—do not like talking about the “white elephant” in the family or country to strangers.

With that in mind, it should not be surprising that when Google was complaining about being hacked by China’s government and refused to censor their search engine in China (eventually they did so they could keep doing business there), many Chinese turned to Baidu, which operates China’s most popular Internet search engine.

Because of Google’s behavior in 2010, Baidu now controls 65.74% [up more than 20% from 2010] of China’s search engine market compared to Google’s 3% share. Source: Search Engine Watch.com

It would seem that Google became the “white elephant” in the room by complaining publicly. It is also a mistake to think that because China cracks down on the few democracy advocates who speak out publicly criticizing the CCP, that most Chinese citizens support these advocates who often end up living in the United States after China kicks them out. The truth is that most Chinese probably think these outspoken few are fools.

In China, instead of shouting “give me liberty or death”, most Chinese would say, “Give me harmony and life,” because of several thousand years of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism that are all much older and maybe much wiser than Christianity or Islam.


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.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

4 Responses to Understanding the importance of harmony in China

  1. Most Americans cannot fathom being anything but American. We are just a teensy bit provincial. And China is so very different … I’ve had people ask me which was first, WW I or WW II. There’s no way we are going to comprehend their their culture or national experiences.

    • “A teensy bit provincial” LOL

      An understatement, I think.

      Those oceans on both sides of America put more than distance between us and the rest of the world. Most Americans don’t even understand the neighbor to the south of us, Mexico.

      I remember when Clinton was being impeached because he had that tryst with a White House intern (Monica Lewinsky was her name, I think. I understand she left the US and lives in London now.) and read a piece about the French who couldn’t understand why Americans would persecute a leader (they thought was a good one) for a little indiscretion. I think the ignorance of other cultures and the history of other countries is a two way street. Much of the world doesn’t understand why Americans think and act the way they do. Sometimes don’t even understand why Americans think the way they do and I was born, raised and have lived here all my life. Maybe America is more than one culture. After all, the United States has the third largest population in the world.

      For instance, my brother-in-law—who drove an 18 wheeler coast to coast for years—once said that when he left the west or east coast and drove across the Bible Belt or through the South, he felt as if he were in another country.

  2. When two countries have such different histories, philosophies and value systems as the United States and China, vacation travel is not sufficient to bridge the gap. It’s a start, though. Forty years ago, we couldn’t travel to China. High schools and most colleges in the US didn’t offer courses in Mandarin. World History courses barely touched on China’s long and complex history. We still have a long, long way to go before we understand China. Thank you for your efforts in that direction.

    • You’re welcome.

      Not that long ago my knowledge and understanding of China was zero. That was 1999. Then I meant my wife and wanted to understand who she was, and to understand that, I decided I had to learn about China, its people, its culture and its history. I’ve been discovering China ever since and I doubt this journey will ever end. That of course now extends to the rest of the world.

      Most Americans are insulated by distance from the rest of the world and think about the world out of ignorance and usually stereotype everyone in the world from what they hear (I’d add “read” to that but too many Americans don’t read anything even the nutrition labels on the food they buy at the market and fast food dumps) in thirty seconds or less from the evening news or some idiot like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck on radio—dumb guys who acts as if they know it all but are really as ignorant about other countries and cultures than the people who listen to them.

      Now when I hear some moronic talk show host talk about other countries and cultures, I don’t believe much of what they say.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: