Welcome to the discussion!

As the articles below indicate, for a number of years I have being trying to understand the changing concept and practice of mission.

My search has moved progressively from ‘Is there still a need for mission?’ to ‘What should the new focus for mission be?’ and finally to ‘Where can we find examples for this new direction?’

Some progress has been made but the effort to get this far has brought up a wider question. Why are so few people doing the practical reflection and research that is necessary to bring mission out of its present decline?

Theologians produce books on the academic aspects of mission but those actively engaged in cross-cultural mission are not writing about the real-life issues that face them. In this age of dramatic changes most businesses and NGOs are plowing resources into research for their next step so why are Christian missionaries, especially Catholics, not doing so?

I’m sure there are many answers to this complex question but by naming them, one by one, we may get a better idea of where the problem lies and what can de done about it.

Have you any ideas to share on this topic?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Confucian Revival

          Over the past twenty years there has been a dramatic change in the Chinese government=s attitude toward Confucius. From being regarded as a anti-progress millstone he is being hailed as a possible model to renew and unite Chinese society and individuals. Hugh MacMahon traces how and why this transformation has come about.

A Confucian Reversal
The re-emergence of Confucius as a national icon is a good illustration of how much China has changed, and not changed, in the  past forty years. 
In November 1966, encouraged by Mao=s instructions to smash everything connected with traditional life, two hundred teachers and students came from Beijing to >de-culturalize= the Confucian Temple in the sage=s home town of Qufu.
They destroyed  6618 cultural objects including 929 paintings,  2700 manuscripts and 2000 graves of Confucius= descendants. The intensity of the anti-Confucius movement was to be renewed when Mao claimed that the assassination plot of his proposed successor, Lin Biao, was intellectually inspired by Confucianism. In retaliation he launched a new  >Anti-Lin and Anti-Confucius= campaign.
However, with the liberalization of the county after the fall of Mao, a need to reinstate Confucius was gradually  recognized. In 1989, just weeks after the crackdown on democracy in Tiananmen Square, Deng Xiaoping proclaimed the need to rid the country of Western influence and ordered a celebration of Confucius= birthday. Jiang Zemin, the new leader, made an unannounced appearance signaling the Party=s approval.
Recently, in September 2005, the government hosted another birthday celebration for Confucius, the most lavish since its take-over in 1949. In February of that year President Hu Jintao had quoted Confucius as saying, AHarmony is something to be cherish@ and launched a buzzword that still resonates whenever Party members give a speech on creating a >harmonious society=.
At the Confucian celebration in 2005 over a hundred scholars gathered to discuss how the teachings of the Sage could serve as the >moral foundation= for the country today. Confucius was no longer an object of ridicule. 

The Confucian Institutes
Since 2004 China=s Foreign and Education ministries have being quietly establishing a worldwide network of Chinese cultural centers called >Confucian Institutes=. They are modeled on the Goethe Institutes of China, the British Council of the United Kingdom and Alliance Francaise. The program will cost $10 billion and lead to a chain of one hundred institutes worldwide by 2010.

The charter for the institutes explains, AConfucius is a famous thinker, educator and philosopher in China. His doctrine has a very important influence throughout the world. To name this institute after him shows the longevity of the Chinese language and culture. It also embodies the development trend of the integration of Chinese language and culture in the new century.@

A Convergence of Interests
The re-emergence of Confucius over the past twenty-five years has roots in a number of vested interests at various levels of  Chinese government and society. They can be summarized under the headings of the search for a new national identity, the development of cultural industries and the need for a moral basis to promote national harmony and prosperity.

National Image
Today China is seen as an economic, if not military, threat by the United States. Many Americans still regard China with suspicion and fear. In Asia, China=s neighbors are aware of the growing power of the >Middle Kingdom= and want to enjoy the benefits of economic relations with it while avoiding coming under its political and cultural control.
In the face of this ambiguity, China can amicably  promote the image of the Sage of Qufu as Aa softer Confucian face rather than the hard-line communist face.@ It is thoroughly Chinese but is also recognized as peaceful, non-threatening and non-radical. It promotes good relationship between individual and teaches  datong, the concept that all the world=s peoples should behave like one big family.
While the worldwide network of >Confucian Institutes= will concentrate on teaching the Chinese language, they will also introduce the country=s tourist spots and culture. With Beijing due to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the next few years are seen as an opportunity to show that the county is more than just the world=s largest workshop.

Cultural Industry
Authorities in Shandong, Confucius= home province, are drawing up plans to increase the number of tourists. AShandong has the advantage of assets such as Confucius and Mount Tai to help develop a strong culture-based economy. The opportunity lies in marketing those cultural resources.@
Officials in Beijing see even wider possibilities for Confucius. Aware that they have produced no popular literature on the level of >Harry Potter= or >The Da Vinci Code=, they believe they have a cultural deficit to catch up on.
The People=s Daily lamented, AWhile China continues to welcome foreign cultural products, a >China wind= has still not stirred up much dust.@ The >Confucian Institutes= are expected to play a rule: the ministry of education says some 40 million people are learning Chinese at present but expect the figure to hit one hundred million by 2010. At present some 36,000 foreigners are studying Mandarin in China. This is expected to be an ever-growing source of income also. 
Business people are looking for success in the book market also. They want to establish China on the literary map and have foreign publishers queuing up to bid for translation rights. Penguin Books set a Chinese record when they paid US$100,000 for the worldwide English rights of Jiang Rong=s The Wolf Totem.
Similarly, China would like to rival Korea and Japan in the area of pop songs, films, movies and art.

At present China=s cultural industry is worth about US$ 42 billion but that is only a small percentage of the world market. There are now some 10 million people working in the domestic cultural industries and this figure will continue to grow .
While Confucius-related products will only play a small part in this >culture industrial revolution= the leaders who are directing the expansion are well aware of the Sage=s symbolic value and support the revival of Confucian exposure to the national and world consciousness.    

A Moral Force
AMoney worship is eroding the body of society and morality has lost its sacred meaning,@ lamented the People=s Daily earlier this year.  Marxism no longer has any credibility and with the nation engrossed in consumer materialism  a moral and philosophical vacuum has been created.
The Confucian scholar, Professor William de Bary, was a speaker at a 2545th birthday celebration for Confucius in Beijing, October 2005. In a recent reflection on the event he remarked, AChina is confronting the specter of an unrestrained individualism and the worry is articulated in the form of an attack on Western individualism. The complaint about Western individualism actually reflects a concern about a Chinese individualism that is running rampant. It=s the consequence of the failure of Marxism or Maoist morality. Their idea is to try to shore up public morality somehow by going back to Confucianism.@
Kang Xiaoguang, the country=s top proponent of Confucian education, thinks Confucian values are the answer to China=s needs. AChinese society today is at its worst ever. The problem is that there are no moral standards to regulate how people treat each other, their business partners, their friends or families. Relationships are ambiguous and we have no way of judging what makes a happy life.@
Kang wants Confucian education to become mandatory for all school children. More than 5 million primary school student now study Confucius in the classroom and 18 major universities hold courses in Confucian philosophy or host Confucian research institutes. However the government is reluctant to put its full weight behind the Confucian way as that might be seen as official recognition that Marxism has failed. 

A United Counttry
With the weakening of Marxist ideology, China has lost its strongest unifying force. The only remaining >national glue= is nationalism and the leaders in Beijing use it with moderation lest it get out of control.
Confucianism it a tempting alternative. Traditionally it prizes social harmony, calls for obedience to the emperor and other authority figures and expects that the emperor, in turn, will wield the so-called mandate of heaven in a moral way.
AThe government has found that a Leninist method of government is too rigid, while democratic government has an anarchic quality that is too destabilizing,@ say Richard Baum, director of the UCLA center for Chinese studies. AThe Confucian ideal of a >mandate of heaven=, where the emperor rules with a virtually absolute mandate, provided he takes care of the people, is very close to the modern-day notion of benevolent despotism.@
However even some Chinese critics see this as unrealistic.

Hu Xingdou, a lecturer at Beijing Institute of Technology, says, AYou cannot completely copy  a traditional belief system in the modern era. Confucius places a priority on how people should behave, asking them to suppress desires and adhere to a high level of moral etiquette. This is unrealistic.@
Professor Baum agrees. He believe the Confucian craze Ais a weak substitute for real institutional reform .... Mao always used to stress that the people could change their consciousness through self-criticism and now the authorities are doing it again by saying the  solution to corruption is to educate moral people. It is a coat of paint.A

A Viable Solution?
Kang Xiaoguang says the debate is not whether to resurrect Confucius but on which pedestal to enshrine him B as part of the education system,  as political ideology or as a national religion. He says, AI don=t expect other countries to accept Confucius but if China and the world uses Confucian theory as a basis for international relations it would benefit everyone as moral rightness would overcome self-interest.@

No comments:

Post a Comment