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The East Is A Promotion

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The East is a Promotion

by Thorsten Pattberg

"The East is a career," reads the quote by Benjamin Disraeli in the preamble of Edward Said's 1978 masterpiece ' Orientalism ' . Since Deng Xiaoping's opening-up policy, millions of European entrepreneurs, scholars and adventurers have swarmed eastward and flocked into China. We got our careers, now we want a promotion. Here's how.

A Lofty pragmatism

Few people realize the great impact of Chinese thought in today's Europe. Germany for example is de facto undergoing a transformation away from sheer philosophical idealism and violent Christian doctrine towards a lofty ( Confucian ) pragmatism.

Although Germany is conservative about its deep affection for the Far East (the ruling Christian Democratic Union under Chancellor Angela Merkel still doesn't officially recognize "multiculturalism"), it will adapt to China eventually, and I'm not just referring to its 28,000 Chinese students, the impact of the Confucius Institutes in all of Germany's cultural centers, and Germany's economic dependency on China.

No, I base my argument about the Confucian revolution on four recent developments in Europe: in religion, education , philosophy, and intellectual culture.

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In European societies, we witness an ongoing secularization, far more evolved than that in the very radical and religious United States. Confucianism or Ruxue was never a religion (neither is Buddhism, by the way) but rather a code of conduct to create a harmonious society; the very kind of peaceful and tranquil society that socialist New Europe now aspires to become. The European parliament in Brussels, unlike Europe's national governments, resembles a council of sages -- pragmatic technocrats, not charismatic seducers.

The Love for learning

Next, look at European education. It isn't completed yet, but Europe tilts toward unification of its fragmented systems, just as China unified its examination system beginning from the Han Dynasty over 2,200 years ago. The Bologna Accords from 1999 will result in better assessment and thus the promotion of ability, not birth right, as the major mechanism by which the governments should promote individuals into the civil services.

This is new educational terrain for Europe. France in the past had its exclusive club, the grandes ecoles of the rich and powerful; and Germany always had its rigid three-tier school system, comparable to India's caste system. Generally speaking, in Europe the upper class and the rest never met in education in a life time.

This is very different in East-Asia where the Confucian love for learning is all-pervasive. That's one of the reasons why China is a full-fledged "Wenming". What's a Wenming?

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Wenming is often translated as "civilization," but that is misleading. As Gu Zhengkun, the professor of world literature at Peking University, explained: Wenming describes a high level of ethics and gentleness of a people (in Japanese: Bunmei), while the English word "civilization" has Greek-Hellenic origin and derives from a city people's mastery over materials and technology. Think about architecture.

The Confucian tradition, according to Professor Tu Weiming of Harvard University, holds that all human beings have the potential to become sages or "shengren". This is a bit like the Eastern notion that all humans have a Buddha-nature. This coming of new archetypes of wisdom will open up very attractive ways for personal growth and self-cultivation for the confused and disoriented New Europeans.

The Return of the shengren

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Dr. Thorsten J. Pattberg (裴德思 Pei Desi) is a German philosopher and cultural critic.

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From time to time I do see westerners coming to Ch... by Doc McCoy on Thursday, Jan 24, 2013 at 6:38:43 PM