At the Xinhua gate next to the main entrance of the Forbidden City, this golden sculpture of characters”We serve the people” is very eye-catching. Any government or political party must put up a banner of this kind and the rights of the people be written into the constitution when it rules a country, whether in reality, they are serving the people or not.
“If you steal a hook, you will be beheaded. If you steal a country, you become king.”Zhuang Zhou borrowed a thief’s mouth to insult the ancient politics and the Chinese ancestral emperors one by one. He also called Confucius a thief who had supported these ancestors in stealing. Confucius was so angry that his face turned deadly gray. At a loss, he was not able to pull the carriage steadily.
The formation of politics and government is due to the emergence of the state. In primitive society, all were free and equal. To defend their own rights, the self-willed people came together to form a government by contracts, without knowing that one day they would become slaves of these commitments. Rousseau said: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Under the heavens, the world is for the public and the Great Way is broad. But when people chose to make the narrow road and the world is for the private, they can only move forward awkwardly between the thorns.
In Chinese, the word “state”is made up of a soldier with weapons to guard the territory. That territory is a square, symbolic of the city walls. The first city-state in history was in ancient Egypt from whom the Europeans learned to build their states from tribes and villages. Ancient Chinese states were formerly called the “vassal states,” and there were ten thousand of them in the Xia Dynasty. Even in the Zhou Dynasty, there were still 800. And these vassal states were similar to the European city-states.
In the ancient Greek city-state politics, citizens over the age of twenty years were involved in the management and rule of the city, with women, slaves and Gentiles excluded. In the view of the ancient Greeks, people were virtuous, the meaning of life is to practice their own virtues. Therefore, the original intention of politics is to make people in public activities fully demonstrate their virtues, as Aristotle said: “The objective of politics is the pursuit of perfection.” Citizens of the city states achieved their political goals through persuasion. The philosopher Kenneth Minogue argued that, in ancient Greece, people were completely equal in political relations, and everyone was only subject to their own laws, and they took turns to act as rulers and the ruled.
Politics of ancient China and ancient Greece were very different. One apparent characteristic of ancient Chinese politics was the power of monarchs and ministers who governed the country. This kind of politics stressed the importance of rulers who preached to hold the edict of heaven. As such, good governance could be applied to the will of heaven, while evil politics was considered to be contrary to the will of heaven and thus must be punished.
Regardless of the East and West, the basis of the moral appeal was the same. The political operation of ancient China relied on the same moral standards, and morality was a measure of politics that also run through the individual’s daily life. Zichan, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Zheng in the Spring and Autumn Period, said: “Morality is the basis of national politics.” In his last years, he told the new king: “Only a virtuous person can use his generosity to make the people obey. Still, he uses severe punishment as the second policy. He has to start a fire so that the people would fear. With fear, few will die of fire. If your measures are too weak, like water, people would take them lightly. As a result, a lot of people will be drowned in the water.”
Zichan engraved text of the criminal law on bronze vessels and became the first official in Chinese history to publicize law to the ordinary people. This landmark event triggered a debate on morality and punishment which attracted the attention of millions. One typical criticism argued that to make the law public was to give ordinary people the chance to supervise the rulers. Another criticism, that the emphasis on criminal law was to abandon morality and etiquette, argued, “the people now will have a fighting heart, the law as a shield.” There were worries that people would make use of the loopholes in the law to seek personal gains; that government corruption would be widespread as prison officers would have more chances to take bribes. Despite all these criticisms, Zichan insisted on letting people know the law. And further, he allowed the people to gather in rural schools to discuss politics, saying that public opinion was important to politics; that blocking the mouth of the people was just as dangerous as blocking the river.
At first, the Republic of Rome installed two consuls and security officials to manage the common people’s affairs. With the demise of the Western Roman Empire, the city-state system was destroyed, and the feudal system gradually formed. Politics was no longer the equal participation of all citizens in public activities, and it became only the duty of the kings and ministers. Politics was no longer for the common cause, the common faith and the realization of justice, but became a kind of policies safeguarding private interests. The means of solving problems were changed from dialogue and persuasion into violence and war and became the relationship between domination and resistance. Therefore, many scholars believe that human history is in the form of degradation. “It is nature who creates mankind, not the state,” says Stephen Andrews, the famous American anarchist. “As long as there is a state in the world, the freedom of the individual is bound to be violated.”
As in ancient Egypt, the monarchs of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties advocated themselves to be related to the gods, and they were given by heaven the right to govern. These words “by mandate of God” were inscribed in the seal of the First Emperor of Qin. The emperor set the imperial power as the center of governance supported by a division of government power in the hands of three dukes. Later dynasties improved this administration into the three dukes and six ministers. Montesquieu of France categorized China into a country of “autocracy” based on his insufficient study of ancient Chinese government administration, but his view had strongly influenced the Western impression of China for centuries.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire in Europe, there appeared a large number of feudal Kingdoms. These feudal states tied the private interests with public interests closely, and the public power fully served the demands of private interests. After years of war, the monarchy in decline gave way to feudal lords who exercised their power in the feudal system. The 1648 Treaty of Westphalia ended the war in Europe for more than 100 years and was regarded as the beginning of the nation-state. Modern politics was developed on the basis of the national system established by the treaty.
Politics is a life-threatening game, in that the famous poet Su Dongpo was exiled, the greatest historian Sima Qian had his genitals cut off, the prime minister Shang Yang had his body torn apart by five horses, and the grand general Meng Tian had all his family members executed. Prime Minister Cao Cao said, “I would rather betray the whole world than letting the whole world betray me!” Kennedy was the fourth president in the history of the United States, and so far there has been a lot of skepticism about his assassination.
Once Emperor Yao strolled outside, and he saw a group of hunters gathering birds. They surrounded them with a huge net. The emperor thought this was too cruel to the birds, so he told them to open one side, and surround the birds only on three sides so that some birds had the opportunity to escape. Later, people regard this story as a model for the implementation of benevolent government by the rulers.
Guan Zhong was the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Qi. He helped the King to build a powerful state. Guan Zhong knew his people well in terms of human nature. He separated the aristocratic families from the peasants, the craftsmen and the merchants in different parts of the state so that each class would concentrate on their own affairs. In his view, the government should not deceive the people; instead, it should educate the people, so that “the families looked like families, the state looked like a state.” He knew the importance of the selfishness in human nature when he started a land reform of privatization so that people could have their private property so that the state could have more revenue. Confucius criticized him and said he was short-sighted. But Guan Zhong was one of the very few politicians in history who had achieved great success in his political reform and at the same time died a natural death.
People today generally believe that the modern Western democratic system is superior to the feudal monarchy. Awareness of the ancient ideology of “putting the people ahead of the rulers” and its practice in reality, and the awe of ancient kings and monarchs against the heavens and earth, a knowledgeable person should think about why saints often sigh about “the degeneration of humans”. Sima Guang believed that the rule of the monarchy was kept in balance and the country should be stabilized by “having the superior and inferior supporting each other, in a relation like the heart and brains giving orders to the hands and feet, like the tree leaves and branches supporting the trunks and roots.” Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty said to the courtiers: “Whether at times of stability or chaos, security or danger, monarch and ministers should help each other.If the monarch can accept the advice, the courtiers can speak with admiration, then the monarch and his subjects will be very understanding.” Karl Marx argued that “politics is an economic superstructure.” This view is far-reaching, but it is also subject to a lot of depreciation by politicians, because from a humanity point of view, “politics is a superstructure based on morality”, politics is not to defend the interests of certain groups, and not for the purpose of making more profits.
The main functions of a government, as a form of political expression, include decision-making, planning, organization, commanding, coordination, control, etc., of which the decision-making is the core. Compared to the Western Democratic presidents, Chinese dictators are generally more sophisticated and mature, with a richer experience in struggle. We know that the US government is defined in a form of separation of powers. The concept of “separation of powers” in China began in the Qin Dynasty when the prime minister led the cabinet to assist the emperor in national affairs; the prosecutor was responsible for monitoring the administration; and the commander-in-chief responsible for the national security. Although the functions of the federal government and feudal autocracy are very different, the foundation for legislation is the same; that is for the long-term stability of the nation-state.
Augustus was Europe’s greatest statesman, the founding monarch of the Roman Empire. After his death, the Roman Senate decided to include him in the ranks of God. Augustus seized power with great boldness and ruled Rome with great prudence. Rome gave him almost absolute power, but he did not launch a large-scale war. Instead, he gave Rome four decades of domestic peace and sustained the growth of prosperity. He reformed Rome’s fiscal and tax system. He decorated the capital, built the Temple of Apollo with Julius Temple, encouraged entertainment to delight the Roman citizens. Augustus also rebuilt morality, praising marriage, family and fertility, attacking luxury, homosexuality, and adultery. He helped poets, artists, sculptors and architects, and won the praise of almost the entire Roman intellectual community. His reign brought about the golden age of Roman literature.
Earlier than Augustus, in the East, Yi Yin was China’s first generation of politician. He was born a slave, but with lofty aspirations. He first began to cook for Emperor Tang of the Shang Dynasty and took the opportunity to advise the emperor by analyzing the world situation. The emperor appreciated him and promoted him as prime minister. His rectification of administration paved the way for economic prosperity in the country. The succeeding emperor Taijia was incompetent; Yi Yin exiled him to a remote place called Tong for three years and called him back when he had behaved good enough for the restoration of power. Taijia finally became an emperor of great achievements. Yi Yin assisted five emperors in total for more than 50 years and made his distinctive contributions. He died at the age of 100 years and was buried in the ceremonial rites of an emperor.
Although Confucius thought evils were rooted in rules of morality, he still advocated administration by rules of morality. The ancients Chinese philosophers said that when a state was to end, the law must have become complicated. The apparent disadvantage of the legal system is that legislation often goes beyond morality, legislation on gay marriage being one example. As the government monopolizes the main resources of a country, especially the strength of the army; becoming stronger and stronger is the power of the government that the strength of the people is hard to contend with. Especially with the emergence of party politics, the state exercises the rights of legislation through political parties, so that governance can not reflect the interests of all the people. Political parties may take power in the form of lawful elections, political revolutions, or military coups. Although there are opposition parties to supervise or influence the exercise of state power, the ideology of the pursuit of national moral good gradually change to “upholding the interests of the ruling group or of voters”. Under the sun the world is full of evil; “the world for the public” or “democratic system”is only in words.
Power politics can make the government more efficient, can help gather more resources for doing big things, but easy to breed corruption. As the main body of taxation, the government has enacted more and more laws and regulations in favor of the rulers, who control the social wealth and do whatever they like. “The government, like the northeasterly wind, blows property to a handful of aristocrats at the expense of a serious erosion of the foundations of democracy,” says Slav Haywood, a prominent American feminist. “Through the crafty legislative act, the privileged class will be able to use the government’s legal backing to stealing the majority of people’s property. “Due to the prevalence of party politics, the rulers become professional managers, politicians degenerate into political speculators. There is no good in modern politics, only blood in the struggle. As selfishness dominates, the government is going in the wrong direction of gradually turning away from safeguarding the fundamental interests of the people.
Authoritarian government is incompatible with human civilization. The world shall have vigilance against advocating a comprehensive governance by governments. Taoist politics held that “managing a country is like cooking a small fish.” Don’t toss the people around. Jefferson said, “that government is best which governs the least.” The US Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among theses are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The proliferation of national politics can easily lead to narrow-minded nationalism and patriotism. According to Isaiah Berlin, nineteenth century “romantic nationalism” developed into fascism in the twentieth century, and “extreme patriotism” was evolved into Nazism. Extreme patriotism is xenophobia and unscrupulous pursuit of national goals, only caring for the feelings of their own people, regardless of human equality of ethics. In history, China has had many periods of nationality fusion; in modern society, intermarriages are phenomena, narrow-mindedness is tantamount to digging the grave for itself. Politics has a national character. Patriotism is often the fuse of war between nations, and this is still the subject of debates in the political and philosophical world.
International relations are an important subject of politics. National differences determine that the relationship between countries must be “seeking common ground while reserving differences.” To this end, politics must allow for rational dialogue, and the philosophy of class struggle shall never dominate. In the Law of War and Peace, Grotius pointed out that there is a social need in human nature that requires people to live in harmony with their own kind and live a rational life, and that war is, in fact, an irrational performance. In today’s increasingly globalized world, the concept of “sovereign supremacy of the state” is challenged. If governments only emphasize their own interests, world peace will always be cast in the air.
As early as in ancient Greece and ancient Rome, in order to maintain peace between countries, politicians have discussed the idea of building a world government. “I believe that in the coming days, countries on Earth will agree to form a certain degree of Congress to consider some difficult international issues, and its resolution will be difficult to overthrow as the Supreme Court ruling.” Einstein, Churchill, Roosevelt and Gandhi, all have called on the governments to take further measures to gradually form an effective world government. The United Nations was established in 1945 after the end of the Second World War, replacing the League of Nations to prevent war and provide a platform for dialogue. Because of the strength of the sovereign government and the defects of its own system, the United Nations still can not play its due role in promoting the establishment of the world government.
“In view of the fact that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948, proclaims that ” all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should be treated in a fraternal spirit “. Zhang Pengchun, one of the main drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed the epochal document on behalf of the Republic of China, but the declaration is still a wasted piece of paper in mainland China. After the establishment of the European Union, the German spirit of the rules and the idea of freedom of the French contributed to the “EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,” but the French did not pass the first referendum, the British completely opted out. The “human dignity and freedom and equality” that the philosophers have portrayed for mankind are always in the air.
The idea of the Grand Union where people lives peacefully in one world is China’s ancient thought, that human beings can eventually achieve the ideal world, representing the human vision of the future of better society. Its basic characteristic is that everyone loves each other, every family lives and works in peace, there is no war and diversity is appreciated.Confucius said, “When the Grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky; they chose men of talents, virtue, and ability; their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony. Thus men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows, orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes. They accumulated articles of value, disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. They labored with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it only with a view to their own advantage. In this way, selfish scheming was repressed and found no development. Robbers, filchers, and rebellious traitors did not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open and were not shut. This was (the period of) what we call the Grand Union.”
Mahatma Gandhi once declared: “I am an Islam, a Hindu, a Christian, and a Jew.”