Neo-Liberalism Meets Neo-Confucianism

The West has dominated the world ever since the industrial revolution. Today that dominance seems threatened by the East Asian heirs to Confucianism, the ideology par excellence of state cohesion.

Centuries of inculcation with Confucianism was as important to the rise of East Asia’s hyper-growth economies as the conjunction of Protestantism and the rise of capitalism was to the west. Confucianism’s tenets still provide an inner compass to most East Asians in a post-Confucian age, just as Biblical admonitions remain standards for the West in a post-religious age.

The basic thrust of Confucianism has changed little since Confucius’s disciples recorded his aphorisms a generation before Socrates. Indeed, Confucianism became the official ideology of the Chinese state two centuries before the birth of Christ.

Confucianism was essentially a philosophical justification of government by benevolent bureaucracy under a virtuous ruler. Virtue ensured harmony between man and nature, as well as obedience within a stratified society. As one Confucian classic put it: Possessing virtue will give the ruler the people. Possessing the people will give him the territory. Possessing the territory will give him its wealth. Possessing the wealth, he will have resources for expenditure. Virtue is the root; wealth is the result.