"The Ancient Roots of Chinese Liberalism"
The Useless Tree's Sam Crane discusses a WSJ article of that title by Liu Junning, who "has worked hard since the 1980's to fashion a contemporary Chinese liberalism" and "argued against 'Asian Values' in the 1990s and for a more universal notion of human rights" — Chinese Liberalism. Mr. Liu:
- Indeed, what we now call Western-style liberalism has featured in China's own culture for millennia. We first see it with philosopher Laozi, the founder of Taoism, in the sixth century B.C. Laozi articulated a political philosophy that has come to be known as wuwei, or inaction. "Rule a big country as you would fry a small fish," he said. That is, don't stir too much. "The more prohibitions there are, the poorer the people become," he wrote in his magnum opus, the "Daodejing."
For Mencius, a fourth-century B.C. philosopher and the most famous student of Confucius, a kingdom would be able to defend itself from outside attack if the king "runs a government benevolent to the people, sparing of punishments and fines, reducing taxes and levies. . . ." When asked by the King of Hui, "What virtue must there be to win the unification of the world?" Mencius replied, "It is the protection of the people."
- Seminal continental thinkers were influenced by China. Leibniz, the German rationalist, corresponded with missionaries and advocated learning from Confucian traditions. Voltaire saw in Confucianism a weapon against religious intolerance and hung a picture of the Chinese moralist on his wall. Chinese approaches to agriculture and public administration were revered in Enlightenment-age Europe.