Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roderick MacFarquhar sees in Xi Jinping's sex trade clampdown an 'earthquake'

Roderick MacFarquhar
at the Stanford Center of Peking University,
October 2013
INTERESTING quotes from Roderick MacFarquhar (Harvard University) in this latest media bomb:
China's Crackdown On Sex Trade: An Anti-Corruption Campaign In Disguise? by Heng Shao
Roderick MacFarquhar, a professor at Harvard University, is quoted in the above article as saying that Confucianism is about virtuous women and "men un-corrupt!" It is quite a stretch of imagination that Xi Jinping's thought is guided by Confucius, and a very interesting statement in itself that, if it's true, may change 300 years of China Studies. That's because Confucianism, a 2500 years old tradition, is ANYTHING BUT un-corrupt, at least from a modern perspective. It's about hierarchies, patriarchy, nepotism, abuse of officialdom, and moral dictatorship, and not a few people (Lu Xun, say, and most European philosophers and world historians, and Japan who willfully abandoned Confucianism, for a starter) in fact have argued that Confucianism had been the main reason for China's cultural backwardness, no offense intended.

The Confucian canon, often referred to as a code of conduct rather than a proper religion, is essentially an instruction manual for cult leaders and dictators on how to morally blackmail the people into obedience. Hence the absence of universal concepts of freedom, individualism, and human rights (although there's a lot in it about human responsibilities, like filial piety, obedience, dependence) in China. The vibrant sex trade might as well be an afterbirth or direct expression of the out-dated but  not defeated Confucian tradition, and Xi Jinping's Anti-Corruption Campaign might as well be another attempt of modernism to drive out out-dated customs that blemished China's image in the world. How so? Well, we know quite well that it was the Communist Party who battled the Confucian traditions of polygamy, concubinage, arranged marriages, and mistress culture (albeit not always successfully). In fact, it takes forever to establish the rule of law in China precisely because Confucianism thought that coercing people with a sense of obligation, shame and "face" works just fine, with the unenviable consequences that the people of China, in Hegel's words, "cherish the meanest opinion of themselves, and believe that they are born only to drag the car of Imperial Power."

Professor MacFarquhar, a political analyst, must know all this well but he and/or the article may have intentionally linked corruption in China to Communism, rather than Confucianism. I don't know which one is the greater evil. But I have this notion that actions such as the crackdown on rampant prostitution and corruption are based on reason and common sense of modern statesmanship and should not be attributed to the recommendations of Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Confucius, or any other quack who lived in the 1st millennium BC. This is the 21st Century!

Professor MacFarquhar seems to suggest that the troubled Communist Party of China under Xi Jinping, instead of dashing into an unknown future (of liberal democracy and Westernization, perhaps?), may want to revive Confucianism in order to justify its authoritarian leadership. As said, Confucianism works pretty good at that: The Confucian ideal of a government run by supreme human beings -the junzi- with superior moral values, not dissimilar to Plato's Philosopher Kings, is possibly the greatest corruption of all.

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