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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Dr. Joseph Dillard is a psychotherapist with over forty year's clinical experience treating individual, couple, and family issues. Dr. Dillard also has extensive experience with pain management and meditation training. The creator of Integral Deep Listening (IDL), Dr. Dillard is the author of over ten books on IDL, dreaming, nightmares, and meditation. He lives in Berlin, Germany. See: integraldeeplistening.com and his YouTube channel.
Characteristics of Our Emerging Worldview
Part 3: The Chinese Worldview
The Chinese worldview is relatively inscrutable to westerners. Most have trouble understanding or relating to it.
Chinese thought tends to explain the Chinese worldview in terms of either traditional concepts, such as Confucian ethics, Tao, wu/wei, Chinese medicine, and Feng Shui, on the one hand, or communist ideology on the other, and there is a vast literature on the Chinese worldview as viewed through both lenses. However, the focus here is on priorities that are objectively present in the worldview of contemporary Chinese society and culture, since those are the concrete realities that other worldviews encounter economically and militarily.
The Chinese worldview is relatively inscrutable to westerners. Most have trouble understanding or relating to it. One example of this is the relative absence of treatment of Confucianism in integral multi-perspectivalism. Confucianism is generally ignored and, when it is addressed, it tends to be classified as an early personal “blue” level of societal development. These are profound mistakes and errors because they fail to understand or explain how and why the Chinese worldview is currently eclipsing that of the West. The traditional and post World War II, Chinese worldviews are different, with important elements of the traditional Chinese worldview subsumed within that with which most Chinese identify today. Therefore, both must be taken into account if we are to reach a realistic understanding of the Chinese worldview.
This is the third of a series of essays examining priorities of Western, Global South, Indian, Chinese, Russian, artificial intelligence, and intrasocial worldviews. After some general orienting observations I will list some higher and lower priority elements of the Chinese worldview. I will take my best guess as to which of the four quadrants of social holons various priorities most closely identify: internal individual (II), internal collective (IC), external individual (EI), or external collective (EC). Regarding some priorities, I will comment regarding what quadrant is therefore least integrated and what some implications of that may be.
“A secular state, country or society is one where religion is not officially involved in influencing public things like government, laws, or the education system.” In traditional Chinese civilization, religion is not differentiated from culture. The prioritization of secularity may be most crystallized in state-supported atheism conjoined with the recognition and protection of religions. Article 36 of the Chinese constitution says that citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief.” It bans discrimination based on religion and forbids state organs, public organizations, or individuals from compelling citizens to believe in—or not believe in—any particular faith.”
The opposite of the exterior collective secular priority of the Chinese worldview is the interior individual sacred priority of spirituality and consciousness, most strongly emphasized in the Indian and integral worldviews. It is probably for this reason that the integral worldview largely ignores or discounts the Chinese worldview; it has the least in common with it. However, that also implies that the integral worldview has the most to gain from integration with the Chinese worldview in a higher order synthesis.
Realism can show up in the Chinese worldview as pragmatic individual behavior, as when acting for clear personal benefit, such as studying hard or as obedience, or it can show up as a governmental policy of polling locals, testing pilot projects locally, and implementing those which demonstrate the best statistical results.
“The current renaissance of Dewey and pragmatism in China stresses the secular ethics dimension as a way to remind a growing wealthy class of the common good. Chinese people have been atheists for thousands of years, and pragmatism is very congenial with the deeply secular Confucian ethic. When I asked my Beijing students recently to explain Chinese pragmatism to me, I expected them to cite Deng Xiaoping's famous dismissal of economic ideology: “It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice.” But they went all the way back to Confucius and reminded me that when he was asked how we should best serve the ghosts and spirits, Confucius replied that we should first figure out how to serve human beings. Only after we solve the problems of the here and now should we worry about the supernatural realm.”
Western appeals to democracy, human rights, and free markets have little impact on China because of its pragmatic, rather than ideological, perspective. It is more impressed by behavior and results than by professions of intent and the affirmation of values and beliefs fundamental to ideologies.
While humanism is itself an ideology, Chinese humanism is based on realism and pragmatism rather than idealism. “The dominant Chinese conception of humanism is the Confucian theory of ren. The term ren has been translated in various ways, including as "benevolence," "goodness," "virtue," "humanity," "humanness," and "being authoritative.” Humanism, like other ideologies, is an interior collective belief system. ”Recent analysis tends to posit that ideology is a 'coherent system of ideas' that rely on a few basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis. Through this system, ideas become coherent, repeated patterns through the subjective ongoing choices that people make. These ideas serve as the seed around which further thought grows. The belief in an ideology can range from passive acceptance up to fervent advocacy. According to most recent analysis, ideologies are neither necessarily right nor wrong.” Chinese humanism supports human rights not primarily for ideological reasons but due to the practical benefits to society for doing so.
Duty plays an important and fundamental role in the Chinese worldview, perhaps best summarized in the relationship between citizens and government, as summarized in “Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Chinese Citizen.” While duty is indeed an interior collective value, it manifests as concrete behaviors, and it is this demonstration of duty that is required in the Chinese worldview. While Chinese can be as self-indulgent as anyone else, indulgence tends to be constrained within the context of duty.
Like duty, respect is an interior collective value. However, also like duty, what matters in China is the manifestation of respect in personal behavior (EI) and in relationships (EC). In the Chinese worldview, both traditional and contemporary, individual rights are secondary to the showing and earning of respect. This is demonstrated by meritocracy, which is the major determinant of social hierarchy.
Fulfilling social roles/self-development
While the development of children is a high priority for Chinese families and the State, and is reflected in the Confucian concept of the “superior man,” self-development occurs to maintain familial and societal order, as reflected in the fulfillment of social roles.
Proper socio-cultural roles/romantic love
Romantic love is its own end in Western culture. By comparison, in China romantic love still primarily serves fulfillment of social roles, although with the infusion of Western culture, this traditional orientation has definitely weakened.
China has a very long tradition of merit based education and state employment. Merit is based on individual behavior founded on collective values and collective social requirements.The absence of large non-Han minorities in China has kept issues of affirmative action from becoming significant. However, largely due to the influence of communist ideology, egalitarianism is a very strong element in contemporary Chinese society.
While education is very much about acquisition of individual behaviors (EI), it is primarily about the learning of injunctive instructions - how to accomplish this or that (IC). Education and work are higher priorities than recreation in the Chinese worldview. One doesn't learn or work so as to be able to relax and have fun; learning and work are ends in themselves.
China places strong emphasis on worth based on both beingness and doing, dependent on the context. In education and work, the Chinese worldview may place heavier emphasis on identity based on doing than does the West. In terms of governmental responsibility for public welfare, China places a heavy emphasis on beingness: All Chinese, regardless of ethnicity or age are entitled to safety, security, education, health, and opportunity for advancement. The strong Chinese work ethic may be partially due to centuries of agrarian existence in precarious environmental circumstances subject to floods and earthquakes.
China is historically much more of a trade-based than a colonizing civilization. Trade assumes reciprocity while colonization emphasizes domination. Cooperation toward mutual satisfaction is prioritized over competition.
Trustworthiness/Manipulation; Manufacturing of Consent
Compared to most Western societies, Chinese consistently poll much higher in their trust of their government.
Governmental responsibility for Public Welfare/Financial and social deregulation
Economically, this may be the fundamental ideological difference between Chinese and Western worldviews and it shows up concretely in governmental ownership of banks, with the result that private financial speculation does not control the economy.
Problem Solving/Generation of Wealth
In China, wealth tends to come from successful problem solving rather than problem solving in the service of wealth generation. While problem solving is an exterior behavior, an attitudinal prioritization of problem solving is an interior individual value.
For example, five year plans in contrast to Western quarterly revenue targets.
Public Health, Safety/Individual Freedoms
For example, the lifting of some 800 million people out of dire poverty is a feat unprecedented in human history. In contrast, Western and Indian worldviews have a much more laissez-faire approach toward individual well-being, viewing it primarily the responsibility of the individual, not society.
Obedience to, observance of, law/“Might makes right”
International law vs “rules-based order.” “(The United States) has taken a selective approach to international law and rules, utilizing or discarding them as it sees fit, and has sought to impose rules that serve its own interests in the name of upholding a 'rules-based international order'.”
Transparency and accountability/Elite privilege
China places a higher value on transparency and accountability as defenses against the inevitability of the excesses associated with elite privilege. This is reflected in the much higher level of government and corporate leader convictions for corruption than occurs in the west. Elite privilege exists in all groups, organizations, governments, and societies, and China is no exception. However, groups can be more or less aware of elitism and exceptionalism as problems and address them more or less directly.
Obedience to authority/Demands for autonomy
The acceptance of multiple severe covid lockdowns in China reflects high obedience to authority. By comparison, rebellion against lockdowns in much of the West were often framed as demands for autonomy and individual freedom.
Socio-cultural multi-perspectivalism/Worldview absolutism (allowance for different worldviews)
This can also be framed as multi-polarity vs hegemony. Prepersonal, personal, cognitive, and polycentric varieties of multi-perspectivalism can be differentiated. Accordingly, I view multi-perspectivalism as a critical and fundamental developmental line that evolves interdependently with other lines, particularly the core lines of morality, cognition, and the self-system. Multi-perspectivalism is not defined by or limited to integral maps or metamodernism, although both make extensive use of cognitive multi-perspectivalism. The metamodern understanding of multi-perspectivalism is not definitive for all worldviews.
“China aspires to neither a global financial nor security (martial) role and has no evident ambitions to do so. Indeed, one may argue that to take on such roles would be antithetical to the Chinese development model, which rests on construction and production rather than finance, and which is entirely defensive militarily and reliant on international institutions, law, and cooperation for the preservation of world peace.”
China does not have a history of colonization or expansionist empire. It has generally been content to stay within its borders for well over two thousand years. The exceptions to this rule are minor compared to the history of colonization by the West. On the whole, China has been a mercantile empire, content to trade with other countries and not conquer them, and this model appears to be winning the day at present in the competition of global worldviews. A historical precedent was the Carthaginian empire, also primarily mercantile. That model was superseded in 146 BC by the third Punic War, in which Rome, with its martial and colonizing worldview, destroyed Carthage. The West inherited the Roman model, and as soon as it was able, in 1095, in the first of eight Crusades, it embarked on a thousand years of colonial expansion. That model is only now being once again seriously challenged, some 2100 years after the fall of Carthage.
Assimilation and application of Western reason and logic in the sciences, engineering, technology/Traditional Chinese epistemology, logic
One of the reasons the Chinese worldview is such a challenge to the Western worldview is that China has assimilated so many of its strengths without surrendering its basic identity. While traditional Chinese epistemology is metaphysical and intuitive, contemporary Chinese epistemology and logic largely reflect Western approaches. This conclusion is based on the nature of university training of engineers, technocrats, and doctors (although some Chinese doctors also practice traditional Chinese medicine). However, Chinese epistemology is thoroughly realist, based on pragmatism, functionality, and data, when compared to both the West and Africa, both of which are far more ideologically-based.
Lower relational exchanges (security, safety); eliminating mass poverty/Higher relational exchanges (progressivism, liberalism, cognitive multi-perspectivalism)
China will double its middle income group to 800 million by 2035. The common prosperity demonstration zone, Zhejiang province, will expand the middle class income earners—$14,000 - $70,000—to 82% by 2025, above Germany and the US, and raise tertiary enrollment to 70%.
In general, what can we conclude from the above? One does not have to like or agree with the Chinese worldview in order to conclude that it provides a formidable and very real challenge to the dominance of the Western worldview, which has been in ascendency for the last five hundred years. This challenge exists due to multiple factors. China's purchasing power parity (PPP) has risen in only some seventy years to a level that surpasses that of the US. Its GDP is predicted to surpass that of the US in less than a decade. A new Chinese billionaire is created every week. The middle class of China is larger than that of the US. There are 109 million Chinese with wealth of between $50,000 and $500,000. Since 2000, twice as many Chinese as Americans have joined the middle class. The Chinese middle class is growing quickly, while that of the US is shrinking. China now has 15,500 miles of bullet trains as of this writing. The US has none. The US government is willing to spend money on “national security,” increasing the debt ceiling, and raising its own salaries and little else.The US would lose a war with China over Taiwan, as China now possesses supersonic cruise missiles that can target US aircraft carriers and that are unstoppable with current military technologies. Countries of the Global South in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are now choosing to join China's Belt-Road Initiative (BRI) over World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans. Some 147 countries, as of March, 2022, including some European ones, have joined the BRI. Commerce among these countries is increasingly being conducted outside the dollar/euro banking systems, undermining the financing of US debt that allows it to indulge in massive deficit spending to an extent unavailable to any other country. In addition, China has walled itself off from major purveyors of Western culture, including Google, Facebook, and YouTube, with their algorithms that favor search results and views that support Western approved narratives. The implication is that Chinese culture and narratives are not easily challenged by Western narratives within China. While this can be decried as censorship, which it surely is, the net result is that the Chinese worldview continues to strengthen and gain adherents, regardless of Western attempts to reverse that trend.
What is the most appropriate response by the West to the rise of the Chinese worldview? When in a hole the first step is to stop digging. It is probably best to at least stop doing what has been proven not to work: doubling down on military, cultural, and economic colonization. “China bad” or calling those who question the superiority of the Western worldview communists or “authoritarian sympathizers” does nothing to change trends in the real world. Beyond that, there are many ways that the West could learn from the success of the Chinese worldview. However, the fear is that doing so will risk undermining the Western model. For example, if the West matches China's financial conditions in its international loans it will thereby strengthen the economies of the global south, slowly turning them into competitors, instead of sources of raw materials and buyers of value added finished products. In another example, if the West drops its economic sanctions on China it fears that it will merely speed China's growth as the dominant world power.
To date, there have not been many integralists that I know of who have either been interested in or able to make an objective assessment of the Chinese worldview. It would be wise for integralists to take the Chinese worldview much more seriously. To do so, integralists have to recognize that their multi-perspectival map of China is largely drawn from the perspective of the Western interior collective quadrant, which intrinsically biases their assessment of the Chinese worldview. China in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will forever be regarded as a testament to human adaptability. It survived the “century of humiliation,” adapted to communism and then to Western capitalism and culture, incorporating all within the context of traditional Chinese culture, values, and worldview, and by so doing, became the preeminent global power.