Why China fell back

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 January, 2004, 12:00am

I have followed with interest the debate about Confucianism by Philip Yeung and Po Chung.

At first Yeung came across as an angry Chinese upset that we are so behind western societies, and he blamed it all on Confucianism. I am intrigued by Po Chung's novel interpretation, transforming the sage into a character like the dean of Harvard Business School.

In the end, Yeung got it right when he said: 'It is what our rulers chose to selectively administer [Confucius' teachings] that I rail against'. 'It is the systemic shackling [by governments throughout Chinese history] that I cry out against.' China's backwardness compared to the west was caused by the wrong interpretations of Confucius' teachings by parents and those in power. The west had a similar problem. The Vatican interpreted Jesus' teachings wrongly, stifling science.

Also, parents wrongly interpreted Confucius' teaching of being filial to force absolute obedience from their children, stifling the potential and creativity in Chinese children for thousands of years.

Confucius urged every person, especially those in positions of power, to act as gentlemen. The Analects say: 'Do not do unto others that you do not wish done unto you.' But few emperors and officials paid attention to this, preferring: I can do whatever I wish to you, because I have the power, and you have absolutely no right to do anything unless it is my command.

This is the real reason for China's backwardness.

There is a lot of outcry for democracy in Hong Kong. Many seem to believe that it is the solution to all our problems. However, if one day we achieve full democracy, and we are not prepared to conduct ourselves as gentlemen or gentle-ladies, we will regress as a society.

ALEX WOO, Tsim Sha Tsui