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The Chinese Communist Party at 100 and the Theocracy of Mozi

What is the Communist Party of China today on its 100th anniversary?

It has evolved since its founding from a proletarian party, part of an international workers movement, into a national, socialist party “building socialism in one country.”  Deng Xiaoping famously noted the essence of the Chinese Communist Party when he described its mission as achieving socialism “with Chinese characteristics.”

The Marxism of its formative years, brought to China in part by some who had studied in France like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, was domesticated and sinicized by Mao Zedong in the late 1930s using old Chinese ideological models of state and society.  These ideational formulations were first advanced by Mozi (471-391 BCE) to justify a system of morally and politically totalitarian imperial rule and were later expounded in the 1300s in more overly religious terms by White Lotus sects insisting on purifying culture and society to please Heaven.  Mao’s quasi-religious vision of the Party’s mission culminated in the Cultural Revolution.

National socialism was the branch of Marxism which grew out of the syndicalist labor organizations.  Under Mussolini and Hitler, this variant of socialism took the form of corporatism with culture, society and economic productive forces all under the coordinated direction of the Party.  These political programs imposing national discipline were marketed under the name of fascism.

As Hitler took the title “der Fuhrer,” similarly both Mao and his successor, Xi Jinping, were given the title of …. or “people’s leader.”

The “socialism with Chinese characteristics” promoted today by Xi and constituting the Chinese Communist Party’s program, at this time, recovers the recommendations for social justice advanced by Mozi.  Just like Thomas Hobbes in England, Mozi sought to bring order to human civilization.  His method, very similar to that proposed by Hobbes, was to subordinate all people under the direction of a ruler who looked to Heaven as a theocratic fountainhead of right.

Mozi’s vision of a theocracy, adopted and modified by other ancient Chinese thinkers such as Shang Yang, XunZi, Han Feizi and Li Ssu, was institutionalized as the Chinese imperial order with a lone Son of Heaven (Tian Zi) setting and enforcing rules and regulations for the Tian Xia or the “All-Under-Heaven” – literally everything and everyone on earth.

The establishment of such an order and its successive re-establishment by a new dynasty after the fall of a predecessor began in 221 BCE.  The remarkable Chinese imperial system has continued to this day.

One can see in today’s Communist Party of China the recreation of that imperial order of late Bronze Age/early Iron Age invention emerging as a new turning of the dynastic cycle of founding, rise, apogee, decline, collapse, anarchy and civil war and then a new founding with the cycle then repeating itself.

The many Chinese dynasties were: Qin, Han, Sui, T’ang, Sung, Yuan, Ming and Ching.

We can gain a very important insight into the paradigm chosen by Xi  for his party and country from a letter about his mother written recently by former Premier Wen Jiabao.  Wen’s letter holds up a different set of Chinese characteristics – a righteous humanism – for the Party and for China.

Former Premier Wen points to an alternate set of deeply experienced Chinese ideals, those championed by Confucius and Mencius and, in other important ways, by Daoism and Buddhism.  These philosophies expressly created Chinese “ethical characteristics,” placing a priority on individual virtue, on developing the humanness and righteousness (仁義) inherent in our moral sense as human persons and on having personal agency to live without state supervision.  These individualized ethical standards can be applied to culture, society, politics and the economy, as the Chinese have done for 2,000 years.

The book containing the teachings of Mencius begins as follows:

Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang.

The King asked: “Venerable Sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of one thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit (利) my Kingdom?”

Mencius replied: “Why must your Majesty use that word “profit?” What I am provided with, are counsels to benevolence and righteousness (仁義) and these are my only topics.”

If your Majesty say, “What is to be done to profit my kingdom?” the great officers will say, “What is to be done to profit our families?” and the inferior officers and the common people will say, “What is to be done to profit our persons?” Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit the one from the other and the kingdom will be endangered.

Let your Majesty also say, “Benevolence and righteousness (仁義) and let these be your only themes.”

Why must you use that word – “profit?”                                (Mencius, Bk 1, Part 1, Chapter 1)

Premier Wen’s elevation of humanness and righteousness aligns his vision of China and essential Chineseness with the Caux Round Table (CRT) Principles for Business and Principles for Government, not to mention the cognate CRT principles for civil society organizations and ownership of wealth.

If the Chinese Communist Party would follow Mencius, rather than Mozi, the Chinese people would be happy and prosperous and the world would be safer and more prosperous.

Premier Wen’s letter can no longer be found on the internet.  All posts were removed in an act of, as we say in America, “cancel culture.”  However, I have provided excerpts from his filial letter, along with a commentary, so that you can access the morality and thoughts of Premier Wen for yourself.  The letter with commentary is here.

Brute Capitalism and America’s Struggling Middle Class

A trendy movement in institutional investing is ESG investing to promote better outcomes in the environment, society and governance.

In the U.S., market opportunities have provided investors with profitable financial plays in the ownership of family homes to rent them out. Squeezing families into rentals over owning their own homes has deleterious effects on “society” and constitutional “governance.”

You can find a consideration of these dynamics of a “brute” capitalism here.

Please Join Us for In-person Round Table on “Infrastructure: A Public Good or Private Good? How Do We Get Value for Money?” – Tuesday, June 29

What is “infrastructure?” What are its social benefits? What should it cost? Are social and human capitals part of a society’s “infrastructure?”

With Senator Joe Manchin yesterday declaring his principled opposition to one party hegemony in a constitutional democracy, which respects minority opinion, President Biden will now have greater difficulty getting his plans for spending trillions on “infrastructure” approved by the Congress.

President Biden’s proposed spending on “infrastructure” raises, yet again, the institutional question of where is the sweet spot for optimal symbiosis between free market decision-making and government provision of public goods via regulation or rent transfers?

What are “public goods” anyway? How valuable are they?

From the Caux Round Table perspective of moral capitalism, getting the definition of “infrastructure” seems basic to system optimization of both capitalism and stakeholder outcomes.

Please join us for an in-person celebration of the ending of the pandemic round table discussion on “infrastructure” at 9:00 am on Tuesday, June 29, at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.

Cost to attend is $10.00 per person.

Participation will be limited to the first 20 registrants.

To register, please email Jed at jed@cauxroundtable.net.

The event will last about two hours.

When “Equity” Becomes Unethical

What is social justice? Is it a moral capitalism? What ethics should constrain the power of rulers? What is the fitting status for individuals in society – pawn or king? In chess, pawns are often sacrificed to protect higher status players.

In the U.S. today, we have opened a very acrimonious debate over the meaning of social justice, asking what is right and proper. The issues are complicated; the way forward not obvious; the various narratives internally confused. The particular setting for our contentions is a heritage of slavery, civil war to end slavery, prejudice on the part of a majority against one particular discrete and insular minority, a civil rights movement and success in life outcomes for some with that minority status, but setbacks and disadvantages experienced by others with that same status.

“What is to be done?” we ask, borrowing a challenge to the status quo asked by famous proponents of social change in Russia.

A new term has been put front and center in our debate – “equity.” But what does “equity” mean? Fairness? But that is only the surface of the conundrum. How much of what will make for fair outcomes? Fairness to whom? Who will benefit? Who should pay for those benefits? Does fairness in life require personal diligence and commitment to excellence?

As former President Jimmy Carter said: “Well, as you know, there are many things in life that are not fair, that wealthy people can afford and poor people can’t. But I don’t believe that the federal government should take action to try make these opportunities exactly equal, particularly when there is a moral factor involved.”

The Caux Round Table Principles for Government look to individuals as the unit by which to measure the actuality of justice.

But that is not how many American advocates now use the term “equity.”

Getting social justice right is a challenge for all cultures and societies. Invidious distinctions and different lived experiences among groups and individuals are as old as the tribal origins of our species. How should wealth, power and privilege be distributed? By fiat, through competition or with a little help from our friends?

I have reflected from the perspective of individualism, drawing on Aristotle, Chinese ethics and the practice of equity over the centuries in the courts of England in the comment which you can read here.

Your comments regarding “equity” would be most appreciated.

New CRT Initiative: Monthly In-person Round Tables at Landmark Center

With the help of Zoom meetings, during the past year, the Caux Round Table (CRT) has, to an acceptable extent, successfully kept up the pace of situational engagement and contributing to thought leadership in most unusually circumstances. However, the dynamics of online round tables to me cannot replicate the quality of in-person discussions. The ideas and reflections seem more formal and there are fewer “ah hah” moments of insight and connection of dots as participants around the table easily engage in flowing exchanges and uninhibited contributions to the discernment process.

Thus, with the ending of restrictions on gatherings and meetings and with Landmark Center reopening to the public, we’ve scheduled a series of round tables for the last Tuesday of each month (except November) starting this month.

The proposed topic for consideration and its date are:

-“Infrastructure: A Public Good or Private Good? How Do We Get Value for Money?” Tuesday, June 29

-“Climate Change: What is the Problem? What is to Be Done and By Whom?” Tuesday, July 27

-“Social Media: Does Social Media Need a Code of Ethics?” Tuesday, August 31

-“Does Corporate Media Need a Code of Ethics?” Tuesday, September 28

-“The Financialization of Everything.” Tuesday, October 26

-“The New Racism: Normalizing a New Discourse Regime.” Date TBD

-“2021: The Year That Was.” Tuesday, December 28

These topics have been proposed as being worthy of reflection and deserving of sound intellectual analysis and policy recommendations. The topics implicate both caring for the common good and the CRT’s Principles for Business and Principles for Government.

All events will be held from 9:00 to 11:00 am in the Landmark Center in room 317.

Participation will be limited to 20 participants to allow for continued social distancing.

Registration fee is $10, which can be paid at the door.

To register for our June event on infrastructure, please email Jed at jed@cauxroundtable.net.

If you would like to register for additional round tables now, please email Jed.

Comments on Entropy and Our Times from Dutch Businessman and Politician Herman Wijffels

Our colleague, Herman Wijffels in The Netherlands, just sent me some of his thoughts on how high entropy correlates with many of the distempers and institutional dysfunctions we see around us.

If the analysis has explanatory power, which I suggest it does, then our task is to reduce entropy in culture, society, economics and politics.

Herman is a retired Dutch politician of the Christian Democratic Appeal party and businessman. He served as Chairman of Rabobank, Chairman of the Social and Economic Council and as Dutch Representative/Executive Director at the World Bank Group.

Here is Herman’s email to me:

Dear Steve,

Thank you for sharing this thoughtful paper on entropy with me. I enjoyed very much reading it and agree with your findings. To be honest, my interest in entropy was not so much focused on the personal level, but especially looking at it at different levels of the collective. So, your considerations are a real addition to my understanding of the phenomena.

Let me share some of my thoughts at different levels:

-Energy is one of the most important gifts of Creation/God/Source/Big Bang. Energy is the main input for evolution, for translating potential into reality. By using energy, some of it gets lost, so in the logic of evolution, it has to be used as productively as possible, in a dynamic equilibrium between stability and chaos. As a reference, I would think here of the cosmic path, the harmony of the spheres of the Doa and also of the golden ratio. At this point in time, at the planetary level, we are in a situation of disequilibrium, between mankind and the planet and between people, ecologically and socially. A lot of energy is not used productively, creating chaos, entropy.

-This global situation is reflected at the level of the nation state. Democracies suffer increasingly from polarisation. Parties develop a truth of their own, turn inside and are less inclined to an open dialogue, thus creating entropy and chaos at that level. Energy is wasted in a power struggle, instead of used to further the common good.

-Looking at our economic system, capitalism, the ongoing focus on financial goals, on wealth accumulation, is depleting and destroying natural capital and undermining social capital. Too much focus of energy on internal goals of businesses and too little on external, societal goals is misusing it. Stock buybacks are a case in point.

-Many organizations, as well in the public as in the private sector, are suffering these days from an overload of bureaucracy. Too much energy is needed internally to keep things going at the expense of external orientation and effectiveness.

-All of this is typical for the choices that have been made in the industrial age, ultimately leading to a culture in which egocentrism is a central feature at every level, also at the level of the individual. Unbalanced use of energy and entropy are a logical consequence of this culture at every level, from the planetary all the way down to the personal level.

-Looking at it from this perspective, we are in need of a transition to a new culture, a next civilization, in which common interest and maintaining the ecological and institutional commons do play a more central role. More energy will have to go into sustaining the condition in which life on this planet can flourish.