What would Confucius say now?

Almost a century ago Abdu’l-Baha called China the “country of the future.”

Now everybody knows that China’s influence in the world politic is both growing and inescapable. After all it is home to 1.3 billion people and enjoys a rapidly growing economy set to skyrocket with increased skilled service outsourcing from abroad. Pudong, Beijing’s business district, was non-existent 16 years ago. Now it is pretty much the size of Chicago. If Britain was the “workshop of the world” during the Industrial Revolution, surely China is now. Nations deliberately alienated since the Cultural Revolution and the cold war now seek to find a relationship with this rising power.

Meanwhile the well of inspiration formerly filled by Marxism and then unabated capitalism is beginning to run dry, leaving what many are calling China’s ideological void. The rich-poor gap despite economic growth is felt by the poor, and the hollowness of the capitalist pursuit is beginning to be felt by the elite. Many are turning to religion for moral and spiritual
sustenance, a somewhat de-institutionalised Christianity and Islam being examples of fast growers.

Beijing is now touting nationalism and culture as inspiration for a productive and contented society. This has meant study of Chinese civilisation and language being promoted around the world. It’s also meant a resurgence of the ideologies and teachings of the wise ancient sage, Confucius, once vilified but now being looked to as a possible uniting moral/philosophical foundation. Confucianism is strongly linked with Chinese history, is pacifist and in its respect to heirarchy, does not encourage dissent as long as the powers that be (originally the emperor) carry out their heavenly mandate morally and responsibly.

It leaves me thinking: Confucius said many timeless things - but faced with the pressing needs and unique challenges of a rapidly shrinking world, would he say something new?

Can the sage save China?
By Benjamin Robertson and Melinda Liu
Newsweek International
March 20, 2006 issue - China’s official buzzword these days is “harmony.” Whether the audience is Chinese or foreign, rich or poor, Beijing’s leaders are spreading the message: can’t we all just get along?

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