So How Exactly is the PRC Confucian, Again?
It’s hard to believe, when you read stories like this, that the Hu Jintao-led government in the PRC can, with a straight face, consider itself “Confucian.” How exactly can this show of mob-oriented murder be considered in any way an expression of benevolence? Firstly, it hardly seems Confucian for a government to dump trash in front of the homes of the less fortunate. In what way does this express shu or the rule of reciprocity? Since when do Confucians in high positions of power take advantage of that power to mistreat those beneath them?
Remember: harmony (he) requires two things in a relationship with unequally empowered parties: trust and loyalty, and care. On the part of the powerful: they must care for the needs of those beneath them. For those on the bottom, they must trust and be loyal to those above them. It’s hard to imagine how dumping city trash on the poor is ‘caring’. Moreover, it’s even harder to believe that beating the villagers of those towns when they protest is caring. The sad story continues with the murder of the bystander who dared to take pictures of this ridiculous event.
If anything, this is nothing more than a show of unbridled power on the part of the local government. A true Confucian government would immediately take steps to publicly acknowledge the blame — and shame — of the city inspectors. Without such a display, “trust” is eroded and the very basis for a Confucian society collapses. As Confucius is asked, in Analects 8.28, which is most important, “food, guns, or trust” he says: that it is trust, because we can “give up food. Death has been with us since the beginning, but when there is no trust, the common people have nothing to stand on.” So who exactly, when reading and hearing about these episodes, would trust the local government?
Update: Time’s Simon Elegant is also discussing this story.
Update II: More details.