Confucianism in Chinese Politics: Comparing Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping

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Katherine Corder
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University Honors College, Middle Tennessee State University
China's recent and dramatic rise has both led to concerns in many democratic countries about its authoritarian leanings and increased interest in Chinese politics. This paper explores one aspect of modem China's political landscape by investigating how Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping have used Confucianism in their politics and whether this corresponds to how each leader claims to view Confucianism. It concludes that Mao's policies and the values he promoted were almost always antithetical to the fundamental principles of Confucianism, which is consistent with his habit of condemning the philosophy. On the other hand, Xi is consistent in his support of Confucianism, both praising it verbally and enacting many of its tenets in policy. Overall, the actions of each man correspond surprisingly well to the positions they claim to hold on Confucianism. KEYWORDS: Confucianism; Mao Zedong; Xi Jinping; Chinese politics; international relations; legitimacy