Jul 20

Chinese Exceptionalism -义理和人情

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Sunday, July 20th, 2008 at 5:17 pm
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Before switching from posting immature opinions on things I know unprofessionally to the work I do for a living for a few weeks, there are some thoughts I really want to get out of my chest. I hope these thoughts will help non-Chinese understand some puzzling phenomena in the Chinese social and political life.

1. My English translation of the key terms (义理, 人情, 隐忍) might be a bit off. Suggestions are welcome.
2. If you disagree, please trash, ridicule, tear it apart or ignore. Don’t worry about me committing suicide out of shame.

Many phenomena in the Chinese family, social and political lives make no sense to outsiders. Why do the Chinese authorities (and their projects like the Olympics) enjoy “popular support” given the track record of the “oppressive regime”? The Western mind tends to explain this with the stereotype of the Chinese as “brain-washed” (by media control), manipulated and oppressed victims who cannot help themselves, or that the Chinese are culturally amoral and have “made a deal with the devil”. These explanations lead to the conclusion of a need for Western liberation and redemption. “We need to get the Chinese out of their miserable and sinful situations. They don’t know better but it is our responsibility.” To the Chinese ear, this rhetoric sounds like the “Whiteman’s Burden” all over again.

Can we explain the Chinese social and political behaviors that so intrigue the Western mind? Why did young and educated Chinese living in free Western democracies fully exposed to the Western media loudly support the Chinese authorities in the Olympic torch relays, instead of calling for the downfall of the oppressive CCP regime?

We need simple concepts to build a framework that can help make some sense of these puzzling phenomena.

It seems to me that one of the most significant motivational forces driving Chinese behavior and experience is “义理和人情”, which I translate as “relational duty and (human) bonding”. In a gross generalization, Westerners’ actions are designed to fulfill pragmatic functions. Westerners judge actions (and relations) from a functional perspective; one may ask “does it (e.g., the marriage) work?” Moral reasoning is framed in the same functional framework. “Does the action (e.g., supporting CCP) lead to moral or evil results?” Chinese social actions have more complicated meanings. Whatever pragmatic functions they serve, they are judged universally with respect to their implications on relational duty and bonding, which is purely experiential.

I have always admired Westerners’ abilities to articulate the rationales of their actions. They know what they are doing and why. As a Chinese, even when I know in my guts what the right thing to do is, I often cannot explain my rationale. For instance, in the Chinese culture there is a stigma on Chinese who badmouth China to foreigners. The most effective procedure for the Chinese authorities to neuter a political dissident is to make him an exile in the West, preferably let him appear in one of those “Panda-bashing” hearings in the United States Congress. Wang Dan and Wei Jingsheng et al. can testify how effective this procedure is for erasing a dissident’s credibility with the Chinese. Is it wrong for a Chinese dissident to relate his displeasure with the Chinese government to foreign organizations? There is nothing wrong from a functional perspective (it leads to no negative consequences). Maybe the dissidents intend to bring good to China and its people and are successful in doing this by exposing the Chinese regime’s atrocities in the United States Congress. These actions are still distasteful to the Chinese because they violate “relational duty and human bonding” that one is born with (“违背义理人情”), in terms of ignoring in-group/out-group boundaries and family/outsider distinctions (内外有别, 人伦有常). The reaction is visceral and difficult to articulate; it is like reacting to incest (乱伦, practical consequences like birth defects are beside the point). In contrast, Americans do not trust the defectors they receive from a different, purely functional perspective. “If he can betray once, he can betray again.” The Western functional rationale can be clearly articulated.

Another concept that goes together with duty and bonding in Chinese social/political actions is 隐忍 (“silently enduring personal distress, disgrace and misunderstanding”). Although this concept refers to victimization and a dysfunctional coping strategy in the West, it has a positive meaning of fulfillment to the Chinese. (The best way to understand how a person functions, how he/she prioritizes his/her values and needs, is to observe how he/she copes with his/her own dysfunctions (which everyone has).)

In America, you would not try to borrow a substantial amount of money even from your friends. Americans go to the bank and get loans in the professional (commercial) way. A Chinese undergraduate can testify that among his 5 roommates, he can walk away with half of a month’s allowance (生活费) with a handshake from 4 of them (the last one is odd), when there is real need. The Chinese cares as much about money as anybody. However, the value of money is warped in a Chinese relationship; it is no longer functional, commercial or financial, but viewed through the prism of duty and bonding. “Even borrowing money from him is like pulling a tooth. He is a joke of a friend.” There is shock and disbelief in a Chinese upon learning that some American married couples keep their money separate. “What kind of family is that?” They do not care that it might be a more efficient way of managing family finance (“it functions”).

Borrowing money indiscriminately from relationship partners is dysfunctional everywhere. It complicates the relationship and causes hassle and distress and sometimes misunderstanding in both parties. The dysfunction and distress are silently endured, contained and coped with, for the purpose of fulfilling duty and bonding. Relationship means enduring and sacrifice. This attitude may be dysfunctional but far from meaningless or nonsensical. The meaning and sense is in the fulfillment of duty and bonding.

I am not suggesting that ordinary Chinese brutalized by the Chinese authorities should put up with their grievances silently. They should fight for their rights and other people (Chinese and foreign) should help them fight. However, in Chinese political life, for those who have political ambitions, an essential virtue is “fulfilling one’s duty while bearing the burden of disgrace.” (忍辱负重,). A related concept is “顾全大局” or “以大局为重”. This mentality helps explain why the Chinese populace puts up with an oppressive regime, makes a deal with the devil, as long as there is somebody in the regime (e.g. Wen Jiaobao and Zhou Enlai) they perceive as still honoring relational duty and bonding. The social contract between the Chinese and their rulers is relational duty and bonding, just like in Chinese personal relationship. This is the piece of Chinese exceptionalism I feel strongly about.

Prominent political figures that embody duty and bonding are the previous and current premiers Zhou Enlai and Wen Jiabao. Zhou is revered because he had silently endured pressure, distress and misperception to hold the country together, and fulfill his loyalty to Chairman Mao. He remained silent on many issues about the Cultural Revolution. People “know” he had endured and put up with a lot. He is a good guy. Perception is all that matters; truth and validity are separate issues. Similarly but in a different context, Wen Jiabao (AKA “Zhou Enlai Junior”) stood behind Zhao Ziyang on the Tiananmen Square just before Zhao’s official downfall and the tragic incident of June 4th, 1989, wearing a facial expression belying internal struggle and silent suffering. He knew Zhao’s political fate had been sealed and the consequences for showing up on the Square with Zhao. He went anyway, on camera. The loyalty, sense of duty and a minimal ego that led him to endure silently struck a chord among the Chinese. “苟利国家生死以,岂因福祸避趋之。”

One may wonder how came Wen did not get purged after June 4th, but ended up running the country. He not only stood behind Zhao Ziyang when he made his most incriminating speech on the Square on camera, but had been Zhao’s major aide. How does the CCP conduct its personnel evaluations? Do they also care about relational duty and bonding, to the degree of transcending ideology? Whatever the CCP was thinking, as an ordinary Chinese I was relieved that Wen stayed. Something about the Chinese system makes it viable. At least it did not violate duty and bonding too egregiously. Therefore we should leave them in Zhongnanhai and seek compromise with them. In the Chinese family everyone knows the value of “silently bearing the burden” for the holistic sake of the family as a gestalt.

Of course, power delegated via relational duty and bonding can be abused, just like power delegated via democratic processes.

There are currently 5 comments highlighted: 6301, 6389, 6429, 6602, 6807.

227 Responses to “Chinese Exceptionalism -义理和人情”

  1. Nimrod Says:

    I don’t think concepts like Yi (duty), Qing (bond), and others like Li (protocol/etiquette), Chi (shame), etc., etc. are uniquely Chinese, just that the Chinese concepts are more formalized. It is after all human nature. Even something like “qian xu” (modesty), which we canonically always think is “Chinese” is pretty much universally comprehensible.

    Traitors are detested in Western society. Snitching is understood to be a bad thing, too. But it is again an issue of priority. Western society puts more emphasis on outward visible results… i.e. these concepts are more easily overriden in Western society by other “universal” (but actually just Western) values that Chinese society doesn’t yet share. But to be sure, a well socialized person in any place cannot do without Yi, Qing, Li, etc.

  2. Jane Says:

    BXBQ, thanks for exploring this important issue, that the Chinese have a different type of social contract than the West. This is what so many Chinese have been struggling so hard to articulate to westeners: they don’t support evil regimes, but they cannot accept western social/political framework wholesale, or just have it imposed upon them, they have their own framework in which they deal with personal and public relationships.

    For example, many westerners laugh at the phrase “hurting Chinese people’s feelings” (有傷兩國感情). To westerners, the Chinese sound like a bunch of cry babies. But they don’t understand the Chinese government is actually using a Chinese social relationship view, i.e. “relational duty and human bond” (義理和人情) to remind the West that its way of handling an issue does not work with the Chinese people’s social relational framework and it’s only hurting the relationship, mutual trust and affection between the two peoples/countries. On top of that, the word “feeling” is such as a mistranslation of the word 感情. I find it hard to explain to non-Chinese speakers everything that is encompassed in 感情: affection, trust, loyalty, so much more nuanced and profound than mere “feeling.”

    Context is everything. When two sides are examining the same phrase through different frameworks/context (and throw in some linguistic barriers), misunderstandings are bound to happen. As we have seen with 有傷兩國感情 — an earnest plea for understanding from one side comes off as downright silly and laughable to the other because the two sides are examining the same thing through different lenses.

  3. Maria Says:

    Speaking from an East European perspective: the concept of a relational duty and human bonding seems totally familiar, in fact I risk a statement that most societies value human bonding and relational duty high above the functionality. I think that if you make a scale with human bonding priority on one end and functionality on the other, you’ll see China and the West at the opposite ends with most other societies just in between and quite capable of comprehending the Chinese point (at least this particular point).

  4. Nimrod Says:

    Jane, a very good point. China and the West had this misconception since the beginning of their close contact (19th century) and right off the bat it didn’t get off to a great start. In fact it reminds me of the big deal made about the legend of a British officer refusing to “kowtow” to the emperor of China and how it’s supposed to show the Western righteousness/self triumphalism behind such a gesture. (Didn’t the emperor still receive the guy? It was just protocol.) Variations of that one incident still resound in China-West diplomacy to this day, only refusing to “kowtow” to China is now used in the figurative sense.

  5. Denis Wong Says:

    There are many analyses of the “western” mindset, but the Cambridge and LSE (London School of Economics ) sociologist, Anthony Giddens has had particular success, especially in Britain. His analysis is not between “east” and “west” but modern and pre-modern. Within the modern, we now have the “high modern” in which we have the “runaway world” and everything “up for grabs”. In other words, there is not just analysis, but analysis of that analysis leading to the “duality of structure”, the “sequestration of experience”, the “transformation of intimacy” and a range of other phenomena (see below). This is far more than just simple enlightenment – it is society involved in continuous, no-holds conceptual leap-frogging.

    Modern China is involved in this, but there are clear restraints, not least from the “Great Firewall of China” and there is certainly no declaration by the government of everything “up for grabs”. There are, then two key questions:

    1 since there can be no (disharmonious) runaway world, what is the alternative?
    2 how will those alternatives fare, in the face of unlimited proposition, recommendation, criticism and analysis from the West?

    Those relational duties and bondings will persist, but the race for creativity and innovation in the new global economy will be lost unless the regime can “let go” (at least “just a bit”, as Zhao Zhi Yang suggested during those ill-fated days before the crack down in 1989)

    –Denis Wong

    “Duality of structure” refers to individuals as *both* agents in creating the machinery of society as well as cogs within its functioning.
    “Sequestration of experience” refers to day-to-day social life becoming removed from criminality, sickness, natural disaster and other pre-modern direct experiences, both in what modern institutions (police, hospitals, rescue services) do and in how they manage expectations.
    “Transformation of intimacy” is about how trust and risk is shifted in modern society, away from those relational bondings towards the law, science and technology etc

  6. Crazyfinger Says:

    First time commenting here. Your post along with Jane’s comment provide a sort of context to what I am about to say.

    I wonder if the social contract is all that different between China and the West. May be it is, as I haven’t thought this through and through, nor experienced China enough to be sure (only been there 4 or 5 times during the past year). But for now it seems to me that the blurry dividing line is not so much between China and the West, but between work situations (i.e., professional situations) and non-work situations (i.e., family). I am not at all sure even of this. Let me be even more specific.

    I work for a high-tech company with offices both in China and in US. Of late we have a developing situation in the company. China office thinks US team is “too pushy,” and “insensitive,” while the US office thinks China team is “too emotional,” and “not thick-skinned enough.” Folks in US office think China guys “don’t conduct the business professionally.” Furthermore, there are many instances of US office guys feeling baffled at how China folks react to this very criticism because instead of coming back at them, China guys were – to borrow your own phrasing because it is apt – content to “fulfilling one’s duty while bearing the burden of disgrace.”

    I work at a director-level, so these issues that I face are real and I’ve got to find a way to improve the situation. Personally I have a few opinions: I think a whole lot of mediocrity gets passed off as cultural difference on both sides of the hemispheres.

    Also, and this was the point I wanted to make in the first place, that in the West, or in my example case, US, we have an additional social-contract-neutralizing-context called corporate environment. There are certain rules, unwritten and written, that people working in a high-tech corporation follow. It helps them to nullify the amplifying and contracting effects of the social-contract, I think. Without some sort of additional univeral context, China and the West will continue to operate from two distinct and dissimilar contexts. It is almost as if people on one side are wearing blue-tinted glasses and those on the other side are wearing green-tinted glasses and they both are looking at the same object and arguing about how it looks.

    But then again is the answer as simple as training China folks in management training and training Western folks with China social-contract training for the both twains to meet and greet?


  7. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Denis Wong,

    Thanks for bringing up Anthony Giddens. His concept of “trust” is most relevant to our discussion. Modern Western society is based on a pervasive trust among its members (among complete strangers). He used the monetary notes (paper and electronic) as a prototype for his analysis. The two parties of a business transaction must place absolute trust on the medium – the money, a piece of paper in itself but represents goods and services of certain values. They must trust that the money’s value will be honored not only between the two of them but by any random stranger in the society.

    The heart of social life is negotiating and establishing trust. I think trust is established on different bases in China and in the West.

    This brings us to crazyfinger’s trans-cultural workplace example. “There are certain rules, unwritten and written, that people working in a high-tech corporation follow – Crazyfinger” At a superficial level, we can follow the cliché “Westerners trust the (legal, political, corporate etc.) system but the Chinese trust relations (Guanxi).” Or we can go a step further and say “for the Chinese, the system and relations are one and the same. The system is the relation, or at least based upon it.”

    At the political level, if one thinks about it, the Chinese word “country(国家)” has two characters 国(nation) and 家 (family). The nation’s political function and the family’s relational structure are rolled up together and combined in one single entity. The collective narrative of the Chinese nation is based on its uninterrupted history tracing back to a common ancestor (or two) – Huang Di and Yan Di. The nation is the clan and its leader the patriarch.

    Here is the take home message. “Even for a modern Chinese, trashing my country is trashing my family.”

  8. Netizen Says:


    I think the problem you’re talking about is common in China for foreign companies. The issue you identified is real and hard to deal with. Traing of stuff is expensive and I think it’s unlikely to be an effective solution.

    The problem is cultural difference. People won’t change their cultural identities easily because they are acquired via socialization over many years. To change them, it requires the same process, many years of socialization in a new evironment, at adult ages.

    I heard a saying. How does a new scientific theory gets accepted? It is when old scientists are dead. New ones are trained in the new theory and naturally accept it.

    But I do think there is a solution to the problem you’re facing. That’s to have a bicultural management team at your China office. In particular, the top person should understand both Chinese and western cultures and can function in both effortlessly. That’s not too much to ask and less expensive than training everyone who is only tangentially involved.

  9. Netizen Says:

    BXBQ, Denis Wong,

    Anthony Giddens’s theory is too complex to be useful.Although he’s written many books to explain, I don’t think he’s succeeded because the problem is with his theory: many of his concepts are artificial and not grounded on real reality.

  10. Hemulen Says:


    For example, many westerners laugh at the phrase “hurting Chinese people’s feelings” (有傷兩國感情). To westerners, the Chinese sound like a bunch of cry babies. But they don’t understand the Chinese government is actually using a Chinese social relationship view

    Sorry, but I call bull on that. The whole “hurting Chinese people’s feelings” shtick is standard CP phraseology right from the party textbook. I doubt that you can ever find an official during the Qing dynasty using that phrase or a nationalist official making statements to that effect.

  11. Nimrod Says:

    bianxiangbanianqiao wrote:

    Here is the take home message. “Even for a modern Chinese, trashing my country is trashing my family.”

    This is interesting. To be sure, the “big-clan” conception of China as a country is distinct from the conception of many countries that are part of the “West” these days — immigrant countries founded by Western Europeans. In those, everybody is “adopted”, so I can see how that would make a difference. Even for the Old West countries, since they’ve got “family” spread out in the world (and population does flow relatively freely between at least the English-speaking countries), they may not see the home country as anything more than a convenient political structure.

  12. Daniel Says:

    I wouldn’t call that nonsense. I have heard that phrase before and explained from some of my professors in my political science and other classes that are a part of the Global Studies curriculum at my liberal arts college. If you want to know it is Drury University in the US Midwest. The way I heard is similar to what Jane said. However, like every topic here, it can be up for discussion.

  13. JL Says:

    Interesting discussion.
    My view is that a lot of the differences under discussion here are a result of specific differences in the political and institutional systems in China and various Western countries, not due to timeless differences between the Chinese and Western mindsets. You mention differences in attitudes to loaning money, but isn’t this related to the fact that it’s quite hard to get a bank loan in China but very easy in the West (if you don’t have a bad credit history)?
    Concerning bad-mouthing ones country before foreigners, and ‘hurting the nation’s feelings’, Chinese political discourse is pretty similar to European discourse in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
    So to an extent I disagree with Jane about mistranslation, or a difficulty of translating fundamentally alien concepts, because that kind of ‘hurt our feelings’ rhetoric was relatively common in Europe around 1900.

    Also, BXBQ, I could be wrong about this, but isn’t 国家 a relatively new term in Chinese? I have never seen it in pre-twentieth century Chinese texts anyway. Maybe you could point me to some if I am wrong.

  14. Nimrod Says:

    Hemulen, “standard CP phraseology”? I think not. The (South) Korean government uses that phrase, too. and the Soviets never did, so I think the OP has the East Asian cultural angle right.

  15. Nimrod Says:

    JL, yes credit is not well established in China so it’s more difficult to get a loan from a bank, but then again it’s always more difficult to get a loan from a bank, which imposes extra conditions and interest. Isn’t that the symptom, not the cause? Why is it Chinese family (and even friends) give loans (without interest) like no Westerners ever would? It’s definitely cultural. In fact, asking for interest would make it a “business transaction”, not a favor.

  16. Hemulen Says:


    Really? I’m ready to concede if you back that up, but I did a couple of Google searches and all I found were Xinhua sites, even in the cases the hurt feelings were those of the south Koreans. And I have never heard a Kuomintang official talk about the hurt feelings of the Chinese people, either before 1949 or after. But I’m willing to learn.

    I have another question, are only Chinese people’s feelings vulnerable? Or is this yet another exercise of a solipsistic monologue? Given the various invectives that have been heaped on people like Chris Patter or Dalai Lama, it would be interesting to know if it had ever occurred to Xinhua and its supporters on this blog that it might hurt the feelings of people to be called a “criminal for thousand generations”. And how would Xinhua respond if people from Mongolian feel that their feelings have been hurt by Xinhua claiming that Chinggis Khan was Chinese?

  17. JL Says:


    “Why is it Chinese family (and even friends) give loans (without interest) like no Westerners ever would?”

    I’ve loaned money from my family, and right now several friends have borrowed money from me. My family does not charge interest and neither do I. And as consumer credit becomes more available in China, people are using it more and more. So I stand by the point that the cultural differences between China and the West are the result of institutional arrangements, not long-term civilizational differences.

    re: ‘hurting our feelings’, that phrase might be specific to China, but the sentiment definitely isn’t. When Arthur Conan-Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame) wrote a long essay defending Britain’s actions in the Boer War, and denouncing European criticisms of Britain, his tone was very similar to the modern Chinese patriotic denunciation of the Western critiques of the Chinese government. He accused the critical German press of “manic Anglophobia” and said that
    “At first this unexpected phenomenon merely surprised the British people, then it pained them, and, finally, after two years of it, it has roused a deep and enduring anger in their minds”
    Had the Germans hurt his British feelings with their criticism? … It seems pretty clear they had.

  18. Jane Says:

    @ Hemulen,
    “Sorry, but I call bull on that. The whole “hurting Chinese people’s feelings” shtick is standard CP phraseology right from the party textbook.”

    I have no doubt the Chinese government has its own reason of using that phrase, what I was trying to point out is that there is a cultural context in which they came up with that phrase, they didn’t just sit in Zhongnanhai in a circle and be like — how do we be evil and come up with a stupid phrase? It’s really not as stupid as the English translation sounds. I’ve witnessed instances of Chinese people reconcile after an argument by saying, let’s not fight anymore, lest it hurt our 感情. And again, hurting feelings is a really crappy (mis)translation of 感情 (I don’t see feeling as anywhere near a proper translation for 感情), so I would suggest that you ignore that phrase altogether, it’s not at all about hurting Chinese people’s feelings, or they have easily hurt feelings, it’s about mutual affection and relationship. I am sure other people who are bilingual and bicultural can testify how much is lost in translation from Chinese to English and vice versa. I tried to translate Shakespeare’s MacBeth (the soliloquy, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…) to some Chinese once, and after I read my translation, they all looked at me with a blank stare, because the sound, the rhythm, the cultural context, the emotional impact all were lost in translation…

  19. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    “Even for the Old West countries, since they’ve got “family” spread out in the world (and population does flow relatively freely between at least the English-speaking countries), they may not see the home country as anything more than a convenient political structure.”

    Also, in the old European countries, the relation between the King/Queen and the subjects were purely political, without kinship. As Hemulen said the other day, European countries used to adopt foreigners as their Monarch. China’s ancient Patriarchs (三皇五帝) were all tribal leaders working at the head of tribal councils and had blood ties with the tribe members. The big-clan notion is not simply metaphorical.

    “…isn’t 国家 a relatively new term in Chinese? I have never seen it in pre-twentieth century Chinese texts anyway.”

    国家 does sound recent. However, the tribal/familial structure of Chinese state can be traced back to Zhou Dynasty. To me the Zhou court seemed to serve as the tribal Headquarters (the seat of the big brother, how else could it get its legitimacy?) and the individual feudal states were the tributary units of the extended family (consisting of the entire the feudal system). To add to the family flavor, each of the individual feudal states had a family name. The only one I can remember from HS history was the family name of Qin – it was Ji.

  20. JL Says:


    What about just translating it as “we find it insulting”, or a slightly old-fashioned translation might be “insulting to our pride”? I know this doesn’t quite have the idea of ganqing. But my feeling is that even though a literal translation is difficult, there is absolutely nothing about the feeling/ idea itself that is unique to China and Chinese people.

    And I don’t mean to shed doubt on your translation skills… but Shakespeare? A professional translator would spend ages translating that. What about asking the admin of this blog if you can put up a passage if you think its really untranslatable and we could all have a go.

  21. AC Says:

    @Hemulan & JL

    The Chinese word “感情” has different meanings from the English word “feeling”. I am sure you guys understand some Chinese, can you guys try to translate the following sentence?


    I hope after your attempt, you will have a better understanding of the word “感情”. 🙂

  22. Nimrod Says:

    Schoolmates should increase interaction among themselves and enhance their bonds.

  23. JL Says:


    I think Nimrod’s right to use the word ‘bond’ in this context. I would say: “classmates should interact more with each other, and bond more closely.”

    I think actually it does mean ‘feelings’. But ‘feelings’ is a bit of a whimpy word in English. Ever heard a politician or a masculine character in a movie say ‘feelings’? Which is why above I suggested ‘we find [whatever you did] insulting’. In fact in that sentence, I’m still describing my feelings [i.e. that I feel insulted], I just think it’s better to leave that word out.
    Likewise in the sentence you gave, you’re really talking about ’emotional bonding’, no? But nobody who isn’t a pop-psycologist would ever say that, so Nimrod and I just left it at ‘bonding’ -which I think conveys the idea of the sentence well enough.

  24. AC Says:


    What about “王同学对张老师很有感情。”?

  25. Nimrod Says:

    Student Wang has great affection for Teacher Zhang.

  26. Hemulen Says:

    I have absolutely no idea what BXBQ is talking about this time. Tribal kingship in China since the Zhou dynasty? As if you could reduce Chinese history to neat sound bites. We have the decentralized idea of kingship during the Zhou dynasty, then the rise of Qin-Han emperorship, held in check by the aristocracy in the capital, and then the increasingly despotic emperorship of the Ming-Qing. And a lot of stuff in between.

    And where on earth did anyone get the idea that Chinese had an organic, family-type of relationship with the emperor? For most of Chinese history, politics was for the scholar gentry and ordinary people were supposed to keep their own family in order, pay their taxes and shut up. Just like in the rest of the world before the nation state emerged and started to demand active participation from the people. No surprises here.

    Jane, I don’t think that some evil CCP politicians conjured up the idea of “the feelings of the Chinese people” just make the rest of the world annoyed. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter who you translated ganqing into any language, the whole ganqing routine still sounds unbelievably silly. At the bottom of the whole set of ideas of nationhood that the PRC established after 1949, there is this bizarre tendency to force people to take sides all the time and to play up small incidents to rally people behind the government. That is part of the reason why the CCP came to power in the first place. Yes, the CCP have made skillful use of Chinese culture to create useful propaganda, but to equate that propaganda with Chinese culture or to make it a question of semantics is just making things confused.

    I’m reading up on the first decades of the PRC right now and it is chilling to read how the CCP whipped up mass hysteria against “traitors” and foreigners long before the Cultural revolution. The CCP demanded that its “foreign friends” repeated Xinhua’s official line verbatim and any deviation from that may render you an “enemy of the Chinese people.” You had to choose sides, just liking China and Chinese culture wasn’t good enough. We see similar things going on now, but in a much more subtle way.

  27. AC Says:

    Or “你背叛了我们之间的感情。”

  28. snow Says:


    “Sorry, but I call bull on that. The whole “hurting Chinese people’s feelings” shtick is standard CP phraseology right from the party textbook. I doubt that you can ever find an official during the Qing dynasty using that phrase or a nationalist official making statements to that effect”

    Of course we can. I don’t know about Qing. I do know, from reading “Stilwell and the American experience in China, 1911-1945,” a great biography of Stewill by Wertheim Tuchman, the phrase was used many times by Jiang Jieshi in his accusation against Stewill’s way of conducting his business as the US military representative/aid to Jiang’s government. And according to the author the cultural misunderstanding of the two persons toward each other was one major contributing factors of that fateful and disastrous working relationship between the two high-ranking officials from US and China in recent history despite their (countries) pretty much shared ideology and interests at the time..

  29. Buxi Says:


    Also, BXBQ, I could be wrong about this, but isn’t 国家 a relatively new term in Chinese? I have never seen it in pre-twentieth century Chinese texts anyway. Maybe you could point me to some if I am wrong.

    This conversation is a little bit about my paygrade, but this is what the Internet tells me:



    道德经(帛书版): 大道废,安有仁义,六亲不和,安有孝慈,国家混乱,安有正臣。。


    I don’t have the time to translate the above right now, or give much context. I’m sure others can help.

  30. Nimrod Says:


    You betrayed the feelings between us.

  31. Hemulen Says:


    Guojia is an old term, but it often meant “dynasty” or “ruling house” rather than nation or any other modern idea we might foist on the term today.


    I would be happy to see a couple of quotes that shows Chiang Kai-shek (who is “Jiang Jieshi”?) talking about the feelings of the Chinese people, let’s find some for us. Kuomintang and the CCP are sister parties and learned a lot from each other, perhaps the Kuomintang were first using this expression. I just haven’t seen proof of it yet. And I haven’t seen any Kuomintang official whipping up mass anti-foreign hystera using this expression. But please correct me if I’m wrong.

    As for Chiang’s relation with Stilwell and possible “cultural misunderstandings”, the main conflict between them two was political and how to deploy Chinese troops against Japan. Neither of them were pretty easy to get along with and they were never really liked by their compatriots. The fact that Stilwell spoke fluent Chinese and could argue with Chiang in his native tongue probably did not endear him in the eyes of the generalissimo either. The less a friend of China know about the real China, the better. Chiang got much better along with Stilwell’s successor who was blissfully ignorant of things Chinese…

  32. Buxi Says:


    I don’t think your very restricted definition of guojia works at all in the context of the passages I posted above. 天下之本在国,国之本在家

    As far as “hurting feelings”, here are equivalents from the DPP in Taiwan:

    … protest China seriously hurting the feelings of the Taiwanese people…

  33. Jane Says:


    “Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter who you translated ganqing into any language, the whole ganqing routine still sounds unbelievably silly.”

    At this point it’s probably pointless to argue over whether it’s silly or not, you are entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to mine. But it’s important not to lose the broader message that this blog entry tried to convey, that the two sides do have different perspectives on public and private human relationships and it is fool hearted, arrogant and lazy to simply ignore the other side’s perspective/context and stubbornly cling on to ones own as THE right and only one. And I think this message applies to all of us.


    Eh, I don’t translate Shakespeare for fun. There are certain writings that are so good that I feel all humans, regardless of their ethnicity, should know; so I was trying to translate a small part of MacBeth into Chinese for some Chinese friends and they weren’t too impressed, 明天, 明天, 明天 simply didn’t sound right, haha. Same thing happened when I tried to translate a poem from the Dream of the Red Chamber for my non-Chinese friends, it was hopeless. It felt like translating a painting into another language, how do you do that? I guess being bilingual has its pluses and minuses.

  34. Wukailong Says:

    “Why did young and educated Chinese living in free Western democracies fully exposed to the Western media loudly support the Chinese authorities in the Olympic torch relays, instead of calling for the downfall of the oppressive CCP regime?”

    First of all, the viewpoints of most westerners when it comes to a communist government has been shaped by the Soviet Union and countries in eastern Europe. Trying to understand China through such a lens is almost impossible, and the country is growing more diverse every day, so it’s just natural that more Chinese (overseas as well) find more reasons to object to it these days.

    “In America, you would not try to borrow a substantial amount of money even from your friends.”

    Perhaps not in America, but I’ve helped friends financially as well as been helped by parents when I was having financial differences (this happened once when I was in China. Who would have thought?).

    “One may wonder how came Wen did not get purged after June 4th, but ended up running the country.”

    He has strong backing. I don’t remember the names, though I can find out later today.

    With all this said, I think discussions of cultural differences like these come to a dead end more often than not. A long Chinese history and a diverse Western society can not be easily pinpointed and put in two simple categories. These comparative studies would be more interesting if they could show either statistics or comparison with similar cultures (mainland China, Taiwan, Hongkong, Singapore, Japan and Korea).

    Chinese people today can’t be said to be “brainwashed” by the authorities, but every country has its education and instills some core values into people. I think these are very important in order to understand how people react to things later in their life. If you have learned strong patriotism and an “us and them” mentality (内外有别), it’s only natural that you feel stronger kinship with your government. This can be seen in many countries.

  35. Wukailong Says:

    Sorry, I was too quick to cut and paste. Hope the above is readable anyway…

  36. Wukailong Says:

    Also, one more thing. I don’t find Westerners in general more rational than Chinese. People in both groups tend to react with strong sentiment when some of their core values or beliefs are threatened. I tried to talk to an old friend at home about how many Chinese view the Tibetan question, and she got very aggressive, so I think this should be treated on an individual basis. Only a small group of people question their basic education or value system (unfortunately).

  37. Charles Frith Says:

    There’s nothing about Chinese culture that confuses me. It’s all context and even the social contract disintegrated during the cultural revolution. Culture is a thick cladding around the human spirit. People feel the same things everywhere. We eat, we sleep and we hurt. I would argue that many Asian cultures institutionalize that hurt so that those at the top can remain there. But that’s the weakest part of my assertion.

  38. chorasmian Says:

    @Hemulen #26

    “For most of Chinese history, politics was for the scholar gentry and ordinary people were supposed to keep their own family in order, pay their taxes and shut up.”

    I can’t agree with you on this issue. I’d like to reply with a quote from “Shi Jing (诗经)”, one of the bible of Confucianism written more than 2000 years ago.

    上以风化下,下以风刺上,主文而谲谏,言之者无罪,闻之者足以戒,故曰风。至于王道衰,礼义废,政教失,国异政,家殊俗,而变风变雅作矣。国史明乎得失之迹,伤人伦之废,哀刑政之苛,吟咏情性,以风其上,达于事变而怀其旧俗也。故变风发乎情,止乎礼义。发乎情,民之性也;止乎礼义,先 王之泽也。是以一国之事,系一人之本,谓之风;言天下之事,形四方之风,谓之雅。雅者,正也,言王政之所由废兴也。政有大小,故有小雅焉,有《大雅》焉。 颂者,美盛德之形容,以其成功告于神明者也。是谓“四始”,诗之至也。

    To put it in a simple way, the ruler has the responsibility to be the sample for ordinary people, while ordinary people give feedback via poetries/folks/songs. Giving opinions is human nature and not guilty for ordinary people, but they should do in according “Ritual (礼)”. Ordinary people knowing “Ritual” is because of the achievement of the ancestor of the ruler. The ruler should take it as advice. The folks can be put in 4 categories. Those about personal event is called “Feng (风)”, while those about politics is called “Ya (雅)” which can be further divided into Major Ya and Minor Ya. The last category of folks is “Song (颂)” about ancestor worship.

    My English doesn’t allow me to explain it in detail. Anyone want to have the challenge on his/her translation skill is welcomed. Mmm, comparing it with Athenian democracy could be a very interesting topic, though I have no idea how it worked in Greek.


    I don’t know much about Shakespeare, and just read this part of Macbeth. Anyway, I take it as a challenge to my E2C skill.

    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.


  39. snow Says:


    “At the bottom of the whole set of ideas of nationhood that the PRC established after 1949, there is this bizarre tendency to force people to take sides all the time and to play up small incidents to rally people behind the government. That is part of the reason why the CCP came to power in the first place.”

    First, this taking sides /mass hysteria thing is not forced on people “all the time.” they were done during political or national emergencies or crisis. In the period you referred to it was the beginning years of the new republic when hostile forces from inside and outside of China tried desperately to nip the PRC in bud; it was also the beginning of the Cold War when a Red China was considered dangerous to the entire western world. Why didn’t you mention for instance the domestic or internationally plotted sabotages threatening social stability and the very existence of the new order back then (which should be documented in a well-balanced history book) which largely explained the government’s hard-line reactions and policies at the time? Time again you ignored what Jane rightly pointed out: “Context is everything.”

    Second, CCP’s amazing ability to mobilize people did not guarantee it taking over or successfully running China if the party failed to represent the will of the people. Everyone with moderate knowledge of China knows the main reason why Jiang lost China to Mao.

  40. FOARP Says:


    “Why didn’t you mention for instance the domestic or internationally plotted sabotages threatening social stability and the very existence of the new order back then (which should be documented in a well-balanced history book) which largely explained the government’s hard-line reactions and policies at the time?”

    Care to enlighten us? I am aware of the attempts made against Mao by his one-time cronies, the spy plane flights, the occasional raids made by ROC divers on the Fujian coast, and the history of Tibet, but I am unaware of any ‘sabotage’ which threatened the ‘very existence’ of CCP rule, unless you are referring to Mao’s disastrous handling of the national economy.

  41. snow Says:

    “Kuomintang and the CCP are sister parties and learned a lot from each other, perhaps the Kuomintang were first using this expression.”

    It’s possible. The top leaders of the two parties have both demonstrated in history their respective approaches to the set of Confucian values, a part of which BXBQ is talking about here.

  42. snow Says:


    Go to a library to check local newspapers of the early PRC era, say in the 1950s, especially around the Korean War time. Works reflecting the reality of that troubling era in novels, oral history and films and TV dramas are also plenty. You may want to see a TV drama well received in recent years called 暗算.,,,

  43. JL Says:


    My classical Chinese isn’t what it should be but I think in the sentence from Mengzi, ‘guo’ and ‘jia’ are separate notions, although Mengzi is suggesting that they are related.
    “There is a saying among men, which speaks of states and houses [as if the Royal House] of the world. The basis of the world is the state, the basis of the state is the house, the basis of the house is individual.”

    So obviously there is an ancient connection between guo and jia, but I think here Mengzi is not proposing the modern nationalist position that states ought to correspond to ‘nations’- big families of people who share (or are supposed to share) a culture (‘the Chinese’, ‘the French’). Rather I think he is stating the Confucian position that governing a country is like governing a family which is like governing yourself.

    @ Chorasmian
    That’s quite a translation of Shakespeare there. Where does it come from?

  44. Theo Says:

    Do these sweeping generalisations apply to all Chinese or is it just something you feel in your Han bones?

  45. Hemulen Says:


    That is an interesting way of reading Shijing and I am aware that some people are reading the text this way. There are also researchers who claim that the idea of Shijing being popular poetry was a rhetorical device used by the scholars who composed the poems. And none of this really affects my argument. Almost any autocratic ruler of Europe claimed to rule “for the people”, often in opposition to the aristocracy and evil ministers, and occasionally they would allow ordinary people to have their voice heard. As long as it did not disrupt the hierarchy. This is part and parcel of a very basic conservative political canon and there is nothing particular European or Chinese about it.

    I would prefer that many of those who use “Chinese culture” as a way of bolstering argument used the word conservative instead, that would be more honest.


    Interesting quote from DPP. Perhaps there is something more to this than just CCP rhetoric, or quite possibly the DPP owes more the CCP than they would care to admit. But I still think this is part of modern Chinese political culture than anything else. I still wonder if anyone kind find a single instance of this phrase used before 1949 or even 1911. It is conceivable that the Kuomintang talked about hurt feelings, but I dare to say that it is almost inconceivable that Qing officials would used that word. Mobilizing the Chinese people under nationalist appeals was not something that the Qing dynasty was very keen on doing, for obvious reasons.

    And as for guojia, sure, it meant a lot of things in the days of Mencius, but one thing is certain, it did not meant “nation state” the way we understand it today. There was only one truly “civilized state” in the world (Tianxia) and that was China, to which any other political entity ought to submit. Over time, different Chinese dynasties developed a whole vocabulary of appropriate submissive terms that foreigners had to use in order to be able to communicate with the imperial state. Hardly something that would work today. Or perhaps this whole idea that foreigners should be awestruck by the progress of the PRC and mend their devious ways is a revival of this. After all, the PRC chose to change the location of the Women’s conference in 1995 to a small town called Huairou, which has clear connotations from the tributary system.

    One of the problems with quoting classical Chinese verbatim in modern China is you can twist the meaning or add a new layer of interpretation to fit current needs. Classical Chinese is a different language from modern Chinese. If it were customary to translate classical Chinese into modern vernacular, just as Latin in translated into modern European languages today, then each person quoting the passage would have to come out and tell the reader what he actually means.

  46. chorasmian Says:


    I surrendered. When discussing ancient China, as all my evidence can only be from these “twisted” classical Chinese, it is out of my ability to make any argument.


    That Chinese version poetry come from my mind. It doesn’t look like Shakespeare’s work, does it? I just try to express his idea in a typical Chinese way.

  47. jane Says:


    Kudos! That is a very good translation. If MacBeth were Chinese, that’s what he’d be saying!

  48. Wahaha Says:

    The Chinese word “感情” has meanings of “mutual trust”, at least most of time, like 感情 between brothers and sisters.

  49. Netizen Says:

    BXBQ, Admin,

    This is post is linked by ESWN. But it’s a broken link because the title here has Chinese characters and doesn’t work when someone tries to copy and past the URL. You may want to fix it by informing Roland Soong.

  50. Buxi Says:


    Thanks for the notification! I’ve updated the permalink for this post, and will let Roland now.

  51. ali baba Says:

    文章提交者:最期之诗2008 加帖在 猫眼看人 【凯迪网络】 http://www.kdnet.net

    Taiwan,a star shines in the sky of Chung Hua
    Though dimmy, yet flames dancing refuse to die
    Though lonely, yet facing the terror of darkness refuse to bow
    Though solitude,yet has not forgotten honor and glory
    Though tinny,yet sparkling and glittering among endless darkness,always advancing

    Pray that we all become shining star
    Though dimmy and lonely,yet proud and brave,never ever give in
    Pray that we all standby the golden oath:
    Before dawn has come upon the dark sky
    There shines our glittering shadow

  52. Netizen Says:

    Ali baba,

    I don’t get what you’re trying to say about Taiwan. If Taiwan wants to unify, all is fine and good. Why are all these negative feelings?

  53. Buxi Says:


    I believe Ali baba (probably overseas Chinese from Taiwan…?) is translating a poem from KDNet, in which Taiwan is praised for resisting the “dark terror” from the mainland. I think he did a good job.

    We appreciate the submission ali baba, but you’re best served clicking on “publish” above and putting it into the letters section. It seems to not fit in this thread, and others interested in your translation might not see it.

  54. Buxi Says:


    But I still think this is part of modern Chinese political culture than anything else. I still wonder if anyone kind find a single instance of this phrase used before 1949 or even 1911. It is conceivable that the Kuomintang talked about hurt feelings, but I dare to say that it is almost inconceivable that Qing officials would used that word.

    But you explained very well why Qing officials wouldn’t have used those exact words. The use of ordinary parlance (baihua – 白话) didn’t happen until later during the Republican era. There’s no conceivable way that any Qing or previous imperial official, in any official capacity, would have used a specific phrase like “人民感情”. If you want to say “人民感情” is a phrase from after the modern Republican era, I can’t disagree with you. If you want to say its manufactured propaganda from the CCP, well, facts suggest otherwise.

    Finally, the “modern nation state” by definition is modern. But the point that BXBQ made all the way back in post #7, linking “family” and “nation” using 国家 seems very valid to me, and doesn’t depend on the exact form of the actual nation state.

  55. Tobe Says:

    What about the “loyalty, sense of duty and a minimal ego” that led the students to protest in 1989? Forgoing a positive result in order to defer to tradition just for tradition’s sake, that is the definition of backwardness in my book. Mebbe you can chalk it up to being a cultural difference, but I still see it as something that would best serve Chinese culture if it were overcome.

  56. Wahaha Says:


    As a student who joined the deomstration in 1986 and 1989, I can tell you that we wanted West democracy, believed that it would make China strong.

  57. ali baba Says:

    In Chinese, the war is most commonly known as the War of Resistance Against Japan (traditional Chinese: 抗日戰爭 and also known as the Eight Years’ War of Resistance (八年抗戰), or simply War of Resistance (抗戰).

    The conflict lasted for 8 years, 1 month, and 3 days (measured from 1937 to 1945).

    Chinese casualties

    * The Kuomintang fought in 22 major engagements, most of which involved more than 100,000 troops on both sides, 1,171 minor engagements most of which involved more than 50,000 troops on both sides, and 38,931 skirmishes.
    * The Chinese casualties were 3.22 million soldiers, 9.13 million civilians who were collateral damage, and another 8.4 million were non-military casualties. According to historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta, at least 2.7 million civilians died during the “kill all, loot all, burn all” operation (Three Alls Policy, or sanko sakusen) implemented in May 1942 in North China by general Yasuji Okamura and authorized on 3 December 1941 by Imperial Headquarter Order number 575.

    To netizen:
    ROC,or Republic of China, is the real China,the true China,in my heart.
    中國國民黨 ,Chinese kuomintang,found by Dr.Sun yat-sen ,who started the revolution to overthrow Manchu dynasty,founded Republic of China,the first ever republic in Asia.

    People Republic of China ,PRC,may be strong in many ways,and pointing 1000 or more missles at Taiwan,but stands on the opposite side of 仁義 ,shows no mercy,no love,no righteouness towards its own folks.ROC,at any one time,can allow its citizen to vote in a referendum on any issue;Can PRC do the same? Can PRC dare to do the same? I think not.

    文字狱 ‘ translate word prison’ PRC is now the biggest ‘word prison’ in human history.Using the ‘great fire wall’,PRC censor the internet to its advantage,filter out many key words such as Freedom,Democracy,etc,plus station 100,000 plus ‘cyber police’ to catch and arrest netizen who dare to say NO to the authority.

    PRC is 不仁不義 to the extreme.PRC is writing the darkest chapter in 5000 years of Chinese,or Han history.

    Natizen,let me ask you one question:During the 抗日戰爭 ,anti-Japanese war,Kuomintang suffered casualties of 3.22 million soldiers,with hundreds of generals died on battle field.
    Can anyone(any readers) here give me some numbers,some facts,of how many Red Army soldiers and generals died on battle fields?
    I do not think the number will be too impressive

    Confucius-Meng Zi teaching,any country,any nation that is 不仁不義 ,will not have a good ending.

  58. Netizen Says:

    KMT and CCP have resolved their differences. I don’t think they are looking at the past, rather they are look at the future. China is giving many many many goodies to Taiwan, and we should all be happy about it and be grateful.

  59. JXie Says:

    Personally a bit leery of calling Chinese exceptional. Actually I quite agree with Maria. Often China’s positions are condemned in a few Western countries, but sympathized if not overtly supported by most other countries outside of the 2 diametric ends — China and the West.

    Case in point, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Boil down to laypeople’s lingo, China’s position is “let’s follow other African countries’ lead”, and the official US, UK, and some other NATO countries’ position is “y’all follow my lead”.

  60. ali baba Says:


    Above is another Meng Zi teaching.
    “贼仁者谓之’贼 translates rulers that have no mercy,no love,no compassion towards fellow human beings,are called robbers.

    贼义者谓之’残 translates rulers that have no sense of right or wrong,always do evil things,dark things,always plotting behind door,hiding behind excuses,never offfer help when others are in troubles,rulers who know nothing about 义,are called Savages.

    残贼之人,谓之’一夫 translate rulers who are both robbers and savages are called dictators.

    闻诛一夫纣矣,未闻弑君也.translates: 纣 was the most notorious King in Chinese history.If any ruler,or emperor was called a 纣 ,would be the infamous compliment to the extreme.Meng Zi said: I have heard of 纣 being overthrown,being killed,yet have not heard of any good and rightous emperor being murdered.

    What Meng Zi was really saying is :Chinese Communist Government,you can do what ever you like,because you have the power,the police,the milltary,the propaganda machine.But be careful,don’t be called a 纣 ,because everybody knows what is waiting for him.

  61. Netizen Says:

    Ali baba, are you a FLGer? I’m beginning to think you’re.

  62. Buxi Says:


    No, as I said above, I think he’s overseas Chinese with close ties to Taiwan. I think his grudge is with the mainland’s loss of traditional culture.

    @ali baba,

    One last friendly reminder. I think your posts and translations are interesting and deserve to be here… but if you continue to post things that have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the discussion, I will begin to delete them. It’s distracting from what others are talking about.

  63. Wahaha Says:

    @Ali baba,

    Read following,


    P12 to p13

    … But recent academic research has revealed a rapidly evolving, increasingly sophisticated body of party officials and intellectuals who have been largely freed from ideological blinders and are now seeking practical leadership solution. The party continues to sucessfully recruited talented youth and professionals, and its reach into virtually every corner of Chinese life remains long and strong.
    China no longer has a one man authoritarian system. Its government now is perhaps best described as a corporate technocracy………

    BTW, which part of Taiwan are you from ?

  64. ali baba Says:

    To buxi,thanks for your friendly reminder.
    But the title of your post here is 义理, 人情, 隐忍 and I am writing about 不仁不義
    Is it not what we are talking about?
    May be it is safer to talk about Manchu,Mongols,Song,Tang?
    May be we need to self-censor a bit,to be on the safe side?
    I can do that,not a problem.

  65. Pete Says:

    I think you should have mentioned Hu Yaobang, alongside Zhou and Wen, as a political leader who also met the social desire for fulfilling relational duty and creating a bond w/ the public. Zhao Ziyang seems to get all the focus when discussing June 4, but it was Hu’s death that was the initial impetus for public demonstration. As with Deng Xiaoping, Hu was purged on multiple occasions but returned to political scene to propel economic and social reforms.

  66. Qrs Says:

    Very interesting– both the original post from BXBQ and the discussion that has followed. Here’s a couple of observations for what they’re worth…

    The original post discusses concepts such as 情 and “silently bearing the burden” in terms reminiscent of rational choice or game theory (‘functional’ terms). BXBQ also says “Westerners judge actions (and relations) from a functional” and all I can say is keep reading and exploring, don’t give up!

    Here’s my attempt to address BXBQ’s main point- that “The social contract between the Chinese and their rulers is relational duty and bonding, just like in Chinese personal relationship. This is the piece of Chinese exceptionalism I feel strongly about.”

    Why wouldn’t people choose to bond with one another, when faced with an irrational and absolutist political system that one cannot rationally hope to change? Wouldn’t it make the most sense to endure bravely and selflessly and use the esteem that came from that to help others? (Maybe not 100% selfless as one might hope that others would then reciprocate?)

    Not a few friends feel that, to use a historical example, that Qin Shihuang was a very admirable historical figure and that the 焚书坑儒 was just the price that had to be paid in order to unify the country. What’s a few academics and old books, more or less? Likewise, a considerable number of people (many post here) still feel that Mao Zhuxi should be forgiven for his excesses, in light of all the good that he did, mainly reunifying China. In this analysis- in both cases- the good far outweighs the bad. But is that rational?

    If one were a Confucian scholar in the days of Qin, or a “capitalist roader”, etc. during the Cultural Revolution, then it would not be rational to favor either Qin Shihuang or Mao. On the other hand, one might take the gamble that they might elude detection and escape persecution. But that’s an irrational gambler! Anyway that just mentions the small minority and not the vast majority who simply mind their own business, and don’t want to get involved in political disputes. This is the “safe” and rational choice.

    Why safe? Well, most would agree that both Qin Shihuang and Mao Zedong had a) unlimited power and b) had no worries about using that power in any way they wanted– often in unpredictable ways. Mao has famously admired Qin and sang his praises. And if you admire them or not, you must admit that their methods were brutal but effective in unifying the country. In the face of such a “threat” how does one react? One can only try hard to avoid trouble and turn to their neighbor for mutual support and hope for the best. That is the only rational choice.

    Anyone who has spent any time in China will confirm that there is nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution era among the generation that lived through it– and this may surprise many westerners. In fact, many people look back on those times as better than the present since everyone felt as if they were “in it together”. People genuinely looked after each other and that feeling of belonging has disappeared for many of them. I think in the US and UK some people feel that way about WWII or even the great depression? “Grin and bear it”? Terrible times maybe– but unifying times, I think!

    To mention the US, I just happened to be reading about a British film called “The Power of Nightmares” that compares US neo-conservatives and radical Islamists. The thesis of the film is that neocons have mythologized al-Qaeda into a much larger threat than they actually are. Is this a new Red Scare? Probably, but anyway such an irrational threat works well enough on Americans, too. So I’d say that the Chinese exception may not be so unique in this case.

    So if a perceived common threat can unify a people, why does the threat have to be external to be effective? An internal “threat” in the form of an unknowable, unpredictable and all-powerful government should be just as effective. No Chinese exception, it’s just how absolutism works. The saying goes, 天高皇帝远, but sometimes maybe it’s better if the Emperor is safely far away and not bring any trouble…

    @ alibaba: keep posting, don’t self-censor!
    @ wahaha: ‘corporate technocracy’ sounds like a social disease- which I am sure it is


  67. Wahaha Says:

    “corporate technocracy’ sounds like a social disease”

    Will you show me an example why it was a social disease ?


  68. ali baba Says:


    What is the spirit of humanity?It’s the cultural spirit that make us different from animals.The publication of the book “Naked Ape”,by zoologist D.Morris,shook the world.Nearly all the social animals will absolutely submit to own group’s strongest and most powerful and violent.For example,the weaker monkeys will clearly and openly express it’s dependency and belonging towards the stronger monkeys,for example,go down low on the ground on all four,stick up the bum high enough in the air to be raped by stronger monkeys (by the anus),so that they can live a better life.

    To 胡耀邦
    Thanks for your kind words.I am not from China,but through internet surfing I have learned that many Chinese liberal thinking intellectuals have highest respect towards 胡耀邦,and the feeling that they had missed out on the Chinese version of color revolution made them very sad.
    I am near finishing translating an article on Manchu 文字狱, also on the main reason why there are so many Chinese 皇权的奴才.The conclusion is no good,that again make me very sad.

  69. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    I was too young to know anything more than superficial about Hu Yaobang when he was alive. He has not been talked about much since 1990 either. Hu Yaobang seems to have been faithful to duty and bonding (义理和人情). This was probably why his funeral had the power to stir up people’s emotions, although the fervor for him was no comparison to the reactions to Zhou Enlai’s death in 1976 and the subsequent April 5th movement on the same Tiananmen Square. I got a gut’s feeling that he was emotionally faithful to duty and bonding, but insufficient in political savvy (or maybe raw intelligence) to navigate the top tier of the Chinese power hierarchy. He did not make much of an impact except implementing humane policies redressing injustices left from the Cultural Revolution (rehabilitating wronged people etc.). Maybe he was constrained by the situation of the period he operated in.

    Zhao Ziyang had major flaws in integrity in his handling of the June 4th incident. I blame him partly for the tragic eventuality. He cracked under pressure. Instead of working behind the scenes when the situation was still savable, he outed Deng Xiaoping. The turning point of the whole event came when he told some visiting foreign leader that Deng Xiaoping still had the final say when it came to major decisions. The message was unmistakable; it was out of place when he delivered it on camera. I have no memory who that visiting foreign leader was but I remember the baffled embarrassment on his face. Then the whole things collapsed. The facade of a united front of the authorities fell apart. The students got confused and Deng Xiaoping panicked and felt he had no options. Looking back, before Zhao literally dragged Deng Xiaoping out to the front, the situation was perfectly savable. Why did Zhao drag Deng out and corner him? He was selfish; he did not want to be “misperceived” as the “historical sinner”. He wanted somebody else to bear that title. He did not have the fortitude to “fulfill his duty while bearing the burden of disgrace.” He betrayed his relational duty to silently bear the burden. In American politics, you have to explain everything about yourself. In Chinese politics and personal relations, the most crucial understandings and most intimate/powerful feelings are kept in all parties’ minds, but never spoken. Like Lu Xun said “渡尽劫波兄弟在,相逢一笑泯恩仇。”Ultimately Zhao’s behavior reflects the shallowness of his personality.

  70. Crazyfinger Says:

    Reading comments by Qrs, and going back reading the blogpost once again, I still think all this Chinese vs. Western ways of social contracts that this thread has dwelled on, is us making a bigger deal out of it that it really is. Actually I am now beginning to wonder if the “simple concepts to build a framework that can help make some sense of these puzzling phenomena,” are too simple when weighed against my own experience. My conviction is primarily driven by seeing the dynamics among the people, i.e., the people’s actions, in high-tech companies. May be these concepts hold in other areas of work…or do they? Or may it is my natural aversion to “concepts,” as opposed to actions.

    Here is my point. The admittedly gross generalization that Westerner’s actions are tailored towards pragmatic functions, vs. Chinese actions tailored in addition towards experiential, is frankly neither here nor there. Even westerners tend toward experiential when it comes to their family, their friends and their community: is it that hard for us to imagine a westerner asking the same question a Chinese would ask in these situations? Where is the dividing line here between a westerner and a Chinese? I don’t see it in specifics. I see it a lot when we talk in generalities.

    Even the distinction the blogpost author draws with “Westerners’ abilities to articulate the rationales of their actions,” I am not convinced this distinction is real. I bet if we ask anyone of the construction crew working in Beijing they would be very clear on the pragmatic aspects of their work, their task, what is expected of them and what happens if they don’t deliver/fulfill their end of the bargain. Their bent towards pragmatic functions is no different from that of a westerner, yes?

    I am not at all saying that there are no differences. But I think sometimes we get too carried away by our own analysis. Differences do exist, but I think the crux of my point is these differences do come out strongly only in extreme situations. For example, while a Chinese purportedly (per this blogpost) prefers to put up with a disagreeable situation/partner for the sake of “relational duty and bonding,” and a westerner may not, it is not until the situation is extreme that these differences matter.

    Hmmm…not sure if that was the conclusion I intended to drive at, but…


  71. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    Thanks for the comment. I think there are inaccuracies in your conceptualization of several components of the issue.

    1. The Chinese rulers, including Chairman Mao and Qin Shihuang, did not have absolute power. No human can ever have absolute power. The Chinese emperors were constrained by the intricate networks of social relations that they were embedded in. The constraints on Chinese emperors were different from and less explicitly defined/codified than the checks and balances in Western democracies, but no less in severity or effectiveness.

    2. I cannot imagine anybody feeling nostalgic about the Culture Revolution for its unity (“we are in it together”, like you said). No the cultural revolution was not about unity or uniformity. It was about rebellion, about challenging authorities in power, about people turning against each other and over-throwing the authorities. The Cultural Revolution is a vivid demonstration that even in extremely authoritarian societies, the rulers by no means have absolute power. The rules and principles of constraint are different from democracies but no less powerful and effective.

  72. ali baba Says:



    1989 年“六四”學潮的一個最大致命傷,在於獨立知識份子群體的缺席。不能想像九十年代初蘇東巨變中的那場捷克天鵝絨革命,沒有以哈威爾為首的獨立知識份子主導,可以獲得成功。雖然八十年代的啟蒙思潮深入人心,尤其深入莘莘學子之心,但並沒能因此在中國形成一個不依附於權力體制而獨立的知識份子群體。八十年代,西方自由思想在中國的傳播,是拜體制內的改革需求所賜。無論是西方思想的譯介還是出版,還是一次次思想文化的研討,幾乎都是出自官方機構的組織。甚至連知識精英的聲望,也來自最高權力者亂點鴛鴦譜式的成全:通過官方的中央文件,使三個被點名的知識份子成為社會良心和公共良知的象徵。那部幾乎家喻戶曉的電視片《河殤》,與其說是“六四”學潮的一個引子,不如說是體制內的政治精英和知識精英準備擁立新主趙紫陽的宣言。


    To bxbq,I copy this article from internet,it is a long essy,I have not the time to translate it,though I would like to.I paste the top part of it here,because it is too long.If you want,I can e-mail to you.
    I believe the author was working in the Mao ze-tong’s office,he is in his 80s.I think he know what he is talking about.
    By the way,have you read the book called’ Untold story of Mao’ ? A very interesting book,indeed.

  73. Matt Says:

    Long time lurker, first time commenter, and, unfortunately, my first comment is completely OT. Just wanted to say thank you to bianxiangbianqiao for taking the time to post this. It’s the kind of post that reminds one that there’s always something new to learn about China.

    Thanks also to Buxi and co. for the site. Reading it can be frustrating sometimes, but it’s a good kind of frustration, the kind you feel when some of your closely-held beliefs are legitimately challenged by intelligent people. It’s an excellent kind of educational tool you’ve all created, and I thank you for doing so.

  74. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    I think you have taken a simplistic view on my position.

    I am not saying that Westerners are exclusively function-oriented in their actions and Chinese are exclusively relation-oriented. All human actions have both aspects. The difference is in priority. Western behavior, especially social behavior, tends to prioritize function over relation to a greater degree than Chinese. Let’s say you have an American boss and a Chinese boss equally attached to an employee. When the economy is bad and the business is in financial difficulty, which boss would have greater difficulty in firing the employee? The American would do what he got to do with a straight face and little qualms, while the Chinese would have great difficulty in letting his buddy go (he would probably even to sink together with him before ditching him). Americans separate work from friendship because these activities serve different functions (productivity versus social affiliation). The Chinese have great difficulty separating work from family and friendship. How else can you explain that the Chinese have so many family businesses, even among the big businesses?

    Human actions are like food. The different dishes have the same basic ingredients, e.g., meat and vegetables. However, different dishes have different proportions of different ingredients; some have more meat (function), others have more vegetables. Another issue to take into consideration is the level and analysis. Are you looking at individual or populations? You can have some individual Americans more relation-oriented than some Chinese individuals. However, as a population, Americans on average place more emphasis on functionality than relations than the Chinese as a population.

  75. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Thanks for stopping by.

  76. Wukailong Says:

    @ali baba: I have the untold story of Mao in my bookshelf, but it’s collecting dust; I’m not sure I want to invest time in that tome before I’m certain it has a strong foundation. Andrew Nathan wrote a review that’s worth reading:


    Philip Short’s biography still seems spot on.

  77. ali baba Says:

    To bxbq,
    Reading your post71, quote:It was about rebellion, about challenging authorities in power, about people turning against each other and over-throwing the authorities. Unquote.

    I think your comment is not completely correct in historical sense.Again I only look at it as an outsider.But what I read on the net tell me a very sad story,a story of plots,betrayal(son against father,wife against husband,friends against friends) ,a complete hell on earth that lasted 10 years.

    And it was started by Mao ze-dong,and played along by all the CHINESES,they all knew what was giong on,but they played along.Very sad story.

    Again,if you would read ‘untold story of Mao’,you would end up knowing more than I do,afterall,you come from China.

  78. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    ali baba,
    I have alwasy thought that I am the most sentimental person about the issues we are discussing. I think you are more emotional than me.

    As for Mao and Cultural Revolution, I agree with Wukailong that you could consult more reliable sources of information.

  79. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    “Where is the dividing line here between a westerner and a Chinese?”
    I am passionate about this point. We have to remember that we are not trying to find a mathematic truth (which is absolute). We are trying to develop a social theory that can help us explain social realities that otherwise would be inexplicable. With regard to a social theory, you cannot require it to make 100% accurate predictions without exceptsion. Outside mathematics, you cannot have any truth without exceptions. The most important standard for judging a theory is whether it is useful in terms of providing more accurate predictions than alternative thoeries. I am unaware of an alternative theory that would work better than the one I discussed in explaining the phenomena I laid out.

    Another example about Western functionality can be provided by the notion of “professionalism”, which has a root in the practice of separating the location of work from the location of family life, basically a functional distinction. I am not a sociologist so I cannot explain it adequately but it is not hard to imagine the gist of the distinction.

  80. ali baba Says:

    To bxbq and Wukailong,
    Regardless of how much gold is in that book ‘untold story’.wouldn’t you agree that the C revolution remains the darkest chapters in Chinese history?
    All those killings,maiming,university professors being bashed in the publc,liberal intellectuals being murdered,put in exile to remote and barren parts of china,people who can hardly write their name were put to be in charge of schools,uni,factory.Deng xiao-ping’s son was nearly murdered,all the evil,dark things were carried out in the name of revolution,and the big boss behind was ‘gang of 4’,plus Mao,of course.

    Don’t tell me at this age you guys still think C revolution was good for China,or humanity,for that matter?

  81. ali baba Says:

    The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution[1] in the People’s Republic of China was a struggle for power within the Communist Party of China that manifested into wide-scale social, political, and economic violence and chaos, which grew to include large sections of Chinese society and eventually brought the entire country to the brink of civil war.

    The damages caused by the Cultural Revolution were seen by observers, the majority of China’s population, as well as the Communist Party of China, as an unmitigated disaster upon the country and its people. Although differing assessments continue to exist, in its official, historical judgment of the Cultural Revolution in 1981, the Party assigned chief responsibility to Mao Zedong, but also laid significant blame on Lin Biao and the Gang of Four for causing its worst excesses.

    Ali baba says= The above sentence was that paste from Wikipedia,there is tons of infomation there.
    Any comments,guys ?

  82. cerebus Says:

    I have a question: if I feel the kind of social and public relationships that define Chinese culture leads to an unacceptable (to me) position of moral relativism, would such an opinion hurt the feelings of Chinese people? Wow, sorry, difficult sentence to formulate: I’ll just put my cards on the table, and I hope you see I do this because the issue bothers me, not to be critical: it’s one thing to explain the culture/mindset of Chinese, it’s another to condone it, and sadly I find many, seemingly very fundamental Chinese cultural characteristics, well, to be morally wrong. Tolerating injustice, however small, feels wrong to me. “Guanxi” seems unfair, and irreconcilable with (well, yes) my idea of the social contract. I love China, but I think there are things that should change in society; things that don’t come from the government, but from 5000 years of culture. And I get into lots of trouble for saying so, as you can imagine. Not all things, by any means, but some things. And having those things explained, still do not make them right. I think that sometimes makes it hard on China-West relationships, when Westerners have to relax their ethical principles in the name of cultural understanding/tolerance, because that very “relaxing of principles” goes against Western culture (er, of some western people anyway.)

    I know it’s crap, not just for Chinese people, when your culture gets criticized by a foreigner, but I really need to ask: are there Chinese people who seek fundamental cultural change? Is there a discourse in China questioning the very basis of Chinese relationships and society?

    (I know, for example, there are many westerners highly critical of the foundations of western culture, who seek extreme, radical change in their own countries… I am one. If I bring this up here, it is really just because I find engagement with China fascinating and endlessly educational. I mean no offense.)

  83. Qrs Says:


    Maybe you misunderstand my point about the GPCR– I am saying that people only miss the feeling of togetherness, not the times themselves. An example is my aunt who was a little girl at the time. She looks at the present generation and sees them as selfish and superficial comparison. Anyway, she’s not the only person I know with this type of feeling.

    As to your other point about the GPCR, I think it shows the opposite– there is no restraint. The whole thing was directed from the top by Mao, Jiang, and the Gang of Four, who were not limited by their actions in any meaningful way. You even suggest that the people loved Zhou Enlai was loved by the people so much because he was able to withstand Mao’s humiliations. I suggest it was because he was seen to have a limiting effect on Mao (he did prevent the 红卫兵 from entering the Forbidden city). But there was no safety for even Zhou, who was a target of the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign 批林批孔运动. People don’t like to remember that one very much… But as for restraints on emperors, who restrained Qin Shihuang– Li Si?

    Anyway the point about “absolute power” is something of a distraction– my point is that in the face of (for all practical purposes) unlimited and *unpredictable* power– what is the rational response? To me it is rational to band together, endure, and hope for the best. So this is not exceptional to me, just rational.

    As for Hu Yaobang, it is interesting the you say Wen Jiabao was so long-suffering for the sake of his boss Zhao Ziyang. Many people would agree, and feel that he is therefore selfless. But I point to Hu Yaobang and wonder why, if Wen is so selfless, why has Hu Haobang not been rehabilitated? Certainly Wen benefited from all that Hu did in 1986 and after, no? Where is the selflessness and gratitude now?

    Finally about Technocracy– isn’t this just the same thing as socialist central planning by a different name? Why not try democracy for a change?

  84. Qrs Says:

    For BXBQ, just one more question about limits on Emperors and them not having unlimited power: what would Wan Li 万历皇帝 of the Ming say about your argument?

  85. Wukailong Says:

    @ali baba: I agree rule under Mao Zedong was hell in many ways. You get the same picture in Philip Short’s book, even though he seems to have a scholarly affection with the man. That doesn’t excuse the problems with the book about the true story of Mao, but by all means, it might be immature of me to criticize a book I haven’t read.

    @cerebus: There have been, and continue to be (although to a much lesser extent these days) movements that seek fundamental change in Chinese culture. Also, as was pointed out here by another commentor some time ago, many Chinese have a very self-critical stance in their internal discourse. One of the reasons these movements might not be so strong at this time is because people are increasingly interested in reviving culture that was lost during the Cultural Revolution, rather than changing it.

  86. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    cerebus, My friend,

    You pose a very important and thoughtful question and it lies close to the heart of my understanding of cultural differences between China (East Asia) and the West.

    First I concede that moral relativism has its problems. It results in lack of moral authority. Every opinion is just an opinion, no better or worse than every other opinion. It is hard for an individual to make behavior choices within this scheme.

    Second I criticize the moral absolutism or essentialism you are proposing. Yes there might be ultimate moral justice but it is quite difficult if not impossible for us earthly humans to grasp and exercise. Oftentimes Western moral absolutism manifests itself in Chauvinism. The Western values are the absolute and must be made “universal”. “We are God’s chosen people after all.” Everyone can be saved only through the Westerner.

    I think the best solution is utilitarianism. We all seek the ultimately just moral solutions but realize that we are mere mortals living in a real world with all sorts of constraints (come on, let’s be real). Nobody has access to God’s own will. The best we can do is to be honest with ourselves, open our life arrangements to criticism and negotiate with others who disagree with us. At the same time we need to realize that nobody has a privileged access to ultimate justice or truth.

    Many Chinese customs and practices need to be changed. This is why I am admirer of Chinaman Mao (although not without ambivalence). He smashed a lot of old bad Chinese stuff into pieces. For one thing he lifted half of the Chinese population, women out of subjugation. Foot-bounding, prostitution and doing drugs were also done away with partly by him.

    That being said, I think Chinese sociality needs to be preserved (with modification and modernization). This is not just because relational duty and bonding are at the core of the Chinese identity. More important, the experience of bonding is one of the most fulfilling and self-edifying that I have ever experienced. The profound connection between two Chinese in everyday activities can be achieved by two individualistic Westerners only when sharing a joint. Westerners socialize and cooperate, but they hardly bond. This poetic East Asian experience is best described by Kawabata Yasunari川端康成, in first part of his acceptance speech at the Nobel Prize literature award (1964?), . Ye Weiqiu had a great Chinese translation, which was placed in front of his Chinese translation of kawabata’s masterpiece《雪国》.

    My comments are laced with bias. But they should not offend because they are sincere.

  87. cerebus Says:

    @wukailong: ah, that makes sense. what do chinese people regard as the main characteristics of the culture that was lost during the cultural revolution? I know that would require generalising, but could you give a basic idea? do you mean artistic movements or everyday behaviour?

  88. cerebus Says:


    thanks for the heartening reply. I’d like to say that I don’t propose absolutism. not in the sense of a final, external moral authority. i think western society is infused with the judeo-christian ethic of placing moral authority separate from the self, which leads to people often saying things like: “i don’t know why, but that’s just wrong”. I completely agree we cannot know God’s will, mostly because I don’t believe in God 🙂

    But, as you see, this externalised morality becomes part of our brainwashing, and on a knee-jerk reaction level I find myself often experiencing what I can only call a “moral” outrage, before I’ve had a chance to intellectually analyse it. On analysis I find I can override the outrage, but the initial feeling remains. I guess an analogy would be that I think westerners should be tolerant of Chinese spitting in the street, but I still feel grossed-out when it happens. That “grossed-out” feeling doesn’t go away.

    My feeling is we should be utilitarian on a personal level, but still have ideals to aspire to. These ideals would then be non-relativist, if you will, but daily interaction would be utilitarian. Of course, expressing these ideals would make one sound (as I often do) absolutist, when, like you say, get real…

    On bonding: you have your bonding, and we have our individualism. Being wholly self-dependent has it’s own rewards as well. Following rules, not because of fear of the law or social sanction, but because of an internal moral guidance… I forget the quote, but there’s a pay-off either way. Besides, I like to think Chinese people and western people fall on a continuum between these points, not all grouped together at the extremes. Politics is what prevents us from seeing gradual transitions.

    Thanks for the sincerity. (I think you might enjoy a Japanese novel called “Burial in the Clouds” by Hiroyuki Agawa, that explores Asian literature and relational duty in a very poetic way.)

  89. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    If you are a Falun goner, then shut up,

    If you are not a Falun goner, can you for once stop educating us about what happened 30 years or 40 years ago, OK ? dont treat us like we are unware what happened then, we know,

    To your #72,

    In the morning of June, 4, we students in Shanghai tried to persuade workers striking, no1 listened to us, the answer we got was ” I need to feed my family.” Do you know what that means ?

    “知識精英們依然隔岸觀火。”, what kind of nonsense is this ? Lot of 知識精英們 believed that students were used which is now widely accepted by students who participated in the demostration.

    Stop giving us the moral education, maybe you should first explain why in India, 43% of kids under age 5 are under weight. where is the humanity in India ?

    You want to see humanity, here is link about humanity :


  90. Wahaha Says:

    @cerebus #82

    1) about GuanXi,

    IN MY OPINION, Guanxi is a product of social structure, a relation between people and government, it depends on how much ordinary people and businessmen depend on their government. Guanxi is usually a way of getting financial benefits. If state control important resoures and major companys, then people need guanxi. If private control natural resourse and major production, guanxi becomes business relationship.

    2) I do think lot of Chinese want to see radical change, but it is impossible under the oppression of theory “stability is paramount.” Radical change needs an atomsphere of “freedom” of speech”. So currently or in next 30 years, I dont see dramatic change in China.

    3) Tolerating injustice, there are lot, I mean a lot injustice in China. But people in West must understand : Chinese dont measure justice or injustice by law, or by something on textbook. For example, some criminals are sentenced to death simply cuz of bad social impacts by their crimes, which very few chinese feel is wrong. ( this is called ” scare dozens of monkeys by killing a chicken in front of them.”)

    The injustice agaisnt public is not tolerated (see those protests and riots), but injustice against individual is widespread and most time is neglected by Chinese, as Chinese believe ” you did something wrong, you deserve the punishment”, (google Michael Fay), FOR THE GOOD OF SOCIETY, but there is no clear measurement how far the punishment should go. Most chinese believe LaoGai is the right thing .

    Chinese dont view the injustice against individual dissidents as against public. For example, some dissidents protested against some government policys that brought better life to majority, the injustice is viewed as against individual, and get no sympathy from public; West media has been wasting time to tell Chinese how evil the chinese government is.

    one more thing, I dont feel offended by your criticism on Chinese culture. Personaly, I think Chinese culture put too much weight on obedience and hollow self promotion (a sense of ” what do you know?”, kind of isolate himself from society, which is very popular among old chinese scholar).

  91. ali baba Says:


    To wahaha:(1) I am not what you called Falun gong,though I agree with some(not all) of their actions.
    (2) I say it again,I am oversea Chinese with traditional Confucius mindset,but live in the west and accept western values.So you can say I am a bit of everything
    (3) I am extremely interested in China because the past glory of Han civilization was a shining beacon in the old world, and was brutally cut short during the Manchu dynasty,through the savage use of 文字狱 (translate word prison)

    (4) 富贵不能淫,贫贱不能移,威武不能屈

    Wealth and fame cannot corrupt my rightous mind,my love and compassion
    towards other human beings


    Poor and destitute cannot remove my principles


    Force and violence cannot bent my backbone
    Wahaha,above words were given to us by scholars of Confucius-Meng Zi,are the essence of Han civilization.I don’t think 趙紫陽 had any of these qualities,and I don’t think people like Wen jia-bao,Hu jin-tao have these kind of qualities either,because in their school times,no one was there to teach them Confucius-Meng Zi teachings.Unlike students in Japen,South Korea,Taiwan,Hong Kong,Singapore,Malaysia,Confucius-Meng Zi teachings are compulsory.
    So, in the eyes of a student who had received years(at least 6 years) of Confucius-Meng Zi teaching,saying things like 舍生而取義 to Mr.Wen or Mr.Hu is like chicken talking to duck.
    Is it a fair comment?

  92. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    Very happy that you are not a Falun goner, my apology for my rudeness before.

    About 富贵不能淫,贫贱不能移,威武不能屈 :

    I was involved in a heated argument with a guy called “YouZi” before on this board. It is not about me, it is not about individual. It is about what system can solve the problems in China.

    We dont want to see 2 billion chinese any time in the future, can democracy solve it ?

    We dont want to see Shanghai or Beijing become a city of slum, can democracy solve it ?

    Those are the problems for 1.3 billion chinese, “舍生而取義” doesnt solve the problem.

  93. ali baba Says:


    In Manchu time,its people dependance and ass-kissing towards the rulers,Han all tried their best to become 奴才= minion ,much much more serious was the fact the whole society glorify the becoming of minion(all try to turn into banner people)all the intellectuals transformed themself into doggy minions, 奴才 ,dogs,animal.The spirit of civility of Han culture,the option of saying NO to violence and ruthless authority was extinguished completely.What remained was only the praise towards the “sacred emperor”,the fear of violence,the cold and indifference towards own race,”To establish heart of Sky and Earth,to look after the livelihood of common people,To continue the teaching of Confucius-Meng Zi,To bring about 10,000 generations of PEACE.”,this kind of ideals have all gone up in smoke,what was left was the shamless and disgusting ass-kissing towards the rulers.What was reserved and developed is not the spirit of civility,but the animalistic of Naked Apes minionism.

    To Wahaha, 对暴力的恐惧、对自己同胞的冷漠 these are the two key words.

    Wahaha,Mainland China population is 1.3 millions or more.Yes,because of “word prison” 文字狱 ,all 1.3 billion chineses are afraid,are scared, become minions 皇权暴力下的狗奴才 ,fair enough,but don’t forget,there are still 25 millions or more Chinese in Taiwan,practicing democracy,enjoy human rights in their society; and what about millions and millions oversea chineses in Thailand,Singapore, south east asia,in the US,Europe,Australia,who believe in Confuciuc,in Jesus Christ,in Buddha.Don’t tell me you would like to see all the Oversea Chinese all becomes minions,stooges,clowns?

    皇权暴力下的狗奴才 may be for some,but I am sure not all the CHINESES.

  94. Buxi Says:


    But I point to Hu Yaobang and wonder why, if Wen is so selfless, why has Hu Haobang not been rehabilitated? Certainly Wen benefited from all that Hu did in 1986 and after, no? Where is the selflessness and gratitude now?

    I don’t know what Hu Yaobang would be “rehabilitated” from. He did lose his position as general secretary, but it’s not as if he was punished under Party regulations. He remained a member of the politburo even after he lost his general secretary spot.

    Upon his death in 1989, the official verdict from Xinhua (which as far as I know has not changed) was:


    Comrade Hu Yaobang is a time-tested, loyal warrior on behalf of Communism; a great proletarian revolutionary and politician; one of the finest political workers to rise out of our army; and an exceptional leader who for a long time held important leadership roles within the party.

    From the CCP’s point of view, I don’t think praise comes too much higher than that.


    Personally, I would not be offended when criticism of Chinese culture comes from an “objective” belief (as if that’s possible for any of us) that certain flaws existed. (You might be interested in the standard stand-by reference at this point: “The Ugly Chinaman”, 丑陋的中国人.)

    The only reason I might be offended, is if criticism of Chinese culture comes strictly from a sense of “different”-ness. “Those Chinese don’t do things the way they do, and that’s just wrong.” Based on your well thought out comments above, I doubt this applies to you.

  95. ali baba Says:

    。 To Wahaha:I would to ask this humble question again, So, in the eyes of a student who had received years(at least 6 years) of Confucius-Meng Zi teaching,saying things like 舍生而取義 to Mr.Wen or Mr.Hu is like chicken talking to duck.
    Is it a fair comment?

    If my above question is too hard for either Mr.Hu or Mr.Wen (I heard he likes classical Chinese a lot,even write some classical poems), I would like to translate the following: 孟子对 齐宣王曰


    Meng Zi said to emperor Chee Xuan,the ruler must know the desire,the hopes,the expectations of its people,then work hard to achieve these goals for the people.The ruler must also know what are the worries of it’s people,what make them sad,what make them scared,then work hard to remove these sadness,these worries for the people.Only then,the people would return the same favors to the rulers.


    If a ruler can apply the above principles towards all the people under the sky,and yet cannot become Emperor,this I do not believe,just not true.It just had not happened.

    To Wahaha,do you think Mr.Wen jia-bao,or Mr.Hu jin-tao would be happy to see this ancient Meng Zi teaching being applied in everyday running of the great motherland?

    At least it is easier than 舍生而取義 ,don’t you think so ?

  96. Wahaha Says:

    @ali baba,

    “all 1.3 billion chineses are afraid,are scared, become minions 皇权暴力下的狗奴才 ”

    Shut up, Youzi,

    yes, You are Youzi, I am sure.

    Enough F@#$ing insult to 1.3 billion chinese,

    Honest as a man, tell us how much you made each year in West,

    Do you have family ? do you have kids ?

    Now tell us what you care most if you make only 10 % of your current income ?

    Otherwise, kiss my @$$.

  97. ali baba Says:

    To wahaha, 王顾左右而言他。

    I am a humble student of Meng Zi,do not understand foul language.

    皇权暴力下的狗奴才,only applies to people who think like one,and act like one.If you are not one of them,why worry ?

    If I type wrong,that was my typing mistake.I hereby offer my sincere apology to you,Wahaha,and all 1.3 billion Chinese,I am sorry,I am wrong,it was a typing mistake,I will be more careful next time,sorry,sorry,no more next time.

    Is that enough?

  98. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    Ok, I am sorry, I lost my temper. My apology

    You should watch some programs of how west trade people in India, let me put it this way : tenants treat doorman.

    20 years, famous french actor Alan Delon went to China, and openly laughed at that China’s poverty; and west reporters openly insulted China and Chinese.

    You dont mind ? Sorry, I mind.

    You want Chinese forever be treated like dogs under the nose of Westerners ?

    Sometimes, you cant have everything, you can only take one, something I want more, I dont want to wait till I cant even walk, I want to see that as soon as possible.

    When you talk about 狗奴才, please think of how those english gentlemen treated Indians, Dodi Fayad’s billionaire father couldnt even get UK nationality.

  99. Wahaha Says:

    Sorry, I mean ” how west treat people in India, let me put it this way…..”

  100. BMY Says:

    Wahaha is talking about the techniques to fix the problem
    Alibaba is talking about the Confucius morality .
    I think the techniques and morality are not exclusive to each other.

  101. ali baba Says:


    To Wahaha,

    道德 is the central theme of Confucius-Meng Zi teaching. Translate to english is morals,and ethic.Also is the essence of Han civilization.It is also the standard of the world now.

    Opposite to 道德 ,is lawlessness,is treachery,is betrayal,is treason,is to stab others in the back.
    道德 is universal value.

    I hope it is not chicken talking to duck.

  102. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba and BMY,

    Remember, political system serves economy.

    Morality is a luxury, it is an after thought for people in poverty. That is why Black people were not granted the equal right until West became so wealth that people didnt have to worry about their future, about their their later life.

    We are talking about politics for 1.3 billion people, not only for couple millions well educated chinese.

    People dont like the political system if it doesnt deliver, Russia is the best example of that. A former KGB became the most popular leader in Russia, what proof do you want ? I read a report that in Russia, one third of Russian want Putin to be their leader during their life time.

  103. BMY Says:


    I think your #98 is not a very good argument to alibaba. Alibaba is talking about Confucius morality, the mistreatment of Chinese or Indian by the west in the past has nothing to do with his advocating of Confucius .

  104. Wahaha Says:


    I would love if there is a system under which we enjoy freedom and economic growth, and after 10 years in New York, I dont think there is one. I said before, I want to see example, not textbook, show me an example in poor or developing country that worked, I will immediately jump onto that bandwagon.

  105. ali baba Says:


    To Wahaha,

    Why wasting time blaming others for your own problems? When you shoot an arrow and miss the target,you do not blame others,you go home and work it out,so that next time you shoot better. Meng Zi said.

    Same things,I see people blaming USA being world police,England being(or was) the sun never set empire,or Dalai Lama being a wolf,etc etc.

    They have selectively forgotten the fact that to re-glorify our once glorious Han civilization is up to everyone of us.It is up to me,and you,common folks.Got nothing to do with USA,UN,CIA,or FBI.

  106. BMY Says:


    I am not talking about which political system suits China. I largely agree with you about the economy/education and democracy.

    I also partly agree with “Morality is a luxury, it is an after thought for people in poverty.” “仓廪实而知礼节”
    But I feel like there is a deny of morality when our ancestors were even poorer in 2000 years ago and they were teaching and persuiting.

  107. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    Where did I blame others for problems ?

    We have problems, problem #1, problem #2, … problem #1,000,000,…….

    Let me repeat, we are talking about the problems 1.3 billions chinese are facing each day, not problems you and me facing each day,

    What are the top problems in their mind ?

    Second, what kind of system can solve those problems ?

    You and me can keep talking about the problems we care most all day long, but it is no difference from masturbation.

    I am talking about how to solve the problems that at least 1 billion people care, we cant say cuz government shouldnt do that cuz 1 million out 1 billion Chinese dont like it.

  108. Wahaha Says:


    Dont worry about that Chinese will lose the sense of morality, heard of YuDan in Columbia university. As people get richer and richer, morality will come back. Also, losing morality is not good for the control of government.

  109. ali baba Says:


    To Wahaha,

    君子 is another fundamental goal that Confucius would like all his student to achieve.A 君子 is a nearly perfect man,a man with love,compassion,principle,and rational,plus heaps of all the goodies.There is no equivalent word for 君子 in english.Gentleman is only near enough .

    Again, Wahaha,君子 do not blame the “sky”,nor other people.

  110. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    dude, no offense, but you are dreaming communism !!!!

  111. ali baba Says:

    To Wahaha,

    To your surprise,there are many Chinese,and Asians,Japanese,South Koreans,Tawaineses,South-east Asians,Vietnamese,they all talk the Confucius talk.This is true,may be it sounds like a joke.Because in Asia,outside mainland China,Confusius teaching is a compulsory in schools.Not only that,to your surprise,the main stream oversea Chinese society is still evolve around Confuciusnism.

    Just watch any Hong Kong gangster-police movie,in all the police stations in hong kong,there always is a shrine for Kwang Kung ,the god,and symbol of 義.

  112. BMY Says:


    I agree with you a lot and very admire your scholar type posts and analyses.

    But I am a bit outraged by the comments of “No the cultural revolution was not about unity or uniformity. It was about rebellion, about challenging authorities in power,” and “This is why I am admirer of Chinaman Mao (although not without ambivalence). He smashed a lot of old bad Chinese stuff into pieces. For one thing he lifted half of the Chinese population, women out of subjugation. Foot-bounding, prostitution and doing drugs were also done away with partly by him.”

    Through this is not a thread of culture revolution and Mao. But every time when they got mentioned, the images of the dead bodies of farmers and kids after “the great leaf”, the bashing and murdering in the class struggler meetings would always come into my mind. I always get emotional because what our nation and people had suffered in the 50s-70s.

    Was “challenging authorities in power” via murdering , bashing and destroying everything?

    Was” women out of subjugation” had been started far ago after the ends of Qing before Mao took power? It’s not his credit. Mao had no interesting of manage economy. Zhou was doing that. Mao was just reading all our history books in his room and only picked up the dark side of our history and culture and utilized them to destroy his political enemies.

    We remember in the late 70s and early 80s, there were flood of books written by people who participated in CR and I read a lot of them as a kid. That’s where my feelings comes from. Mao might write good poets but he is a evil in my eyes. He betrayed his wives and kids who loved him as a husband and father. He betrayed and murdered his comrades who loyal to him. He was responsible for the millions of death of his country men and women by using our culture weakness and human weakness. He should be forever 定在历史的耻辱柱上。 It’s not just “handy” to blame him. It was him if we just go back to our liberties.

    I don’t want to talk too much about CR and Mao . Sorry about my vent

  113. BMY Says:

    sorry ,I mean “if we just go back to our libraries “

  114. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    What do you mean I would be surprised ? I grew up in China, I studied Confucius when I was in high school.

    I said before : ” you cant teach a hungry person why cholesterol is not good for health.”

    You were talking about Xiu Sheng Yang Xin (perfect himself), which is different from west understanding of morality (doing good for society).

    In post # 105, you talk about “our once glorious Han civilization is up to everyone of us.” Sorry, but it is a hollow talk. What do you think a 500 year old chinese painting is worth only $50,000 while a handbag used by Jacqueline Kennedy is worth $100,000 ? Why do westerners now care about Chinese culture and try to understand chinese and chinese culture ? cuz China is getting wealth and strong.

    We are standing on earth, not on cloud.

  115. ali baba Says:

    To Wahaha,


    Money,wealth,is not everything.Money,wealth always come and go.

    Only 仁義 ,last for ever.If you watch Bruce Lee movies,and Jet Lee’s Wong Fei Hung,these 仁義 characters stay in people’s hearts,white man,black man,brown man,yellow man. 仁義 is universal,is eternal,not money,not wealth.

    Also korean dramas Da Chang Jin,all is about 仁義 ,and love.Do you know Da Chang Jin even sold to arab countries? Even the Japanese love Da Chang Jin,the whole of South East Asia love it,Taiwan included.

    This is what people say soft power.Where is mainland chinese’s soft power? I don’t see any.

  116. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    贫贱不能移 wouldnt work for China. Our special economic zone was basically set up to beg for foreign investment, a sentiment of “crawl under legs” by Han Xin of Han dynasty. What we are doing now is “Wo Xin Chang Dan.” (sleeping on sticks and tasting gall) by King Goujian of Yue.

    A culture in a weak country is destined to die in the long run.

  117. Wahaha Says:

    BTW, did 孟子 successfully make a country strong ?

  118. Wahaha Says:

    仁 is built on wealth and money.

    Dont even try to argue with, just look at thos poor communities in every city of United states.

  119. BMY Says:

    “Where is mainland chinese’s soft power? I don’t see any.”

    might not need to stick all mainlanders with same label.

  120. ali baba Says:


    The traditional Han civilization,different from modern civilization,is a mixture of spirit of humanity and minion philosophy.For the further development of Han civilization,and to reduce it’s content of minion philosophy,it definitely needs to import concepts of contract and rule by law.The Manchu rulers had suceeded in the vanishing of Han’s spirit of humanity,and viciously expanding of Han’s minion philosophy,at the same time,the Manchu prohibit the interact of culture between Chong Hua and the west.Chong Hua civilization was prevented to merge with the west ,thus it’s modernisation was stopped,moreover,it’s own spirit of humanity had degenerated.We have thus reached the historical conclusion: China’s falling behind of the west is unpreventable.

    To Wahaha, again,key words: to import concepts of contract and rule by law .

    Han civilization was,and is a very strong civilization.Only the oversea chinese carry the Han civilization now,because 1.3 billion main land chinese is still deep in the mud(a polite word) of Marxist-Lenenist class struggle vortex,and seems to be stuck there.

    Han civilization have to merge with the west by taking up (1) concepts of contract
    (2) rule by law.
    Only then,we can see the light at the end of tunnel.

  121. Wahaha Says:

    “Where is mainland chinese’s soft power? I don’t see any.”


    and I believe this is just the beginning.

  122. Wahaha Says:

    You may have your understanding of “light at the end of tunnel, I have my understanding, BMY has his understanding, Chinese in mainland have their understanding.


  123. Qrs Says:


    I stand corrected- I was mistaken. I see that Hu Yaobang’s birth was commemorated in 2005, however his biography has not been released and had been prevented from publication. A step forward, but what of the ideas he advocated, and when will his story be written? I feel his story has much to contribute in pointing the way forward…

    At any rate, the overall point I was making stands, I think. To recap, I feel that Chinese are not exceptional in making the rational choice to stand together and silently endure arbitrary, absolutist government power– whether Imperial power, or that of the CCP. So far from ‘blaming Chinese for being Chinese’ or being negative in any way, I am simply stating my opinion on the main subject of your original post. I can add another example to this, I think:

    I recall studying as an undergrad the archaeological finds near Anyang of Shang/Yin dynasty Imperial burial pits. The pit/tombs uncovered tended to have larger numbers of bodies of retainers, servant, even horses or other animals buried along with the main burial person. Did all these retainers die of a broken heart after their master died and left them alone? Surely not, these were human sacrifices.

    There appears to be a message in such a practice, and certainly it was directed at the living. This practice makes quite real for the living the filial and other bonds (like 情 discussed in this thread) and the message that these bonds go up to and even include dying to uphold them. Whether the retainers committed suicide or were executed is an open question. Here’s one example I can find of such a tomb where 16 people were buried with Lady Fu Hao

    The reason I bring this up is to pose a question: were the ideals being commemorated by the Shang practice of human sacrifice so unyielding that people felt it necessary to freely give their lives in this way? Or, was the power of the Shang nobility such that they could successfully demand such sacrifices?

    One should always remember, as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution teaches us, that to be a ruler in a position of power over the nation *means* that you are *able to define the culture of the nation itself*. Culture and symbolism are defined (or refined, redefined, reinterpreted, etc.) by the ruler to legitimate the rule. Leaders set standards, cultural and otherwise. 君君,臣臣,父父,子子, right?

    The important thing I think is that such practices were accepted and passed down. Even after human sacrifice of that type ended, such high standards (life-and-death) were transmitted to later generations. So the effect, culturally, of defining ‘government power’ on that basis must have an effect in the four thousand years since Shang. And my point is that, for at least that long, average Chinese had to face such power and decide how best to survive. That’s the rational choice again. The conditions, historical settings, historical figures, cultural expressions, etc. are all distinctly Chinese, but the drive to endure and survive is universal- just human nature.

    I think that Chinese people have accepted the excesses of the Shang, a Qin Shihuang, a Wanli Emperor, Chairman Mao, etc. by reasoning that such power (= strength) is necessary to unify the nation, keep it and the people together, set moral standards for the people and punish wrongdoing, etc. While this was rational and understandable for a very long time, it is no longer rational or necessary.

    Democracy inherently limits the power of the ruler, and that would only benefit the Chinese people. Chinese people shouldn’t have to bravely endure bad rulers, lack of an independent legal system, the rule of law, and lack of personal political power any more. Chinese people deserve better.

  124. BMY Says:

    @Ali baba,

    Dose the Confucius_Mengzi 协会 you are in has a website? If there is no politically backed or inflame hatred towards a party or a ethnic group I would be interested in get myself and kids in to learn something.

    I guess we might live in the same country .

  125. Wahaha Says:


    This has nothing to do with the current situation in China, as never in Chinese history, the righ of individual was respected, that is the problem. the so called 奴性 was not installed by CCP, it was by history.

    YOU CANT EXPECT IT WILL CHANGE OVERNIGHT OR EVEN IN NEXT 30 YEARS, even china imports west democracy tomorrow, it still wont change.


  126. Wahaha Says:

    “Democracy inherently limits the power of the ruler, and that would only benefit the Chinese people. Chinese people shouldn’t have to bravely endure bad rulers, lack of an independent legal system, the rule of law, and lack of personal political power any more. Chinese people deserve better.”

    If Chinese couldve got better under democratic system, the democratic movement wouldnt have lost its momentum so quickly.

    Look at Russia.

  127. Wahaha Says:

    I mean “the democratic movement wouldnt have lost its momentum so quickly after 6/4.”

  128. ali baba Says:

    To BMY,

    How about you start something?
    I am always available to answer any question.
    Again, I AM NOT FA LUN GONG.

    Confucius Meng Zi teaching is for everyone,regardless of color.

    To answer Wahaha’s question:BTW, did 孟子 successfully make a country strong

    Wahaha,you only need to look at South korea and Japen,these two nations are the best followers of Confucius and Meng Zi.All their students study confucius and Meng Zi.

  129. Wahaha Says:

    I dont want to repeat, you can ask Buxi for other blogs about this issue.

    South Korea and Japan were under authoritarian system till 1990.

  130. ali baba Says:

    To Wahaha,
    You need to expand you horizon a bit.Da Chang Jin is a very good example,again.Nearly all of Asia,Indians,Japanese,Thailand,Indonesians,they all love Da Chang Jin.Even Arabs.Can you quote me any mainland chinese’s movies has this kind of following? How much $ it grossed over the years?

    And all this is about chinese herbs,chinese medicine,from a Korean movies.
    Doesn’t it make you think?
    If this is not soft power,then what is?

  131. ali baba Says:

    To all the friends online,
    Sorry have to go out for a few hours.Bye.

  132. Wahaha Says:

    I know you are talking about ruling with 仁.

    The abstract 仁 doesnt work in realty.

    Now let us talk about 仁 in realty.

    What is 仁 ? Let 1,000,000 suffer cuz 1,000 people are not happy with the policy ?

    ( dont talk about Tibet and Falun)

  133. BMY Says:


    Please don’t get me wrong. I never imply you are a FLG. I am not qualified to teach my kids about Confucius and also I don’t want them to get involved into politics so I was asking a place just about Confucius. no any intention to offend you. I don’t think this blog is a place for you and me about Confucius Q&A. Or maybe you and me can set up another blog just focus on Confucius.


    I don’t see Confucius has a lot to do with authoritarian or democratic political system. you two are arguing different things.
    I admit Confucius was not taught enough in my school days in the 70s and 80s and the teaching is behind Taiwan,Japan and Korea

  134. Wukailong Says:

    “South Korea and Japan were under authoritarian system till 1990.”

    This is a typo? Japan did a switch from semi-authoritarian to democratic from the Meiji restoration until the fascist regime from the 30s-40s, then had a democratic government installed by the American occupation forces after 1945.

  135. cerebus Says:

    “What is 仁 ? Let 1,000,000 suffer cuz 1,000 people are not happy with the policy ?”

    Do you mean 1 000 should suffer because 1 000 000 are lucky enough to benefit from the policy?

  136. Wahaha Says:


    There are 8 million New Yorkers, who cant enjoy the night walk in central park, cuz there are some guys who sleep overnight in central park.

    If government forcefully took those out of central park, is it 仁 or not 仁 ?

  137. Wahaha Says:


    Japan was bascially an one party system till 1990, like the current Singapore.

    One party controls all the important manufacture, nature resource and media, so although other party are allowed to participate in election, it is a hopeless war for minority partys. The party in Japan controled Japan for near 40 years until economic recession.

  138. Wahaha Says:


    Never thought you would call me a commie,

    Read #110, think logically.

    Maybe you should stop reading Falun BS, it makes you stop thinking.

  139. Wahaha Says:


    Do you know Michael Fay ?


    Do you think the Singapore government did right or wrong ?

  140. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    @BMY #112

    I respect your negative feelings about Mao. However, I would like to offer an alternative way of looking at Mao and other historical figures.

    People tend to hold the individual responsible for all the consequences of his/her choices and actions. They automatically assume that the individual’s choices and actions are intentional and voluntary, with complete foresight of the consequences. “He could have chosen a different set of action with more desirable outcomes.” They blame individual historical figures for outcomes that involve numerous participants. Chairman Mao and associates were singled out to take responsibility for Cultural Revolution, like Hitler and associates was blamed for German atrocities in WII. I (and most students of history) think an individual is a product (if not a hostage) of the culture and society he/she is embedded in. More important, a person’s life history (choices and actions) is a product of the situation in which he/she operates. His/her situation provides a limited number of options. His/her history of socialization in that particular culture and society leads him/her to find certain options more preferable or practical. Personal preferences are never truly personal. It is too simplistic to blame any individual for the consequences of the Cultural Revolution. All the participants (victims and villains) were in it together. Chairman Mao’s actions happened to be more consequential than any other Chinese simply because he was placed in a consequential slot in the Chinese hierarchy, not because he was more evil than anyone else. This understanding certainly smacks of Marxism and Mao Thoughts, but is basically accurate.

  141. cerebus Says:

    right to punish him, wrong in the way they punished him. I’m not sure what 仁 means, but sounds to me like *some* times it is used to justify tyranny of the majority. I guess human rights try to guarantee some basic protection to individuals when individual rights get threatened because of the “greater” good. I know Chinese thought favours the group over the individual, but I don’t think individual rights disadvantage the group. So while focussing on the group could hurt the individual, I don’t think focussing on the individual can hurt the group.

  142. Buxi Says:


    Democracy inherently limits the power of the ruler, and that would only benefit the Chinese people. Chinese people shouldn’t have to bravely endure bad rulers, lack of an independent legal system, the rule of law, and lack of personal political power any more. Chinese people deserve better.

    This sounds like a matter of a faith as much as ali baba’s “faith” in Confucian/Mencious morality.

    While China has had to endure bad (strong) rulers, a fair reading of history would also tell us that the world has been filled with societies suffering through the *lack* of strong rulers. Even as you look at the world today, we can play the “emigration” game.

    – If fully informed, and given the opportunity to do so (adequate startup money), what nations would today’s Chinese citizens choose to emigrate to?

    There are certainly many nations that Chinese citizens would love to emigrate to, if given the option. Most of the nations of Western Europe and North America, certainly. But those nations combined represent less than 20% of the worlds’ population. What about the other 60% of humanity (that’s non-Chinese and non-West)? How many of them are attractive choices?

    What exactly are the other 60% of humanity enduring?

  143. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    @Qrs # 123
    I agree with your sentiment. I too would prefer the Chinese society to become more and more humane. This wish is nothing new; it has been the main theme of Chinese history all along. I just read one random page from Hou-Han-Shu the other day. In that page several types of events recurred again and again. 1. Famine. 2. Earthquakes. 3. Minority group within the border (various types of “Qiang”) rebelled, sacked the country seat and killed the Xian Ling. 4. Nomads from the outside attacked. The emperors’ responses were fourfold. 1. Send reliefs to the refugees from the famines and earthquakes. 2. Put out the rebellions and invasions with a combination of suppression and appeasement. 3. Send out a memo to all the subjects indulging in severe self-criticism, blaming self for betraying heaven’s mandate and incurring the punishments. 4. Send out another memo to all the subjects, recruiting capable and righteous individuals who can stop the natural disasters and fix the social ills. From this one page I got an impression that the ancient Chinese rulers had far more benign intentions to their subjects than their counterparts elsewhere (of course there were exceptions like Qishihuang). However, these good intentions from the emperors (not to mention the whole class of Confucius scholars) had very weak correlation with the personal outcome of the average Chinese living in that historical period. This confirms my long-held suspicion that Karl Marx was correct in his historical materialism, that human history is governed by physical laws that are immune to human intentions. Although your assertion that “Chinese people deserve better” strikes a chord in my heart, I wonder how much utility is has for the common man living in China. We need to look at the issue more closely, from a scientific perspective.
    To understand how a process evolves or unfolds we need to look for two types of things. 1. We need to uncover the laws/rules governing this type of things. The rules governing the social/political lives of all humans are universal. The various evolutionary theories provide an incomplete framework for understanding these laws. 2. We need to look at the initial state of this particular process we are studying. Chinese and western societies are governed by universal laws at a very abstract and basic level (genetic replication and all those crap), but have different initial states. In the original post I was grappling with the unique initial state of the Chinese social/political life.

  144. cerebus Says:

    careful now 🙂 looking for universal laws might lead you to moral absolutism. There isn’t nearly enough scientific research into human behaviour, in the same way we’ve been researching animal behaviour. (google “behavioural ecology”) of course this is because of the stigma of eugenics, and political correctness. what if we find something we don’t like… for example that at the very basic level there are differences. after all: our hair colour and eye colour are determined by genes, why not our behaviour?

  145. Wahaha Says:


    Is it possible to be 仁 to everybody, for example, when government has a big project ?

    I said before democratic system is good when it is about local, small scale and “we can wait” problems; but it is ineffective when it is about large scale and urgent problems.

  146. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    @ cerebus # 144

    Your argument points to a very common and frustrating conflation between “natural laws” and “moral imperatives”. There are universal natural laws but I doubt there are universal moral imperatives. Humans groups have somewhat different genes (encoding hair color and other characteristics). But the laws governing all genes, not just human ones (i.e. replicating themselves) are universal. Universal laws offer “natural” explanations for human actions, without getting the supernatural involved. Moral imperatives (especially the Western ones) are different. Oftentimes they trace back to no natural explanations, but ends up with a supernatural creator, God’s will. This understanding dawned upon me when I read the Chapter about Job in the Old Testament, the person who was pious and upright but still received deleterious punishments from God. You know what? At the end he accepted the arbitrary punishments and remained faithful. Who was he, a mere human, to question the rationale of God’s decision? Somehow I get the impression that Job’s story was the prototype of Western morality in that it regards moral values as beyond natural explanations, which I find deeply disappointing and unsatisfactory, compared to our old-fashioned Chinese relational duty and human bonding.

  147. oldson Says:


    My 2 cents is that you are quite correct about how current individuals use hindsight and today’s standards to judge past historical figures.

    “They automatically assume that the individual’s choices and actions are intentional and voluntary, with complete foresight of the consequences. “He could have chosen a different set of action with more desirable outcomes.” They blame individual historical figures for outcomes that involve numerous participants….a person’s life history (choices and actions) is a product of the situation in which he/she operates. His/her situation provides a limited number of options. His/her history of socialization in that particular culture and society leads him/her to find certain options more preferable or practical. Personal preferences are never truly personal. It is too simplistic to blame any individual for the consequences of the Cultural Revolution. All the participants (victims and villains) were in it together.”

    Because I am a devoted student to social psychology I can say that your opinions very competently reflect current theories, research and facts. It is an old question of “the individual vs. the group” – which one has the greater influence. People, especially Americans, prefer to think that individuals are in control of their destiny and life and they are therefore responsible and accountable for all choices they make. This is a negative side to American culture because we constantly criticize past and present individuals based on their limited actions and are personal beliefs. Individuals like Mao, Hitler, Stalin, etc are demonized because they presided over atrocities but we forget that they are individuals and all of the destruction, bloodshed and misery was not personally caused by them – there hundreds of thousands of individuals who committed these atrocities. I refer you to the following amazing yet controversial studies which results have been reproduced all over the world with the same results:

    Stanley Milgram’s Experiment


    Philip Zimbardo’s “Stanford prison experiment”


  148. Denis Wong Says:


    “There are universal natural laws but I doubt there are universal moral imperatives.”

    This adds to your other “take home” message (see comment 7) which we “essentialist” Chinese continually fail to take note of. By choosing “moral imperatives”, governance becomes inevitably arbitrary, since “morals” are defined by those in power who (of course) use morals as their means of staying in power. That internally self-referential logic both defines the stability that we see during the “good times” but also the revolution that overturns that stability, i.e. it is part of that infamous “cycle of history” in which human life counts very little.

    Is this a call to abandon morals? Of course not, but it is a call to examine both the functionalism and the morality of our thought, in particular to examine the polarisation and separation of those two aspects of everyday life. There needs to be an integration, indeed a dialectic, established. I invite others who know more about Chinese philosophy than I to comment.

  149. Buxi Says:


    Somehow I get the impression that Job’s story was the prototype of Western morality in that it regards moral values as beyond natural explanations, which I find deeply disappointing and unsatisfactory, compared to our old-fashioned Chinese relational duty and human bonding.

    I’ve always felt that this was, at heart, the most fundamental fissure between Western and Chinese “starting states”.

    Judeo-Christian ethic has always held that only the relationship between man and God (or God’s representative if you’re a Catholic) could be sacred. Only God (or God’s representative) has the right to judge the moral rectitude of any individual. You are only accountable to that one entity, and even then only at death. The only loyalty that really matters is loyalty to God (and for atheists, loyalty to the near-equivalent “conscience”). And even as Judeo-Christian churches have declined in power and influence over the last few centuries, this fundamental belief which pervades European civilization has not declined in influence.

    If you think of it that way.. wouldn’t you say all the stuff you described about Chinese political/family relations exist in the West as well, except redirected to be centered around God? 仁,忍,义理… these all exist, except they’re all towards God.

    The Chinese intellectual/social tradition has forever been shaped by Confucius, who was probably shaped by the ancestor worship in the society that he was born into. Chinese “duty” has always been religiously aimed towards ancestors, which I think Confucius extended to “duty” towards those still alive. And this translates into the modern Chinese world, in which we are more sensitive to shame from others, and more ready to place blame… we can’t rely on some distant God to do the judgment for us. If someone has failed in their duties to us, then we Chinese have the obligation to punish them for it.

  150. ali baba Says:

    To quote Buxi 142

    Quote: There are certainly many nations that Chinese citizens would love to emigrate to, if given the option. Most of the nations of Western Europe and North America, certainly. But those nations combined represent less than 20% of the worlds’ population. What about the other 60% of humanity (that’s non-Chinese and non-West)? How many of them are attractive choices?

    What exactly are the other 60% of humanity enduring? Unquote.

    Buxi,your statement sounds like you have cut and paste an editorial out of http://www.people.com.cn, or xinhua.cn.
    May be it is because you have not travel much,if not,please take a holiday and go around,go to countries such as Thailand,Taiwan,South Korea,even Singapore,or Philippine.Just have a look,and talk to the locals.

    All these people may endure more,or endure less than the mainland Chinese 1.3 billion population,this I cannot say,because I am no Secretary General of UN.But one thing I know for sure,these “60% of enduring humanity”,all of them have one thing in their hand,a ballot paper,a piece of paper they can use,every 4 to 5 years,to pick someone they like,or to kick someone they don’t like in the bum.

    Buxi,if,just if,one day,1.3 billion Chinese were given a piece of ballot paper to choose the leaders they prefer,when that day comes,maybe instead of Chineses want to get out of China,it is the other way around,outsiders want to get in!

    How soon you think that day might happen?

  151. Wahaha Says:

    Sorry, paste wrong one,

    @ali baba,

    “if,just if,one day,1.3 billion Chinese were given a piece of ballot paper to choose the leaders they prefer,when that day comes,maybe instead of Chineses want to get out of China,it is the other way around,outsiders want to get in!”

    then there will be 2 billion chinese in 70 years.

  152. ali baba Says:

    To Wahaha,

    Why not,it’s not the dream of Da Chong Hua, the Grand Chinese Union,that include Japen,Korea,South East Asia,may be India might join too.

  153. Buxi Says:

    @ali baba,

    Its possible you’ve seen comments like mine on Xinhua. So? Does that make them any less valid? I’ve traveled throughout the world. I’ve only passed by a few places in southeast Asia, not much experience. I’ve traveled through Europe and central America, not to mention (of course) North America.

    Not only will you see horrible poverty in much of the third world… you will also find millions of people in countries like Mexico throwing away their ballots and political rights just so that they can live illegally in a wealthier country (like the United States), even without any rights.

  154. ali baba Says:

    To Wahaha,
    If ever that day come,I am sure Marxist-Lenin revolutionary theory will be in the rubbish bin.Confucius-Meng Zi teaching will shine again

  155. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    I would like to add to your statement. The ideal (but often not the reality) of Chinese politics is “以人为本”, which I translate as “treating people as the end (instead of the means)”. In other words, in any policy or project (e.g., the Olympics), the people (individually and collectively) should be treated as the “fundamentals” 本, not the “incidentals” 末.

    The Judeo-Christian moral imperatives treat humans as instrumental, as dispensable means/instruments for achieving and demonstrating God’s (sometimes violent and punitive) power and glory, and (occasional) benevolence. The reason that I have a visceral repulsion against Western human rights activists is that they have zero genuine care/concern for the victims they are “advocating” for. Instead, they care only about expressing their “moral values”, ideologies, mental fabrications that transcend the people in blood and flesh they use as a means. My conclusion is based on my observation of their extremist, unpragmatic and counter-productive approach that succeeds only to advocate for their ideology (and boost their pitiful egos), without much positive effect on the victims.

    Western intellectuals are just starting to turn away from the morality based on monotheistic bigotry, and adopt a more earthly perspective. I heard a prominent American evolutionary biologist (who is obviously areligious) discussing morality. He follows “secular humanism”, which I think is exactly what Meng Zi proposed. Like Denis Wong proposed, students of Chinese philosophy should pay more attention and respect to those ancient ideas.

  156. Buxi Says:


    The Judeo-Christian moral imperatives treat humans as instrumental, as dispensable means/instruments for achieving and demonstrating God’s (sometimes violent and punitive) power and glory, and (occasional) benevolence.

    I agree. Many Western activists treat “self-evident truths” not just as truths, but as expressions of God’s will that in a just world must be carried out… regardless of all other consequences.

    The reason that I have a visceral repulsion against Western human rights activists is that they have zero genuine care/concern for the victims they are “advocating” for.

    I don’t think we should use too broad of a brush. I’m sure you mean repulsion against SOME Western human rights activists. There are also many defenders of human rights, Western and Chinese, who are more holistic in their understanding… we just don’t hear about them much in the press.

    But as an example of what you find repulsive… I like to bring up the issue of East Timor. Throughout much of the ’90s, “East Timor” was sort of like Tibet. It was also a darling of college activist groups throughout the Western world, and much international pressure was placed upon Indonesia to “free” East Timor.

    And then what happened? I’ll refer you to a link:

    If the Human Rights Watch campaign is to be believed, problems with human rights in East Timor abruptly ended in 2002… coincidentally the same point that East Timor was granted its independence. Is that really the case?

    Of course not. East Timor’s history post-independence (and really as a puppet state of Australia) has been filled with violence, suffering, coups… but none of this registers on the map of these previous campaigners.

  157. Wahaha Says:

    To Ali baba #154,

    Greediness is the most important natural born instinct for human being, it has been the driving force for economic growth, but it also can destory economy.

    The economy theory by Marx ignored this basic instinct, therefore it was destined to fail, at least in economic area.

    The current West democracy put no limit on greediness, therefore, it will definitely fail in the future.

  158. ali baba Says:

    To Buxi,

    You have travel a lot in Europe,USA,Canada,these are the first world countries,highly developed in many ways.
    please go to Asian countries,especially South East Asia,and Taiwan,where there are a lot of oversea Chinese,and ask them is it better to have voting right or not to have voting right.

    One example of poor Mexicans throwing away ballot paper and become illegals in USA is not a very good argument for rejecting 1.3 billion Chinese from getting a piece of ballot paper.

    And in the light of the majority of the nations who are members of UN do give out ballot paper to its citizen,China prefer to join North Korea,Cuba ( who else ? even Vietnam had openly stated that they will follow America system soon) and refuse to give its citizen a piece ballot paper,is it not another Manchu dynasty in disguise ?

  159. Wahaha Says:

    To Ali baba #152,

    Good point, when there are 2 billion chinese, there will be at least 1.2 to 1.4 billion chinese living along the coastline.

    Set a time, every of them pees into the ocean at that time, Pacific ocean will raise at least 1 foot. Chinese are everywhere !!

    If every of them poops into the earth, that will cause tsunami in California. Chinese invade America, Wow !!!

  160. Buxi Says:

    @ali baba,

    please go to Asian countries,especially South East Asia,and Taiwan,where there are a lot of oversea Chinese,and ask them is it better to have voting right or not to have voting right.

    My in-laws are Taiwanese. They happen agree with me that it’s better to have voting rights, but only when the conditions are right. For my detailed opinions on democracy, you can read this thread:

    I think poor Mexicans are a very good argument, because the fact that they exist is obvious to everyone. No one can deny that Mexico has democracy, free speech, and freedom of assembly. No one can deny that there are also millions of Mexicans in the United States.

    Instead, we have to take your word for it that “millions of Chinese in southeast Asia and Taiwan” think its better to have voting rights. Are there many people from southeast Asia trying to emigrate to democratic India? Last time I looked, many were trying to get into undemocratic Singapore or Hong Kong.

  161. ali baba Says:

    To Wahaha 159,

    One korean movie Da Chang Jin has won the hearts of Indians,Arabs,Japaneses,all the South East Asians,How many more hearts Han civilization will win if one day Confucius Meng Zi teaching shines again,in a BIG way.The dream of Da Chong Hua is not a dream,afterall.

  162. Wahaha Says:

    To ali baba,

    Are you asking when Shanghai and Beijing become city of slums ?

  163. BMY Says:

    @wahaha #138

    sorry, brother . you totally misunderstood what I was trying to say behind my words. I won’t make comments in that style anymore. my apologize.

  164. ali baba Says:

    Buxi, 160

    Have you ever gave a thought why there are so many Vietnamese and Cambodians in USA,Canada,Europe,and Australia,why there were so many refugee camps in Thailand,Malaysia,Indonesians,in the 70s and 80s ?
    Do you know how many Vietnamese “boat people” drown in the South China Sea before their wooden boats reached the shores of Malaysia,Singapore,Indonesia,some even reached the northern part of Australia on leaking and sinking fishing boats.

    Buxi,I do not think those Vietnamese risking their life by sailing their wooden fishing boats into the south China Sea were planning to have a pinic fun trip.

    What do you think ?

  165. ali baba Says:

    Another question for Buxi,

    Do you know how many mainland Chinese (mainly canton province) in the 50s and 60s,using ping pong balls to help them float, swam towards Hong kong,many of them drown,or eaten by sharks?

    Buxi,we are talking about human beings here,not numbers,or figures.

  166. Wahaha Says:


    Sorry, I didnt see your post #256, my bad.

    ali baba,

    were those Vietnamese and Cambodians looking for freedom of speech ?

    I guess Jet Li moved to HongKong cuz he could speak freely, what human right group did he join in ?

  167. ali baba Says:


    Buxi,millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians died because they were running away from authoritarian communist ruling ,runing away from 暴君 ,from absolutism.

    I suppose we all have 怵惕恻隐之心 ,we all feel sad when humans are suffering,regardless of who are suffering,or why.
    Do you agree with me ?

  168. ali baba Says:

    To Wahaha,

    Jet Lee no need to join any group,by acting as Wong Fei Hung,he will shine for a long time to come.In movie world,at least.
    But I still think Bruce Lee was the best.
    Better than Jacky Chan,anyway.

  169. BMY Says:

    @BXBQ #148

    I totally understand and fully agree with you about “It is too simplistic to blame any individual for the consequences of the Cultural Revolution. All the participants (victims and villains) were in it together.”

    I know millions are responsible for CR. If there was more in-party balanced power structure, more media transparency, if there was rule of law , if the population was much better educated etc then CR should have not happened. It was a product of then situation. Mao certainly was not directly responsible for millions of bashings in the class struggle meetings.

    But there should be not a deny of different individuals who contribute very differently into history events based on individual’s different social influence ,different political power, religions power etc. This is what I am talking about Mao.

    Mao used his almost absolute power(of course millions were responsible for granting him the power ) and brutally hit down political rivals and promoted violence and destruction in a country as a state leader and living God. So I think he hold much more responsibilities than a door man in CR.

    Regardless of his political position. He married beautiful 19 years old He ZiZhen when his first wife YangKaiHui was still alive and in KMT prison. He married young modern JianQing when his second wife and their children were suffering in Russia . All of these were against father and husband’s morality I believe.

    I can not see much 义理, 人情 from him

  170. Wahaha Says:

    ali baba,

    How would you feel when you Xiu Sheng Yang xin (perfect yourself), in your private study room, with a cup of DragonWell tea, plus air condition, behind the wall of your home, in a city of 15 million people, of which 5 million living in slums ?

    How would you feel, everytime after lecturing several of your students about 仁 in a university, on the way home, you will meet several poor boys, beg you for several yuans of RMB ?

    How would you feel, everytime you wait for your train, some boys will come over and beg you to let them shining your shoes ?

    How would you feel, when you are reading books in your comfortable study room, your servant, a girl from poor village who cant even write her own name, ask you ” master, do you want tea ?”

    How would you feel when you are enjoying the great view of nature on 峨嵋山 on a carriage carried by poor people in local villages ?

    I guess your perfection is far more important than the misery of those people, isnt it ?

  171. BMY Says:


    I think you focus on the past too much and might would try to move on.

    The Vanamiese refugees in the 60s, 70s were trying to leave a war zone . But are they still doing it now? Are you able to see the progress and change?

    some catonese people swimmed to HK from the 50s to 80s were economy refugees similar with now days some western Africans risk their life to boat to Spain. Are people still trying to swim to HK now?

    I can see how much you hate Manchu which ends in 1912 I don’t understand.
    how much you hate CCP who is still in power and I do I understand.

    Would a 怵惕恻隐之心 lead to hate something forever?

    But may I suggest if you divert some of your hating energy to Mengzi teaching and to something can create better relationship between people cross the straight might be more constructive

    There is a respect , there is a 仁 in Confucius. We are all trying to keep on topic and discuss different things on this blog. I see constantly posting same words again and again regardless of the topic is bit of away from showing respect to others who are trying to discuss something else.

    just my 2 cents

  172. ali baba Says:



    Wahaha,first,I am none of the above (I wish I am,especially the girl servent part.Do you know any ?)

    Again,Wahaha,there are millions and millions of Chinese,and Asian,who learn and practice Confucius teaching.

    Come on guys,I am just a simple guy,just happen to have read a few more different books,that is all.

  173. ali baba Says:

    To BMY,

    Thanks for your advice.
    In fact there is no hatred in me towards anyone,you may be supprised to hear.
    It is more like watching a grand epic movies showing in front of my eyes,and knowing that the director and the actors and actress all got it wrong,and the script was wrong,and there is nothing you can do.
    That is how I feel.
    No hate,only sadness,and love.
    It is true.

  174. ali baba Says:

    Have to sign off to do some earthly things,bye for now,friends.

  175. Wahaha Says:

    Yes ali baba,

    后天下之乐而乐, this is my point.

    You want right, you want freedom, but pulling those poor people out of misery is more important.

    If your losing some rights of yours will help those people, you accept it;

    when you are introducing a system to Chinese, there must be some evidence that the system you prefer will do better for those people (NOT FOR YOU, NOT FOR ME) than the current system;

    If the system you hate can pull 10 million people out of poverty, you accept it, at least temprarily, even if 100 dissidents were thrown to Jail, cuz under other system, lot lot more people and children wouldve died or suffer due to poverty. Our uncomfortable with the system is nothing compared to their misery.

    This is realty, a realty full of problems that 仁 cant solve.

  176. Qrs Says:

    @ Bxbq 143:

    I know about the Hou Han Shu and its’ contents; I’ve got my own copy of the Han Shu, the Shi Ji, and the San Guo Zhi, (I also spent time as a grad student translating documents from the Guangxu Emperor about the case of a local bandit uprising). You mention this to (I think) essentially agree with me that “heaven is high and the Emperor is far away”? And that is a support for the materialist dialectic? Hmmm.

    My point with all the historical examples was to say that there were no practical limits to Imperial power, (which is why Hai Rui is so famous, btw) and that people made a rational response in light of this– to endure without complaint. Rational choice, simple human drive to survive, no Chinese exception. QED.

    You agree with me that the Chinese people deserve better, yet go on to say that you doubt the utility that would have for the average person. I am stunned by that, and I’ll tell you why. Last year I was shocked, as I think most people were, by the reports of systematic kidnapping and actual *slavery* going on in brick factories throughout China. Slavery, in 2007? How can that even be imaginable, and how- especially- can that be possible in a country ruled by a Communist (i.e. workers’) Party? How can the “EAT PEOPLE” of Lu Xun’s 狂人日记 still be applicable today? Nothing has changed since May 4th!!??

    I am still utterly disgusted that only a small handful of officials and businessmen were prosecuted for this. Does anyone really believe that the problem has been corrected? I think not. So how can the CCP claim to be effective in providing social justice the the *workers* of China, much less the people? Beyond that, how does the CCP *dare* to outlaw unions in light of their obvious failure? Unfathomable gall, 真是无耻死了. Clearly a case of the Party putting its’ best interests before those of the people; I think they have lost the Mandate to represent the workers of China.

    So my answer to your question is to say that the CCP should give up its monopoly as the Party/ representative for workers and allow workers themselves to organize *real* unions as they choose. Effective representation is something that the workers deserve, and would be of great practical utility to them. Don’t you agree?

    Ok, to be scientistic, Mr. 和谐, you go on to say, “1. “The rules governing the social/political lives of all humans are universal.” 2. We need to look at the initial state of this particular process we are studying. and finally “In the original post I was grappling with the unique initial state of the Chinese social/political life.”

    As to point 1, that’s your materialist-dialectic take on things, which you concede is broad and abstract (I would say overly broad and hopelessly abstract). As for 2 and the final point (they are the same) I just point to all my historical citations– especially the examples of human sacrifice during the Shang that you failed to address. That’s about as close to initial conditions that the archaeological and written records can take us (until we find and can confirm texts and sites from the Xia, that is). Anyway, my point there was basically to say that the standards/ideals/cultural expressions were set at life-or-death levels at an extremely early date, and that those standards were transmitted down through the ages. Care to refute that?

    Things change of course, but here we are at present, and still have a Center (say, 中共中央) that claims all political power to itself and answers to no one. The judiciary has no independent power, and the CPPCC 全国政协- well, between friends, we can probably agree that it’s a joke, right?

    But if you are accused of a ‘crime” (is ‘doing things that you should not be doing’ still a crime?) in China, what legal recourse do you have? How is the system set up to help you prove your innocence? Other than walking over to Zhongnanhai with a petition in your hand (can’t do that if you’re in jail though) what recourse do you have? What limits on the power of the state are there?

    So, yes, I certainly do believe that the Chinese people deserve much, much better than that. And I feel that Chinese people are more than capable of running a stable multi-party democracy, complete with an independent judiciary and meaningful and systematically enforced rights for all. I honestly think that you got the question wrong in your initial post. The question is not so much ‘why is it that the Chinese people are able to nobly endure so much crappy and demeaning leadership’ but ‘why should they’? Why?

    After the election of Ma Yingjiu this spring, I really do think that put the nail in the coffin for claims of “Chinese exceptionalism” *out* of democratic government. Now the onus is on the CCP to explain why China is not ruled by the principle of ‘one person, one vote’.

    Your friend,
    Qrs (You can call me 阿Q if you it makes you feel better) 😉

    PS: While they’re at it, maybe they could explain why they think “democratic centralism” is democratic anyway? 只是好奇而已吧!

  177. Wukailong Says:

    @wahaha: There is still a difference between a dominant-party state (where one party has ruled for a very long time within a democratic framework) and an authoritarian system where only one party is allowed to exist. I grew up in a dominant-party state myself (Sweden, although it has since stopped being one), but it felt as free as any other country, just with the leading party defining a kind of cultural hegemony.

    Singapore was also a dominant-party state but then resorted to various kind of measures to create a one-party state within the legal framework of a multi-party system.

    South Korea was authoritarian in that it didn’t allow opposition, whereas Japan did, but basically had none. For that reason I wouldn’t call Japan authoritarian.

  178. Buxi Says:

    @Ali baba,

    Buxi,millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians died because they were running away from authoritarian communist ruling ,runing away from 暴君 ,from absolutism.

    Are you aware that about 300,000 Vietnamese refugees ran into China, and have been there ever since…?

    I’m not sure this conversation is very worthwhile. I think you’re more or less talking “at” us, rather than *to* us. I don’t think you’ve said anything especially new… you are repeating your message about Confucius, Mencius, and the evils of Communism/Absolutism. I think we understand what you have to say on the subject.

  179. Wahaha Says:


    Thx for pointing out the difference. I agree I went too far. Some partys should be allowed to have political power, like KMT in China. What I worry is that thousands of unions and Tongs in China like in India, If the central government allows dozens of people to form a party or a union, it wont be able to stop the organizations like Tongs existing legally. I read a report on Weng’an riot, there were 6 gangs in that small town. That is why I insist abosolute freedom of organization would lead to chaos in China.

    To the comment,

    “there were no practical limits to Imperial power,”

    Abusing Power is built by fooling people. Chinese before 1976 didnt complain about poverty cuz they were fooled to believe that people in West were even poorer. Americans were fooled to believe the justice of Iraq War cuz of media’s misleading.

    With internet so popular in China, there is no way that CCP can cover the ugly storys. Even with the censorship, story can be spreaded within minutes before CCP can control it. The only thing CCP can do is controling the information from outside, but I seriously doubt it, as so many chinese travel in and out China. Anti-CNN pretty much proved that.

    I think democratic advocates of China should realistically fight for the freedom of information and media within the country, for example, how much government officers earn each year ? how the money on a project was spent ? what is government long term plan on local level ? why so much money is spent on a project, what for ? violence by police (also the violence by ordinary people), etc. All of these will EFFECTIVELY limit the power of governments.

    In a poor or developing country, people HAVE to depend on government to help them out of poverty or living better, so YOU HAVE TO GIVE GOVERNMENT THE POWER TO DO WHAT IS NECESSARY, especially for longterm goal. Media and information is the right way to limit the power of the government, Please remember, China has a system that officers in government have to work for people, even for their own interests.

  180. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    “The question is not so much ‘why is it that the Chinese people are able to nobly endure so much crappy and demeaning leadership’ but ‘why should they’? Why?”

    You pose a powerful question. However, your question makes sense only when framed in the Western perspective of human relations, which cannot be blindly applied in evaluating the Chinese political life.

    Before addressing the substance of your question, the why question, I have to disagree with the terminology you used in characterizing the Chinese regime and the Chinese people’s attitude towards it,

    Characterizing the Chinese leadership as “crappy and demeaning” is simplistic, and in stark disagreement with the perception of the Chinese people living in China, as the most recent Pew survey reveals.

    Second, I would replace the word “nobly endure” in your question with “pragmatically work (negotiate) with” as a more accurate description of the Chinese people’s stance toward the regime. It is grossly incorrect to describe the Chinese authorities as possessing unlimited power and the Chinese people as completely helpless/complacent and unrepresented (a typical Western stereotype). Even Tang Taizhong was able to appreciate the inter-dependence between the ruler and the subject in his analogy of a “boat and water relationship”. The Cultural Revolution is a demonstration of people’s power (although a very perverted one, none the less). The basic point I learned from the Cultural Revolution is that even Chairman Mao did not have absolute power but had to rely on manipulating the masses. Why do you think he started it in the first place?

    “….the standards/ideals/cultural expressions were set at life-or-death levels at an extremely early date, and that those standards were transmitted down through the ages. Care to refute that?”

    I agree with you on this point. The extremism in Chinese relational duty (loyalty) can be traced right back to the human sacrifice of Xia. The ideal was then codified in the Confucius “cultural expression” of “无事袖手谈心性,临危一死报君王。” and exemplified by Martyrs like Shi Kefa and Lu Xiufu. By the way, human sacrifice was still practiced and glorified in our part of the world, among Japanese Samurais at least in September 1912, when Noki Malesike (乃木 希典) and his wife committed ritual suicide on the eve of Meji Emperor’s funeral.
    Are these individual sacrifices and silent enduring a matter of voluntary choice, or forced upon individuals from outside by dark evil powers? The poor souls sacrificed in the Xia tombs most likely had no choice, nor did the child slaves in the Shanxi coal mines. These are not the kind of situations I am talking about. More pertinent are the Chinese students and youths vocally defending the Chinese regime against Western media and activists, the anti-CNN type of patriots, and more important, the 80 some percent of Chinese who are perfectly happy to make a deal with the CCP devils in Zhongnanhai. Is the collaborative attitude toward the Chinese authorities a result of self-conscious, voluntary choice? I think this is a naïve question based on lack of real-life experiences (sorry). When it comes to transmission of cultural values, individual voluntarism is a red herring. Most Catholic families produce Catholic offspring. Does a Tibetan have a choice in religious belief? What would his or her options have been? Being born a Tibetan is not an individual choice. Being born in the world at a particular moment is not a matter of individual choice. The fact is that cultural values are internalized by individual members of the society. This is why cultural values are so powerful and effective in serving as the psychological mechanism governing political actions and political outcomes (democracy or dictatorship). You can ask Noki Malesike whether his and his wife’s 殉死 was a voluntary choice. He would say yes but I think that was a moot question. Do you think you have had a choice in subscribing to the opinions you have expressed in your post?

    At the political level, do not ask whether a cultural value (relational duty and bonding) has been adopted by choice or fiat. The only relevant question is that it is there and it is deeply entrenched in the population, and shapes the populations political actions. Cultural values serve as the initial state of a political process. Why do you think Democracy is not working in Iraq? The basic principle governing Iraqis (survival and reproduction) are universal; it applies to Americans Iraqis and Chinese. But the initial states are different among different cultures and set these cultures onto completely different tracks of development/evolution.

  181. bianxiangbianqiao Says:



    The social ills and injustices you mentioned need to be analyzed within the proper context. Are these system breakdowns and failures due to bugs, or are they symptoms that the system itself is not viable in the first place? The American political system periodically experiences its own serious breakdowns and failures. But as far as anybody can see, it is still viable in the US. The viability of a political arrangement (the Chinese system vs. the alternative you mentioned) system is determined by the cultural values that serve as the context and initial state. Should us Chinese try to debug our system to make it work more smoothly, or should we replace it with the so called representative democracy (which I humbly think is a myth even in the United States)?

    Henry Kissinger put it succinctly. “… The Chinese has had four thousand years of uninterrupted history and self-governance. There must be something they are doing right.” (This is my rough transcript.) The details of his historical evaluation might be open to discussion. But the big picture he painted is correct.

  182. Wahaha Says:


    I think you asked very good question “Should us Chinese try to debug our system to make it work more smoothly, or should we replace it with the so called representative democracy ?”

    1) As a student in 6/4, I know our sentiment at and before 6/4 was “West democracy would solve the problems in China.” I think most chinese think otherwise.

    2) The 2nd is if the problem in China is an internal problem of the system, I dont know the answer, I think the key lies on the following question :

    Can authritarian system and freedom of media and information co-exist ?

  183. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    “Can authritarian system and freedom of media and information co-exist ?”

    I think the Chinese are experimenting with this idea. At the same time, one should not be carried away by the notion of “free media and information”. It is another red herring. One only needs to look at how thoroughly the ordinary Americans are misinformed and brain-washed to appreciate this point. Information is not free anwhere.

  184. BMY Says:


    I am not academic type like yourself and BXBQ and not able to say very complicated arguments.

    I hate many things CCP is doing, I am still very sad whenever child slaves(many more child slaves in democratic India and Bangladesh.I think it’s more to do with the rule of law,government transparency,economic development level ,education level than democracy)) in shanxi mentioned .but I am very cautious of overthrow CCP and deploy American style democracy onto current China’s situation. Taiwan is a very small place and ethnically pure and economically related even cross the island and population was better educated when Taiwan deployed democracy. the election tactic of by dividing people to gain votes would cause disaster in mainland’s current situation.

    BTW, there are few entries/comments in the past regarding democracy


  185. Wahaha Says:


    I think free media is good way limiting the power of government at local level and solving small and individual incidents. Look, most people really dont care what is going on out of his town, if those small incidents in his neighborhood can be handled nicely, then he trusts the local government ( and central government ). That is way of legitmizing government and building up credibility.

    I agree that West media on big issue (especially international issues) is no better than China’s media, most of time, even worse.

  186. Wahaha Says:


    I saw your comment, “Now the onus is on the CCP to explain why China is not ruled by the principle of ‘one person, one vote’. ”

    I like you to see a post from Chinadaily, and tell us what you think.


    From ChinaDaily by Expatter :

    Russell A. Castro Department of Sociology & Criminal Justice Southeastern Louisiana University, proposed the Elite Model for Americal politics in which he states:
    The elite model argues that power within society is highly concentrated. The elite model posits THREE levels of power in American society:
    1) the power-elite (extremely powerful) 2) the government (powerful) 3) the mass public (relatively powerless).
    Less than 1% of the U.S population own approximately 85% of the nations “income-producing-wealth.”
    (Diana Kendall 1999, Sociology in Our Times)
    The top 400 households in the United States earned over 1% of the total income paid out to the ENTIRE U.S national population of 280 MILLION people. (New York Times 2003)
    The tiny “Power-Elite” class control: Energy (Oil, Natural Gas, and other energy technologies). Banking & Investment Securities. Insurance (life/health, property, & commercial). Transportation (Automobile, Aircraft, and Sea Vessel production & sales + the air-travel and transport businesses). Pharmaceuticals. Commercial Food Production. The Mass Media (TV, Radio, & Entertainment).
    THE ELITE MODEL: Summarized In this way, candidates selected (through economic support) by the elite compete in elections arranged and driven by organizations supported by the elite (political parties) and are voted into office (and thus, made legitimate) by the mass-public, who get all of their information about the social world (and about politics) from the mass media, which is dominated and controlled by the elite

  187. Wahaha Says:

    After reading the post, I dont want to see American democracy in China any time in the future. Russia under Yeltsin was in such model, and produced several oil tycoons, doing no good at all for Russian people.

    So this basically left me two choices : authoritarian or Parliament system of England,

    But the result of Parliament system in India has been, in my opinion, unacceptable to China. One single reason is enough for me : do any chinese want to see 2 billion chinese on earth anytime in the future.

    A country with 2 billion people will be poor FOREVER.

  188. Wukailong Says:

    It would be better if we didn’t discuss with such abstract terms as “free media” and “CCP-controlled media”. In China, one problem is that many media outlets cater to nationalist feelings that has been nurtured by CCP but is not under their control. They then strengthen these feelings, make sensational headlines about Taiwan, US and Japan, and the sentiments are further strengthened in a kind of feedback loop.

    环球时报 is one of the worst papers in this regard, but unfortunately it’s popular, and I see people read it everyday in the subway.

    I think people of all countries would be better off questioning their media. I wouldn’t say people as a rule are brainwashed, but most believe their basic education and worldview brought by the ideology that is dominant in the country.

  189. BMY Says:

    I totally agree with “I wouldn’t say people as a rule are brainwashed, but most believe their basic education and worldview brought by the ideology that is dominant in the country.” and that’s why so many problems exists in the world because of that.

  190. vadaga Says:

    Re: comments 183 and 185 above.

    Comparing the media systems of China and the rest of the world is like comparing apples to oranges. I will try to do a post sometime soon about what it is like to be a newswire reporter in China as well as well as some of my classmates’ experience working for state media.

  191. Qrs Says:


    As for the question of the *popularity* of the government, (something I did not address) I already know from my friends and family in Beijing (yes, Chinese, native Beijingers) that they are happy with a strong China and a rising standard of living. I’m happy for them, too. But they don’t therefore automatically support the government on every issue. Anyway, this is OT, and there’s a thread for this subject, so I’ll post more there.

    Suffice it to say that my friends and family have not had their children kidnapped into slavery working at brick factories, nor were their children killed by collapsing “Tofu dregs” school buildings in the Sichuan Earthquake. Let me point out that it was *parents* who banded together to find and recover their kidnapped children from the brick kilns, *not* the Party or local authorities. Let me also point out that for parents of children killed in the quake-collapsed schools, government efforts to buy their silence are indeed degrading, much less crappy. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/world/asia/24quake.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    So that’s my point there- if you have no complaints with the Party, then all is well with the world. But life is hard and unpredictable, so when someday you do have a complaint with the Party, such as the heartbreaking examples I noted above, then you are SOL and have NO official, legal, systematized, method of redress. In such cases you effectively have*no recourse* and there is thus *no check* on government power. I sincerely hope you never find yourself in such a situation.

    Again you mischaracterize my position on ‘absolute power of Chinese leaders’. My point is that leadership in China has through the ages has been absolute for all practical purposes, and that this continues to this day. The lack of effective checks on this power is what I have a problem with. Your example of the Cultural Revolution is, shall I say, bizarre and disingenuous to me. Either you don’t know your history, or you think I don’t—neither is flattering.

    Mao’s lifelong obsession was with “mass political movements” whether they be the original Rectification movements in Yan’an in the 1940’s to the “Great Leap Forward” or the failed “Socialist Education Movement” and the “Four Cleanups” that immediately proceeded the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”. He made sure to include the Masses in the name of that one, but that should not for a minute fool anyone into believing that this was a mass movement. Nor should Mao’s use of surrogates such as the Gang of Four and his lackey Lin Biao, et al. lead anyone to believe that Mao had any lack of power or limits to his power. Let me cite a couple of examples in support of this:

    Just casually checking my copy of 中华人民共和国史 (第二版)何沁(高等教育出版社, 1998 ISBN 7-04-00763-9)(History of the People’s Republic of China, Second Edition, He Qin, High Level Academic Publishing House) I see that only three sentences into the chapter on the GPCR (p. 203) that
    “文化大革命” 是毛泽东发动的和领导的,其主观目的是为了寻求防止资本主义复辟,巩固社会主义制度的办法探索中国自己建设社会主义的道路,但他据以发动 “文化大革命” 的主要论点则是完全错的。

    “The Cultural Revolution” was ordered and led by Mao Zedong, its’ subjective purpose was to prevent a revival of capitalism, to consolidate socialism, and to explore China’s own Socialist Road, but even according to its’ own concepts, the “Cultural Revolution” was completely mistaken.

    Ordered and led by Mao. In case there is any doubt on the who and how of the origins of the GPCR, it is generally agreed that it started with the publication of the “May 16 Communique” 《五•一六通知》 issued by the Central Committee of the CCP. It doesn’t get any higher, or more removed from the masses than that.

    What’s more, Mao personalized his attacks on Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping in his first, infamous Big Character Poster called “Bombard the Headquarters”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombard_the_Headquarters

    Too bad most non-Chinese won’t be able to read the Chinese Wikipedia entry for the same subject, which contains a 1987 quote about it from no less than Deng Xiaoping:


    “The Cultural Revolution that was begun in 1966, continued for 10 years, and was a complete disaster. At that time, many Comrades were persecuted, including me. After Liu Shaoqi, I was the Number 2 “Capitalist Roader”, with Liu Shaoqi as :”Commander” and myself as “Assistant Commander” In these ten years, a lot strange things came to pass.”

    “Strange things”? That’s the understatement of the century! I encourage people to read about Liu Shaoqi, who was the Chairman of the PRC at this time, and how he suffered- literally- at the hands of Mao and the GO4:

    “During his life, Liu had diabetes. Furthermore, in his old age, he developed pneumonia and was then refused all medicine by Mao and his officials. On the orders of Mao’s wife, he was kept alive so that the Ninth Party Congress in 1969 would have a ‘living target’. At the Congress, he was denounced as a traitor and an enemy agent. He was then allowed to die in agony.[19] Mao continuously disfavored Liu and his political aspirations during Liu’s brief years in office.”

    Does that sound like unlimited power to you, or like a set of “checks and balances”. Also, was Jiang Qing acting at the People’s representative in prolonging Liu’s agony like that? Was that a mass movement too, BXBQ?

    Finally, just where were the masses in this? Was their role to criticize Mao (that would be democratic in nature), or to just blindly obey Mao (dictatorial in nature?) Let me again turn to a Chinese history book (中国现代史, 下册,王桧林 主编(高等教育出版社)(Modern Chinese History, Vol. 2, Wang Huilin, Chief ed., High Level Academic Publishing House)1998, ISBN7-04-002144-7, p. 245) for the final verdict:


    The (May 16th) “Communique” was with regard to the Party and domestic political situation completely wrong in its estimation that the leadership of the current academic, educational, news, arts, and publishing spheres was not in the hands of the proletariat.

    Again, the present Chinese consensus on the May 16th Communique that came from the Central Committee of the CCP—Mao’s realm—and demonstrates the lack of limits on his power. Why did Mao launch the GPCR? Because Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, Peng Dehuai and others had dared to either criticize him or sideline him from deciding the day-to-day affairs of state—and Mao didn’t like it one bit. So he fought back, using any and every means he could, whether directly (as through the Central Committee) or indirectly as through the GO4, Lin Biao, the Red Guards, etc.

    As for your other point, what do you know of my life experiences? How can you judge? How many years have I lived in Beijing? At which Chinese universities did I study, and what degrees do I hold? What’s my nationality? You don’t know any of that. Not that one needs to be Chinese to credibly criticize China, of course….right?

    As to the question of whether a person born into a given society internalizes that society’s values, I think that’s a non-issue. Of course that’s the case. The real question is, does that society then give the individual the means, opportunities, and encouragement to form their own identity and opinions separate from the ‘Party line” or general cultural norms per se. All the Chinese I know are unique individuals. Yet in the political realm—unless you’re talking about Taiwan—then conformity is ideal, to say the least. Maybe the internet is opening a new chapter for young Chinese to express themselves politically—I hope so, and I hope it is a tolerant, pluralistic thing.

    Why is democracy not working in Iraq? I dunno… could it because there’s a war going on?

    As for your final point in your follow up post, I think that no political system is perfect, they are human inventions and thus are only as good as those who create and participate in it. So in other words, constant improvement is needed. Anyway, I thought we were talking about China. Why do you find fault with others instead of sticking to the topic?

    My contention though is that it is the role of the individual to take part in the system to make it better—or suffer the consequences if they don’t. The political systems of *all* countries can stand some improvement, even if the US, UK, and other democratic systems. As imperfect as these systems are, their defining characteristic is that they provide legal, systematized and viable ways for people to get involved and try to make things better.

    I think that would be a good thing in China, don’t you? I certainly believe they deserve it.

  192. Qrs Says:

    BMY #184:

    Taiwan is ethnically pure? Run that by the DPP and all the 本省人 including minority groups such as the Ami, etc. I am sure they would strongly disagree with your characterization. But even though roughly 5 million or 41% voted for Hsieh (or against Ma) and even though Taiwan is quite diverse ethnically and culturally, the system worked. And even worked to Beijing’s advantage in producing a “pro-Beijing” (compared to Hsieh) President.

    See, good things do come from Democracies, and Chinese people can handle all the good and bad points such a system entails.


  193. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    I agree that in an ideal society individuals’ rights should be protected, even when their interests come into conflict with the authorities. The Chinese institutions, especially the legal system, are not functioning well in this aspect and need improvement. Individuals who are not in a position of power often get the raw end of the deal. However, these problems should be placed within the appropriate perspective to decide how to react to them. One must ask a simple question. “Are these exceptions or the rule?” Fortunately your Chinese family members are not in conflict with the Chinese authorities, nor are mine. According to the Pew Survey, over 80 of the Chinese population do not have a big problem with the Chinese authorities. The interests of the nation and the interests of the individuals are not on a course of collision. To solve the problems exposed by the coal mine slaves and earthquake victims, we do not need to abandon the current Chinese political system, and introduce a new one with “one-person-one-votes”.

    The facts about Cultural Revolution you have laid out are compelling data. However, you have examined them with the wrong interpretive framework. Verifying facts from history is not equal to correct historical understanding.

    Do those facts really show that Mao and Chinese authorities have absolute control in the Chinese political life? Control means the ability to determine both the outcome and the course of a process. The concept of absolute control does not apply to political activities. Once it gets started, a political movement takes a life of its own. Nobody has control over how it will evolve or the direction it will take. Even the intentions of its key participants play a limited role. Anyone participating in a social/political activity/movement is playing with fire and taking a risk.

    There are two ways to examine a political movement, i.e., looking at it as a personal struggle between the participants versus a policy struggle between different ideologies. At the personal level, Cultural Revolution was a political game played by Mao, against Liu Shaoqi and others. By September 1976, Mao and the Gang of Four were still the winners in the political struggle with Liu, Deng, and other capitalist roaders. Being a winner did not mean he had had control all along. He started the political movements precisely out of an anticipatory fear of losing control, a sense of insecurity, one may say. The winner in a boxing match is simply a better boxer; from the result of the match you cannot say that the winner has had control right from the beginning. The risk of failure was always there, and had been the point of the game all along. If one boxer could determine the outcome of the game, there would be no game. To be better students of history, we both need to read up on the Game Theory. The economists know better. That is why they got the best offices and all the money.

    It is wrong to view political movements as struggles among individuals. A more useful method is to view them as struggles between ideologies and policies. In this analysis, which transcends the limits of personal life-spans, Mao and the Gang of Four were the ultimate losers. Their visions and policies were superseded soon after Mao’s death by the more pragmatic policies of development through opening and reform campaigned by Deng (and probably inherited from Liu’s “capitalist roadmap”).

    To summarize my point, it is wrong to talk about control in political processes. Instead the evolution of the process is a result of mutual-constraint among the key players. CCP’s internal struggle demonstrates this principle. How much a role do ordinary Chinese people play in the evolution of the nations political lives? Are the Chinese more severely manipulated by the ruling elite than people elsewhere, say, the United States ? These are hard questions beyond my expertise.

  194. Wahaha Says:

    “So that’s my point there- if you have no complaints with the Party, then all is well with the world. But life is hard and unpredictable, so when someday you do have a complaint with the Party, such as the heartbreaking examples I noted above, then you are SOL and have NO official, legal, systematized, method of redress. In such cases you effectively have*no recourse* and there is thus *no check* on government power. I sincerely hope you never find yourself in such a situation.”

    This is the biggest problem of authoritarian system, the credibility of government. But which part of democratic system can solve or the problems you mentioned or limit the abuse of power by local government ? Freedom of media and information or the voting system ?

    No doubt the current system in China is far from perfect, but it did solve some large and urgent problems. Is the system in your mind capable of solving those problems ? We certainly dont want to replace the current system with another system that will cause much much bigger problems, do we ?

    Some problems wont be solved by simply importing a new system. For example, corruption, a research in South Korea concluded that inequality is a major reason for corruption; and corruption is widespread in India and Russia under Yeltsin.

    BTW, the purpose of voting system is to make sure a government for people, which is hardly true in democratic country.

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