Probing China's Soul: Religion, Politics, and Protest in the People's Republic

Probing China's Soul: Religion, Politics, and Protest in the People's Republic

Probing China's Soul: Religion, Politics, and Protest in the People's Republic

Probing China's Soul: Religion, Politics, and Protest in the People's Republic

Excerpt

A specter is going around in China's intellectual circles -- the specter of humanism ...!

-- WANG RUOSHUI, 1983

Which is more important: to be human or to be Chinese? To many people, this will appear a rhetorical question. And the answer should be obvious even if we are to change "Chinese" (whether the designation be ethnic or national or ideological) to "American" or "Canadian," "German" or "Japanese," "communist" or "capitalist." It is folly indeed to think that being human is less important than being this or that kind of human being, whether male or female, Chinese or European, revolutionary or conservative. It is unnatural and unreasonable to make people choose between being human and being this or that kind of human being.

Coming from those of Chinese origin, the question seems all the stranger, since many associate humanistic wisdom with the Chinese tradition. But the question is actually burning in the hearts of millions of people in China. It may be understood on different levels. "Being human" primarily means belonging to the human race, a fact of nature rather than a matter of choice. It may also mean enjoying human rights, that is, being accorded the dignity of a human being. And it can have a third meaning: that of being humane, of regarding others humanely. Being this or that kind of human being, for example, being Chinese, is usually not a matter of choice. In China, however, the importance of being Chinese refers to a loyalty that the state commands, which is to take priority over all other loyalties. And the state also defines how this loyalty is to be exercised.

I am writing this book to answer this deceptively simple question. I want to put in no uncertain terms that I consider it (and I trust most people are with me here) much more important to be human than to be anything else. To extend this to ideological categories, I also consider it . . .

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