Applying Confucian Ethics to International Relations

In view of CC102’s study of the Analects of Confucius, the Core presents an interesting discussion of Confucian ethics when applied to international relations. Here is a sample:

Chinese ethics is a deontological system that has a continuity spanning a range from personal to public concerns, without differentiation. A good society, a good state, and a good world all have to rest upon the foundation of good individuals. Between the world (tien-hsia), which is a universal, cultural order with little racial implication, and individuals, who are expected to achieve self-cultivation of virtues, are the state and the family or household, the most crucial social entities, with the individual, oneself, as the root of good order at every level.

These general principles formed during the time of the ancient Chinese multistate system reveal an anticipation of a universal order to arrive at some later time. The unification of China by the end of the Warring States period indeed fulfilled the expectation of the emergence of such a universal order.

From then on, the Chinese often believed that the tien-hsia, with China as its center, was universal and that only state boundaries within China would appear meaningless but there would also be no clear-cut boundaries throughout the entire tien-hsia. Instead, there would be only a gradually fading relationship between the center and the peripheries as distances from the center increased – again, a spatially and culturally arranged continuity. A hierarchy of differentiated relationships was thus the trademark of this sinocentric interstate order.

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