Date of this Version

January 2001

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Details

Dellios, Rosita, (2001) Economic globalisation and the 'Mandate of Heaven'.

This is an electronic version of a conference paper prepared for the International Academic Conference on 'Economic Globalisation and Pluralistic Development of National Culture', Kunming, Yunnan, PRC, August 2001.

Copyright © Rosita Dellios. 2001.


Economic globalisation provides a fitting context for China’s modernisation and pluralistic development. This, in turn, allows China to become a cosmopolitan and civilising influence in economic globalisation. The interaction between economic globalisation and China’s development can indeed be mutually productive. It can, by the same token, be mutually destructive if care is not taken to retain the humane ‘ren’ qualities of Confucian culture as the underlying philosophy of this Sino-global interface. With the imminent return of China to its former status as 'celestial empire' or superpower - a superpower, one may speculate, ‘with Confucian characteristics’ - we will be seeing more of the Chinese cultural style of statecraft. This is necessary for the return of China to its central place between ‘Heaven and Earth’, thus returning humanity to the cosmic triad. In contemporary terms, it means humanising globalisation. Japan, as a foremost economic globaliser and part of the traditional Confucian culture area, would be well placed to assist in this endeavour. This paper proposes that as China modernises and grows more connected with the global system, it will be compelled by its own internal logic and dynamism to instigate a shift in the international political system. Like the European Union, which is currently finding strength in pluralistic unity rather than fragmented sovereignties, China will soon be in a position to cross the threshold of an international system in which states are self-serving or ‘xiaoren’, to the Confucian notion of ‘junzi’ by which states – like people – can be ‘self-cultivating’ (in other words, ‘self-civilising’) in an interactive global system. The proverbial ‘struggle for power’ thus converts to ‘partnerships of power’; it is now more profitable to connect than to clash. This ethos applies as much to civilisations as to states and their citizens. With the above in mind, China can address the needs of globalisation by remembering itself as a one-world ‘datong’-serving civilisation. The exigencies of globalisation might well unlock China’s rich cultural resources for global survival and meaningfulness. It may be postulated that the current economic globalisation presents a rare opportunity for China to gravitate to its rightful place under the 21st century international Heaven (or moral universe). The price of not doing so will be prohibitive –both for China and the world. An untamed globalisation serves no one’s interests, not even that of the markets which seek consumers and deplore economic wastelands. This paper proposes that economic globalisation will require Confucian characteristics and a strong Chinese state to sponsor them. The beneficiaries would then be human. Policies and practices that seek to avoid the human cost of economic globalisation, while building creative capacity, must surely be mandated by Heaven.



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