Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

China’s Secular Ruler’s Pragmatic Re-Appropriation of Traditional Chinese Sacred Resources: A Critical Assessment

Academic journal article International Journal of China Studies

China’s Secular Ruler’s Pragmatic Re-Appropriation of Traditional Chinese Sacred Resources: A Critical Assessment

Article excerpt


Once maligned, traditional mores are being re-appropriated to deal with the multifaceted malaises vexing the People's Republic of China (PRC) decadeslong "economic miracle". Beijing's rehabilitation of the past is nevertheless driven by pragmatism, with the sacred subsumed under the predominant secular ethos. To begin with this constricts the efficacy of the Chinese philosophical and religious traditions. More critically, as we shall see, the modern exigencies are the consequences of the radical secularization of 20th century China. Given this prognosis, the aim of this paper is to make the prescriptive call for a fundamental realignment in Weltanschauung. In order to resolve today's crisis at its source, secular China needs to re-embrace its ancient sacred worldview and become re-enchanted with its sublime past. This extensive thesis will be developed by examining three specific sets of conundrums affecting the PRC.

The first looks at Xi Jinping's drive to reinvigorate a corrupt officialdom and instil rectitude to a listless milieu. At the outset, to enhance the antigraft campaign, the CCP-PRC party-state needs comprehensive political and legal reform. That said, equally important is the necessity to reconstitute a conducive cultural habitat that inculcates conscientious citizenry and exemplary moral leadership. The Chinese society today, as will be explained, is effuse with a coercive secularized temperament inimical to the Confucian moral enterprise. Therefore in furtherance of an ethics-centred social environment, modern China may have to reaffirm its ancient benevolent ethos anchored on the sacred reverence of Tien.

Faced with a fraying social fabric the Communist Party is likewise turning to antiquity for motifs to galvanize the country. In a number of respects, Beijing's attempts to rally the masses is not without efficacy but this is achieved chiefly through the hyping up of chauvinistic civilizational pride. If committed to advancing harmony at home and abroad, Chinese leaders should repudiate the pragmatic exploit of ethnocentric nationalism with a principled reaffirmation of the Confucian universal ideals.

This essay ends with an analysis of the imminent threats facing the mainland's withering ecology. The crisis afflicting China, I explain, is symptomatic of a broader vexation, namely, secularism lopsided anthropocentric, materialistic notion of progress. To bring about a comprehensive resolution the Chinese milieu has to undergo a paradigmatic shift in worldviews, to recapture their forebear's organic cosmology. And to strive for a holistic existence that reconciles the competing interests of humankind and the wider ecosphere.

2.Heaven and Ethical Governance

The early sages' invocation of the Mandate of Heaven serves to forewarn erstwhile Chinese emperors that failure to rule virtuously would provoke mass uprisings, toppling dynasties like waves upending a rudderless ship. Rulers of modern China are no less cognizant of the potency of a disgruntled populace. Among others, Beijing is acutely mindful that a corrupt officialdom and a broader milieu ensnared by moral decay are admixtures that could potentially erupt and subvert the CCP-PRC party state. To that end, the Xi-Li administration is resolute in their determination to clean up the party ranks and to reinvigorate a demoralized citizenry.

2.1.Institutional Reform

Thus far, and by many accounts, President Xi's unrelenting drive to wipe out corruption roots and branches, sparing no fleas nor tigers, have met with remarkable early successes. Critiques nevertheless are cautioning that for lack of transparency, Beijing's all-out battle against graft runs the risk of political factional infighting. A concern stems chiefly from the existing one party-state system with weak institutional oversights (deLisle, 2015).

The Communist Party is not indifferent to the need for political reform. In the past decade or so measures such as the setting of term limits, buffing up of the judiciary, to mentioned a few, have been put in place to enhance good governance. …

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