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China's New Confucianism:
Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society
Daniel A. Bell
With a new preface by the author

Paperback | 2010 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691145853
280 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400834822 |
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(Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Daniel Bell speaking at Duke University

What is it like to be a Westerner teaching political philosophy in an officially Marxist state? Why do Chinese sex workers sing karaoke with their customers? And why do some Communist Party cadres get promoted if they care for their elderly parents? In this entertaining and illuminating book, one of the few Westerners to teach at a Chinese university draws on his personal experiences to paint an unexpected portrait of a society undergoing faster and more sweeping changes than anywhere else on earth. With a storyteller's eye for detail, Daniel Bell observes the rituals, routines, and tensions of daily life in China. China's New Confucianism makes the case that as the nation retreats from communism, it is embracing a new Confucianism that offers a compelling alternative to Western liberalism.

Bell provides an insider's account of Chinese culture and, along the way, debunks a variety of stereotypes. He presents the startling argument that Confucian social hierarchy can actually contribute to economic equality in China. He covers such diverse social topics as sex, sports, and the treatment of domestic workers. He considers the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, wondering whether Chinese overcompetitiveness might be tempered by Confucian civility. And he looks at education in China, showing the ways Confucianism impacts his role as a political theorist and teacher.

By examining the challenges that arise as China adapts ancient values to contemporary society, China's New Confucianism enriches the dialogue of possibilities available to this rapidly evolving nation.

In a new preface, Bell discusses the challenges of promoting Confucianism in China and the West.


"This revival is the subject of political philosopher Daniel A. Bell's trenchant and surprisingly personal China's New Confucianism. Bell was the first foreigner hired since the Cultural Revolution to teach humanities at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University; one of the few Western professors in the country, he enjoys a unique outsider/insider perspective."--Michael Levitin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Bell paints a vivid portrait of Confucianism in today's China, a society undergoing drastic socioeconomic transformation. In his writing, Confucianism is no longer a quasi-religious body of dogma but a living, developing and constantly renewable stream of ideas."--Yongnian Zheng, Times Higher Education

"This interesting and insightful volume by Bell offers an insider's account of a rapidly changing society in China and seeks to debunk a variety of crude stereotypes of Confucians."--S.K. Ma, Choice

"Daniel Bell is winningly realistic about the difficulties involved in adapting Confucian practices to a more egalitarian world and uniquely capable as a scholar in this area. . . . Bell's scholarly discussions . . . draw on a subtle and wide-ranging grasp of the classics of Chinese political philosophy."--Brian Walker, China Quarterly

"Whether discussing sexual or national politics, Bell offers a sympathetic, nuanced approach to China that counsels tolerance and reason, informing the general reader reliably and concretely about the significance of Confucian ideas in China today."--Timothy Cheek, Literary Review of Canada

"There is no better scholar on a West and East dialogue than Professor Bell. . . . [He] observes Chinese society as an outsider and insider, with distance yet intimacy, seeing more things than either and in more novel ways."--Yan Sun, Journal of Chinese Political Science

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Table of Contents

This book has been translated into:

  • Chinese (Simplified)

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Daniel A. Bell:


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