Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Friday, 12 January 2007

Paper presented at the Convention ‘Globalization and its Challenges in the 21st Century’
Hong Kong, July 26-28, 2001

Are Chinese ethics compatible with “global ethics?” A response to this question heard from many scholars belonging to the realist perspective - in China or in the West - is that there is no such thing as global ethics. Claims to the contrary, the argument goes, are simply rhetorical devices buttressing institutions of global governance such as the United Nations and some of the practices that many of its members support. As such, global ethics are seen as a very thin veneer with which great powers want to cover their national interests. In the current context, for example, a practice associated with global ethics such as “humanitarian intervention” is viewed as a charade ignoring Chinese concerns, and as the expression of Western imperialism. This criticism receives approval in the West by scholars such as Samuel Huntington (1996), who argues that there exist irreconcilable differences between the “West” and “China.” This paper, however, takes a very different approach and questions the false dichotomy implied in this debate. It considers Western and Chinese ethics as discursive formation shaped historically by social and political factors, not as unchanging essences, and therefore argue for the possibility of achieving over time a “background consensus” on global ethics. In that respect, this paper acknowledges its debt to the ongoing dialogue between Jurgen Habermas and Chinese intellectuals on global ethics. (Xu 2001)
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