A Confucian-Daoist Millennium? – by Reg Little
Reginald Little predicted the spiritual rise of China and the Far East in 1976, in his input to the Australian Embassy. We’ve all seen and experienced China’s economic rise since Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform in 1978, but few people had faith in China’s cultural rise like Reg Little did. In particular, the scholarly debate about ‘Asian Values’ looked like Confucian culture never seemed quite attractive enough to the Judeo-Christian West. Anyhow, Australia (Little’s place of birth) and North America, least of their proximity to Japan and China, seem most ready to embrace certain Asian key values. Those key values could be the Sinitic love for learning, filial piety, the striving for oneness and greater harmony, and so on. And then, of course, there is Buddhism, Daoism, and, above all, Confucianism, all of which are absent in the West. The question is, can any of this be exported? Reg Little’s answer is a definitely “Yes”. Now his readers must decide: Are we experiencing A Confucian-Daoist Millennium?
Reg Little’s time in Japan from 1964 to 1969 led to his culture-based judgment in Beijing in 1976 that China would emulate Japanese growth. It also led to ‘The Confucian Renaissance’ in 1989 and ‘The Tyranny of Fortune:Australia’s Asian Destiny’ in 1997, and ‘A Confucian Daoist Millennium?’ in 2007. Since 1987, Reg engages in conference activity in Asia. He was the Vice President of the International Confucian Association in 2009, and is in the Academic Committee of the Center for East West Relations.
“Few in the West are equipped to prosper in a global community where the commanding cerebral universe is defined by Chinese history and civilization.”
‘A Confucian-Daoist Millenium?’
Erosion of Anglo-American global order, which has shaped the past two hundred years of world history, has been apparent for several decades. Essentially, theUnited Stateshas allowed itself to become dependent on East Asian manufacturing, technology and finance.
Recent activities in Afghanistan and Iraq have accelerated this process, alienating America from newly enriched energy suppliers inRussia, Iran and Venezuela. The accompanying alliance of Russian and Chinese strategic interests has offered new options to Latin American, African, Central Asian and the Middle Eastern communities.
Business must pay serious attention to the thesis of A Confucian-Daoist Millennium? We are returning to a global order that existed for several millennia prior to the rise of Anglo-American power in the early 19th Century. During that timeChina occupied the central and leading position in the global trading and technology system.
This change will render anachronistic many of the cultural, political, commercial, institutional, legal, scientific and other assumptions on which international business now relies. Failure to recognize the beginnings of this process has contributed to American decline.
The assumptions that derive from histories and mythologies associated withJerusalem,AthensandRome, relating to religion, rationality and the rule of law respectively, all need to be re-evaluated with fresh eyes. This process must be informed by an understanding of contrasting legacies that still guide East Asian behaviour and thought.
Obstructing such re-evaluation is a practice of intellectual apartheid that has been most effective in constructing today’s global order, where universal values serve Anglo-American interests. Unfortunately, this practice now betrays its inventors, obstructing clear and informed thinking about the contingent character of the global environment and universal values.
A Confucian-Daoist Millennium? outlines this challenge to past certainties by exploring ten selected features of the traditions ofEast Asia. It challenges both intellectual apartheid and a deeper, grim intellectual indolence that has long overshadowed Anglo-American achievement.
These ten features are distinctive practices of administration, education, spirituality, consciousness, change management, science, service, knowledge, health and energy
Chinese administrative culture has a history and mythology of unrivalled achievement and continuity over several millennia. It overseas today’s most successful economies. Chinese education equally has a remarkable record that preserves rigorous standards of rote learning and social virtue closely identified with administrative excellence.
Chinese spirituality draws on a prolific tradition of practical and liberating disciplines that are free of the faith and dogma synonymous with Western religion. This has been the source of an intuitive consciousness that is acutely attuned to nature and the challenges of this world and that is free of the illusions that accompany much Western rational thought founded on false, hidden assumptions.
For three thousand years the Chinese have utilized a book of divination, the Yi Jing or Book of Changes, as a handbook of self-organization to manage the imperatives of change. Based on sophisticated mathematical formulations that mirror patterns in DNA and other natural processes, this classic also inspired a holistic and organic scientific culture that built the world’s most productive economy until the early 19th Century.
Over a thousand Chinese strategic classics inform the world’s most sophisticated culture of conquering peacefully. These include detailed instructions for using service and knowledge to identify and exploit a rival’s vulnerabilities. The former has produced today’s most successful economic strategy — you consume, we produce.
Finally, it is possible to recognize in the Chinese scientific tradition practices of maintaining health through unifying food and medicine and through mastering the energy flows of life. These highlight the bankrupt and corrupt character of contemporary Western food and medicine, the commercial vulnerability of associated industries and the depth and extent of the East Asian challenge to Anglo-American certainties, particularly in the area of scientific paradigms.
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