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

December 31, 2013

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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