A century has passed since China’s so-called “revolution” of 1911.
A full century, and yet, despite the passage of time and the bounteous republican rhetoric, in reality, China is no closer to Sun Yat-sen’s (孫逸仙) democratic dream of a government of the people, by the people and for the people than it was during the closing days of the reform-bent Qing Dynasty.
Despite China’s first stillborn attempt at a republic and the resultant period of warlords and on again, off again civil war, the unfortunate reality and bottom line is that when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finally drove the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) into exile, Qing China simply traded an emperor for an oligarchy and Manchu rulers for Han rulers.
In short, it was Orwell’s Animal Farm revisited where Napoleon defeated a posturing Snowball, but this time with Chinese characteristics.
Harsh words? There is much more.
While China certainly boasts an improved economy under the CCP’s new so-called “capitalistic/social system,” in which “to get rich is glorious,” it has also lost its Confucian soul in the process.
Some may, of course, claim that the loss of that soul came during the Cultural Revolution, while others may even question the extent of that soul or even how accurate and what kind of soul it was.
In each of China’s successive dynasties and governments up to the present, each ruling power has never allowed any sense of alternative or revisionist history to be taught.
Instead, its emperors and/or oligarchs only sought to explain and justify their legitimacy to lead the return to glory to the exclusion of any others.
To this end, each period of rule has followed a similar pattern with an inherent, dictatorial Legalist tradition manipulated the Confucian tradition to maintain loyalty and deny any opposing voices that might hint at a democracy.
Today, certainly for all practical purposes, Confucianism and democracy have long been window dressing, or an empty shell, not only among China’s leadership, but also among its growing nouveau riche.
Unfortunately, even for the general public, the ultimate death knell tolled last summer, when after about two-and-a-half thousand years, China’s rulers found that they had to make a law requiring all children to visit their parents.
The irony of this decree no doubt went unnoticed by many. Here was a country that touted its sacred Confucian heritage, but was forced to legislate what should be a natural matter of filial piety in any society let alone a Confucian one.
When such morality needs to be legislated, it is a clear sign that the soul has gone.
Explanations as to why this happened under the current Legalist rule and regarding past draconian solutions like the one-child policy are available, but despite this, that decree had to be and was made.
However, to legislate the visiting of one’s parents was not the ultimate insult.
An even greater one came with the ironic — or sham — continued policy of China’s oligarchs to open Confucian Institutes around the world.
These institutes were allegedly proclaiming the virtues that the oligarchs had just destroyed.
Thus, China remained Animal Farm, but with Chinese characteristics.
What about democracy?
Confucian scholars will no doubt have their challenges in explaining how Confucius’ unchanging hierarchical system built on an agricultural economy can be twisted to democratically fit the current capitalistic economy.