Yuanhui Shi


This paper discusses the possibility that Confucianism will be put into political practice in present-day China. Although New Confucians in mainland China often call for the revival of Confucianism for the cure of many current social problems, there are some unconquerable obstacles, among which political construction is the most crucial. What is more noteworthy is that Confucianism itself has some doctrinal defects provoking those practical obstacles. Therefore, this paper argues that Confucianism, advocating a moral government of benevolence, is a doctrine of idealized political order, but it lacks the practical elements needed for realistic political operation.

Since 2014 some New Confucians in mainland China have been preaching that Confucianism should to be inserted into political practice, and that China be Confucianized, demanding “to return to Kang Youwei”.1 Now, somewhat differentiated from their previously allied Taiwanese counterparts, from whom they once obtained academic resources and inspirations, New Confucians support the idea of having Confucianism adopted as the official ideology guiding the political life of the entire state. Here lies the difference between the two groups: can Confucianism serve as a political construction for the present China, or merely provide some spiritual and moral guidelines for people in their common lives? A judgment by one New Confucian in mainland China addressed this point. He described the New Taiwan Confucians as “very abominable, shallow, cowardly and therefore futureless”,2 evidently because he expected his cousins in Taiwan to have done more than merely emphasizing the spiritual and moral significance of Confucianism.