Confucian Schools and the Quest for Values

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Maureen Fan from the Post did a profile of Luo Yu, a Chinese entrepreneur who has set aside his businesses and is focusing on running courses designed to instill traditional Chinese values into the children of China’s newly-prosperous entrepreneurs.

We are going to see more of this kind of thing in the coming years. The Chinese people have had their moral codes stripped from them twice in the past century – once when Confucianism was tossed out the door in 1949, and then again when Maoism gradually fell out of favor in the wake of the Cultural Revolution.

What this has left the Chinese people is a moral code based on two of Deng Xiaoping’s most famous utterances:

1. To get rich is glorious.

2. It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.

In other words, do whatever it takes to get rich.

Even a hardcore secular humanist should agree that this is a horribly inadequate moral and ethical basis on which to build a “harmonious society.”

I suspect many parents will head in the direction of neo-Confucian schools like Mr. Luo’s, and still others will turn to Buddhism and even Christianity, and that the government will be happily complicit in this process. It may not be politically correct for a senior member of the Communist Party to say that China’s people need to have a spiritual aspect to their lives, but you can bet they’re thinking it.

Something else we can look forward to: a growing national debate on what constitutes “Chinese Values,” and an effort to create a secular cannon of Chinese morality cobbled from Confucianism, Daoism, and the more enlightened aspects of Chinese revolutionary thought (from Sun Yat-Sen through Jiang Zemin.)


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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