China: Promise or Threat?

A Comparison of Cultures


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.
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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.
Foreword: A Fascination with China, by David Fasenfest
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

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.