Saturday, May 28, 2022

Chinese vs. American Political Philosophy

hey what's up today we're opening up coverage on china and i thought a good place to start would be by comparing american and chinese political philosophy because they are two countries that develop separately and there are substantial differences that i think are worth .

Knowing about in order to make sense out of the politics and the political mentality of each country almost my entire audience is western and actually mostly american so i'm assuming that we're much more familiar with america and american politics so i'm going to spend most of the video talking about china and only circle back to .

America here and there as a point of comparison because i'm assuming pretty much everyone watching this is mostly watching it because they're curious about china also this entire video is going to be a series of generalizations at the risk of actually being over generalizations that i think just comes .

Along with having to cover this sort of topic without it being like a 700 page book so if you're someone that wants to point out the lack of nuance or the exceptions to these generalizations i'm making you're going to be able to do that throughout and i think there's just kind of no way of avoiding that so just be warned that's what you're .

Getting into when you're signing up for watching this this is going to start kind of simple and get more complex as i go on so if in the beginning i'm saying things you've already heard before don't give up on me because it'll get more interesting also one last disclaimer unlike america which i live in i've never been to china .

So this video is based on the research materials that are available to me in america but i can't confirm it with my own direct experiences in china so take what i'm saying with an appropriate grain of salt maybe someday i'll have the budget on this channel to be able to travel to china but as of now i don't so .

Take it for it is okay getting into it what's the difference between american and chinese political philosophy let's start this out on a note of commonality both america and china have their own versions of exceptionalism so both american people and chinese people believe that they're special and that their country stands out on the world .

Stage the name for china and mandarin is chung gua chang there means middle or central and gua means kingdom or nation so the name for china in mandarin is middle nation or middle kingdom most claim that the name chang guap shows that china literally sees itself as being positioned in the middle of the .

World but others claim to know better and say that cheung guo means that china sees itself as being positioned in the middle between heaven and earth but either way the name gives away a certain amount of sensuality and self-importance .

By the way china's name for the united states is mae guo mei means beautiful and gua again means nation or a country so most people translate mei guap to mean beautiful country it's controversial whether or not there's actually any significance behind that but i thought it was nice to point out .

Given how tense things are between america and china right now unlike america which is a relatively new country china is very old chinese history stretches so far back that it sort of gets lost in the mists of time the earliest dynasty the shia dynasty .

Might not even be real many believe that it's mythological because there's so little evidence that it ever even existed so the point is that china is old and chinese history stretches as far back as our records are able to take it so china's unusual in that it can claim thousands of years of history .

And not only that but it's a historically dominant civilization capable of pulling off impressive feats of architecture and contributing many inventions to the world like paper gunpowder silk porcelain the compass printing .

Techniques and more what i'm basically getting at here is that chinese people are proud and they think china is special and you could even say deservedly so china was a dominant civilization all the way up until modernity so all the way up until the industrial revolution when the industrial revolution came .

China was slow to adapt and they were dominated by foreign powers and that went on all the way until mao zedong took power in 1949 so that period where china was dominated by foreign powers and was weak is referred to in china as the century of humiliation so many in china have a chip on their .

Shoulder from that especially towards the countries that bullied them and treated them as inferior the important takeaway here is that many in china see china as a historically significant country whose rightful place is to be in a dominant position on the world stage so they see the last say 200 years or so as a historical aberration which they .

Think will be corrected soon enough as china rises in power and prestige on the world stage which is a process referred to in china as the chinese dream here's xi jinping giving his thoughts on it in my opinion achieving the rejuvenation of the chinese nation has been the greatest dream of the chinese people since the advent of modern times .

This dream embodies the long cherished hope of several generations of the chinese people gives expression to the overall interests of the chinese nation and the chinese people and represents the shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the chinese nation the predominant chinese moral philosophy .

Historically speaking is confucianism so basically confucianism is to china what christianity is to the united states but that's a very rough comparison because christianity is a religion and confucianism is secular confucianism is a philosophy that calls for the cultivation of oneself through learning and the attainment of wisdom and doing .

That in the context of a rigid social order where you know your place within it and behave accordingly confucianism has a top-down take on social order that places the highest emphasis on those that are in positions of power and says that if they cultivate themselves and behave well then good things will follow confucian thinking .

Says that those in positions of power need to be wise and benevolent and responsible and to take care of those below them if that holds true then the people living under them are supposed to reciprocate with respect and obedience a mind state brought on by their own self-cultivation when that all holds true then we have .

Social harmony a concept still relevant in modern china this dynamic is supposed to occur all the way down and all the way back up the social ladder so confucianism calls for paternalism all the way down the social ladder and deference all the way back up so rulers take care of their subjects husbands take care of their wives .

Parents take care of their children and older brothers take care of younger brothers also those that are younger are supposed to respect their elders and even take care of them if necessary whether it's their parents or their grandparents or even respecting their ancestors which is a concept called filial piety so .

Confucianism emphasizes things like respect order stability conscientiousness and tradition and these are all still relevant moral and political concepts in china when mao zedong took power in 1949 and officially brought communism to china the official communist party line .

Was to disavow confucianism and to call it bourgeois so confucianism officially disappeared from china for a while but since then it's been rehabilitated and modern leaders from the chinese communist party now openly invoke confucian principles like social harmony which means that confucianism and the .

Principles of the chinese communist party now officially coexist in china the chinese communist party or the ccp informs the political structure of china and the ideology of the ccp is based in marxism leninism marxism leninism is vladimir lenin's take on marxism as he tried to apply it to soviet russia .

And it calls for a self-appointed political elite to seize power and then rule society in the name of the people and it also calls for a single-party state that crushes any kind of political opposition it frames any political alternatives to itself as a threat to the people and uses the power of the state to put it down .

Private property is banned and everyone works for the state and there also tends to be a fair amount of social services like housing or health care or an education but that education is heavily propagandized to pull all this off the ruling single party heavily surveilled the public which can also mean .

Propagandizing children and telling them to inform on their parents if they hear their parents saying anything politically subversive there are a fair amount of personal freedoms in modern china so chinese people can generally choose their jobs or choose who they want to marry .

Or maybe even leave the country but there's still not much in the way of political freedom because the ccp doesn't allow it an important takeaway here is that in china the ccp is the highest political authority all citizens are subject to the ccp and the law is also subject to the ccp so the ccp is above the law .

And officials within the ccp can dictate the law and be held to the law situationally as they see fit so if you're a regular citizen in china and you want to say sue a high official in the ccp for breaking the law say for violating the constitution you're not going to be able to do it which all means that in china the law is a .

Flexible concept and the ccp is supreme in america law is much more inflexible the law is above all citizens in america and also above political parties everyone is equally accountable to it the point is to not have contextual flexibility even if a president is caught breaking .

The law the president can be held accountable for it to the extent that it can even cost the president their job of course there are circumstances where some people are punished more heavily by the law and others are able to manipulate and float above it but those examples outrage us precisely because they violate our principles .

We demand equality before the law making the law supreme and inflexible this makes law a powerful subject in america and much of our political thought centers around what the law should or shouldn't be let's break down the left and the right in america and china in america you have .

Conservatives on the right and progressives on the left conservatives want to keep things as they are or roll back policies to an earlier era progressives are interested in social reform they want to change society into something new so conservatives defend what we have and progressives criticize .

Society in order to create change america was founded on the values of liberalism which basically means having a government with checks and balances and also having equal rights backed by law and those rights include free speech voting rights and property rights so liberal societies are both democratic and capitalistic conservatives tend to .

Be associated with older versions of liberalism and are more capitalist minded and progressives tend to be associated with more modern versions of liberalism and are more socialist minded in my opinion liberalism is a political philosophy that sits sort of like a submerged .

Triangle below conservatism and progressivism that bubbles up as a distinct demographic when liberal values like free speech are being debated in america both conservatives and progressives can be liberals or illiberals depending on their take on liberalism and how much they want the government to intervene in .

Social issues i understand my take on this is unconventional but i believe we don't categorize these things accurately in mainstream political discussion and in my opinion this is a more accurate representation of american politics i've already made a video dedicated to liberalism in america that .

Fleshes out how it relates to the left and the right so if you want to hear what i just said fleshed out in more detail i would just go check that out getting over to chinese politics after mao zedong communism was the entrenched status quo in china so after mao zedong conservatives are the people who want to keep it that way so in china the .

Conservatives are communists so in china conservatives are the left wing since communism is pretty much as far left as you can get in terms of mainstream political opinion people who want to change society into something new are further to the right of communism which means progressives in china people who want to move away from .

Communism and reform society into something new are the right wing in china so the left in china are communist conservatives and on the other side of the political spectrum you have the right-wing liberal reformers who advocate for things like multi-party democracy .

And free speech okay so we're going to step up the complexity just a little bit more here chinese political thinking is generally thought to be more relativistic and flexible than american thinking which is probably due to cultural differences as the two countries develop separately so american political thinking .

Is often described as linear which means building thoughts successively on top of each other so an example of linear thinking is to say something like democracy is good and research shows that democracy improves human well-being so therefore democracy spreading to more places is even better .

And on top of that we should even help spread democracy to more places so it's a series of thoughts that progressively build on each other then once americans do that and arrive at a policy decision they stick with it and pursue it with a kind of tunnel vision chinese thinking is often described as .

Being lateral or holistic and what that tends to mean is that it's based on context or how things relate to other things so if you asked a lateral thinker is democracy good you might get a response back that goes something like it depends good compared to what .

Or whose democracy are we talking about or good in what sense or if you ask the lateral thinker is democracy spreading a good thing they might say something like it depends where are we talking about it spreading so lateral thinking is looking at things based on context or how it relates to other things to give another example .

Americans tend to think that civil rights are paramount so anything that infringes on civil rights is bad unthinkable even if you try to propose something to an american that might infringe on civil rights they just don't even want to hear about it they don't care what the proposed benefit is civil .

Rights are paramount so a chinese thinker on the other hand might judge the subject of civil rights more relativistically so they might judge civil rights based on how it affects other things like social harmony or security or maybe the economy so they're not going into it with preset linear logic but instead judging the .

Subject relativistically deng xiaoping for example the man who's considered responsible for bringing liberal reforms to china after mao admitted that he never had a grand plan to achieve that but instead compared his leadership style to crossing the river by feeling the stones .

So instead of having a pre-laid plan on how to reform china he instead kept a flexible mentality and judged circumstances as they arose contextually i don't know about you but i personally have a hard time imagining an american leader saying or admitting something like that in american political culture we pretty .

Much expect the opposite we expect our prospective political candidates to lay out exactly what they would do once they get in office and then if we do hire them we expect them to stick to those plans and we judge them if they don't so i'm not necessarily saying that one approach is necessarily better than the .

Other i'm just comparing the differences between the two cultures here i think this is an important concept that isn't easy to grasp so i'm going to keep going with examples socialism with chinese characteristics is another relativistic chinese political concept in america we tend to think that capitalism is good and socialism is bad so therefore .

Anything that moves in the direction of socialism is bad and should be resisted which could be a changing mentality but historically that's been our general position in china capitalism is a dirty word but they're open to the concept of capitalism as long as you don't call it that so deng xiaoping introduced the .

Concept of capitalism to china by calling it socialism with chinese characteristics but it's a flexible concept it means whatever it needs to mean in order to keep the ccp in power and to bring prosperity to china in my opinion in that order of importance so it could be heavily capitalistic or .

It could be heavily socialistic but either way it's flexible so socialism with chinese characteristics could mean two very different things when xi jinping was talking about it compared to when xiaoping was talking about it and you could even translate socialism with chinese characteristics to mean socialism with flexible characteristics .

China's famous treatise on military strategy the art of war is all about flexibility it literally argues that you need to become so adept with the subject of war that you can wield it like an art form adopting wildly different strategies to accommodate whatever circumstances might arise for example saying when able to .

Attack we must seem unable when using our forces we must seem inactive when we are near we must make the enemy believe we are far away when far away we must make him believe we are near even when attacking sun zit advocated for a flexible mindset saying in battle there are not more than two methods of attack the direct and the .

Indirect yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers the direct and the indirect lead onto each other in turn it is like moving in a circle you never come to an end who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination i think this flexibility makes chinese political thinking difficult to .

Understand especially from an american perspective think of how much effort seemingly the entire world puts into trying to understand chinese political strategy and think about how much easier it is in comparison to understand american political strategy and american goals and motivations .

Henry kissinger a man with extensive diplomatic experience with china famously compared chinese strategy to the game of go where any one given move is hard to understand the conflicts aren't direct since pieces and go are taken by being encircled and the strategy is broadly conceived in .

Long-term goals and he compared american strategy to chess where the conflicts are direct as the pieces clash with one another and the intentions behind any one given move are much more clear you could say that you play the game of chess by using linear thinking you think .

I can move here and here and here and then i'll get checkmate and i will win and go in comparison is played much more like crossing the river by feeling the stones another way to think about this linear lateral distinction is that linear thinking is vertical and lateral thinking is horizontal so .

For example if i wanted to explain capitalism using vertical thinking i could say something like you need the freedom to exchange goods and services with others backed by private property rights and i can go further to say things that you can expect from capitalism like in terms of prosperity and inequality so it's building concepts .

On top of each other like blocks if i wanted to give a lateral horizontal explanation of capitalism i could say something like capitalism is like having a wolf in a room with 10 sheep i guess that's a cynical explanation of capitalism but still lateral horizontal one it's explaining capitalism by .

Comparing it horizontally to other subjects in this case by explaining how it relates horizontally to animal nature crossing the river by feeling the stones is another example of a horizontal explanation it's explaining deng xiaoping's leadership style by comparing it horizontally with a technique of .

Crossing a river again these are generalizations i don't think anyone thinks in a purely linear or purely lateral way i think we blend the two together based on our personal preferences and based on the subject the point here is that you can expect to see more linear thinking that judges .

Subjects independently using logic and reason in a vertical fashion in american politics and you can expect to see more lateral relativistic and flexible thinking in chinese politics one last quote and then i'll move on here's kissinger's impression of mao zedong after their first meeting who he said had an elliptical style of .

Conversation most political leaders present their thoughts in the form of bullet points mao advanced his ideas in a socratic manner he would begin with a question or an observation and invite comment he would then follow with another observation out of this web of sarcastic remarks .

Observations and queries would emerge a direction though rarely a binding commitment which seems to me like a lateral thinker strategically avoiding linear conversation the last subject i want to talk about is war it's possible that china will become .

Aggressive as a military power as it rises on the world stage but historically speaking china is not an aggressive country the basic story of china is a story of a country that's kept to itself and had its own internal conflicts and most of the direct conflicts that china's been in historically speaking .

Are from foreign countries invading it so it's possible china will become aggressive but historically speaking it's not an aggressive country you can find roots for that in confucianism and you can even find roots for that lack of militancy in the art of war which treats war as not a glorious subject but a somber subject .

Opening with the statement that war is a matter of life and death erode either to safety or to ruin and even says to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting winning through strategy and .

Encirclement and not direct conflict unlike the united states which has been using its military in conflicts pretty consistently since world war ii china uses its military so seldom that they're often criticized for not having enough experience to be battle ready they're literally criticized for not having enough people in their military .

With actual combat experience to be able to go to war so things could change but historically speaking china is not an aggressive country they prefer strategy and not direct conflict on that note i'm going to wrap things up so i hope you got something out of it and i never asked this but if you could .

Consider for this one video doing the youtube algorithm stuff like the liking commenting um even writing like a placeholder comment any kind of interaction with the video makes youtube pay more attention to the video and share it with more people so if you don't normally do that i would .

Appreciate it if you could do it for this video because it's an important video for me so i plan on covering china a decent amount on this channel so i think it would boost this video i think it would also boost my future china content so please think about it if you don't normally do it but either way i .

Appreciate you watching so until next time thanks for watching thanks for listening and i'll see you in the next behind


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