China's New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society / Edition 1

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Overview

What is it like to be a Westerner teaching political philosophy in an officially Marxist state? Why do Chinese sex workers sing karaoke with their customers? And why do some Communist Party cadres get promoted if they care for their elderly parents? In this entertaining and illuminating book, one of the few Westerners to teach at a Chinese university draws on his personal experiences to paint an unexpected portrait of a society undergoing faster and more sweeping changes than anywhere else on earth. With a storyteller's eye for detail, Daniel Bell observes the rituals, routines, and tensions of daily life in China. China's New Confucianism makes the case that as the nation retreats from communism, it is embracing a new Confucianism that offers a compelling alternative to Western liberalism.

Bell provides an insider's account of Chinese culture and, along the way, debunks a variety of stereotypes. He presents the startling argument that Confucian social hierarchy can actually contribute to economic equality in China. He covers such diverse social topics as sex, sports, and the treatment of domestic workers. He considers the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, wondering whether Chinese overcompetitiveness might be tempered by Confucian civility. And he looks at education in China, showing the ways Confucianism impacts his role as a political theorist and teacher.

By examining the challenges that arise as China adapts ancient values to contemporary society, China's New Confucianism enriches the dialogue of possibilities available to this rapidly evolving nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This revival is the subject of political philosopher Daniel A. Bell's trenchant and surprisingly personal China's New Confucianism. Bell was the first foreigner hired since the Cultural Revolution to teach humanities at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University; one of the few Western professors in the country, he enjoys a unique outsider/insider perspective."--Michael Levitin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"This interesting and insightful volume by Bell offers an insider's account of a rapidly changing society in China and seeks to debunk a variety of crude stereotypes of Confucians."--S.K. Ma, Choice

"Bell, who teaches politics at Beijing's crack Tsinghua University, is well placed to comment on changing Chinese attitudes. He detects signs of a reviving interest in, and practice of, pre-communist traditions, whether in the lecture hall, in the streets, or inside karaoke bars...China's New Confucianism wisely refrains from any grand schematic overview. Rather, this is an informed and thoughtful interim response to an important contemporary trend."--Justin Wintle, The Independent

"In [China's New Confucianism], [Bell] talks about such subjects as why Communist Party leaders invoke centuries-old Confucian values now? Why do senior communist leaders dye their hair black? Why the Chinese view that human rights should not have priority over national sovereignty? The adventurous professor even talks about why sexual intercourse with karaoke bar girls in China is often preceded by singing a duet. Bell draws on various social scenes in today's China and provides a Confucian explanation...In the book, Bell offers his personal observations on some Western 'misunderstandings' about China."--Sunny Lee, Asia Times Online

"Daniel Bell has been able to breathe fresh life into an ancient and one largely-dismissed subject--and by doing so, has shown readers the possible benefits of the reintroduction of parts of Confucianism into modern Chinese society. China's New Confucianism is a great reminder of the wisdom--as well as some of the prejudices--of previous generations of thinkers and leaders."--Kit Gillet, China International Business

"[C]hina's New Confucianism is certainly provocative. . . . Mr. Bell succeeds in using Confucianism to explicate everyday phenomena, but he is most convincing in political theory."--April Rabkin, Far Eastern Economic Review

"This is an informative and entertaining book on the problems and challenges of contemporary China. . . . [I]t is learned, sensible, and heartfelt."--On-cho Ng, Centre Daily Times

"China's New Confucianism stands out for not conforming to a preordained Western conceptual framework. The personal anecdotes are interesting and Bell displays cultural sensitivity throughout."--Lanxin Xiang, Survival

"Daniel Bell is winningly realistic about the difficulties involved in adapting Confucian practices to a more egalitarian world and uniquely capable as a scholar in this area. . . . Bell's scholarly discussions . . . draw on a subtle and wide-ranging grasp of the classics of Chinese political philosophy."--Brian Walker, China Quarterly

Los Angeles Times Book Review
This revival is the subject of political philosopher Daniel A. Bell's trenchant and surprisingly personal China's New Confucianism. Bell was the first foreigner hired since the Cultural Revolution to teach humanities at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University; one of the few Western professors in the country, he enjoys a unique outsider/insider perspective.
— Michael Levitin
Choice
This interesting and insightful volume by Bell offers an insider's account of a rapidly changing society in China and seeks to debunk a variety of crude stereotypes of Confucians.
— S.K. Ma
Asia Times Online
In [China's New Confucianism], [Bell] talks about such subjects as why Communist Party leaders invoke centuries-old Confucian values now? Why do senior communist leaders dye their hair black? Why the Chinese view that human rights should not have priority over national sovereignty? The adventurous professor even talks about why sexual intercourse with karaoke bar girls in China is often preceded by singing a duet. Bell draws on various social scenes in today's China and provides a Confucian explanation...In the book, Bell offers his personal observations on some Western 'misunderstandings' about China.
— Sunny Lee
China International Business
Daniel Bell has been able to breathe fresh life into an ancient and one largely-dismissed subject—and by doing so, has shown readers the possible benefits of the reintroduction of parts of Confucianism into modern Chinese society. China's New Confucianism is a great reminder of the wisdom—as well as some of the prejudices—of previous generations of thinkers and leaders.
— Kit Gillet
Far Eastern Economic Review
[C]hina's New Confucianism is certainly provocative. . . . Mr. Bell succeeds in using Confucianism to explicate everyday phenomena, but he is most convincing in political theory.
— April Rabkin
Centre Daily Times
This is an informative and entertaining book on the problems and challenges of contemporary China. . . . [I]t is learned, sensible, and heartfelt.
— On-cho Ng
Survival
China's New Confucianism stands out for not conforming to a preordained Western conceptual framework. The personal anecdotes are interesting and Bell displays cultural sensitivity throughout.
— Lanxin Xiang
China Quarterly
Daniel Bell is winningly realistic about the difficulties involved in adapting Confucian practices to a more egalitarian world and uniquely capable as a scholar in this area. . . . Bell's scholarly discussions . . . draw on a subtle and wide-ranging grasp of the classics of Chinese political philosophy.
— Brian Walker
The Independent
Bell, who teaches politics at Beijing's crack Tsinghua University, is well placed to comment on changing Chinese attitudes. He detects signs of a reviving interest in, and practice of, pre-communist traditions, whether in the lecture hall, in the streets, or inside karaoke bars...China's New Confucianism wisely refrains from any grand schematic overview. Rather, this is an informed and thoughtful interim response to an important contemporary trend.
— Justin Wintle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691136905
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/7/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 258
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel A. Bell is professor of political philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His books include "Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Contex"t and "East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia" (both Princeton). He writes on China-related affairs for "Dissent" and the "Guardian"'s Comment Is Free blog.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xiii

Part One: Politics 1
Chapter 1: From Communism to Confucianism: Changing Discourses on China's Political Future 3
Chapter 2: War, Peace, and China's Soft Power 19
Chapter 3: Hierarchical Rituals for Egalitarian Societies 38

Part Two: Society 57
Chapter 4: Sex, Singing, and Civility: The Costs and Benefi ts of the Karaoke Trade 59
Chapter 5: How Should Employers Treat Domestic Workers? 75
Chapter 6: The Politics of Sports: From the 2006 World Cup to the 2008 Olympics 91

Part Three: Education 105
Chapter 7: A Critique of Critical Thinking 107
Chapter 8: Teaching Political Theory in Beijing 128
Chapter 9: On Being Confucian: Why Confucians Needn't Be Old, Serious, and Conservative 148

Appendices
Chapter 1: Depoliticizing the Analects 163
Chapter 2: Jiang Qing's Po liti cal Confucianism 175
Index 231

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