The Annual Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture: Tim Brook, University of British Columbia
Government for the People: Troubling Legacies of the Confucian Statecraft Tradition
Americans are familiar with Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people, for the people,” Chinese with Sun Yatsen’s “three principles of the people.” They are parallel discourses of government, but rise from different traditions and anticipate different outcomes. On the Chinese tradition of government for the people, no-one writes more clearly than Qiu Jun (1421-1495), chancellor of the National Academy and compiler of the authoritative handbook of state administration. Caught between the models of Great State ambition and Confucian self-cultivation, Qiu put Confucian philosophy to work so that the state acted for the people—but not of them or by them. If he deserves our notice, it is because even today his vision shapes Chinese perceptions of good government in ways that surprise and trouble. The Annual Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture began in 2015 in honor of Hu Shih, the world-changing philosopher and statesman’s 100 anniversary of his graduation from Cornell. Each year leading scholars of Chinese and East Asian studies are invited to give a lecture on critical issues in their field of research.