A big puzzle of Chinese is why China has gone through such a long time of feudal system? If capitalism is inevitable, why it took China so long?
A lot of things in this world will have to be understood from cultural point of view. Capitalism is not just simply an economic form. It is also about culture. Maybe it is true that without western intervention, China can also enter capitalism slowly. But it may take another 2000 years to do so.
Chinese culture is a totally independent system outside of western culture. It is very unique. Like a person, every culture has its limitation. Language plays a role like a gene in a culture. It sets the difference between Chinese culture and western culture. Through thousands of years of development, the difference got greatly amplified.
When we look at the languages, Chinese language or its derivatives are image based, like pictures, while the western counterpart is sound based, like symbols. So western people are more able to do abstract analytic thinking while Chinese are better at connecting back to the nature, being one with the nature. English is generally more accurate than Chinese. I felt scientific paper is always better written in English. I even feel that Chinese ancient literature, such as Buddhism scripts, is much easier to understand when translated into English. Chinese is very descriptive and expressive. Its grammar is very flexible. Because it is not sound based, it doesn’t need many sounds to express one concept. So it is very easy for us to combine several characters together to make one single word expressing very rich meaning. For example, Chinese chengyu, or idioms.
I guess it is due to this small difference in language that set the stage for the big departure of these two cultures from each other. Because of the language, the western people are better at telling difference, while Chinese people are better in realizing things are the same. Having a better ability to tell the difference, the western people divide things up, classify them, analyze them, separate them from nature, thus they have a system of science. Western people divide things into psychology, philosophy, physical science and so on, and study them separately. Thus they have science. Western people felt this separation from nature, thus they want to study and understand nature. Because of this separation, they care about humans conditions and study how to improve humans conditions. But for Chinese, it is easy for them to realize the sameness of things, as in Tao or Buddhism. But it is hard for normal folks to really understand that profound realization. So they just think everything is the same, thus unable to tell the difference, which matters. It is important for Chinese people to be always one with the nature. It is hard for them to divide things up to study them. For Chinese people, suffering in life is the natural thing in the world. We just need to endure the suffering and learn how to survive individually. One strong visual impact I have living in the west is that there are so many unnatural colors in the west, in either building or food. The colors can be so strong in the west. While in the east, we tend to make things in natural colors. We can also see the evidences of such different ability of thinking in music or painting. It explains the big difference between the east and the west in painting and music.
Because of this better ability to think abstractly and analytically, since the Greek culture, the west has a long tradition of science and concern for human being’s living conditions. The Greek had a very deep look into human nature, as we can see in Greek mythology. It is the source of western civilization. On the contrary, there was no such strong concern in ancient China. At least, it was not strong enough to become a tradition. As we can see that the Greek has a lot of sculptures of human bodies, while there were very few in ancient China. While science has been a long tradition of systemic study in the west, it was always scattered efforts in Chinese history, not strong enough to be a tradition. Even in today’s China, science is still probably not a system.
Confucius has a very vital impact on Chinese culture, since it was adopted as the national religion 2000 years ago. To me, Confucius is totally an embodiment of Chinese inability to think clearly and rationally. Confucius, in its essence, is to seek stability/harmony, not truth. It further messed up Chinese minds, making them unable to think scientifically. Confucius’s goal is to maintain the existing hierarchy. There is no place for individuals. Thus through Chinese 2000 years under Confucius’ control, there is no strong consciousness of individual, while the consciousness of emperor, nation and family was very strong. Before Confucius took control, China had seen a period of great individuals, out of which born many great philosophers, and heroes.
In the west, there is a strong consciousness of individual. Westerner are normally very aggressive. As some of my western friends said, in the west, you have to be bad to other people first. Then they can treat you nicely. It is hard for them to imagine Chinese super endurance ability. As I volunteered for various grassroots organizations, I feel a lot of them very combative.
So as we can see, capitalism is a natural product of western culture. It is a cultural product, as well as economic product.
(To be continued)