"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."
-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
1 China’s Lessons and Its Ways of Operating3 China’s Lessons and Its Ways of OperatingChina’s Lessons and Its Ways of OperatingChapter 6: The Big Cycle of China and Its Currency2020-10-09Journal
Of these, Confucianism and neo-Confucianism have been the most influential through time, usually with some Legalism thrown in, up until the early 20th century when Marxism gained favor with Mao and then with his successors. I will briefly explain Marxism when we get into the 20th century. Naturally all of these have been very fleshed out and have evolved over time, along with the ways that the emperor and government operate.
All of these Chinese systems from the beginning of recorded history were hierarchical and non-egalitarian. I was told by one of the most senior Chinese leaders, who is also a highly informed historian and an extremely practical top policy maker, that the core difference between Americans and the Chinese is that Americans put the individual above all else and the Chinese put the family and the collective above all else. He explained that Chinese leaders seek to run the country the way they think parents should run the family—from the top down, maintaining high standards of behavior, putting the collective interest ahead of any individual interest, with each person knowing their place and having filial respect for those in the hierarchy so that the system works in an orderly way. He explained that the word “country” consists of two characters, “state” and “family,” which represents how the leaders view their roles in looking after their state/family—like strict parents. So one might say that the Chinese government is run from the top down (like a family) and optimizes for the collective while the American approach is run from the bottom up (e.g., democracy) and optimizes for the individual. (These differences of approach can lead to policies that those on the opposite side find objectionable, which I will explore in more detail in the next chapter.)