The development of Chinese civilization cannot be imagined without the spiritual and philosophical heritage of Confucius, whose ideas about social order largely shaped the mentality of the Chinese nation, laying the foundation for its national character. And it is no coincidence that in the context of the ongoing modernization processes in the PRC, the topic of the role and place of Confucianism in these processes is of great interest to many researchers (political scientists, cultural scientists, philosophers, economists, etc.), since the ethics of Confucianism underlies all political and economic reforms of the Celestial Empire. As Kazakh culturologist T. Gabitov correctly notes, “Combining the values of modernization with national cultural identity creates the opportunity to implement an optimistic scenario on the path to entering modern civilization. This core feature of a constructive and practically effective cultural policy has proven its vitality in the course of China’s modernization”.
    That is why, by attracting certain principles of Confucianism to the development of modern Chinese society, the country’s leadership seeks to show the continuity of the traditions of Chinese political culture. This is largely due to the formation of new approaches to the spiritual past of the Chinese nation, as well as to the change in the internal political situation in the country and the global political changes in the world that have occurred over the past decades.
    The Communist Party of China is an active promoter of the policy of involving the principles of Confucian culture in the modernization processes of the PRC, and many fundamental issues of the further course of the Celestial Empire, based on the Confucian heritage, are the subject of discussion among the top leadership of the country. This feature demonstrates the amazing tenacity and universality of the principles of Confucian teaching. Having developed under the conditions of the “Confucian” monarchy, it is actively used to build “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” where the slogan “antiquity in the service of modernity” demonstrates the devotion to tradition characteristic of the Chinese mentality.
    The importance of Confucius for Chinese civilization can be judged by how the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire themselves call him – “Teacher of ten thousand generations.” The relevance of the ideas of Confucius and Confucian thinkers was largely due to the fact that the main theme of their reasoning was man, society and the state. The socio-political norms and principles they laid down were the main core around which the theoretical developments of problems of social and state development revolved. Therefore, the secret of the amazing pace of economic development, along with the harmonious combination of historical and cultural traditions and technological modernization, may lie in the careful preservation of the Confucian heritage
    The PRC authorities understand that the implementation of modernization only on the basis of the values of Western culture leads to the loss of national identity, loss of independence and, thus, can lead to social conflicts, instability and failure of reforms. In this regard, the problem of reinterpreting the principles that Confucianism has cultivated for centuries in the process of modernization of modern Chinese society becomes most relevant in the context of the study of modern China, and according to Chinese experts, at the present stage, Confucianism is increasingly viewed as a factor not only not interfering, but, on the contrary, promoting economic progress, and the principles embedded in it, focused on harmony and stability, stimulate the successful overcoming of economic crises and disruptions.
    Currently, without copying Western ideas of modernizing society, the Celestial Empire is following an independent path, based on a creative rethinking of Confucian traditions. The political attitude of “Western innovations on a Chinese basis” successfully combines the socialist model with the capitalist one, forming its own model of development of society and the country as a whole based on local traditions, a rich historical past and the selective use of the achievements of Western civilization. And the new generation of Chinese leaders is quite successful in combining state planning and market mechanisms.
    It should be noted that during the years of the “great proletarian cultural revolution” (1965-1976), everything that was associated with the Confucian heritage was criticized and consigned to oblivion. As Mingyan Lai, Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, notes, this was due to the fact that “since the beginning of CCP rule, traditional culture, in particular Confucianism, was understood as the embodiment of capitalist ideology, was denigrated and considered the main reason for China’s backwardness and weakness in comparison with the West, although it remained in Chinese discourse as a symbol of Chinese national identity, associated with a despised past… When the post-socialist regime gradually began to focus on creating a market economy in China, such a complete denial of traditional culture and Confucian values and their embodiment in modernity became inappropriate than and explains the change in the party’s attitude towards Confucianism” (Ming – Yan Lai. Nativism and Modernity: Cultural Contestations in China and Taiwan under Global Capitalism. State University of New York Press, 2009. P. 101). However taking well on « politics reforms And openness (改革開放) in December 1978 , Chinese management returned to Confucian principles manuals country .
    Modern reforms in politics, economics and social sphere started by Deng Xiaoping were continued by the “third” (Jiang Zemin), “fourth” (Hu Jintao) and “fifth” (Xi Jinping) generations of Chinese leaders. Having recognized the mistakes made during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese leadership, based on traditional Confucian morality, applied a strategy to improve the country’s economic situation following the example of the economic development of successful capitalist countries, while following a socialist course, which is fully consistent with the principles of the Confucian tradition.
    Thanks to the influence of Confucianism, the PRC determined its guidelines for long-term development. Anyone who is familiar with ancient Chinese philosophy knows that in such a famous Confucian treatise as “Li Ji ” there are such concepts as “xiao kan” and “da tong”. Translated into Russian, “xiao kang” (小康) means “average income”, and “da tong” (大同) means “great unity”. It was these ideals that became the basis for the development of strategic plans for the political, economic, and cultural modernization of Chinese society at the turn of the 20th and early 21st centuries. The most important goal of modern Chinese state policy, designed for the period until the middle of the 21st century, was the formation of a society of “average income”, a “society of small prosperity”, which should subsequently lead to the implementation of the ideal of a society of “great unity”.
    Leading Russian expert on Confucianism L.S. Perelomov, defining the significance of the Chinese development strategy put forward by Deng Xiaoping, noted that: “Having proclaimed xiaokang a symbol of building “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Deng Xiaoping contributed to the release of the energy of the entire society and aimed it at a new course – the modernization of the country.”
    The idea of using the concept of Xiaoguang to justify the strategy of “reform and opening up” did not come to Deng Xiaoping by chance. Being a pragmatist and practitioner, Deng Xiaoping had before his eye’s examples of exceptionally successful implementation of the precepts of Confucius, such as Singapore. The leader of the “lion city” deprived of natural resources (see etymology of Singapore), Lee Kuan Yew explained the reason for the success of his state, three-quarters populated by Chinese, as “folk Confucianism”. The creator of the Singapore economic miracle himself especially emphasized: 1) “This is what we hold on to, if we borrow Western moral values, the cohesive forces that support our society will collapse,” 2) “We would not be able to overcome our difficulties and obstacles if the overwhelming the majority of the Singaporean population was not inspired by Confucian values.”
    From this we can conclude that modern Chinese reforms are a gradual, consistent process of transforming Chinese society without sudden, unprepared leaps characteristic of the previous stage in the history of the Middle Kingdom. And as an analysis of the reforms carried out for more than forty years shows, the modern Chinese model of social development is built on the basis of a creative understanding of the accumulated historical experience of Confucianism, which combines both traditions and innovations.
    Between 1978 and 2002. The most pressing problems for this period were problems in the field of agriculture associated with the outbreak of famine, as well as problems in the field of education, which exposed the illiteracy of the people of China. The only way out of this situation, according to Deng Xiaoping, was to carry out economic reforms that could improve the lives of the urban and rural population of the PRC. One of the reformer’s main merits was his objective assessment of Mao Zedong’s policies, which contained not only negative but also positive aspects. Competence, professionalism, as well as respect for the experience of his predecessors allowed Deng Xiaoping to competently and effectively modernize all aspects of Chinese social life.
    Continuing the policies of Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin began to improve the economic situation in China. Under his leadership, the structure and efficiency of national production was improved and the average standard of living of the population was raised. On this basis, the expansion of China’s foreign economic relations with many countries began. All these achievements contributed to the establishment of a peaceful and stable situation within the country. This strengthened China’s authority in the international arena and allowed it to take its rightful place in the system of international relations.
    If the activities of Deng Xiaoping as the leader of the country were the trigger in the process of restoration and transformation of society, then the merit of Jiang Zemin was the creation and maintenance of a stable and peaceful environment that contributed to the effective implementation of reform activities for a long time, where the principles of the functioning of the state would correspond to the ideals of Confucianism. traditions and needs of the Chinese population.
    Between 2002 and 2011. the role of Confucianism in the modernization of the economy and political system was already visible to the naked eye, since one of the specific features of the Chinese political structure was its continuity. And the next President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao, continued to implement the ideas proposed by Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. During this period, economic problems faded into the background, giving way to moral and spiritual ones. This was due to the fact that against the background of the desire of global players for material overconsumption and power, the struggle for natural resources, confrontation and war between countries and regions, the hegemony of a unipolar world, a kind of reboot of the course that was started by Hu Jintao’s predecessors was necessary. Therefore, the main political slogan during this period was the construction of a “harmonious society” (和谐社会), consistent with the principles of Confucianism. To create a society of this type, the Chinese leadership called for the continuous implementation of social reforms that could raise the spiritual and moral level of the Chinese nation.
    The current “fifth generation of Chinese leaders” and personally the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, rely on the teachings of Confucius, for whom Confucius is in many ways a mentor in the reforms he carries out, and his “Chinese dream of the great revival of the Chinese nation” is permeated with the spirit of Confucianism (See: Tavrovsky, Yu. Xi Jinping, New Epoch, Moscow, 2018).
    One of the conceptual foundations for realizing the “Chinese Dream” was the construction of a moderately prosperous Xiaoguang (小康) society, in other words, a middle-class society, by 2021 (the centenary of the founding of the CPC). The goal of fully building a Xiaoguang society was set by the 16th CPC Congress in 2002 and confirmed in the decisions of the 17th (2007) and XVIII CPC Congresses (2012). In the context of the global economic crisis, the Chinese leadership turned to Confucianism in order to compensate, with the help of Confucian values, the tension caused by the growing inequality between rich and poor, which Marxism-Leninism was not able to cover.
    In many of his speeches, Xi Jinping often quotes Lunn Yu and other classic books of Confucianism. Thus, during Xi Jinping’s speech to students and teachers of Peking University on May 4, 2014, he reminded the youth of the Confucian thesis that “The true wisdom of the great teaching is to develop one’s morality, to be close to the people who abandon the bad and follow the good.” ” This axiom was given so that young people, based on Confucian values, could build both their lives and the future of China. The values of the modern era – patriotism, progress, democracy and science – must be correlated with the four basic Chinese virtues – courtesy, sense of duty, moderation and conscience. As stated in one of the largest ancient Chinese philosophical treatises, “Guanzi” (IV – III centuries BC): “If you do not adhere to these four foundations, the state will perish.”
    Thus, despite the official rejection of Confucianism in the 20th century, modern Chinese political thought is based on traditional Chinese philosophy and actively borrows certain elements of Confucian teaching in accordance with specific historical circumstances. Despite the fact that the ideas of Confucianism largely contradict the ideology of the CPC, some of its elements (concern for the welfare of the state and the people, the concept of great harmony, love for the country, respect for parents) help strengthen the power of the party and increase social stability. This circumstance, in our opinion, only contributes to the further Confucian “renaissance” in the Celestial Empire, which can be called a response to the threat of the Western model of globalization, and with Beijing’s desire to ensure the social stability of the state, where the renaissance of Confucianism is a response to the deep needs of modern Chinese society.

Erkin BAYDAROV, specially for Chinese Studies Centre.

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