China: Promise or Threat?


In China: Promise or Threat? Helle compares the cultures of China and the West through both private and public spheres. For China, the private sphere of family life is well developed while behaviour in public relating to matters of government and the law is less reliable. In contrast, the West operates in reverse. The book’s twelve chapters investigate the causes and effects of threats to the environment, military confrontations, religious differences, fundamentals of cultural history, and the countries’ orientations for finding solutions to societal problems, all informed by the Confucian impulse to recapture the lost splendour of a past versus faith in progress toward a blessed future. The West has promoted individualism while China is locked in its kinship society.
Open Access


Open Access

Biographical Note

Horst J. Helle held full professorships at the RWTH Aachen University, the University of Vienna, and the University of Munich. He worked at universities in other countries, including a year at the University of Chicago and, since 1996, in mainland China.

Table of contents

Foreword: A Fascination with China, by David Fasenfest Preface Introduction: The Goal of this Book 1. Familism: A Threat to the Environment The “Public Sphere:” Rights without Obligations Two types of Personal Association Personalization of the Law 2. Exchanges of Threats: The Opium Wars International Relations: Britain Russia, Japan, and Germany The Chinese Experience: Threat and Disappointment Why Did China not Defend herself? 3. China and the US: A Balance of Power? Why follow Thucydides? Promises and Threats Based on Economic Interests Real and Imagined Military Threats 4. Religions: Core Components of Cultures The Task at Hand: What is a Religion? Shared Origins of Contemporary Religions Governmental Interference with Religious Affairs 5. Religious Vitality in Contemporary China Types of Atheism in Party Politics Ancestor Worship: The Religion of China 6. Max Weber’s View of Religion in China 7. Daoism: China’s Native Religion The Fundamentals of Daoism Nature and Life Everlasting in Daoism Daoism as seen by Confucians and Buddhists 8. Oracle-Bones: The Mandate of Heaven How to Change – forward or backward? The Splendid Age of the Oracle Bones 9. Confucius: Recapture the Lost Splendour The Heavenly Mandate Shared by Relatives Finding Options for the Future The Party or the Family as “Church” in China? 10. The West: Individualism at its Limits The Western Family as Tragedy Cultural Evolution of Kinship in the West 11. China: The Kinship Society Granet and the Analects: Evolution of Kinship in China Fei Xiaotong: Field Work on Types of Family Life Altruism and Selfishness: A precarious Balance 12. China: A Threatening Promise to the West Summaries of the Chapters Concluding Queries about Threats and Promises Bibliography Index


For readers interested in the relationship between China and the West. The approach is familiar to sociologist, students of globalization, international relations and to social scientist in the tradition of the theory and field work of Fei Xiaotong in China.