China Beat Archive



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December 11, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright December 11, 2008. Used by permission.


Gems on China often appear in unexpected places, and we were recently alerted to a handful worth looking into at the Literary Review of Canada. These three pieces review recent works in Chinese studies that touch on issues central to current discussions on the China blogosphere. We’ve included short excerpts below, but encourage you to make the leap to the longer versions.

The first is a review by Timothy Cheek, the author of a book on Mao that we flagged in one of our first posts last January, and a regular commentator on contemporary China, as here and here. In “The Karaoke Classics: A view from inside China’s Confucian revival,” Cheek reviews Daniel Bell’s China’s NewConfucianism, addressing a theme that has emerged at China Beat a few times before and also been taken up by China Beatniks in other venues: How is Confucianism relevant today? (For instance, see Xujun Eberlein’s piece, “China: Democracy or Confucianism?,” Jeff Wasserstrom’s “Confucius: China’s Comeback Kid” or Daniel Bell’s own piece, “Imperial Ways.”) Bell, moreover, is becoming known as something of a Confucian provocateur. As Cheek describes, Bell’s take on contemporary Confucianism may be a shock:

“Bell’s approach is resolutely iconoclastic and, he claims, Confucian. He aims to entertain and instruct, but he also aims if not to offend then at least to chide western academic and cultural presumptions. This is the job of the Confucian educator, he says: ‘the task of the morally committed individual is to resist the excesses of the dominant [intellectual/cultural] fashion in order to bring things into balance.’ So, those who are sure proper scholarship should be ‘objective’ (or at least safely harnessed in abstract theoretical frameworks) and who embrace ideas of modernity (or the Good) that include the sanctity of individual rights, electoral democracy and contractual protection of labour, along with the perniciousness of prostitution—be prepared for rebalancing.