Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

How China Can Defeat America — Confucianism! NYT op-ed

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A New York Times op-ed piece by Yan Xuetong, professor of Political Science at Tsinghua University, that cites “humane authority” in the “battle for people’s hearts and minds” as the key to victory. Here is the beginning of the piece:

WITH China’s growing influence over the global economy, and its increasing ability to project military power, competition between the United States and China is inevitable. Leaders of both countries assert optimistically that the competition can be managed without clashes that threaten the global order.

Most academic analysts are not so sanguine. If history is any guide, China’s rise does indeed pose a challenge to America. Rising powers seek to gain more authority in the global system, and declining powers rarely go down without a fight. And given the differences between the Chinese and American political systems, pessimists might believe that there is an even higher likelihood of war.

I am a political realist. Western analysts have labeled my political views “hawkish,” and the truth is that I have never overvalued the importance of morality in international relations. But realism does not mean that politicians should be concerned only with military and economic might. In fact, morality can play a key role in shaping international competition between political powers — and separating the winners from the losers.

I came to this conclusion from studying ancient Chinese political theorists like Guanzi, Confucius, Xunzi and Mencius. They were writing in the pre-Qin period, before China was unified as an empire more than 2,000 years ago — a world in which small countries were competing ruthlessly for territorial advantage.

To read the full op-ed piece, follow the permalink above. Comments welcome!

Author: Manyul Im

University of Bridgeport

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