Confucianism And Democratization In East Asia

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Word Count

2000 words


English Literature


2 Days

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Write an article on the Confucianism and Democratization in East Asia by Doh Chull Shin, Cambridge University Press 2012

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Assignment Solution


The book, Confucianism, and Democratization is a scholarly work written by the author, D. C. Shin. The book deals with an old and intricate topic whether Confucianism is associated with democratization and if yes, in what ways these two are interlinked. The author takes the pain to reflect how it has affected the process of democratization in East Asia. There is very little known about this in relation to East Asia in general. Issues of Confucianism and how it has affected the nationalistic movements of Korea and China have been separately discussed. However, we don't get a complete picture of East Asia about Confucianism. The book is divided into five parts namely, 'Confucianism and Confucian East Asia', 'Upholding Confucian Legacies', 'Engaging in Civic Life', 'Embracing Democracy' and 'Final Thoughts'. The first four parts have two chapters each and the last part has one concluding chapter where the author reassesses the Confucian Asian values debates. Shin has described the spread of Confucian legacies and how they are connected to political movements in six Confucian countries namely, China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam. The analyses he presented shows a mix results as one hand it has refueled a non-liberal democratic government who emphasizes on economic welfare than the freedom of public, it has maintained interpersonal trust and tolerance among people on the other. 

In the introduction, the author discusses the global demand of democracy by saying that democracy is no longer confined to the economically successful countries of the West. The democratic waves were found in East Asia almost ten years later than Southern European countries. The six democratic countries in East Asia are Japan which has second-wave democracy and five third-wave democratic countries, namely Indonesia, Mongolia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. It is a matter of surprise that despite having a rapid economic development, these third-wave countries have not been able to implement the democratic principles completely. These countries are still very limited in its liberal expansion, and even in the second or third decades of democratization, they are not able to manage the democratic principles among their public. It is worthwhile to notice that there is something behind the stagnating situations in these countries. Some other principles in these countries are working against the liberal expansion of democratization. It is where the study of the principles of Confucianism come into the picture. Confucianism is generally understood as a collectivistic and patriarchal concept. Although the writer has tried to clarify that it does not mean an oppressive government, Confucianism is blamed as being patriarchal and prevailing non-liberal principles in the society. According to the author, what we know about Confucianism is the distorted form that is misappropriated by some people who are in power. The riddle remains entangled that if Confucianism is not what is understood commonly, and then how it is affecting the democratization of a country. These issues have been discussed and argued in detail throughout the book.

PART 1: Confucianism and Confucian East Asia

In Part one, the author has dealt with the history and origin of Confucianism and Confucian East Asia. This section starts with the evolution of Confucianism in China and goes on to discuss its spread in East Asia. The patterns of Confucianism and its legacies in East Asia today have been discussed further. The author has also provided a theoretical debate on the basis of empirical research on this issue. Shin has defined Confucianism in two ways: Confucianism is a system of social ethics that advocates a particular system of government. Confucianism prescribes the norms for the interpersonal relationship with known as well as unfamiliar people. At the same time, Confucianism also sets the principles of the relationship between rulers and the ruled (pg. 8). In the beginning, Confucianism was confined to some literate Chinese people who used its principles for the interpersonal cultural movement. Slowly, it was spread among the six Asian countries known as Confucian countries. It is interesting to note how Confucianism got spread in these particular countries. These countries share similar patterns in terms of thinking and making their public affairs. The private and public institutes of these countries have the same pattern to run and govern their people. In such circumstances, it was not difficult to adopt Confucianism for these countries. The term East Asia has to do either with their geographical or their cultural and historical similarities. As far as geography is concerned, East Asia comprises of sixteen countries with the diverse cultural background. They neither share much in their political history. The term East Asia is basically understood for its business and diplomatic relationships, that is why it has been historically used to find out a cultural sphere around China making the core of it. Chinese orthography system has been adopted in this subregion. Confucius, Mencius, and their followers have played the role of cultural foundation of public as well as private life in these countries. Thus, cultural East Asia is synonymously known as Confucian East Asia. It consists of China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. These are countries where Confucian ethics remained the source of inspiration for a thousand years. It was used for the human interactions widely at all levels in these countries.

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