Confucius: The New Cultural Ambassador for the Communist Party?

January 26, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015
A bronze statue of Confucius in Tiananmen Square. (AFP/Getty Images)
A bronze statue of Confucius in Tiananmen Square. (AFP/Getty Images)

A 31-foot bronze Confucius statue recently erected on Tiananmen Square has become the subject of debate. Confucianism, which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) once harshly denounced, is now being promoted in the Party’s heartland.

The CCP says that this statue symbolizes China’s return to its national origins. A permanent statue so prominently placed is a significant gesture. By comparison the portraits of Sun Yat-sen and Karl Marx are only displayed once a year. Is Confucius the regime’s new, genuine “cultural ambassador”?

A number of anticommunist Chinese observers would rue seeing the day.

Wu Fan, a political and economic commentator and Chief Editor of China Affairs thinks the CCP chose Confucius because Communism has lost steam in China. “Western democracy is criticized by the CCP as ‘counterrevolutionary,’ Confucius hence became an alternative,” Wu said. He added that Chinese people are sick of the Party, “Chinese people today don’t want a regime like the CCP. They want new ideas and something new.”

Zeng Ning, a scholar from Guizhou Province says that there’s a moral void in China today and people no longer accept the Socialism or Communism propagated by the CCP.

Human rights lawyer Tang Jinling said, “The CCP has gone bankrupt ideologically and is trying to use Confucius to save itself, but this is shaming Confucius.”

Confucius’ political concepts were to rule with morality and compassion. Ruling with morality means in order to govern a country well, society must have high moral standards. Ruling with compassion means that the government should not kill its own people and should allow the people to live in peace.

But there are huge differences between the CCP and Confucianism, Wu said, “The CCP does not rule with morality or compassion at all, and if it did, it would collapse. Confucius advocated choosing the best, most talented people to become government officials. The CCP does just the opposite. Good people are ostracized, and the bullies are promoted.”

Tang added that the main tenet of Confucianism is to govern with benevolence and be benevolent to the people. “The practice of etiquette and rite between the emperor and officials are secondary. The CCP has reversed the order. It misguides the people into thinking that Confucius thoughts are mainly to aid the ruling class.”

For centuries Confucianism was a major part of Chinese traditional culture, thought and moral system. However, since the CCP took over China in 1949, several campaigns against Confucianism have destroyed much of the foundation of traditional Chinese culture and values.

Jim Li, commentator for The Epoch Times, believes that the CCP is now trying to portray itself to the world as the authentic representative of classical Chinese culture; it uses Confucius to support the regime’s main slogans of maintaining a “harmonious society,” thereby justifying the huge cost of secret police, labor camps, surveillance equipment, armies of censors, and paramilitary corps ready to suppress mass protests. The regime also uses Confucius’ “Great Unity” (dayitong) thought to promote a false nationalism and territorial integrity.

“Fundamentally, the CCP’s ideas are the opposite of Confucianism, since they are based on class hatred and struggle. The two systems are completely incompatible,” Li said, adding that, “Therefore, the CCP is just using Confucianism to boost its image and does not really follow Confucius’ teachings.”

Although the statue of Confucius was placed on Tiananmen Square, “The true essence of Confucianism has been removed by the CCP,” Wu said. He added that, “While the CCP has opened hundreds of Confucius Institutes overseas, it’s all pointless. They can’t save the CCP.”

Read the original Chinese article