Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Andrew Batson — Are Xi and Trump really so different?

Good assessment of President Xi's speech at Davos.

I would qualify this statement by Batson:
If Xi is now trying to present China, however implausibly, as a defender of a liberal global economic order, it’s because he wants something from the rest of the world.
This is to look at Xi Jinping, China, and Chinese thought and culture through Western eyes.

Here is something on this I recently said elsewhere and to which I have added here:

Chinese traditional culture is combination of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, and after the revolution Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, qualified by Deng Xiaoping and now Xi Jinping. A Taoist master who was a friend of mine but now deceased said that Chinese regard these as harmonious and address different aspects of life applicable to different people at different stages of development rather than as oppositional, as Westerners may think.

The aim of Chinese culture with respect to individuals is to become a "superior person" (sage) rather than an inferior person (ordinary). Taoism emphasizes naturalness and intuitive wisdom while Confucianism emphasizes learning and training, and the principles of behavior proper to a human being.  Taoism emphasizes self-cultivation by tapping the inner and Confucianism emphasizes emulating the sages of the past in morals and manners. Taoism is close to Ch'an Buddhism in emphasizing inner work (nei kung/neigong), and Confucianism is closer to Mahayana Buddhism is emphasizing empathy and loving-kindness (Chinese jen/ren).

The modern socialistic view is more compatible with Chinese tradition, which emphasizes social harmony, than the radical individualism of the Western liberal tradition, which emphasizes personal freedom.

For example, the Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Power of the Way) reveals how the individual and society can be reconciled by raising the level of collective consciousness vertically through deepening of awareness of Tao rather than horizontally through inculcating positive values at the gross level through habits, customs, institutions and culture, which is the emphasis of Confucianism.

Confucianism is broadest in that that is is about living a good life as an individual in a good society based on traditional Chinese values and customs based on correct relationship and social order. It is chiefly an ethical system in this regard and is concerned with harmonious interaction in the gross world. President Xi Jinping recently advocated the reinvigoration of Chinese tradition, probably as an antidote to Western liberal values (Americanization) that somewhat incompatible with traditional Chinese culture if not destructive of them. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

On the other hand, the Tao Te Ching can be read as an early "left libertarian" treatise that is about creating the conditions for individual freedom in a harmonious society, that is, living the good life in a good society, through raising the level of collective consciousness.

BTW, Mao attempted a synthesis within Chinese thought integration with Western thought, all of which he studied. See Eric Hamel, "Early Experiences in the Development of Mao Zedong's Philosophy."

I don't think that Xi Jinping is just saying something nice in advocating harmonious globalization in accord with national interests and differences.

Andrew Batson's Blog
Are Xi and Trump really so different?


MichaelH said...

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your site's acknowledgement/access information. Pls assist. Thanks!

Peter Pan said...

I'm too old and cynical to view these speeches as anything more than recycling of platitudes. Globalism in the guise of "free" trade has not resulted in win-win scenarios i.e. harmony. Will another layer of lipstick on the pig do the trick?

How difficult would it be to goad China (Xi et al.) into an invasion of Taiwan?
Same question with US (Trump et al.) into Iran?

Xi and Trump - two peas in a pod?