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The American Values, the Chinese Values and the New Global Order(1)
chungheesoo

 

Joseph H. Chung (정희수), Ph.D., Professor of Economics at Quebec University in Montreal (UQAM)

 

 

Introduction

 The Sino-American hegemonic conflict has several dimensions including political and economic issues. But, we cannot overlook the cultural aspect of the conflict, for the cultural factors affect the types of socio-economic regime and the global order.

 This is particularly so, for it is the first time that the Western super power meets the Asian giant on the hegemonic battle ground.

 In a way, we are seeing the clash between occidental Values and Asian values

 It is true that the sustained interaction and the globalization of values would have narrowed the value gap between the two systems of thoughts.

 Nevertheless, the Chinese way of thinking can be different from American way of thinking. After all, the ways of thinking have been built up for thousands of years.

 We are interested in examining the roles played by values in the dynamics of the Sino-American Thucydides Trap.

This paper has three parts.

 First, I will discuss the origin of values and how the values affect human ways of thinking.

 Second, I will see how the values affect the choice of politico-economic regime.

 Third, I will discuss the impact of values on the formation of the new global order.

 

1. The Values

 I argue that values are reflected in a set of human relations. I have selected the following relations: man-God, man-society, man-man, man-universe and man-history

1.1 Man-God

 In East Asia (Asia), Buddhism, Confucianism and Shamanism deal with the man-God relation in a rather rudimentary fashion.

 In Buddhism, the notion of Nirvana plays a central role. It is state of beatitude, or eternal happiness. But there is no god who manages the Nirvana.

 For Buddhism, human life is itself suffering. To be free from suffering, one has to find four noble truths: truth of suffering (human life), truth of the origin of suffering (attachment to ephemeral things), the truth of the cessation of suffering (will power to be free) and the truth of eight ways.

 The eight ways of freeing from suffering are: right vision, right thought, right words, right actions, right living, right efforts, right conscience and right meditation.

 Facing the death, man has two choices. One may go to the state of Nirvana for eternal happiness. One may have to come back to the suffering earth in various forms. All depend on Karma (the way one has lived on the earth). What is important is that there is no god who governs the Nirvana. God is unknown, if there is one.

 In Confucianism, one relates the "heaven" to the emperor who is regarded as "son of heaven". Here, the heaven seems to refer to some unknown god.

 Now, in Shamanism, every major object on the earth can be god. The sun, the moon, the wind, the mountains, the trees and anything which are considered as being beyond human control can be god. They are not known, however.

 In short, in the Asian system of thoughts, the god is not known, if there is any.

 The powerful religion in the West is Christianity. In this religion, God has created man (human) in the image of God. (Genesis 1.26-27) This passage in the Bible has a very important meaning.

 Man being created in the image of God, he is sovereign, he is dignified, he is free and he has the right to be himself. Here is the philosophical and theological root of the notion of individual human right.

 There is another crucial West-Asia difference in man-God relations. In Asia, it is not sure if there is a god. Even if there is god, no one knows who the god is. That is, the god is not revealed.

 Hence, the god has little influence on man. Now, in Christianity, God is identified. God is revealed in two ways: directly through the Bible and indirectly through the nature.

 Thus, there is a big difference between Asia and the West as far as the man-God relations are concerned. In the West, there is only one God; so there is only one absolute truth determined by God. Thus, Christianity is a powerful doctrine.

 On the other hand, in Asia, there is no unique God. So there is no absolute truth; the truth is relative. Here, we see the philosophical and religious root of pragmatism in Asia

1.2 Man-Society Relations

 The most dominant system of thoughts in Asia in relation to the man-society relations is Confucianism

 In Confucianism, man is defined in function of his position within a given collective entity of which he is a part. We should remember that Confucianism was formulated by Confucius in order to show the best governance of the king (government).

 For Confucius, what counts in the society should be the stability and the order in a hierarchical society.

 There are basically four hierarchical relations: king-subject, parents-children, husband and wife, elder sibling-younger sibling. These relations consist of rights and duties.

 The subject must respect and obey the king; the latter must provide stability, security and welfare to the former.

 The parents must provide the moral and physical needs and the education of children; the latter should respect, obey and look after the former at their old age.

 The husband should be responsible for the welfare of his wife; the latter must obey and serve the former.

 The elder sibling must guide and help the younger sibling; the latter must respect and follow the guidance of the former.

 The Confucian human relationship can be summarized in terms of "Hyo"(孝) and "In" (仁).

 "Hyo" means the attitude of a person of inferior social status toward the person of superior social status. It means filial piety, respect and obedience.

 "In" means the attitude of a person of superior social status toward a person of inferior social status. It includes magnanimity, generosity, compassion and other forms of paternalistic attitude.

 When Asian man meets a person for the first time, he often asks the age of the person just met. This may put uneasy a westerner; it is understandable. The reason for doing it is to determine his "good manner" required, when he meets the person of older age. In the absence of other known criteria, the social status is often determined by the age of the person.

 The Confucian notion of man-society relationship has important implication on human right. The whole human relationship being hierarchically integrated, man is not autonomous and man belongs to a collective entity.

 In other words, human relations make sense only in the context of collectivism. Collectivism comes before individualism. It means that individual right can be less important than the right of collective entity. It is the opposite in the West. (다음 호에 계속)

 

 

 

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