Saturday, December 30, 2006

RE: Canadian prof in China infuriates censors (Globe and Mail, December 30)

As a student in Fudan University's Philosophy Department's History of Ancient Chinese Thought program, I read a lot of Confucianism and the contemporary commentaries on those writings. There was much debate in China in the early-20th century about whether certain passages in Mencius and in Mozi could be rightly interpreted to suggest latent support by the ancients for liberal democratic institutions and the rights discourse. My Canadian interpretation of the classical Chinese texts supports this idea too. My reasoning is simply that human rights doctrine has at its core respect for human dignity and because dignity is the central Confucian value, modern Confucians should oppose authoritarianism. Political democracy is defined by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a key entitlement of all citizens of every country. At the very least there is nothing in the Confucian classics that suggests that Confucius would not be a supporter of democracy and human rights were he alive today. But there are lots of reasons to suggest that Confucius would not apply for membership in the Chinese Communist Party.

Charles Burton
Brock University


Anonymous said...,,1984960,00.html

Your thoughts Dr. Burton?

Charles Burton said...

The Guardian article is of high interest to me. I have ordered Hutton's book. I judge it to be useful in comprehending why China has essentially no effective civil society. But I think Hutton's idea that "all economic activity in China is one of central management and coordination" is overstating the reality of the situation. Use of the word "all" is usually a sign of an assertion that is not empirically based. Overall the book seems to be rather sensational rather than objective (the part on the SOEs is just dead inaccurate), but that does not mean it is without value. But I would be more convinced if I could assess the sources of his assertions by seeing more footnotes. This extract has none!