Exclusive interview with Confucian Lee Ming-huei from Taiwan: Taiwan is still a Confucian dominated society (first half)
Lee Ming-huei is a researcher at the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy in Taiwan
In January 23, 34, 2015 published in The Paper ( a new media outlet based in Shanghai, set up in June 2014)
1, The Democratic Progressive Party thinks traditional Chinese culture is from the Chinese Communist Party and it does not belong to Taiwan. This logic is very stupid. But we can’t generalize the Democratic Progressive Party because there are many different branches within the Democratic Progressive Party. Among them the Fundamentalist's voice is the loudest. They basically want to separate the mainland and Taiwan very clearly. Their logic is generally very chaotic and they have made a fool of themselves.
2, For example the so-called “Taiwan language” is actually Southern Min dialect. But they keep calling it Taiwan language, and this logic is wrong.
3, Democracy is a product in modern society. The building of a democratic system requires the transition from traditional society to modern society. In a lot of senses it requires a cultural transition. In the past most Chinese didn’t really have the citizenship awareness, because they have never lived in a civil society. However, a democratic society needs the foundation of citizen’s awareness, so we need a shift in thinking.
4, Right now we still have the traditional thinking of “cultivate yourself, manage a house, rule the country and run the world”. However in modern society we should not require politicians to behave like this because public morality is the bottom line and they can’t cross it. In terms of politician’s relationship with their partners, that is their private business. It is the business between an individual man and woman.
5, First of all I don’t really acknowledge the term “Mainland’s Neo-Confucianism”. Nowadays the so-called “Mainland Neo-Confucians” are mostly centered around Jiang Qing, include a small number of self-claimed people like Chen Ming. Neo-Confucianism did not emerge in the mainland until recently, it has been there for a long time. Besides those Neo-Confucians who have moved to Hong Kong and Taiwan, ain’t Xiong Shili, Liang Shuming and Fou Youlan all Neo-Confucians from the mainland? Where should they be catagorized?
6, Second, I don’t agree with their categorization between Moral Confucianism and Political Confucianism. They believe neo-Confucians from Hong Kong and Taiwan lean more towards Moral Confucianism and neo-Confucians from Mainland lean more towards Political Confucianism. This is probably mostly because Jiang Qing has been advocating political Confucianism.
7, Third, in Confucian tradition it is impossible to separate Moral Confucianism and Political Confucianism. I have also publicly criticized Jiang Qing. In my view, their so-called Political Confucianism is utopica. Nowadays Taiwan does not advocate Political Confucianism anymore because it has become a reality and does not need more advocacy. I think the policies that Jiang Qing have planned showed that actually he doesn’t really know much about politics. It is just his wishful thinking. Jiang Qing’s understanding of the West is very superficial. Also he does not have any practical political experience and does not know how a democratic system operates.
7, 第三，心性儒学和政治儒学在儒家的传统里本来就无法划分开来。我也公开批评过蒋庆。蒋庆他们所讲的政治儒学在我看来就是乌托邦. 现在台湾不再讲政治儒学，那是因为它已经成为现实，再也不用特别提倡。我看蒋庆所设想的那些制度，就表明他对政治根本就不了解，完全是他自己的一厢情愿。蒋庆对西方的了解很肤浅，也没有实际的政治经历，不知道民主制度是如何运作的。
(About Neo-Confucianism and Democracy in Taiwan)
8, In the 1950s the debates between Neo-Confucianism and Liberalism in Taiwan was because they had different attitude towards traditional Chinese culture. New-Confucians believe setting up a democratic system is not as simple as changing a costume -- you can just put it on top. The building of a democratic system needs to be compatible with the original culture. Therefore they need to introduce some resources from traditional culture. In their declaration in 1958 Neo-Confucians objected the “adding method”. Liberal scholars’ logic is very simple. They believe to promote the democratic system it is ok to just copy the Western democratic system.
9, Of course we are not saying that there is the concept of democracy in traditional Chinese culture. It is that there are some resources in traditional Chinese culture that are beneficial to build up democracy. Why don’t we take good advantage of it? Why do we have to clash traditional culture and put on a coat of democracy? It is because of their different attitude on traditional Chinese culture, there is rupture between Neo-Confucianism and Liberalism. The result was both sides clashed.
(About Intellectuals’ role in society, difference between Confucian and other intellectuals)
10, It is easier to understand that before intellectuals had a particular status because of the exam system in the ancient time. In the old time being a government official was the only path for an intellectual. They had to shoulder the responsibility of the society, because besides them, no one was able to shoulder this important responsibility. However, in modern society it is very different. It is even hard to define so-called intellectuals.