The Moral Failings of Donald Trump according to Confucius

April 15, 2020

Simon Worrall, writing in National Geographic Magazine said Confucius “was hailed after his death as ‘The Uncrowned King,’ a philosopher whose sound bites of wisdom became China’s handbook on government and its code of personal morality for thousands of years.”

Confucius believed that every person had their place in society, and his philosophy turned Ancient China into a structured society with the longest continuous history of any country in the world–3,500 years of written history. Source: American Historical Association

More than twenty-four hundred years ago, Confucius dedicated his life to the moral training of his culture. He lived during the Warring States period before China was unified. Living with all of that violence and death, he dreamed of a land where people could live happily and harmoniously together.

Does that mean China enjoys dignity without democracy while the United States has democracy without dignity?

Confucius provides the answer In Analects 16.7, “The gentleman has three things to be cautious about: In his youth, when his blood and energy are not yet settled, he must be cautious about sex. In his middle years, when his blood and energy are just strong, he must be cautious about fighting. In his old age, when his blood and energy are already weak, he must be cautious about greed.”

The Conversation says, “Trump seems to embody all three types of recklessness identified by Confucius.

“His behavior towards women has been roundly condemned; his warmongering words regarding North Korea provoked fear and consternation around the world; he unashamedly made his lust for wealth and power into the basis of his media personality.”

Why do these moral failings matter?

“Because democracy needs dignity if it is not to descend into disorder. That doesn’t mean (America’s) leaders have to abide by some impossible standard of personal moral purity; after all, they are only human.”

However, if we judge Donald Trump by Confucian standards, Trump is now America’s most irredeemable leader and is beyond redemption. It doesn’t matter of Trump wins or loses the election in November 2020, he will always be considered hopeless by future historians.

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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What Makes China Different

December 4, 2019

One major difference is that most Chinese have NOT been seriously influenced by the politics and religious beliefs of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The major influences of Chinese Culture come from Confucian and Taoist thought.

In fact, the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew thought that Western-style democracy is incompatible with Confucianism and that the latter constitutes a much more coherent ideological basis for a well-ordered Asian society than Western notions of individual liberty.

Confucianism and Taoism appeared in China almost nine hundred years before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. It would take another three centuries before Christianity and Islam reached China, more than twelve hundred years after the 5th century BC when Confucian and Taoist thought was introduced to China.

The Jews arrived much later. Most scholars agree that a Jewish community existed in Kaifeng, China since the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127 AD), though some date their arrival to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), or earlier.

Buddhism arrived during the Han Dynasty, but by then China was already deeply Confucian and Taoist. Both have philosophies that focus on harmony and social order in society. Although Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism all mention harmony, too, the violence and wars caused by these religions have painted a wide bloody scar through history that continues today. You might be shocked to discover that Buddhists can be violent, too. If you are interested, I suggest you read A Short History of Violent Buddhism to learn more.

Confucius and many of his contemporaries were concerned about the state of turmoil, competition, and warfare between the feudal states. They sought philosophical and practical solutions to the problems of government — solutions that, they hoped, would lead to a restoration of unity and stability. – Columbia.edu

Taoism (also known as Daoism) is a Chinese philosophy attributed to Lao Tzu (c. 500 BCE) which contributed to the folk religion of the people primarily in the rural areas of China. Taoism focuses on the present – heaven and hell exist in how you connect to the present moment. On the other hand, Christianity teaches that heaven or hell happens after death.

Classroom.com says, “Taoism and Islam are very different in many ways. Religious Taoism is polytheistic, worshiping no single, omnipotent god, and instead venerating a pantheon of gods, many of whom have functional titles and roles. The Taoist classic text is the ‘Tao Te Ching.’ ‘Tao’ means, roughly, ‘the Way,’ and refers to both the ordering principle of the universe and to the gentle seeking of accommodation with it. … Islam says there is only one God, Allah.”

China like Singapore legally allows five religions, but only 200 million Chinese (14 percent of China’s population of 1.4 billion) practice Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.

According to Religion in China – By the Numbers, there are 44 million Christians and 20 million Muslims in China today. Combined, Islam and Christianity represent less than five percent of China’s population compared to the United States with the largest Christian population in the world, about 75 percent of its 320 million people.

The most widespread religion in China is a combination of Buddhism, Chinese folklore, Taoism and Confucianism. It is estimated that 800,000,000 Chinese follow this tradition that retains traces of its ancestral Neolithic belief system including the veneration of the Sun, Moon, Earth, Heaven and various stars, as well as communication with animals. Folk religion in China has been practiced alongside Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism by Chinese people for thousands of years.

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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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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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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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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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 Holistic Historical Timeline