Judging China through a Chinese lens

April 10, 2019

I have often read or heard what others think of China and its government with them knowing little or nothing of China’s history, culture, or what China’s Constitution says. Too much of that criticism is often influenced by bias and/or ignorance.

In this post, I will focus on four articles from China’s Constitution and attempt to link what they say to Confucius. If you want to learn about the rest of China’s Constitution, click the link in this sentence.

Chapter II

Article 51: Citizens of the People’s Republic of China, in exercising their freedoms and rights, may not infringe upon the interests of the State, of society or of the collective, or upon the lawful freedoms and rights of other citizens.

Article 52: It is the duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to safeguard the unification of the country and the unity of all its nationalities.

Article 53: Citizens of the People’s Republic of China must abide by the Constitution and other laws, keep State secrets, protect public property, observe labour discipline and public order and respect social ethics.

Article 54: It is the duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to safeguard the security, honour and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honour and interests of the motherland.

If you clicked the link and read/study China’s Constitution, do not forget the four articles listed above. Through the lens of Articles 51 – 54, you might learn how to interpret the rest of the Constitution. It also helps if you understand the basics of Confucian ethics.

Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. The philosophy of Confucius, also known as Confucianism, emphasized personal and governmental morality, the correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity.

The Khan Academy says, “Towards the end of the Zhou Dynasty, as feudal lords fought over land, there was a scholar and government minister by the name of Kong Fuzi—later Latinized as Confucius by sixteenth-century Jesuits. … Confucius urged ethical and upright behavior, framing responsible government as a moral duty similar to parenthood. He believed providing a good example of moral conduct to the people would spur them to act within the confines of the law.”

How is Confucianism guiding President Xi Jinping?

CNN reported, “In the first few months since he took power, Xi has pushed a popular and arguably progressive agenda: attacking corruption, not just flies (junior officials) but a few tigers (senior officials) too; curbing official extravagance, like senseless banqueting, and, one of my favorites, banning ‘empty speeches.’

“But in recent weeks, Xi has turned ‘left’. He allowed tighter control over the traditional and social media, silenced dissenting voices among academics and scholars, and cracked down on liberal activists, petitioners and protesters.”

Return to Articles 51 – 54 to help understand what Xi might be thinking when he curbs official extravagance, silences dissenting voices, and cracks down on activists.

Is Xi Jinping following the Confucian Ideal of Harmony?

Harmony (known as “he”) is probably the most cherished ideal in Chinese culture. The word “he” predates Confucius. Its earliest form can be found in the inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells from the Shang dynasty (16th to 11th centuries B.C.E.)

The Harmonious Society (Chinese: 和谐社会; pinyin: héxié shèhuì) has been a socioeconomic vision in China. The concept of social harmony dates back to ancient China, to the time of Confucius. As a result, the philosophy has also been characterized as a form of New Confucianism.

Therefore, when Xi Jinping and/or the Chinese Communist Party “cracks down” on corrupt officials, activists, and protestors, think about what a harmonious society means to them and what they think they have to do to achieve one, and do not confuse “he” with the Western concept of human rights.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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GUANXI

March 13, 2019

The more China changes, the more it stays the same.

Just because China has a one-party political system that calls itself the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), that doesn’t mean the government is not Chinese. In fact, the CCP maintains that despite the co-existence of private capitalists and entrepreneurs with public and collective enterprises, China is not a capitalist country because the party retains control over the direction of the country, maintaining its course of socialist development.

In China, Guanxi is a complex system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings. Because Guanxi is built into social networks and influential relationships, it also runs deep through the CCP like threads through a complex interwoven, handmade tapestry.

Sir Robert Hart (1835 – 1911), the godfather of China’s modernization and the main character in my historical fiction novel, My Splendid Concubine, discovered the importance of Guanxi soon after he arrived in China and eventually went to work for China’s Emperor. Hart quickly learned that a ‘supreme value of loyalty glued together China’s structure of personal relationships.’

In addition, Robert Hart wrote in a letter in 1891, “These people (referring to the Chinese) never act too soon, and, so far, I have not known of their losing anything by being late. To glide naturally, easily and seasonably into the safe position sequence as circumstances make, is probably a sounder though less heroic policy for a state than to be forever experimenting …”

To translate, it takes time to develop Guanxi through relationships, friendships, and trust where everyone benefits. In China, one must prove they can be trusted before being accepted into a Guanxi social and/or business network.

There are several elements and layers to Guanxi. First, Guanxi is based on a Confucian hierarchy of familial relationships, long-term friendships, classmates, and schoolmates that no stranger, Chinese or foreign, will ever have access to.

Guanxi developed over millennia because China did not have a stable and effective legal system similar to the one that developed in western countries.

And thanks to the greed, insanity, and incompetence of President Donald Trump and the Libertarian movement in the United States, China will probably never become a capitalist kleptocracy like the U.S. is fast becoming. Guanxi will make sure that never happens in China, and corrupt individuals like Donald Trump will never understand how Guanxi works because of his inability to be honest and trust others. To Trump, he must always win and everyone else must lose.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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China Joined the WTO in 2001

August 22, 2018

The BBC reported, “After 15 years of diplomatic struggle, China finally has become a fully-fledged member of the international trading system.”

China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 11, 2001. The admission of China to the WTO was preceded by a lengthy process of negotiations and required significant changes in China.

Many elements in China’s WTO accession agreement required improving the rule of law. When China joined the WTO, China agreed to ensure that its legal measures would be consistent with its WTO obligations and that led to China’s Rule of Law Reform.

China also made a substantial number of other WTO commitments related to the rule of law in areas of transparency, judicial review, uniform enforcement of laws, and nondiscriminatory treatment.

China reformed its judicial processes to ensure that they were compatible with its WTO commitments.

This transition from Chinese to western legalism hasn’t been as smooth as some critics wanted it to be, but it is happening, and it’s clear that in the last few decades China has made an effort to fit into the community of nations while retaining its own identity.

That might be explained by the differences between Chinese legalism and Western legalism primarily related to morality. Western legalism defends the rule-of-law but argues against the morality of law. In contrast, Chinese legalism, especially in the early Pre-Qin era, did not separate morality from law.

Chinese legalism was interpreted as the fidelity (loyalty) to the monarch in moral terms often as defined by Confucianism. In other words, morality in the United States and Europe is mostly based on the teachings of Christianity and many western philosophers while the morality of China is mostly based on Confucianism.

Understanding China’s history and the morality that’s part of its legal system is often ignored, especially by many ignorant Americans that judge China based on Western values and laws.

For instance, a conservative, born-again Christian, a former friend, once said to me that China needed a proper legal system. Since China already had a legal system, what did he mean?

I knew this individual for about sixty years, and I’m sure he meant that China should have a legal system like the U.S. or the U.K. After all, he claimed scripture guided his life and the Christian Bible has been around for centuries proving, to him, that it came from God. For this former friend’s approval, China had to bend its laws to fit Christian scripture.

However, the Chinese learned from Confucius while in the West we learned from the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, the Old and New Testaments, and many other voices that influenced western thought. I wonder if too many voices often lead to confusion, and that might explain why the Chinese civilization has been more stable over the millennia than the west has.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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A short-and-simple intro to Confucius and his impact on China

January 31, 2018

Confucius (551-470 B.C.E.) lived during the warring states period before China was unified as one nation. Confucius is considered the founder of the Chinese ethical and moral system based on the family and his Five Great Relationships:

1. between ruler and subject
2. father and son
3. husband and wife
4. elder and younger brother
5. friend and friend

In each pair, one role was superior and one inferior; one led and the other followed. Yet each involved mutual obligations and responsibilities. Failure to properly fulfill one’s role could lead to the end of the relationship.

In Fact, Confucius taught that responsibility was not given just because you had wealth or power.  Responsibility had to be earned through compassion for others and to live in moderation and not strive for excess.

Did you notice that religion and God are not mentioned among the Five Great Relationships?

Discover The Return of Confucious

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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Piracy is Culturally Acceptable

June 14, 2017

The more I learn about China, the more I realize that most of what happens in China has everything to do with cultural differences and little to do with the Chinese Communist Party. After all the more than 80-million members of the CCP are Chinese.

In 2008, Lisa Wang wrote a post for China Law and Practice.com of Searching for Liability: Online Copyright Infringement in China.

Lisa Wang said, “The digital copying of music, images, and video, and their distribution over the internet (in China) can provide hours of entertainment for the general public and multiple migraines for rights holders.”

Many in the West that read this may think infringement of copyright in China is done to make money by selling fake copies but, while somewhat true, that isn’t always the case.

The Economist reported how difficult it was to make a profit in the toughest recorded-music market in the world, which is China, because many chinse will not pay to download music from the Internet.

Instead, people in China download music free from a number of sites where other Chinese have made the music available. Despite government censorship, many Chinese download pirated videos and watch the latest movie releases and television shows from America.

Pirated American TV shows are so widespread in China, Wentworth Miller, who is best-known for his role in the Fox television show Prison Break, was mobbed by his fans when he visited China. However, Prison Break is not officially broadcast by Chinese television stations.

If China’s censors block a foreign TV show or movie, the Chinese may often watch pirated DVDs or go on-line to watch pirated versions for free.

I know an American expatriate living in China that watches the latest American movies for free a few days after they hit the theaters in America, and he streams them on-line.

The Chinese have a reputation for being frugal and saving money and this may be another way to achieve that goal by cooperatively helping each other read books and watch movies for free.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Ancient Chinese Bongs, Booms, Clangs, and Tinkles

May 10, 2017

In 1977, a complete set of chime bells were unearthed from the tomb of Marquis Yi, who lived during the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC). These chimes were older than the Qin Dynasty’s famous Terra Cotta warriors (221 to 206 B.C.) were.

The sixty-five chime bells weighed about 5 tons.

When the chimes were discovered in Hubei Province, a plot of land was being leveled to build a factory.  The Red Army officer in charge of the work had an interest in archeology.

The officer discovered that the workers were selling the ancient bronze and iron artifacts they were digging up. He convinced local authorities there might be an ancient tomb buried below the site.

When the tomb was unearthed, the bells were discovered.  These musical instruments were an important part of ritual and court music from ancient China. An American professor in New York City called these chimes the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

No other set of chimes like this had been discovered in China, and this set was in excellent condition.

A project in 1979 duplicated four sets of these chimes. More than a hundred scientists and technicians were recruited.  In 1998, twenty years after the discovery of the original chimes, the project was completed, and one set was sent to Taiwan as a gift.

Discover The Return of Confucious to China

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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China’s Historical Influence

May 9, 2017

China was a regional superpower in East Asia for about two-thousand years starting with the Han Dynasty in 206 B.C. How did China influence those countries?


China’s Sphere of Influence Japan, Korea, Vietnam AP World History

From Global Security.org we learn “During the T’ang (Thang) dynasty China (in the 7th to the 9th century AD) the two peoples of China and the Philippines already had relatively close relations and material as well as cultural exchanges.”

The Chinese exchanged silk, porcelain, colored glass, beads and iron ware for hemp cloth, tortoise shells, pearls and yellow wax of the Filipinos.

The Chinese became the dominant traders in the 12th and 13th centuries during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD). The shift in the commerce between China and Southeast Asia saw Butuan send a tribute mission to the Sung emperor.

Ethnic Chinese sailed around the Philippine Islands from the 9th century onward and frequently interacted with the local Filipinos. Some datus, rajahs, and lakans (indigenous rulers) in the Philippines were themselves a product of the intermarriage between the Chinese merchant-settlers and the local Filipinos

There is a significant number of Thai-Chinese in Thailand. Fourteen percent of Thais may have Chinese origins. Significant intermixing has taken place such that there are few pure ethnic Chinese, and those of partially mixed Chinese ancestry account for as much as a third to a half of the Thai population.

In Vietnam,  approximately 1 million ethnic Chinese, constitute one of Vietnam’s largest minority groups.

Cambodia has more than 152,000 citizens who are Chinese.

Laotian Chinese number about 185,000. Most Laotian Chinese are descendants of older generations who moved down from the Southern China provinces starting in the 19th century.

Chinese Singaporeans make up 76.2% of that country’s citizens – approximately three out of four Singaporeans – making them the largest ethnic group in Singapore.

In Malaysia more than 23-percent of the population is Malaysian Chinese forming the second largest community of Overseas Chinese in the world, after Thailand. Within Malaysia, they represent the second largest ethnic group after the ethnic Malay majority.

Culturally, most Malaysian Chinese have maintained their Chinese heritage including their various dialects, although the descendants of the earliest Chinese migrants who arrived from the 15th to 17th century have assimilated aspects of the Malay culture and they form a distinct subethnic group known as the Peranakan or Baba-Nyonya.

There has been a recognizable community of Chinese people in Korea since the 1880s. Most early migrants came from China’s Shandong province. It’s estimated that about 780,000 live in South Korea today with another 10,000 in North Korea.

According to the latest population census in 2010, there are 2.8 million ethnic Chinese living in Indonesia, accounting for 1.2% of the total population. Observers say this number is much higher because many Indonesians are still reluctant to admit they are of Chinese descent, fearing discrimination.

Even Japan has its share of Chinese. In 1990, there were about 150,000 Chinese living in Japan. Today, that number is more than 700,000.

In Myanmar (Burma), 2.5-percent of the population is Chinese. Due to deposits of jade,  Chinese merchants have been involved in mining and trade there for more than two thousand years. In fact, during the Qing Dynasty, there were four major invasions (1765-1769) of Burma by China’s Manchu emperors. In 1784, the long struggle between Burma and China ended and regular trade started up again.


Overseas Chinese Make Their Mark

In November 1885, Sir Robert Hart favored a proposal that China, as Burma’s overlord, stand aside and allow the British Empire to pursue her own course there provided that Britain allow Burma to continue her decennial tribute (once every ten years) missions to China.

Instead, the British Empire made Burma a province of India in 1886.

Since independence from the British Empire, Burma/Myanmar has generally been impartial to world affairs but was one of the first countries to recognize Israel and the People’s Republic of China.

Territories such as the autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and countries like North Korea, Manchuria, Mongolia, Burma, Vietnam and others along China’s long borders were considered vassal states by some Chinese dynasties, and to maintain cordial relations and keep the peace, these vassal states often sent lavish gifts and delegations to China’s emperors on a regular schedule.

Discover The Return of Confucious

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline