Hans Küng – More World Ethics for China

Hans Kung and Thorsten Pattberg at World Ethics Institute Beijing
Hans Kung and Thorsten Pattberg at World Ethics Institute Beijing

Hans Küng – More World Ethics for China

by Thorsten Pattberg

BEIJING- A lot of spiritual leaders come up with fancy new “word creations” and sell them as international brands, as the latest philosophy, as the next big universalism that encompasses all existing predecessors. This Hans Küng with his “Weltethos” (English: World Ethic), however, could be unitary different: he is a respected author and public intellectual, and he is extremely well-connected and has serious funds and supporters.

Hans Küng, philosopher, and President of the Global Ethic Foundation, is sometimes called the new Hegel of Tübingen, and in China he is called the Swiss Confucius. His Chinese surname is Kong, just like Kong Fu-tze. He sure is a man of his principles: In Europe he calls upon the ‘authoritarian ruler’ and Catholic Pope, the German Joseph Ratzinger, to be dethroned. In America he demands unethical banks to be destroyed. He boldly criticizes human rights abuses in China. King Hans or King Küng (the name regularly invites puns) is frequently in the news, these days more abroad than in the German-speaking lands.

And his global ethic idea, what’s it all about? Well, it is so good (no pun intended)  that it was endorsed not only by the United Nations and thousands of scholars, theologians and politicians, but, more importantly, by certain industrialists. In fact, “The Kung” has some wealthy and influential friends in the business world, which he wisely shelves under a sub-branch of his world ethos idea, namely that of “global business ethic.” And is our world not just facing the worst financial and economic meltdown and moral crisis in history?

In principle, Weltethos or “world ethic” stems from the most fundamental human need for moral guidance such as the ‘Golden Rule’ or the four Don’ts: Do not kill; do not lie; do not steal; do not commit adultery, which, so Küng argues, can be found in all major religions. Of course it is much more complex than that, and there exists a lot of Küng literature on the differences between, say, ethos, ethic, ethics, and morality for further reading. Finally, so the assumption, world governments and scholarship will be able to promote “an ethical framework for global financial markets and global economics.” So far the theology.

The obvious red flag in it, for many of his cultural critics, is that Swiss Küng is a Catholic theologian, former priest, and simply translates other cultures into his own; his world view and cultural context inevitably remain Judeo-Christian, which has a notorious record for being too missionary.

Yet, as Hang Küng puts it, we don’t have to invent a world ethic, because it is already there: World ethic isn’t an invention – it’s a discovery.


Hans Küng, President of the Global Ethic Foundation, philosopher and theologian, recently attended the inauguration ceremony of the new World Ethics Center Beijing (WEIB) at Peking University and, and the 9th Beijing Forum with an opening speech on ‘Global Ethics’ (changed by the Chinese editors into ‘Harmony‘).

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