Applying Confucian Ethics to International Relations [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 5 (1991)

December 2, 1991

China's vast borders and unique geographical conditions predisposed it to a hierarchically arranged multi-state "zoning system," first instituted in the Chou dynasty's (13th-8th centuries B.C.) feudal network. "The Mandate from Heaven" embodied the moral implications and its "judging god" that the Chou incorporated into their political ethics of a system of a universal state. The Mandate essentially reflected the will of the people and stated that rulers could be removed if they failed to fulfill their prescribed Mandate. As the foundation for Confucian ethics, the Mandate was the guiding force of any political or social choice based on benevolence and humanism, jen and li, respectively. Drawing on the writings of two ancient Chinese philosophers, Motzu (ca. 479-390 B.C.) and Mencius (ca. 370-296 B.C.), Hsu shows how the Confucian virtues of governing emphasized that only a compassionate and just king would be supported by the people, would be able to avoid violence, and would promote moral values among the citizenry. According to Confucius, only moral individuals can create a moral order at every level of society and therefore a moral world with China at its center. The Confucian sino-centric concept of morality and ethics, which dictated both domestic and international policies, maintained that through good government and internal peace and prosperity, China would play a leadership role in the world and serve as a universal paradigm for other nations.


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