Knowledge is fundamental for moral rectitude. That is one of the principal rules of Confucius, China’s most important and respected cultural figures. His teachings are often adapted to cover many aspects of knowledge, and maybe their diffusion is affected by excessive reliance on traditional interpretations, but there is no doubt that the philosopher from Shandong has had more influence than any other historical figure on the course of China’s history. Honesty is an integral part of ethical virtue, equal in importance to enlightenment, balance, and the unity of rigor with compassion. Rulers and other public leaders need to be well-cultured before they become specialized. It is better for him to learn ethics before he learns the laws, in order to seek equality along with justice. Honesty is necessary to resolve the causes, establish penalties, avoid corruption, and establish an administration. With a background of moderation, determination, and conservationism, culture and virtue give rise to the framework of society, to a gentle, wise, and organized government. Scholars and intellectuals, full of virtue and Chinese wisdom, can do anything: from good government to the proper distribution of crops, administration of water resources to handing down sentences, public exams to waging war. The exertion of power is a civic action best left to specialists. It is not a right, nor is it a privilege. It is a duty, a responsibility towards one’s country that ought to be earned with dedication and virtue. It should not be subject to verification; the marching onwards of time is what justifies and legitimizes its inevitability.
The party that holds power in Beijing today is the de facto heir of this conception. The old ideological frictions with Maoism have been set aside, but not without contradictions. After the revolution in 1949 – and especially during the Cultural Revolution – Confucius was considered a relic of the past, the product of medieval reactionism, the voice of a backwards and conservative China. An obstacle, therefore, to the reconstruction of a new and different nation. But a spectacular about-face contradicted this notion, and allowed for China’s extraordinary economic success. The rediscovery of Confucius and the appreciation of his virtues were instrumental in setting the course. Protected by a liturgical continuity (names, symbols, a pantheon of heroes), the leadership essentially replaced conflict with concord, collective mobilization with personal enrichment, solidarity with the third world with economic nationalism, and so the role of the ruling party was maintained. It did not derive, however, just from history, but from competence as well. The party was an organization tempered by battle and guerrilla warfare, followed by a specialization in economics, finance, and administration. It remains a party of managers, but cultured and with virtue, just as Confucius commanded.
Innate virtues are passed on: wisdom, honesty, balance, deference, discipline. Ex-secretary general Jiang Zemin evoked these qualities when he envisioned the “Three Represents” as a platform for the CCP. The party in power cannot be the expression of just the factory workers and peasants; instead it needs to look after the aspirations of all society, opening its ranks to business men and intellectuals, to all the forces interested in the development of the nation. His successor, outgoing Secretary Hu Jintao, followed along the same wavelength when he expressed his wish, at the beginning of his mandate in 2002, for the construction of a “harmonious society;” a country at peace and prosperity, able to defend all of its population even with its many social differences, far from the echoes of the class struggle, and sensible to the improvement of the material condition. The postulate of this vision was the direction of the CCP, 5% of the population able to identifying and then defending the general interests of the nation. It is for this that the budding future leaders are being groomed, as they are exposed to the most advantageous teachings, sent to the most prestigious universities, and educated according to the highest virtues.