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The influence of Confucianism on Chinese politics and foreign policy

Quansheng Zhao (American University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

Asian Education and Development Studies

ISSN: 2046-3162

Article publication date: 10 September 2018

Issue publication date: 28 November 2018




The purpose of this paper is to understand the role Confucianism has in affecting domestic and foreign policy which is accomplished by looking at historical trends and contemporary developments and arguments posed by leading scholars. This paper finds that Confucianism has had a significant impact on current Chinese policy; however, it has been a selective application. In particular, the Chinese Government has focused on the traditional Confucian moral framework and the mandate to rule, which has allowed the Chinese Government to work toward further securing their right to rule and enhance a more assertive foreign policy abroad.


This study based on historical, theoretical and empirical discussions.


It is clear that Confucianism has had profound influence on Chinese politics and foreign policy. As rulers in the past of Chinese history, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has also utilized Confucianism to enhance nationalist sentiments among the people. Confucianism, therefore, has been served as the codifying ideology to further secure the CCP’s right to rule domestically, and to enhance a more assertive foreign policy abroad. With confidence, one can argue that Confucianism will continue to serve as a leading source of ideas in China for its effort to pursue modernization.


This paper focuses on the impact of Confucianism on Chinese politics and foreign policy. In the field of international relations and foreign policy analysis, it is well known that ideas are always critical to any changes of a country’s foreign policy. That is to say, a country’s politics and foreign policy would be heavily influenced not only by the changes of tide in contemporary world politics, but also heavily influenced by its traditional thinking and heritage. In this paper, the author will examine the influence of Confucianism on Chinese domestic politics and foreign policy. The analysis will cover recent arguments about the role of Confucianism from several leading contemporary thinkers. It will also make some brief comparisons between China and other East Asian societies, including Japan and Korea.



This paper forms part of a special section “Three dimensions of Chinese foreign policy – history, politics, and economics”, guest edited by Quansheng Zhao and Zhiqun Zhu.


Zhao, Q. (2018), "The influence of Confucianism on Chinese politics and foreign policy", Asian Education and Development Studies, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 321-328.



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