In this short series, lessons will be gathered from classical works on politics, and the parallels between ancient and medieval political texts and their modern contexts will be analyzed. The text is thousands of years old, and the meanings are not always clear, but the closest relevant meaning in English will be gleaned for application.

This will focus on the text, 群書治要, a collection of political wisdom compiled by political advisors in China for the emperors. A handful of quotes will be selected.

The first chapter of Part 7 is 立節, li jie, which can be interpreted as improving one’s righteousness, upstandingness

Verse 72, Quote:


English interpretation:A true minister, a true leader forgets corporeal interests and focuses on the state and the good of the citizen. In the face of difficulty, they will remember their true purpose and never compromise on their morality, they will never put their own interests in front of those of the state.

Application:The word public service finds its epitome in this passage. A leader does not seek office to enrich oneself, to advance one’s interest, ego, power, career, or standing, it must be done for the good of the country and the people who call it home, or they will inevitably govern with conflicted interests. A true leader must forget themself in order to truly serve. This maxim is so obvious, yet we have almost forgotten it in the cynical wasteland that today is global politics. Reminding ourselves of this, we must choose leaders that are humble, selfless, and focused on the state instead of their own interests. Unfortunately, because of the ultracompetitive nature of politics, those who seek to serve are often pushed aside by those whose urge to dominate overpowers their ethics and competitive spirit. In light of this, we must remember, too, to hold our leaders fully accountable. We need not pick the best of bad choices, we can demand better, those who will do what’s best for the country, and hold our leaders accountable for every decision they make, especially if it ever appears that they put themselves before they put the nation.

The second is from the same chapter

Verse 78, Quote:

位弗期驕,祿弗期侈。貴不與驕期,而驕自至;富不與侈期,而侈自來。驕侈以行己,所以速亡也。 恭儉惟德,無載爾偽。

English interpretation:The person who is noble (proud and honorable) need not be extravagant or arrogant. Title does not promote arrogance it comes from a pernicious undo sense of self, thus the noble recognize both their fortune and their responsibility, and do not look down on others. Fortune goes to the noble, and there is no faking in the eyes of G*d.

Application:This brings to mind the existence of leaders whose power is not earned through public support but through unfair advantage. Their nobility makes them proud and they sometimes do not realize the unfair power advntagea they have been given.

The leaders of Hong Kong seem to suffer from this complex. The power they have been given and their desire to please the small constituency have made them forget their modesty, treating the people they rule as if they are subjects. When we question the merits of democracy, the reason why we need to elect leaders through popularity and not always meritocratic selection, the reason is to hold leaders accountable. When leaders are not accountable to their people, their values and goals for ruling the state inevitablg become distorted. Hong Kong, Xinjiang, these are examples of when leader policy becomes irreparably separated from the good of the people, and everyone suffers. Democracy is not perfect, but there is no better system. When development goals, stability, or democratic crisis cause us to question our faith, we must rmemreme that only though openness, democracy, and commitment to political rights can we protect ourselves from the excesses of our leaders.

Staff writer: Ari B