The Rise Of Confucian Journalism

Posted on 01/07/2010


The great ancient Chinese philosopher K’ung Fu-Tzu, or as we better know him, Confucius, would have seen the modern Western journalist as fatally flawed.

Of course Confucius never worked as a journalist, but his set of values increasingly influence a new generation of journalists who are tired of the lazy reporting surrounding us that focuses on the individual and celebrity without putting them or events into their context.

The modern Western journalist exhibits a Confucian fatal moral flaw; laziness.

As a contrast, he emphasized the social unit and group, respecting, considering and empathising with the individual, being positive rather than negative, building up rather than tearing down.

Confucius’ “Superior Journalist” searches for the truth, investigates and seeks answers – but is also concerned in justice; is congenial, never vulgar; dignified, not arrogant; steadfast and not flighty.

Western journalists believe they have much to fear from Confucian journalism. And as journalism currently cocoons in between its metamorphic states, it is anyone’s guess what final shape the ongoing transformation will take; it might come out as an entirely new breed for a new world; ¬†with higher moral demands. A world that seems to demand not only justness and fairness, but also practical – as well as intellectual – contexts, social interaction on both local and truly global scales.

Most Western journalists have not yet realized that he challenges their industry is currently facing relates less to choice of media platform and more on moral standing of the communicators.

The danger, as some Western journalists steeped in personal autonomy and libertarianism see it, is the implicit limitations of the press freedom, in the Confucius teachings. He linked realistic freedom with a moral grounding, in reality meaning the freedom to choose only good, not evil.

The Confucian journalist would think of others connected to a story, there would be no invasion of privacy, nothing that would bring shame or grief, no “scoops”, with superficial stories, no playing to prurient interest of the audience, he would want to maximize social harmony and group cohesion.

Ultimately, humanistic considerations would take precedence over professional ones. He proposed a negated Christian Golden Rule, 400 years before Christianity, asking people to ‘don’t do unto others, what you would not have others do unto you.

Needless to say, applying this Golden Rule would revolutionize modern journalism.

Instead of finding Confucius journalism dangerous, Western journalist should simply be open to recognize that there are other kinds of journalism. Whereas freedom is of great importance to the Western journalist, it is to the Asian journalist not as important as social concern, group loyalty and harmonious human interaction.

Confucian, or communitarian, ¬†journalism, is on the rise throughout Asia, and increasingly so also beyond its continent with a now diverse range of global news channels offering alternative perspectives, often with the specific aim to harmonize social interactions and improve understandings between nations and even continents (arguably Xinhuanet’s CNC and Al Jazeera to name a few); sometimes through blatant propaganda, sometimes as genuine communitarian attempt.

With the recent announcement by the Chinese government of the goal to launch 1000 Confucius Institutes worldwide by 2020, the values and philosophy of the great Chinese sage will soon also influence all aspects of the modern society.

By P.I.L.


“Legacy of Wisdom – Great Thinkers & Journalism”, by John Calhoun Merrill

“China Ink”, by Judy Polymbaum

“Demystifying Asian Values In Journalism”, by X. Xiaoge

& Wikipedia

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