The East is a Promotion
"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.
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
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.
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?
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.
Return of the shengren
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