To love the Country is not to love the Dynasty

Written by Julen Madariaga on April 15th, 2010

Very sorry, this document has been erased!

This little piece by historian Hong Zhenkuai has been taken down from the Southern Metropolis, but it has managed to escape the censors on some other sites. I liked the subtle way Hong criticizes the reigning CCP dynasty, and the cool Chinese rendering of “L’Etat c’est moi” as “朕即国家“.

Since I don’t have the time for Language Thursdays today, I have done this bit of translation work:

The French Bourbon king Louis XIV reportedly said “L’etat c’est moi” [1]. Even if all the World’s sovereigns love autocracy, few of them would say it so openly. Louis XIV ruled from 1643 to 1715, the same period as China’s Kangxi. Kangxi’s thought was probably not unlike “L’etat c’est moi”, but clearly he had more “wisdom with Chinese characteristics” than Louis XIV – he did a lot of “humane actions”, thus earning a reputation of humane Lord while still ruling as a dictator.

In the ideas of the Sovereign People, the sovereignty belongs to the people and it is not “L’Etat c’est moi” but rather “L’Etat is us“. Of course this kind of ideas only appeared after Louis XIV’s death. In his age there were not many in the World who could tell the difference between the notions of sovereign, government and State. In China, even if the pre-Qin philosopher Mencius said: “first the people, then the State then the  monarch”, in fact in the 2000+ years since the Qin and the Han, Patriotism has meant Loyalty to the Monarch, and these two concepts are muddled.

Only after the Western ideas arrived, some Chinese people started little by little to acquire a modern understanding of the notions of government, country and monarch. Among them Liang Qichao was first. He arrived to these conclusions during his experience in exile after the failure of the 1898 reforms.

Liang said that China was accumulating weakness, one of the causes being that the Chinese people could not distinguish between State and Dynasty, to the point that the patriotic spirit was not aimed at the right target[...] China has a long history, the Tang, Yu, Xia, Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Wei, Jin, Song, Qi, Liang, Chen, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing [2] are “all names of dynasties, not of States”. From the Yin named Shang, to the Ji named Zhou, to the Ying named Qin, to the Liu named Han, to the Li named Tang, to the Zhao named Song, to the Zhu named Ming, [3]; and also the Mongol Yuan and the Manchu Qing; all of them were family clans, not proper States. They were private operations run by a family clan and not a common asset of all the Chinese people. And yet the Chinese people frequently confuse Dynasty with State, as Liang Qichao said, and this is their big weakness.

Of the bad consequences of not differentiating between State and Dynasty, the most obvious is that Patriotism becomes Love for a Dynasty, or even Love for the Leader. Liang Qichao said: “Our long history shows, the famous officials and generals [...] [4].” Those characters in our long history, they killed people for one family clan, they did their hard efforts to acquire position and wealth, this has nothing to do with patriotism. But it was raised as a model of “patriotism” by each of the dynasties, and the people, since they cannot distinguish dynasty from State, they continue to praise and respect them. Truly lamentable.

A bit later than Liang, Chen DuXiu wrote a piece with title “Should we be patriotic or not?”, in the text it says: “To ask whether we should be patriotic or not, first we have to ask what is the State. Originally it is nothing but a group of people organized to resist the attacks of others from outside, and to harmonize the disputes of the people inside. Good people use it to defend against oppression outside and harmonize disputes inside, bad people use it to oppress the peoples both outside and inside. Therefore if someone asks: “should we be patriotic or not?” we will answer in a loud voice: “We love our country, the one that seeks happiness for the people, and not the one for which the people have to sacrifice”

The functions of a State, according to Chen DuXiu are: To defend against outside oppression, and to harmonize internal disputes. The former is towards the outside, the latter towards the inside. Harmonizing disputes is only the passive side, the State must also actively pursue public policies like preventing and providing relief against natural disasters.

The functions of a State should be performed by the government. If the government can do these functions, then the State is “seeking happiness for the people”; if not, then it becomes “the State for which the people sacrifice”. In human history the most common in practice is that the government cannot fulfill the State’s functions, or else it does them poorly. In this case it can appear that government equals no government. Or that government is even worse than no government.

Because of its geography China is a country where draughts and floods occur frequently. There are statistics that show that in the 2270 years before the Republic [pre-1911],there were 1392 officially reported draughts, and 1621 officially reported floods. It can be seen that every year there was some disaster. Because of this, one of the main functions of the Chinese government in the old times was to lead the defense against natural disasters, it can be said that this is one of the bases of the legitimacy of the government, and the emperors paid a lot of attention to these phenomena.

The emperor Qing even required the high officials in the provinces to timely inform of the rainfall, harvest, grain prices, etc. to understand the situation and so in case of a disaster to be able to offer immediate assistance and/or reduce the taxes in the affected regions. But looking at history, very often the people received no help. And in the case of large scale disasters, when the government could not offer assistance, the people had to face the risks and take action to survive. Like Li Zicheng who led the peasant revolt in the end of the Qing. His main actions where in Shaanxi and Henan, because there was a big draught there and the Ming government could not organize effective assistance. This force the victims to become roaming people, and ultimately a violent mob.

In any society there are some large tasks that involving many people, so there is no way any organization can do them other than the government. If the government cannot perform its responsibilities, the society becomes unruly, and the the public interest suffers. For example, food safety, public health, protection of the environment, this kind of affairs need to be taken charge of by the government.

In the development of human societies, this problem has been encountered for a long time: the people need the government but the government cannot live up to their expectations, protect them against outside menace or provide internal services. In many cases it even evolves into an organization that infringes on the people’s rights.

To make the government do its task diligently, the people needs to have the right to supervise the government, and the most effective way is to elect the government by voting. The people needs to understand what is common sense - that is, as Liang Qichao said, that the State is not the dynasty (government). The dynasty can be changed for the survival of the State. What the people should love is their country, and not the dynasty.

Hong Zhenkuai  Historian

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  1. meaning the State is me []
  2. it is cool how all the history of China fits in one single line of dynasties: 唐虞夏商周秦汉魏晋宋齐梁陈隋唐宋元明清, I guess we should add 国共 in the end, for the KMT and the CCP dynasties of the XX century []
  3. all these are the original surnames of the families that were behind each dynasty []
  4. follows rant against the old patriotic heroes, this is old Chinese someone help me translate: 试观二十四史所载,名臣名将,功业懿铄、声名彪炳者,舍翊助朝廷一姓之外,有所事事乎?其为我国民增一分之利益、完一分之义务乎?而全国人民顾啧啧焉称之曰:此我国之英雄也。夫以一姓之家奴走狗,而冒一国英雄之名,国家之辱,莫此甚也!乃至舍家奴走狗之外,而数千年几无可称道之人,国民之耻,更何如也!而我国四万万同胞,顾未尝以为辱焉,以为耻焉,则以误认朝廷为国家之理想,深入膏肓而不自知也。 []

Comments so far ↓

  1. Apr

    If that’s you with not much time, you may well write a book when you have got some time. Interesting.

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Apr
    Julen Madariaga

    Haha, you are right :) Actually what I meant is that I didn’t have the time to post because I have to study Chinese for my exam this Saturday.

    I don’t count this translation as “time” because it is also a part of my study!

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Apr

    Even suggesting to Chinese people to adopt a split between the significance of the country and of the current rulers it is hard to Chinese people to accept Westerners posing as critics of the CCP acting.
    Firstly because these Western critics attempt to reaffirm the rightness of the so-called Western´s “universal” moral patterns over the Chinese ones. But we must not to forget that these Western “universal” moral values are valid only in Europe and in the Western second home continent, the robbed Americas from the red skin people. And furthermore it´s at least curious to note that these “universal” moral values are utterly odd not only for Chinese but for Indians, for Arabs and others.
    And finally I mention a phrase I always hear: 百年国恥的教訓不能忘記

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    @Li: This is not a Westerner posing as critic. The author of the piece is 100% Chinese, and the newspaper where it was published as well. I only translated.

    I might agree or not with your view on “universal” values. But first you need to be more logical: the fact that Western people often don’t respect those values, such as Human Rights, does not in itself invalidate them.

    On the contrary, it makes it even more urgent to adhere to them, so we are able to enforce them the next time and stop terrible things from happening like the invasion of Irak.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Li Reply:

    @Julen Madariaga,
    “…the fact that Western people often don’t respect those values, such as Human Rights, does not in itself invalidate them.
    On the contrary, it makes it even more urgent to adhere to them, so we are able to enforce them the next time and stop terrible things from happening like the invasion of Irak.”

    I almost choked bursting out laughing after reading the above excerpts of your writing. Great sense of humor, pal! You are saying that the West - the genial inventor of the concept of the HR - itself doesn´t care about its own invention and show it by modestly citing a single example of the Western scorn by HR (the Iraqi issue) but at same time conveniently preach that the West should use it as a kind of whipping against China!
    The West is giving a damn about HR but nonetheless China should respect the HR!
    And after all you admonish me about to be more logical!
    I am so delighted after this class about coherence you taught me! Thank you, professor!
    Me and my lack of wisdom about your logical sense = how stupid I am!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    @Li - I am not your pal, and your comment doesn’t make sense. You do make one good point though: you are stupid.

    Let me repeat again that I am not preaching anything, I am only translating. The writer of the article is Chinese, as Chinese are the cowards who erased it from the web.

    Now you can go and check this link.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Li Reply:

    @Julen Madariaga,
    You are insisting that the issue was written by a Chinese author. I got it. But this is not the point I stressed in your previous writing. You are pretending not to understand about your lack of coherence in the HR issue. So I´m gonna copy and paste again: “…the fact that Western people often don’t respect those values, such as Human Rights, does not in itself invalidate them.
    On the contrary, it makes it even more urgent to adhere to them, so we are able to enforce them the next time and stop terrible things from happening like the invasion of Irak.”

    And about being a coward - I must admit that about cowardice the Westerners are hours concours – just remembering:
    *the genocides of the native americans (despite the red skin people do not call exactly heroism the european “behavior” in the “discovery” of America);
    *the genocides of the Australian aborigine (Yeah! The repetition leads to perfection);
    *the genocides of the Jews in WWII;
    *And surely the biggest act of “heroism” of the Western history: William Calley and the superb performance of the american troops in My Lay saving the Vietnamese people from the claws of the communism! The same intention of the americans toward the poor and ignorant Chinese people?

    Indeed Westerners are insuperable in matter of not-to-be-coward

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    “the fact that Western people often don’t respect those values, such as Human Rights, does not in itself invalidate them. On the contrary, it makes it even more urgent to adhere to them, so we are able to enforce them the next time and stop terrible things from happening like the invasion of Irak.”

    I don’t see anything wrong with this paragraph. Sure, I could have used more examples like you do, but IMO one example was enough to make the point, Irak is just the most recent I could find. You see, I completely agree the West is worse than China in respect of Human Rights, so no need to get so excited about this.

    I think the main difference between us is that you think that HR are inherently Western. In my opinion they are Universal. Even though they were for the most part formulated by Western people, I don’t see why you think they belong to the West. Following your logic: The laws of Gravity or the Internet are also Western, so please stop using them immediately and go floating to outer space.

  4. Apr

    Sina Microbloggers are reporting that the editor responsible for approving the publication of this piece has been suspended:

    @赳赳:据悉,4月17日《南方都市报》历史评论版编辑朱蒂因4月11日编发在该版的历史评论《爱 国 家 不 等 于 爱 朝 廷》而遭停职处理。广省总督大人亲自批示。

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. Apr

    People like Ma Xiangbo (1840-1939), a Catholic scholar both versed and educated in Chinese classics and western classics goes quite far in his denouncing of China’s historical Confucian-sanctioned autocracy.

    (As proponent of constitutional monarchy) Ma argued, The ignorance of the Chinese people was a consequence of tyranny; a constitution providing for citizen’s rights and obligations would by itself educate the people, and the continued deprivation of civil rights on the excuse of people’s ignorance was nothing but an effort to mantain virtual slavery forever … Western constitution should be used as a model … the people could not have their unalienable rights guaranteed and their obligations specified without electing their own representatives to a Congress … press and the Congress…would perform the functions of linking up the public with the government and monitoring the executive branch. Both … as the eyes, ears and voice of the citizens, though one was a part of the Government while the other was not.

    While Acting Governor of Jiangsu…expressed his detestation of monarchial totalitarianism and his yearning for democracy. “An autochratic monarch owns the nation’s territory as if it were his own property…and autocratic bureaucrat owns what is in his jurisdiction as if they were his own effects”

    These same words in today’s China can cost you dearly.

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. Apr

    And also very interesting his idea of human being as citizen, both can not be inseparable. For him, in a modern state, the definition of Human being is that of Citizen, and viceversa, 人为民国民

    [Reply to this comment]

  7. Apr

    The point i highlighted in your previous excerpts and which I would like to see you comment but apparently you ignored (or I was not clear enough since english is not my native language) was about the lack of coherence of a Westerner whipping Chinese govt. on HR but knowing at same time the West itself flaunting its past on HR – stressing it I call it lack of coherence. About it now you wrote that you consider HR universal unlike me. Ok. Now I can comment it. Up to this point I agree with you because HR for me is indeed a western invention (I am not graduated in history but as everyone I have some general knowledge about HR and I know that it started sparingly between the Romans and definitely written and shown to worldwide by french people as a fantastic product of their revolution. Period. Thereafter you mix natural events such as gravity with HR. Your jumble between these concepts is laughable since HR is a mere product of half dozen European snooty brains. I would never have the hauteur to muddle with a natural phenomenon because it clearly shows the so hated Western thinking of possession of some kind of intelligence superiority (“My discoveries are so remarkable that they deserve to be universal and every civilization of this planet must follow it otherwise will be labeled as an uncivilized”).
    By the way, your sage deduction to “my” logic seems so daft. Nothing “westernable”

    [Reply to this comment]

    Julen Madariaga Reply:

    @Li: I think it will be very difficult to agree on this point because it is a difference of principles, not of facts.

    Obviously I agree with you that historically, the HR as we know them have been formulated by Westerners. But that is not the point that interests me.

    My comparison with gravity was just to illustrate this: No matter who formulates a principle (for example Newton), or who invents a machine (a Chinese guy with the compass) this has no importance at all, it is just an anecdote.

    When I use a compass or I think of gravity, I never ever think I owe them to the English or the Chinese. You see, in my point of view, even things like the English language belong as much to me as to the English people.

    Why? Because they didn’t really invent those things. They only developed them on a basis of common knowledge that all humanity had been laying for centuries. They were lucky to do the final bit, but the invention does not belong to any country. In other words, Watt wouldn’t have invented the motor if some Asian hadn’t invented the wheel previously, he WAS COPYING that Asian invention. etc. etc.

    To make a long point short. I think when some principle, (whether of science, technology or humanity) is found to be good and useful, THEN I think everyone has the right to call it its own. Because it belongs to humanity.

    That is the reason why I think HR are universal, because I see they are good for the people (when they are applied sincerely). And only for that reason I boldly say that HR are as Chinese as they are French. Montesquieu or Rousseau are just mere anecdotes in the development of humanity.

    [Reply to this comment]

  8. Jun

    还说当前中国社会是 “中国特色社会主义”

    [Reply to this comment]

  9. Jul

    i love french so much , but i dont know why actually i love french so much coz there is a person that i want to find i wish that i can find him, if you know the name or youlive in south of france pleas if you know a person name alex jhonson his birthday is on aug.11,1994 please tell him that i want to see him please………

    [Reply to this comment]

  10. Sep

    i’ll try, but my english is not good :(

    试观二十四史所载,名臣名将,功业懿铄、声名彪炳者,舍翊助朝廷一姓之外,有所事事乎?其为我国民增一分之利益、完一分之义务乎?而全国人民顾啧啧焉称之曰:此我国之英雄也。夫以一姓之家奴走狗,而冒一国英雄之名,国家of 之辱,莫此甚也!乃至舍家奴走狗之外,而数千年几无可称道之人,国民之耻,更何如也!而我国四万万同胞,顾未尝以为辱焉,以为耻焉,则以误认朝廷为国家之理想,深入膏肓而不自知也。

    If we look at the records in the 24 dynastic histories, [we'll find] the famous officials and generals with their undertakings and display of virtue, their names shining with glory. But apart from leaving their homes to go and help the dynastic family, what did they really do? Did they do anything for the common good of the people of this country? Did they perform any virtuous deed for them? However, the people all over the country look back [at those stories], repeat their names and say: Those were the heroes of our country! Is there anything more disgraceful for a country than wrongly considering the lackey and servants of a family as heroes of the country? Beside these lackey and servants who left their homes [to serve the dynasty], in several thousand years, we don’t see almost anybody who can be called a man of the Dao — which is an additional shame for the people of this country. But our innumerable compatriots have not started to considered this as a shame and a disgrace yet, and still hold the wrong assumption than dynasty and state are the same thing. By doing so, their ailment become without cure and they don’t even realise this.

    [Reply to this comment]

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