You Must Die So I Can Live
For a long time, the Americans just assumed until recently that the Chinese Communist party would collapse. They saw the Cultural Revolution as auguring the beginning of the end. And indeed, the Cultural Revolution did lead to change, which the US took as opportunity. Confident of it cultural superiority, the US thought it could just subvert Chinese culture, with Hollywood movies and propaganda.
That didn’t work out. Now the Dragon is spreading its wings and rising. The America Eagle is eating dead fish on a beach, bullied by seagulls. Oh, Jonathan how could you do that?
So America has declared war on China. It is not military. Undoubtedly, the US would go go that route if it could. But China is not Korea, or Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan.
And how did those wars turn out?
China is simply too big, too far away and now too well armed.
The US has begun an economic war, enlisting the cooperation of vassal states like Canada.
What is interesting is that the Chinese are not really fighting. It’s like Taoist martial arts. The first lesson is to win without fighting.
To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
Sun Tzu The Art of War ch. 3
Can entire societies be sociopathic?
That depends on your understanding of human nature. The majority view in the Western World is that human beings are inherently violent. This, although the US Army discovered in WWII, that only about 20% of its soldiers fired to kill. The US fixed with intensive training to turn impressionable young men into “natural born killers” of men, women and children — situational sociopaths.
“Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
“Hobbes got it right” Stephen Pinker
The Chinese mostly disagree.
When the way of nature is observed,
all things serve their function;
horses drawing carts, and pulling at the plough.
But when the natural way is not observed,
horses are bred for battle and for war.
Desire and wanting cause discontent,
whilst he who knows sufficiency
more easily has what he requires.
Tao Te Ching
That was written more than two thousand years ago by Lao Tzu. But it is a continuous theme in Chinese thought — even today. It represents a style of thinking. It is one of many but seems to dominate.
China has pursued development under the vision of building an ecological civilization. From the traditional Chinese wisdom that the laws of Nature govern all things and that man must seek harmony with Nature, to the new development philosophy emphasizing innovative, coordinated, green and open development for all, China has always prioritized ecological progress and embedded it in every dimension and phase of its economic and social development. The goal is to seek a kind of modernization that promotes harmonious coexistence of man and Nature.
Add to this, harmonious co-existence of man and man.
War and revolution have all left their mark on China. But nothing like nature itself, the environment, which is the stage on which all must play and which determines their scripts — and which also informs Chinese concepts of what it is to be human and what form society should take. There is no god in Confucianism or Taoism: only nature, which enforces the need for social balance and cooperation. When these things break down, chaos ensues, and people die. China has had its wars.
Yet, China has also had centuries of peace — in contrast to Europe which has been wracked by war since long before the Christian era — continually. Europe has never really had a kind of enduring peace: there has always been war somewhere.
Add to this, harmonious co-existence of man and man.
Conflict Culture and Collaborative Consensus Culture
Europe therefore is a conflict culture: China, however, is a combined collaboration -consensus culture. Of course, these are imperfect generalizations. No culture can be reduced so simply to a single idea or modality, although one style of thinking can dominate.
Keeping that caveat in mind, we can say that while the Chinese had philosophy as a rational response to cultural challenge, the Europeans, like their Central Asian and Middle Eastern predecessors had religion: irrational heuristics set down by “gods”, divine authority figures who told them that only their tribe had the right to live. Nature was something to exploit or destroy. The East was pragmatic: the West, ideological.
No doubt all religions once had a rationale but when religions are institutionalized, Believers are institutionalized too. No one remembers where the basis for their “faith” . Hail Mary and obey.
In conflict societies, hierarchy is the most important thing, enforced by threat of violence.
Notice the Kings, princes, and nobles are not counted as “Men” who are just above “wild animals”.
China was and is hierarchical too. But its pyramid was subtly different.
At the top was the Emperor. Below him bureaucrats — the Literati — who for the most part took their place through demonstrations of merit — examinations and the like.
Below them, large landowners.
The next category was the peasantry, who were not only the economic backbone of the country but provided manpower for its military, which did not rely on a warrior class as in Europe.
One down were craftsmen and merchants. At the bottom, a servant class, including low level bureaucrats.
Both collaboration and consensus were important as you can see from the middle of the pyramid — its core — which was reserved for “productive classes”.
Many famous generals, thinkers, and even at least one emperor came from the peasantry. Merit mattered. It still does in China. The CPC for all its faults is a party of technocrats. You have to prove ability to get in.
In Europe, bloodlines mattered most. And they still do in the US.
Social mobility was built in the Chinese system. And all were “men” — unlike in Europe. While Western thought was doctrinal and therefore regressive, Chinese decision making was collaborative, future-oriented and sought a diversity of opinion from stakeholders and beyond that experts in various fields. It was also consensus oriented, seeking agreement from all those affected by changes in policy for better implementation.
Man: Good or Bad?
Confucius and Mencius thought holistically that human beings were good in the context of nature — and that source of evil was social imbalance and poor governance. If your roof leaks, don’t blame the rain, blame the design. One cannot fight nature. To survive, one must find balance and learn from mistakes. If all men are good, then evil comes from faulty response to external forces. And since we are social animals, that means society is to blame.
That idea has survived today. Xi Jinping has sought to meld Confucian morality and modern CPC ideology, looking back, as it were, to the future. The concept of “ecological civilization” is in the context of China revolutionary.
Collaborative Consensus cultures are sustained by friends and allies and cooperative relationships — and merit. You don’t want or need enemies.
Since conflict cultures by definition, need enemies, both within and without, and power needs to justify its violence, men are thought to be inherently brutal and greedy.
It is always Me versus You. Us versus Them.
There is no real collaboration because everyone is out for himself or herself.
Nor is there consensus. What you get instead is compliance in the interests of personal survival.
As long as serfs had bread, they were happy. As long as modern Americans have smartphones and Starbucks, they think themselves content.
As I have mentioned, every culture has more than one set of thinking styles. China had philosophers with similar ideas to those in the West.
Xunzi, the Chinese Hobbes of his time, believed men were born not so much “evil” in the Judeo-Christian sense — but grasping and venal — and that the capacity for Good had to beaten into him d with culture, laws, and rituals — “civilization” — mandated by some wise person — like him, of course.
What we call our “humanity” was / is something that had to be learned and enforced with discipline, something like the old British public school system — nurtural rather than natural. Bullying was essential.
But Xunzi was fortunately not in the mainstream.
Europe had its dissenters, too — its Rousseaus and Spinozas who saw human beings as part of nature and not separate. But for each, there were a dozen Hobbes who believed that man was divorced from the natural environment: greedy, brutal and selfish — justifying authoritarian control from above by a monarch or aristocracy, what Hobbes called “Leviathan”, as separate from ordinary men as ordinary men are from animals. The Great Chain of Being Redux.
Even today, Hobbes’ view is dominant as we can see by the extraordinary popularity of pseudo-scholar Steven Pinker’s books which present man as a genetic “deplorable” –a sort of upgraded chimpanzee with a bad temper and no moral sense. That so much of the public agrees and the majority of those in the social “sciences” too tells you something about Western thinking.
For Pinker himself, Leviathan would be a Harvard professor like himself peddling fake theories.
But our real modern Leviathans are Jeff Bezos, Soros and Gates and a few hundred people who own half the planet –including the people there and nod approvingly. Pinker is just Court Jester.
Previous Leviathans gave us Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atrocities of the Korean War, Vietnam and the Middle East. Ordinary people don’t like violence and we don’t like to think about it, so long as there is no threat to us. We want to think we are good, peaceful beings. Leviathans think only domination, which means war and death.
It’s the Economy, Stupid
But why the huge difference between West and East? After all, the “West” is just the Westward adjunct of Asia and the “East”. Answer:
“It’s the economy, stupid.”
The “economy” means access to resources, which determines human survival. In the Paleo period, resources were as unlimited as territory. When the hunting was poor once place, you just moved to where it was better.
From the Neolithic onwards, human beings were limited by tribal territorialism with access to resources complicated not only by the ecology, environment and geography of the place you lived, but by the sheer size of communities. Resources were not shared, as in Paleo times — they became commodities.
If you look at China, it had these problems too –. Its civilizations grew up as most Holocene cultures did at the mouths of rivers and along their fertile banks. They were sedentist and static. But they were also isolated from the rest of Asia by natural barriers; deserts in the north and in the West and mountains in the south and the Oceans in the East.
In Central Asia, not everyone was so lucky. With the domestication of horses and river travel and the Bronze and Iron ages, people could use advances in mobility to migrate more easily — which they did, which is why European languages, or rather Indo-European languages and Asian languages are related, even if today the influences are hard to see. The inhabitants of the Steppes went West and South, just like the Americans and also South and Southwest — again like the Americans — to seek more fertile lands.
“Europe” is not really a continent because it is in no way separate from Asia; rather it is open in the East, with few obstacles to migration. Calling Europe “continental” is a way of denying its origins.
Women as a commodity
In late Neolithic times and the Bronze and Iron Ages, one imagines a big sign in the east: “Give us your oppressed; your poor “. Also, give us your horny. For women had become a scarce resource, just like food — commodified — bought and sold. As Ashly Montague famously said, marriage and prostitution go together. Sorry ladies — you are ALL sex-workers!
If you live in a crowded community in one place with limited resources, then hierarchy and property become important. How to maintain order? And protect property? Bloodlines, of course. Lineal rights. While Paleo cultures were matrist and egalitarian, Holocene cultures were patriarchal with women regarded as property. Those at the top of the hive hoarded women just as they hoarded food.
Supply and demand. What do ten poor, oppressed, horny males do, when there is only one girl? So, it was that Europe was populated in waves of migration, from other places, mostly males, more than ten times the number of females it is now believed.
Women were plunder. This also helped the rulers of tribal cultures to expand their domains. And, of course, God said rape was OK. Read your Bible. After all, women had it coming after that thing with Adam and the Apple.
As you approach a town to attack it, first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you.
The ancient Jews were migrants to the Middle East, along with other groups, all of which shared similar origins.
Early Holocene Europe was not uninhabited, of course.
No one knows much about the original peoples of Europe, but it seems to have had hunter gatherers and, with climatic change, no doubt farming communities.
Nothing to stop invaders, first from Asia Minor, who probably did what European colonists did in the continental US, seeing the continent “vacant’ except for its indigenous people, who weren’t really people because they weren’t “us”. The Calvinists listened to the voice of God who told them they were the Chosen People. Joan than Edwards, the Calvinist icon was slave holder who thought it was fine with god to make people — slaves — work “without wages”. Many wealthy Americans still believe that making people work without real wages — the poor, the imprisoned and migrant workers — is somehow just and good.
It’s Geography, too, stupid!
If you look at the geography of Europe you will see that it is convenient for the creation of tribalistic enclaves with lots of islands like the Greek Islands and British Isles, peninsular extensions like modern Italy and Spain and Scandinavia — not mention mountains.
Tribal enclaves resulted in cultural and ethnic diversity. For example, the Aesir of Central Asia settled in different areas, such as Scandinavia and the Greek Islands. In Scandinavia they became the Vikings. In Greece, the Trojans. Eventually, in France, the Vikings became Normans. Hollywood famously portrays Vikings as tall, blonde and blue-eyed.
But DNA studies show that they have a wonderful mixture of ethnic genes, including Asian genes, and maybe a few Semitic and African ones. Like you, me and everyone else — they were mongrels — who share the same roots, the same humanity.
In the Chinese case, migrations from the north and west and south did occur but generally on a small enough scale that the newcomers could be assimilated. This isolation resulted in long periods of stable governance which collapsed after a few centuries when social balance was lost and the system became geriatric — too heavy and inflexible to cope with challenge –either natural in the form of famines or other disasters — including foreign invasions — or internal, as through revolutions.
Civilizations do not last.
In Europe, the Roman Empire was senile after just a few centuries, although dementia started early as with Joe Biden.
After that came the so-called “Dark Ages” which weren’t really ‘dark” at all. What you had was a large collection of tribal enclaves.
The Frankish Empire tried to preserve some kind of unity among all these peoples who are, after all, related. But localism prevailed.
The so-called “Dark Ages” were notable for some technological advances- notably the expanded use of the lateen sail, which led eventually to large transoceanic vessels in the Renaissance.
In England, the Britons, Celts, Angles, Saxons, Danes and Normans fought it out. But Britain is and island. Geography rules, and the “English” became one, even inventing a new language. They then turned their attention to war in Europe. And eventually built a navy.
Advances in transportation, accelerated the flow of goods and resources, changed warfare –and of course made possible migrations of all kinds — but especially the migration of ideas, which led to the Renaissance.
It also led to migrant rats, how traveled all the way from China to Venice to bring Europeans the Plague.
The combination of new ideas, pandemics, and technologies put pressure on all institutions.
That led to the Enlightenment, and monarchies superseded by neo feudal “nation” which substituted wage slavery in Blake’s “dark Satanic mills” for chattel slavery and serfdom. “Progress” is not always progressive.
The Anger of Nature
From history one can argue that the biggest enemy of humankind in both Europe and Asia was never human –never war — it was always the anger of Nature. Floods, typhoons, droughts, and pests led to famines and disease — which killed a lot more over the centuries than the Mongols — or Hitler or Stalin — or even the genocidal Japanese or today’s American Golden Horde.
The difference between East and West was that China recognized the importance of its relationship with Nature. Christian Europe could not. Neoliberal Europe and the USA still not.
Paleo peoples lived in harmony with nature.
The Neolithic Revolution which morphed into the Bronze and Iron Ages upset the balance conferred by evolution everywhere — including in China — which is why LaoTzu admonishes us to follow the “way of nature”, inside ourselves — and outside. That’s not easy.
How do we meet the needs of large, multilevel, sedentist, mass societies with rapidly growing populations when Nature periodically culls them, as it does with all overpopulated animal species that upset ecological balance? How do we do this when each new technology has ecological impact which upsets previous balance?
China, looking to tradition, seeks social solutions demanding social cooperation, specifically among those who produce what the country needs — food, technology and the like — and are positioned higher up in the hierarchy than their equivalents in the West. That’s Xi’s “ecological civilization”. But then that’s the People’s Republic.
China has had many revolutions but today it hopes for evolution through cooperation and rational adaptation.
In the West, “Leviathan” doesn’t trust the “People”, thinking them as brutal and greedy — as …well…Leviathan itself.
For it, “evolution” is the survival of the richest. If not most sociopathic.
Those at at the very top of the social pyramid are not fitter — they largely inherit their privilege, which insulates them from both empathy and altruism — not to mention from, feelings of threat or urgency. They are not motivated to change anything but only to defend the status quo.
If you own a fifth of the world and live on an island in an air-conditioned, solar and wind powered dome served by robots and pampered slaves what do you care about poor black or brown people dying from heat or malnutrition?
The Chinese, however, know such inequality leads to revolutions and war.
The Yuan Dynasty was nominally ended by a peasant revolt against the Mongols led by Zhu Yuanzhang, a Han peasant whose parents had died in famine and was influenced by Chinese Daoism and Buddhism. Zhu became the first Ming Emperor and briefly restored the balance that the Mongol dynasty had destroyed.
However, Nature did not cooperate. The famine that shaped Zhu’s destiny was a result of climate change — the Little Ice Age — and that did not go away, leading to the demise of his dynasty three centuries later, and the ascendency of the Manchus under the Qing emperors.
Today, China again faces climate change and what you might call the Second Cultural Revolution — Xi’s — as he tries to reconstitute social balance for an “ecological civilization” and achieve peace in Asia and beyond. China has traditionally focused on stability and mutually beneficial relationships with neighboring states.
Between 1598 and 1894, there were only three brief wars that involved China — the 1659–60 and the 1767–71 wars with Burma, and the 1788–89 war with Vietnam, as well as two wars that did not involve China — the Siamese-Burmese wars of 1607–18 and of 1660–62.
Indeed, insofar as China is concerned, we should speak of a 500 years’ peace since, in the 200 years preceding the 1592 Japanese invasion of Korea, China was at war with other East Asian states only during the invasion of Vietnam in 1406–28 to restore the Tran dynasty.
Of course, there was the Mongol Invasion, the two Opium wars, the Taiping Rebellion, the Japanese invasion, the American proxy war using Chiang in 1949 and the subsequent Korean War but China has been at peace more often than not during its very long history.
The differences in history present a problem for the Chinese in communicating with the “West’.
How can the West understand something they have never experienced? Namely peace. A “dove” is mildly pejorative in American English. And the USA mostly gives the finger to the Global South.
European and American societies assume conflict — in fact, they are built on it: their social systems are adversary systems. Law, education, business — it all war. “Western” societies are zero sum societies in which “win-win” is permitted only for and among losers and only as it the winners are comfortable with the solutions. Indeed, “win-win” is mostly PR.
PR is also important for zero sum thinking which must rationalize selfishness, greed, avarice and the like by compartmentalization and rationalization. As Heinlein said, “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal”, echoing Heidegger’s notion of reason as a tool whose use depends on purpose.
Win-Lose is a dichotomy. Westerners divided everything into opposites -dichotomies — black and white, good and evil; friend and enemy; you and me — all subject to individual interpretation. My co-writer, Dwight Whitney, calls this “reductionism” because it reduces things to their parts such that a part can refute Euclid and be greater than the whole.
The Chinese are holistic. This is another on of those generalizations I warned about in the beginning. Let’s just say the Chinese are prone to looking at the Bigger Picture.
Hence, the teachings of Confucius and Mencius emphasizing the interdependence and dynamic relationship of society and its members –and also the precepts of Lao-Tzu who speaks of a similar organic relationship between the individual and nature.
The Tao as counter balance
The teachings of Confucius and Mencius were important in humanizing the hierarchical civilization of their time and those that came after but their focus was on institutions.
The Tao was a counterbalance, focusing on the human being himself and his or her existential ecology.
Lao-Tzu, like Jesus, may or may not have really existed. The Wikipedia article on Taoism sums up his teachings rather well:
Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving “perfection” by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called “the way” or “dao”. Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu wei (action without intention), “naturalness”, simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 “compassion”, 儉 “frugality”, and 不敢為天下先 “humility”.
This is a pretty standard view of Taoism — although there are many interpretations. If you go to sea, you must row as one but together with others and pay attention to the waves and the weather.
For Lao Tzu, cultural or societal definitions of “good” were irrelevant. Rather, the natural inborn virtues of empathy and altruism upheld as attributes expressed “without intention” spontaneously and individually, without any kinds of expectations or calculated quid pro quo. Most important in Daoism is humility. Individual identity is unimportant. It is not who you are in the eyes of others but what you are in the eyes of nature. Taoism promotes independence of thought, feeling and action — but not individualized “identity”, which is understood as ephemeral. After all, we are continuously re-incarnated. In the next life John Smith is a Mouse and his wife is the cat that eats him.
In other words, the starting point of this Chinese Zen is identical to that of, say, Mencius and his belief that man is good but the focus is on acting in harmony with nature — man, woman, cat, mouse. This leads to win-win.
Western “individualism” is different — in fact this term, which was invented in France in the early 19th Century as a pejorative implies a certain kind of sociopathy. Westerners lead from above, with leaders claiming credit of themselves alone. In the East, the best leaders lead from the below and encourage both collaboration and consensus, so everyone is a stakeholder.
In today’s globalized society thinking holistically is an advantage. Because to survive you have to connect a lot of nominally unconnected things.
The Chinese point of view is always “Me = We”. And, of course, “We = Me.
If I win; all must win too. And I am more than I — I am everything I touch.
Western people brought up in a more “individualistic“ or egocentric tradition of personal agency find the Chinese way of thinking “totalitarian” and “authoritarian”, when in fact it is the opposite, communitarian holistic thinking that reconnects human beings to the world of others. In today’s globalized society that is an advantage. Because to survive you have to connect a lot of nominally unconnected things. The Chinese are not passive. They have had actual revolutions which sought to free ordinary people. Not so, the Americans or the British, whose revolutions were for the upper classes, serving to circulate elites.
In the beginning was the Word
But reductionist thinking assumes as Dwight Whitney says, “Your idea must die so mine can live”. In a zero-sum argument there can only be one set of valid ideas — those of the winner, which, with the cancellation of all dissent, becomes a kind of universal logic, if we understand “logic”, not as reason but in terms of the original meaning in Greek “logos”.
In the Bible “logos” is translated as the “Word”; it means — “Order” — given us by higher authority, God — along with a set of rules which define “order”. In this sense, it is very like Pinker’s concept of “universal logic” underlying all languages — a concept that has never proven workable. The “logos” of every language is unique to the culture in which it develops. Read Wittgenstein.
In Game Theory, Zero Sum games depend on the Nash Equilibrium but these games must be a.) finite b.) depend on the players having full knowledge of the others’ strategies on a finite basis. The equilibria cannot predict games such as Chinese chess, which involve open-ended or quantum strategies.
In simple terms, “your idea must die, so mine can live” is the road to hell.
Trust is difficult if you think this narcissistic, self-involved logic is the only one and you have to kill other’s ideas — if not the people themselves. It is not just that the East is East and the West is West. For the “West” there is no East — only the West. The East must die so the West can eat hamburgers.
Read the mainstream media news. If the facts disagree with the official narrative — there can be only one — news media just change the facts. CNN will tell you that the BRI is Chinese “imperialism”. Yet, on the contrary, the Belt and Road Initiative is transparently win-win. Lao Tzu said:
If a nation is centered in the Tao, if it nourishes its own people and doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others, it will be a light to all nations in the world.
But the West insists on nourishing a few at the expense of many and meddling in the affairs of all. Zero sum is freedom for the winner. Death for the loser. Since 1945, about 30 million people have died as a result of American wars or embargos.
In the Western world, “enlightenment” is not about “light”: it is a proposition in a debate in which there can be only one winner. For the loser there is only darkness.
In Asia, however, Enlightenment is first a question; then a path; then a journey; then arrival. But there can be many paths and many destinations. All share the light. And, if there is darkness, all share that too, and light candles for comfort in the shadow.
Again, these are generalizations.
Am I saying that Chinese culture is superior to that of the West? Philosophically and morally yes. But that does not mean that it will prevail.
The Six Nations culture of North America — the world’s oldest participatory democracy — was in most respects culturally superior to that of the English colonists — its peoples were healthier and happier and its women full participants. Founded in the 12th or 13th Century, it lasted until the end of the 18th, effectively just over four centuries — like all civilizations — which it was, despite the arrogance of Europeans — who considered themselves the only “civilized” people — largely because continual warfare had spurred the technologies of violence. That is still the case. The US measures ‘progress’ in terms of its ability to murder with ever newer kinds of weapons.
The Iroquois Confederacy did not prevail, mostly because of European diseases and sheer numbers of colonial migrants and their high birth rates which were achieved by enslaving women and relegating them to the role of breeders. And, of course, because they lacked muskets and cannons.
If China is successful in creating an “ecological civilization” it will eventually collapse — after a few centuries. Right now, it looks to be very successful. Moreover, it has seen what the West can do and is prepared.
Americans fear that others will adopt the Chinese system.
But since every “civilization” is a complex adaptation to local cultural conditions and history, Chinese civilization can never be just imitated by any other culture. There can be no American CPC.
What will replace the US of A when it falls is moot. Every culture has a genotype. But very likely geography will rule.
The Chinese are aware of this cultural relativity — hence — their concept of multipolarity — that each culture has the right, if not the duty to develop its own democracy. “One earth, many worlds” as I say for my own work.
They seek balance within and without China, hence the “one nation, two systems” concept applied to Taiwan and Hong Kong as an expression of tolerance for local diversity, including in Yunnan, Tibet, Mongolia and Xinjang.
They seek balance within and without China, hence the “one nation, two systems” concept applied to Taiwan and Hong Kong as an expression of tolerance for local diversity, including in Yunnan, Tibet, Mongolia and Xinjiang.
In the West, it one nation — the US — one system — Americanism. But that cannot last.
Most of this article was written previously. But, in view of events, I have updated it.
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"There is no god in Confucianism or Taoism: only nature, which enforces the need for social balance and cooperation. "
There is no god of organized religion, of beliefs, in Confucianism or Taoism, but whoever wrote the Tao Te Ching had either realized, or met someone who had realized the Very Divine to a greater degree than Jesus, Gautama and Krishna.
This is a masterly survey of an obviously complex issue — you have a remarkable feel for Chinese civilization (which is different from knowing the facts of political history).
I speak as someone with partial Chinese ancestry.