Chinese harmony and American democracy in 21st century
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-01 14:18:02 www.worldharmonyorg.net
BEIJING, Nov. 2 (Xinhuanet)-- Following is an excerpt of a paper by Francis C. W. Fung, PH. D.
In his paper, Fung said, as the ancient world culture with the longest uninterrupted historical record, the richness of China's teachings of harmony as a dominant philosophy is unparalleled.
But, he noted, "China is going through dramatic changes in adjusting to the conflicts of the new and the old.
"To address the multitude of domestic and international conflicts," he said, China has promoted the ancient teachings of harmony and has achieved much in its great efforts of building a Harmonious Society and Harmonious World.
From the perspective of harmony, Fung examined three major movements of human civilization: religion, democracy and harmony. "As the world is in great disharmony with religion conflicts, international inequity, and the disparity between North and South," Fung stressed, "we must look beyond religion and democracy to harmony."
Then after comparing with religion and democracy, Fung asked, "Will harmony bring a more moderate future world?" His answer is yes.
Finally Fung stressed that democracy -- American style -- is challenged by Chinese harmony as the leading global philosophy in the 21st century, because harmony is a basic human longing.
Fung concluded his paper "Teaching harmony in U.S. is paramount."
Only corrections of language errors, typo changes and editing are made, but the viewpoints are all Fung's.
From time immemorial humans had to cope with nature, the need of shelter and the fear of nature's extreme furor. This fear was as natural as nature itself and a solution was paramount from the outset. Obvious approaches to addressing this issue were: acceptance of life, submission to the will of God to placate nature, harmonizing with nature, and persevering as best as one could. These approaches were combined, at times, for expediency. As civilization progressed, and local and global societies became more complex and conflicting issues prolific, more harmony solutions were needed.
As far as one can ascertain the major world religions practiced today originated from the mystic East and can be narrowed to Central Asia along the silk-road including India and the middle East. There seems to be continuity in development from the earliest religion to the latest. The following is a short introduction of origin of modern religion as mankind's effort to harmonize with nature. One might surmise that organized religions are human's group effort to harmonize with nature by submitting to the will of God. There are reasons perhaps to accept the speculation that certain cultures may be more spiritual from a religious view point, although some cultures have defined spirituality from a moral value view point.
All religions offer the faithful harmony to nature and God and peace of mind.
Democracy grew out of the Age of Enlightenment in Europe (1600 to 1789), a movement to resolve the conflicts between the ruler and the ruled in France and England. Its philosophy was against superstition, encouraging development of science, and against easy acceptance of authority. Two leading philosophers of the time were the Frenchman, Rousseau, and the Englishman, John Lock
The United States of America, formerly a colony of England, defeated the occupier and declared Independence on 1776 during the Age of Enlightenment. The early new citizens being immigrants of Europe, were quick to adopt the ideas of liberty, fraternity and democracy. As a result, the drafters of the U.S. constitution and Bill of Rights that guaranteed citizen rights were heavily influenced by Rousseau and John Lock.
Many elements of the present day U.S. government including theory, structure and policy were penned by Thomas Jefferson, an original signer of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The documents spelled out the rights and duties of the citizen, majority rule and the separation of powers. These harmonizing concepts were a great influence on today's governments. The drafting of a constitution for new governments is today a standard fare.
The leaders of the U.S. government then and still now are mostly aristocrats or elites of the society. From the very beginning there were two opposing forces, the powerful at one end and the masses at the other, which see-saw through out the entire relatively short U.S. history.
Although American citizens have more freedom of choice in life in relation to other societies of today, true democracy of equality and mass representation on important issues remains elusive.
Today the U.S. media is owned by a few big businesses, and is easily influenced by the government and big business. In foreign policy especially, media self censorship is prevalent and political correctness is the name of the game.
Despite freedom of press and freedom of speech, U.S. citizens are not fully aware of real world opinion towards the U.S.. U.S. foreign policy is again controlled by minority elite supporting the government. In its eagerness to export democracy as an ideology supported by the U.S. military, media and elite, U.S. approaches can be inflexible and doctrinaire. Often democracy is touted as transparent and peaceful.
Attempts to export the democracy model between government and citizens in this case have the opposite effect of causing world disharmony. This is seen in the U.S. unilateral Iraq war that has exasperated U.S. population and the world. All wars of aggression of modern times were launched with high sounding goals necessary for the morale of the invading forces.
Throughout China's long history as an ancient culture, unlike the Middle East, it did not produce a religion of world importance, and unlike the West it did not produce a comprehensive home grown democracy system to resolve conflicts between the ruler and the ruled. China obviously, however, had notions of religion and democracy, when Confucius admonished his followers to respect God but keep a distance, and Mencius advocated good government and put citizens above the rulers.
Instead, through considerable debate and evolution, China settled on the philosophies of CHUNG YUN, HE XIE (moderation, harmony) and hierarchy social structures. Family and social order were promoted by emphasizing SAN GANG WU CHANG, REN, YI , LI , ZHI, XIN (the three important relations in the order of: ruler and the ruled, father and children, husband and wife and five basic societal moral values) and LUN LI DAO DE (family and moral values).
This system of profuse teaching was drilled into students from Day One and all through a scholar's life. Youngsters' first standard reading text was SAN TZE JING (a simple rhyme of Confucius teaching).
The moderation and harmony philosophy reinforced by morals and values as a social system was very different from the Western democracy concepts of citizen rights and duties enforced by law and order. Ancient China did practice laws, but sparsely, when compared to the comprehensive European laws and the complex and voluminous U.S. case study system. The strength of U.S. modern culture lies in the implementation of Government and law practices, and not merely in its democratic ideology. The ideal of democracy, as harmony between government, society and citizens, is universally accepted by today world. It will take time for the developing countries to grow their own appropriate democratic system in their own soil.
Harmony as seen from ancient Chinese philosophy, included the practices of acceptance, tolerance, mutual respect, equality and patience, but not the use of heavy penal correction.
From the previous discussions one may characterize the three major world approaches of basic societal harmony and order as: Eastern origin religion order, Western Democracy and law, and Chinese moral values combined with hierarchy society order. But societal harmony for the future as global interactions expands, is perhaps best served by an appropriate balance of the three approaches.
This development will call for more genuine exchange and dialogue between world cultures. For the past two centuries the cultural flow has predominantly from West to East. The wisdom of five thousand years of ancient Chinese culture of harmony and moral values had provided long term stability and survival, cannot be easily dismissed.
As a start harmony was taught by the sages as the practices of acceptance, tolerance, mutual respect, equality and patience. The essence of the implementation process, according to Confucius is discipline oneself, harmony at home, order in the country before extending peace to the world.
According to LAOTZE, the universe was created from YING or negative (dark) energy. From this infinite negative or dark energy all matter and galaxies were created. This includes the earth and the solar system. [
The YANG and Ying entwine in the Daoist circle in perfect harmony and beauty. In a three dimensional world the Daoist circle is a sphere with the YING enclosing both the YING and YANG on the outside surface. LAOTZE always emphasized that YING embraces YANG, the soft ultimately overcomes the hard when harmony is not achieved. His philosophy renounced war and advocated balance, harmony and peace.
LAOTZE's philosophy of harmony with heaven and nature was well accepted by the Chinese. The idea of YING YANG balance also became the guiding philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine. After the Qin and Han dynasties the philosophy of HE HE was widely applied. It penetrated all schools of thoughts and all subsequent historical periods. It became gradually accepted and agreed upon as the cultural spirit of the Chinese thought. Throughout two millennia of Chinese culture, Confucius and his students continued to exert a strong influence on Chinese thinking. Even when conflict and contradiction of ideas were unavoidable, the philosophy of harmony and ZHONG YUN TZE DAO (the Way of the Golden Mean) continued to advise moderation and avoidance of extreme.
Challenged by Western cultural and military advances during the last two centuries, China's traditional thinking was shaken to the core. Today, under reform and opening up, Chinese society is undergoing profound changes on many fronts. In the shifting social structure, promulgation of many new laws is taking place to change to more responsive governance by incorporating U.S. and Western ideas and experience.
In its search for a model society appropriate to the Chinese nation, there have been continuing discussions and debates. Faced with today's global ideology and religious conflicts, unilateralism, and extreme unequal parity of rich and poor between North and South, the harmony philosophy is rediscovered in China.
Like fresh air the ancient teachings of LAOTZE and Confucius are coming back, China is rediscovering itself. The Chinese are again quoting ancient harmony teachings.
In the recent Chinese media we have begun to see discussion of ideas such as HE XIE SHE HUI (Harmony society) and HE XIE SHI JIE (harmony world).
The outward expression of LAOTZE's and Confucius' influence on Far Eastern culture can easily be seen as a result of HE and LI (harmony and ceremony).
From time immemorial, advancement in Chinese society was more through education and civil service examinations. The Chinese invented the civil service system. Competition by physical strength was looked down upon. Most competitive sports on the other hand were invented by the West.
As a whole the East Asian culture is more reserved, less prompt to challenge nature. Hence, the industrial revolution was more likely to occur in the West. On today's information highway, material incentives and western cultural influence massed assaults on Chinese traditional values and way of life. As a result, teachings of tolerance, acceptance, patience and human relation hierarchy order are in decline. However, the historical fact that East Asian culture had the longest uninterrupted survival testifies to its resilience and adaptability. In its recent soul searching to rediscover a new China, harmony as a way to solve a broad range of conflicts is resurfacing.
The strength of U.S. society lies in its stable government and system of laws. This started from the European Enlightenment movement and continued for the last 230 years since independence. This is a relative short period for national development by any standard. Suffice to say the key reasons are; economic prosperity, absence of major world wars fought within U.S. territory and acceptance of the form of government and system of laws by the population in general.
From the perspective of the history of the rise and fall of past empires, U.S. complacency and resistance to change are clear. Its government system is unable to keep up with the world economic change and its system of laws is getting cumbersome. Its government system and ideology is not the answer-all for the vast differences that exist among the multitude of developing nations. Each nation is seeking its own form of harmony between the government and its citizens.
To expand its worldwide influence the U.S. government, media and American think tanks assert that America is democratic and thus is transparent. The American viewpoint persists to exert that in this conflicting world, the U.S. is not capable of using violent force and that its organized military aggression is not the use of violence. All violence was and will be started by nations that do not agree with us.
Despite the fact this line of logic does not deceive any person of reason outside of this country. As long as U.S. citizens love and buy it out of patriotism, they accept it as good logic and good policy. There is no argument needed for any serious student of politics to understand that the U.S. government is transparent only when it wants to be. The massive U.S. military and its preparation for war are always shrouded in the utmost secrecy in the name of security. Any declassification is after-the-fact, of little interest, and easily forgotten by its citizens. The only people remembered are the victims that suffered terribly by the devastating wars. That is why the U.S. can launch one war after the other and continue to have the support of its citizens.
After the Second World War U.S. prestige was at the highest. Today world opinion towards the U.S. is at its lowest by surveys around the world. Yet citizens of the U.S. continue to feel that we are the most peace loving nation in the world thanks to the U.S. government and media omission and propaganda."
Today conflicts against extremism are prolific in the world. These span difference between religions, ideologies, cultures, forms of government or simply distrust. The extremes of the privileged and the under privileged, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless the North and the South, the developed and the developing nations have reached alarming proportions. The philosophy of harmony encompassing patience, acceptance, tolerance, equality and mutual support, as presented in the previous section, must be broadly accepted to prevent major catastrophes breaking out in all corners of the world. Major nations together with United Nations must stand up and take the necessary creative actions to minimize these occurrences.
Democracy, as the only tool for conflict resolution, is very limited and does not comprise a core approach. The complexity of the multi national conflicts requires comprehensive system engineering studies of creative harmony solutions. "First, we must abandon unilateralism. This will allow consorted multinational studies to come up with indigenous and appropriate solutions to suit the diverse conditions that exist among nations. The reality of nations as we see in today's world is in total lack of international democracy and equality.
Democracy grew out of the 17th century Enlightenment movement as a resolution of the conflicts between the ruler and the ruled. But the movement as a tradition had inspired many national revolutions. The notable ones for this discussion were the French revolution, American independence war and the Chinese 1911 revolution extending to the 1949 revolution led by Mao Zedong. However, three hundred years is very short for human history. Through out Chinese history every 300 years or so peasants would rise up to overthrow the emperor. However, the ancient philosophies of harmony and moderation were always able to restore stability, prosperity and a loosely united empire.
The resilience of the Chinese nation lies in its deep rooted harmony philosophies coupled with prosperity at the beginning of each successful dynasty. This typically goes on in every 300 years or so for two millennium. China, after two hundred years of Western and Japanese humiliation and invasion, had lost its direction for a while. Today with relative prosperity returning, demands for harmony as a way to resolve conflicts in a complex modern society return in force. This is how China rediscovered itself from the roots of its ancient culture.
The Chinese feudal society was not an absolute civil order that was unalterable. The idea that opposing forces are constantly struggling for balance, lay the foundation for change. If the ruler is not kind and loving, the ruled can rise up to defy his order. This was always true as demonstrated by the over thrown of decadent dynasties by peasant revolutions.
Basic democratic ideals were also formed during that time. This is what China calls today MIN WEI BEN, people based ideals. The teaching of MIN WEI BEN means the ruled is more important than the ruler in good government, or a good government should put its people above the ruler. This REN BEN (people based) ideal have reined for two thousand years and is again being revived. The idea of anti corruption and anti dictatorial government is innate in China as well as in many other cultures. Simply put as in a Confucius saying, DE REN XIN ZHE DE TIEN HSIA, SHI REN XIN SHE SHI TIEN HSIA (the ruler who lost people's hearts lost his empire, the ruler who won people's hearts won the empire). This is the basis of a society centered on teaching of moral values and virtue.
Moral and values standard were high. Emphasis was placed on self correction rather than on penal correction. During the times of Confucius the society was in harmony. It was said during that time, lost are found, doors are not closed at night. This was the Chinese concept of government by moral value, societal order and harmony.
Democracy as a movement for the most part is universally accepted in the world today. One needs only to look at how many new countries or changing countries are calling themselves democracies. However, the U.S. has its own definition. This mostly means that countries agreeing with the U.S. are democracies. Democracy as a system of government needs to take hold and grow in the fertile soil of developing countries and countries evolving from their old cultures. This ideal of anti corruption and anti dictatorship is changing traditional order by reform. Harmony advises renunciation of force. In time democracy will grow and wrought its fruits in the global modern environment.
It is important to point out for those who did not grew up during the cold war era, the U.S. media divided the world into the free world and the communist world. This explains why the U.S. government and media have a tendency to call countries that challenge us as plotting to take away our freedom. This is highlighted by President Bush's repeated use of the word freedom in his 2004 and 2006 September 11, 2006 addresses.
Now the idea of freedom is also not an unknown concept. Many societies have abandoned enslavement and it is against universal laws. The Chinese abandoned slavery as early as the period of Spring and Autumn, more than two thousand years ago. The country transitioned from slave state of Eastern Zhou to FENJIAN (Feudal society) after the Warring State period. Those violated it when found are put in jails in all civilized societies.
International equality has yet to be recognized by the U.S.. For many weak and poor nations in the world, struggling for equal economic and political equality is a must for their survival. This is a vast subject that must be discussed in the resolution of conflicts under the broad concept of a harmonious world.
Democracy in conflict resolution is a well honed management system engineering study for the U.S. since its independence. The ancient harmony philosophies had worked well for keeping Eastern Asia stable for two thousand years. It is being rediscovered by China because of the prolific of conflicts in the world between the old and new, rich and poor, powerful and the powerless, due to its own reform and opening up. It will be logical for China to combine the U.S. experience in engineering Democracy into its government system and to revitalize the ancient concept of harmony. It will require exchange and cooperation between the East and West to harmonize this great undertaking. Societal needs for East and West are similar; however there are great differences in approaches and logical thinking. The concept of time and perspective on history also requires a great deal of harmonizing. The West and Far East together have the technology and the ready financial resources to bring the necessary actions together to make a beginning.
President Hu Jintao of China during his speech at Yale University April 21st, 2006 sounded out the ideas of harmony and harmony world and invited discussions and cooperation with the U.S.. If the interest is high, continuing system engineering studies for conflict resolution can be supported by interested scholars from East and West. A task of this world magnitude, needless to say, must be inclusive.
The ultimate principle of Chinese ancient principles, as expounded by LAOTZE in DAO DE JING, is the balance of YING and YANG but ultimately YING envelopes YANG and is beautifully illustrated in the Daoist circle sign of life.
In today's conflicting world our model of democracy cannot be forced on other nations of different culture and at different developing stages. Democracy works best by softly and patiently winning over the hearts and minds of people. Countering extremism by extremism is bound to lead to ultimate destruction of both sides. War does not solve confrontations, but moderation (negotiation) can resolve conflicts. Soft power (ideals and economics) eventually will overcome military power. The best way to resolve conflicts is to bring harmony to the confronting parties. This can start by understanding the causes of conflicts through mutual respect, trust, tolerance and acceptance. The world will progress for all mankind till eternity when harmony is universally accepted. The world of harmony shall surely come.
Today's China is in disharmony. The current modernizing and opening and reform has created a degree of regional prosperity. With the impact of materialism and lower moral values there are conflicts due to disparity of wealth and privilege and difference of the new and the old. In the traumatic changes that are required for modernizing there is extreme thinking in China that forgets the old teachings. To the degree that there are Chinese who feel loss and passively admit cultural inadequacy, under the incessant and massive criticism by U.S. media. Fortunately, the current government, in order to deal with the multitude of contradictions, come up with the concept of scientific development for modernization. This began in 2002. By now it is widely discussed and covered by the media.
However, the major stroke of luck is this scientific development concept brought China back in touch with the forefathers teaching of harmony. Harmony as a way of life is in the Chinese genes and is the essence of Chinese ancient teaching. On the current path China will transition through the current adjustment and reach a modern society with Chinese characteristics. This may very well be a socialistic society with harmony.
Its development remains to be seen. In the process China's harmony development can only bring harmony to the rest of the world. The ultimate patience of harmony will work its way. The often used phrase Socialist Society with Chinese Characteristics is ultimately The Socialist Society with Chinese Harmony.
(Dr. Fung originally came from Shanghai, China at age 16 by way of Hong Kong to study at Brown University during the 1950's. He also attended Johns Hopkins University and University of Notre Dame culminating in a Ph. D. degree with major in aerospace engineering. His early career during the 1970's included university teaching, aerospace industries (Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory) and ten years at National Institute of Technology (in energy conservation and fire safety research). During the 1980's he returned to China by the invitation of Chinese Academic of Science to lecture at the Academy and Jiao Tong University in the fields of energy conservation. It was during this period he founded Finance and Technology Associates, a premier business consulting firm specialized in international technology transfer and commercialization. Among the U.S. companies he represented included Cooper Rolls (a joint venture between Cooper industries and Rolls Royce), Combustion Engineering and MTI.
Dr. Fung taught Multi-national Corporations and Joint Ventures in the International School of Business of San Francisco State University. By the recommendation of the SFSU Confucius Institute, he has submitted two research papers for publication to NABE 2007, Feb conference. The theme of the conference is "One Nation: Many Languages and Cultures in a Changing World". The two papers submitted are titled: "Chinese Harmony and American Democracy in 21st Century" and Chinese Harmony Culture Old and New, Promise for a Less Confrontational World?")
Editor: Pan Letian
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