Confucianism, Technology and the Internet – A Look at China

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Digital worlds are always also shaped by the social, political and cultural backgrounds of a society that moves in them. Considerations and plans for how technological applications are created and built can therefore not be viewed from a universal perspective. They are not the same across cultures.(Kirk/Lee/Micaleff 2020)

Philosophers have long been intensively concerned with technology and are still doing so today. However, the view is very much westernized and dominated by the Anglo-American and European perspective. Various authors therefore comment that a multicultural view of technology is necessary. Especially because countries like China are gradually expanding their economic and geopolitical power and a better understanding of the respective cultures is needed.(a.o. Wong/Wang 2021, 3)

But what are the cultural foundations when we look to the East? In China, the debate surrounding technology and life with the digital is primarily shaped by a Confucian approach. At the same time, the political alignments and authoritarian ideals of the Communist Party play a formative role.(Kirk/Lee/Micaleff 2020)

Since the middle of the 20th century, the intellectual debate in China has been dominated by the so-called „New Confucianism“. This school of thought argues for an adaptation of Confucianist thought to modern science and technology and the contribution that Confucianist values can make to a more humane development in these areas.(Wong 2020)

In China, the Communist Party uses the language of Confucianism to expand and maintain its authoritarian control over the Confucian concepts of hierarchy, stability, and unity in the digital realm. Digital surveillance is also justified in this way.(Kirk/Lee/Micaleff 2020)

Under Xi, the spread of Confucian values in the Chinese government has increased. Xi has revived a „cult of personality“ reminiscent of Mao. Government under him legitimizes itself through nationalist rhetoric and revisionist discourse, which is intended to secure loyalty among the population and remind them of China’s historical greatness. This is done through public events and the government’s celebration of Confucianism. Confucian principles are always embedded in the political ideologies of Marxism-Leninism.(ibid.)

The revival of Confucianism under Xi is part of a larger strategy to make traditional Chinese culture respectable again. This involves renewing ancient culture and values in order to use them for modern, contemporary politics. The goal is to realize the „Chinese Dream“ and return to China as a place of national greatness with territorial and economic influence. Xi himself is concerned with consolidating his leadership and representing a population that sees him as its own teacher and leader.(Clayton 2020)

In addition to the return to Confucianism as the cultural basis of the country, a great enthusiasm for technology has also spread in China in recent years. Many of the Chinese government’s decisions regarding technology are influenced by Confucianism, which is why it is worth taking a closer look.

For example, the Chinese government issued the „Governance Principles for a New Generation of Artificial Intelligence: Develop Responsible Artificial Intelligence“ in 2019. Its first principle is harmony and kindness. Artificial intelligence development should go hand in hand with human values, be ethical and moral, and support human-machine harmony. It should serve the advancement of human development and civilization.(ibid., 3f.) From these formulations, it is already clear how Confucianism shapes Chinese government decisions and approaches.

Harmony in Confucian Ethics

Confucianists believe that the ideal relationship between human beings and heaven is not one of confrontation, but one of harmony. Neither are people against heaven, nor the other way around. The same applies to the relationship between people themselves. Confucianism places great emphasis on interpersonal harmony.(Wong 2012, 72)

The following approaches apply: Harmony does not mean complete agreement, harmony does not mean unprincipled compromise, harmony is balancing one thing with another, and harmony is mutual complementing of acceptance and rejection. From this it follows that equality and harmony are to be distinguished in Confucianism. At the core of this is the idea of a creative dynamic, which in Confucian thought is essential for human growth. Complete agreement would only mean mutual reinforcement, not creative exchange. It would maintain the status quo, but not provide for growth.(ibid., 73)

Unprincipled compromise is not considered harmonious either, because compromise is not conducive to mutual enrichment. On the contrary, compromise is considered opposite to harmony. Confucianists believe that each person has a specific role and function. Compromise in this context would mean an undesirable form of oppression. Harmonious relationships are therefore not characterized by compromise, but by reason.(ibid.) According to Confucius, a sensitive person should be able to respect different opinions and work harmoniously with different people.(Xiaohong/Qingyuan 2013, 61)

To achieve harmony, various components must be harmonized with each other. These components should fulfill their own role and function, be in appropriate harmony with other elements, and not dominate them. Harmony requires balancing things so that they complement and support each other.(Wong 2012, 73)

What is right and what is wrong plays a subordinate role in Confucianism. Rather, what matters is the contextualization at a particular moment. Confucianists attach great importance to grasping the complexity of the social in concrete situations and balancing it accordingly with their actions. Each situation is different and new and therefore requires behavior to be adapted to it. Harmony is therefore a process, i.e. harmonization, rather than a particular state.(ibid., 73f.)

Two different forms of interpersonal interaction are lived in everyday life in China: sincere harmony and superficial harmony. The former refers to genuine and unadulterated harmony, but is very difficult to achieve. The second refers to a lived form of harmony that is maintained on the surface even though subliminal conflicts are simmering. This serves to reduce confrontation to a low level. Interpersonal harmony is often lived in this form, which can be quite confusing, especially for foreigners.(Xiaohong/Qingyuan 2013, 62)

In groups, harmony is also held in high regard. Group achievements and the contributions of others to the group are emphasized by the individual rather than individual needs and thoughts. People socialized in China are very sensitive about their respective group membership. This includes whether one is superior or inferior to individual other members in the respective group hierarchy. If a person belongs to a subordinate position, one’s own ideas are represented less vehemently. Opinions should then be expressed rather cautiously.(ibid., 63)

Also, the expression of very strong emotions is not compatible with the ideal of harmony. Therefore, Chinese express feelings only very moderately. Open and aggressive arguments are not welcome or allowed in public, as they are perceived as an insult to the collective. Criticism is communicated only indirectly, if at all. Or else in a quiet conversation between two people.(ibid.)

Away from this specific example, the question of where the differences in the Chinese perspective on technology and the Internet lie compared to Western societies is of interest. How does the Confucian philosophy that so strongly characterizes China affect the acceptance or rejection of certain technologies? What peculiarities in dealing with, for example, the Internet, artificial intelligence and social media arise from this? What ideas shape and guide Chinese society?

Technology and Confucianism

From a Confucian perspective, technology is never value-neutral. Good technology should always help to preserve and promote the values respected and cultivated in a community. This includes, for example, the value of harmony. Therefore, a Confucian perspective on technology always evaluates the extent to which it contributes to the process of harmonization. Technologies that undermine the relevant moral obligations and roles should be restricted accordingly.(Zhu 2019, Zhu 2020 and Li 2013) Such a point of view does not exist in Western philosophy. Harmony as a concept is something typically Confucian. Role expectations are also apparently not examined in connection with technology in the West. There is more of a focus on the individual and the overall social, especially economic, impact that technology can have.

Since the state has a paternalistic position in China, the majority of the population welcomes and even demands intervention by the government in the areas of technology and engineering. Above all, action in the interest of the collective and – once again – harmony in society as a whole is welcomed. Individual concerns and personal freedom play a rather subordinate role. Everything should be decided by those in power in the interest of the community.(Hung 2021, 58f.)

From a Western perspective, this is not compatible with the high value placed on individual freedom. State paternalism is generally viewed critically, and there is a great fear that it will lead to authoritarian regimes. Regulation of technology is also an issue in the West – but this is not necessarily about unquestioned indoctrination by rulers.

Besides the value of harmony, the realization of the Dao is very significant in Confucianism. Therefore, from this perspective, technology ethics will always ask what are the morally right things and what are the good things. In doing so, Dao in connection with technology will always be about how to ensure human growth and development.(Wong 2012, 80f.)

A principle like the Dao is unknown in the West. Here, heaven and earth are perceived as separate entities and not as one. Nevertheless, Western philosophy also discusses how technology can contribute to human development. However, technology is viewed in a more material way. While in the sense of the Dao man and his environment form a unity and technology in Confucianism was long seen as something unnatural and therefore not desirable, technology in the West is seen as an important means to support and complement the human being.


„Dao“ is translated as „the right way“ and defines the cosmic moral order. It is seen as the harmonious interaction between the three components of the cosmos: Confucianists see the cosmos as a triadic unity between heaven, earth, and humanity. When Dao is properly realized and cultivated, the entire world is in harmony.(Li 2013)

Often Dao is associated with heaven, that is, heaven has its own Dao, which is considered the blueprint for all other Daos. In Confucian thought, heaven means the universe in connection with earth and nature, or the material world. Heaven, from this perspective, has its own Dao – a principle that organizes and governs the universe and the material world. Heaven is considered the ultimate source of normativity.(Wong 2012, 69)

In doing so, Heaven not only sanctions and corrects wrongdoing, but is also positive and proactive: it cherishes things. People are given the potential to connect with heaven through heaven.(ibid., 70)

Everything has its own Dao, which in turn is an instance of the heavenly Dao. These Daos determine how things have to be or have to be done. At the same time, the heavenly Dao does not necessarily dictate human and social concerns. In essence, humans who follow the Dao are at the center of the universe. In this, the human and heavenly Dao form a unity and cannot be considered separately.(ibid., 70f.)

The Internet and Confucian Ethics

One of the first and most outstanding articles dealing with Confucianism and the Internet was published by Mary Bockover in 2003. According to her, the Internet was guided by Western values such as free speech, equality, and free trade. These were in conflict with Confucian values, she said, because the idea of personal and political autonomy did not fit with them. Individualism contrasts with the values promoted by Confucianism. In particular, the idea of the relational self, that is, that a person can only ever become a person in relationships with others, is contrary to this. Therefore, Confucian values are not compatible with the Internet.(Wong 2013, 284ff.)

Other authors argue that Bockover’s view of the Internet is not yet broad enough, as her remarks predate the emergence of Web 2.0. This, they argue, is more collaborative and participatory in nature, which promotes community building and cooperation. Internet users are therefore no longer isolated individuals, but social and relational dimensions are important. This also changes the philosophical view of the human self – away from individualism to a more relational form.(Wong 2013, 286f.)

Nevertheless, Web 2.0 is problematic for Confucian users. On the one hand, the audience is „invisible“ and cannot always be grasped by those who move within this sphere. Further, spatial, social, and temporal boundaries would be absent, making it difficult to discern distinguishable social contexts. As a result, public and private spheres would be mixed and difficult to distinguish.(Wong 2013, 288)

Being Human in Confucian Ethics

The Confucian understanding of „being human“ is characterized by its relational and developmental nature. A person also always acts in a value-bound way.

Relational means that a person is born into a network of family and social relationships. Only within this can people grow up and develop. This is done by fulfilling the duties associated with their roles and relationships. Roles and relationships thus play a crucial role in Confucian philosophy.(Wong 2020) Whether someone is truthful and really a person depends on the respective performance of the given roles.(Wong 2013, 289)

Confucianists believe that human beings are intrinsically social and dependent beings. At first, they are purely biological creatures. Only through their relationships do they become persons. Thereby it is above all the family relations which play a decisive role. They form the first social context within which people learn to get in contact with each other and to interact with others appropriately.(Wong 2012, 74f)

Developmental means that a person’s character traits are not static or given from birth. People must first become persons through learning and practice in everyday life. From the perspective of Confucianism, this development is cultivated as an ever-progressive process in every aspect of life.(Wong 2020) Even though every human being is endowed with the potential to become a person, it takes the cultivation of that potential for this to happen.(Wong 2012, 75)

Confucianists further believe that becoming a person is linked to upholding and living out certain values. These, in turn, must also be upheld in the appropriate network of relationships.(ibid., 76)

In summary, this means that personhood is on a continuum between potential and realized. There is a distinction in Confucianism between a person in the biological sense and one who interacts with society. If a person gives in to purely biological needs, he is hardly distinguishable from an animal. On the other hand, people can free themselves from their animalistic tendencies by cultivating and developing themselves through learning and perfection and achieving self-skill.(Gan 2020, 17)

Social media and Confucian ethics

Social media applications are at minimum problematic according to Confucian philosophy. Conventional norms of communication are potentially breached by the design of the platforms. Expression and understanding of meanings within a community can be perceived as unstable and ineffective. Pak-Hang Wong, who has studied Confucianism and technology, cites live tweets on Twitter that reflect a private conversation as a negative example. This would not be appropriate according to Confucian rules, as such a communication is only acceptable in the closest family circle, but not in public. Furthermore, Wong identifies as a negative aspect from a Confucian perspective that social media platforms blur the boundaries between the public and private spheres. This makes it difficult for people to follow the social rules of appropriate communication.(Wong 2020)

Basically, it is problematic from a Confucian point of view, says Pak-Hang Wong, that the reader is not present or visible to the individual user while he or she is saying or doing something. Thus, people would interact with others whom they do not know with certainty. This makes it difficult to behave according to the correct role expectations – especially because different people such as family members, colleagues or friends can be part of the readership. However, since the fulfillment of the respective social roles in Confucianism is so important for the formation of a personality, social media must be viewed critically.(Wong 2013, 190f.)

Behavior according to certain Confucian rituals is also difficult or impossible due to the hidden audience in social media. In addition, there is the blending of social contexts. Confucian behavior is always tied to a specific context, for example, family or professional environment. In social media, the boundaries of these contexts blur and living according to certain rituals is no longer feasible.(Wong 2013, 191)

Social media have therefore led to a change in social mentality in China. Since they remove the boundaries between different groups, there is no longer any special privilege for rankings or hierarchies. Citizens can gather information in a self-determined manner away from the party-affiliated apparatus and engage in more openly critical discussions with higher-ranking social groups. The goal of social harmony is thus severely compromised from a Confucian perspective.(Cypris 2017)

The concern about saving face – one’s own and that of the other person – has also decreased as a result of social media. Because the other person is far away, the inhibition threshold to offend someone is much lower, and online users are also sometimes disrespectful toward others. The new form of communication is therefore less indirect and more open. The influence and consequences of words are less strongly considered. The feelings and reputation of others play a less important role.(ibid.)

Social media also harbors the risk that users may not save their own face. This can lead to content being shared with the wrong circles. The consequences can range from losing friendships to losing one’s job.(ibid.)

Roles in Confucian Ethics

According to Confucian ethics, the particular moral positions people take are determined by the specific roles they play in a situation. These roles may differ and are shaped by relationships with others. The tone with family is different from the tone with a stranger. So different relationships and roles determine how people interact with each other.(Zhu 2020)

Already at birth, a person finds himself in a network of social relationships. These have normative implications and they prescribe the respective specific moral responsibilities within a community. The ultimate Confucian goal is to become a good person, and this depends on how well social roles are lived and practiced.(Zhu 2019)

Due to the closely prescribed nature of the respective roles, corresponding feelings and expectations of the relationships are awakened. By the individual behaving according to his role, virtue is cultivated. The ultimate goal is to increase this virtuousness by cultivating relationships with others.(Zhu 2020)

Moral obligations are highest to those with whom very close relationships are maintained. Family roles and relationships occupy a prominent position in Confucianism. They are more important than non-familial roles. However, this does not mean that caring and charity cannot extend to people outside the immediate family circle. It is rather the case that moral action within the given family roles is then also passed on to the outside – such as in the workplace or in society in general.(ibid. and Wong 2013, 289)

Thus, on the one hand, interpersonal relationships define social roles. On the other hand, they are also shaped by political, social and professional identities. Each role contains various predefined social positions and is accompanied by certain responsibilities. For example, a man has different authority and responsibilities in his role as a father than in his role as a husband.(Gan 2020, 27)

Rituals in Confucian Ethics

Confucian rituals are also called „Li“. Rites or etiquette are a normative standard in Confucian philosophy for decisions and behavior. They determine how people act with each other. Li refers on the one hand to ceremonial and formal rituals, but also to patterns of behavior for everyday life. These can be, for example, the correct way to receive guests or the proper way to dress and behave. It is always about the role of a person and in which relationships he or she is currently in a current social context.(Wong 2020)

In this sense, rituals have a communicative function. Personal and social interactions are based on shared values and rules. They thus represent a public, shared and understandable medium that helps to interpret the behaviors and responses of other people.(ibid.)

Li also helps to maintain mutual care. Confucian rites are passed down from generation to generation and maintained as a tradition. People who maintain and master these rituals are part of a community. Members of this community recognize the needs of others and can care for them in an appropriate manner.(ibid.)

In addition to this function, rites have the task of restraining personal desire and promoting ethical behavior. Appropriate emotional responses and behaviors for different contexts are thus prescribed.(ibid.)

Finally, Li also has an aesthetic side. Those who act and speak according to Confucian rituals behave gracefully, well regulated and beautiful. All responses then have a desired and pleasing form. Conflicts are thus reduced and social cooperation increased.(ibid.)

The meaning of Li is complex. Learning rituals is important for a person to develop moral values. A society without Li is perceived as chaotic and uncivilized. A person who does not behave according to Confucian rules is perceived as backward and culturally retrograde. Li is not seen as something absolute. Rather, it is meant to do justice to the complexity and dynamics of social life, and Confucianists have the task of adapting their behavior to each complex individual situation.(Li 2013)

Saving face in China

In Confucianist China, saving face has a strongly superior function. Face is the positive social value that a person assumes within a personal contact. Each person is assigned a certain role expectation and this goes hand in hand with harmonious relationships, which in turn contribute to all parties saving face.(Xiaohong/Qingyuan 2013, 64)

Saving face is closely related to a person’s dignity and prestige. Making sure that you save your own face and that others can save theirs in turn shows respect for each other and raises the self-esteem of the people involved. Not treating someone with this respect is considered a major transgression. If, for any reason, someone is caused to lose face, it results in the loss of respect by that person and by all other people who witnessed that event.(ibid.)

In China, various actions are taken to make other people look good. Thus, unknown people are covered with compliments in public, for example, for their rank, beauty, wisdom or elegance. Furthermore, direct criticism is avoided and if given then only tactfully and in an ambiguous manner. The suggestions of others are always treated with respect, even if there is no agreement with one’s own attitude.(ibid.)

Because of their great awareness of roles and hierarchies, the Chinese themselves are very reserved, but compliment higher-ranking people. This emphasis is considered necessary and very polite.(ibid.)

Robots and Confucian Ethics

According to the Confucian view, interactions between robot caregivers and patients are ethically acceptable if the robot’s gestures, movements, and expressions conform to the rituals of the community. This is because it is the nurturing entity’s expressive expression that matters to those being cared for, not their mental state. In contrast to human caregivers, robots would even have the advantage of recurrent and expectable appropriate responses in their actions. Thus, they represent attentive, competent, and accessible care. A prerequisite, however, is that the robots‘ expression conforms to existing interaction styles, social conventions, and manners in the community. Technology is thus understood from a Confucian perspective as a continuation of the social interaction space.(Wong 2020)

Recently, therefore, ethical guidelines for socially integrated robots have even been drafted. Robots, whose development is inspired by Confucian ethics, should above all fulfill the roles assigned to them. They are to assist humans in advancing their moral development. This in particular is seen as a major challenge, and the question arises whether robots can really replace human caregivers, for example, for this reason.(Zhu 2020) It is important to note that robots should not be designed to replace human activity, but rather to complement it.(Wong 2019)

Exemplary Persons in Confucianism

Also called „Junzi.“ Exemplary individuals come into government roles by cultivating rituals, consciously observing role ethics, and knowing classical Confucian texts well. They serve as inspiration to others and guide the communities of which they are a part. Education is seen as a means by which the self is cultivated and people gain the knowledge to live by the classical precepts. Junzi occupy positions of power and bureaucracy. An understanding of virtue becomes a prerequisite for rulers and an important component of statecraft.(Kirk/Lee/Micaleff 2020)

In Confucianism, it is considered a lifelong project to reflectively engage in moral relationships with others and to cultivate values through this process. The ultimate goal of this process is to become a Junzi.(Zhu 2020) Junzis are distinguished from „insignificant“ people. In the case of the latter, the moral codes of humanity, righteousness, decency and wisdom have not (yet) found their way into their personality. According to Confucian thinkers, a person cannot be called a person as long as he has no moral consciousness and it is not possible for him to bear moral responsibility.(Gan 2020, 17f.)

Data Protection and Privacy in Confucian Ethics

Although it may come as a surprise, data protection is now a top priority in China. However, this only affects the companies operating in the country and not the state. The latter is allowed to collect and merge data of its citizens under the guise of national security and stability. However, when companies act against the public interest and collect too much data of Chinese citizens, the government feels responsible to intervene. This dichotomy between control and free collection of data creates a hierarchy between the state and the company, establishing the government as the entity that „knows best.“(Kirk/Lee/Micaleff 2020)

Surveys have shown that Chinese citizens place less value on their privacy and that Asian cultures do not view privacy as something intrinsically good. On the contrary, the Chinese word for privacy – „yinsi“ – is translated as meaning that an individual has „something to hide.(ibid.)

This explains why citizens adopt a hierarchical view of the issue and accept surveillance and censorship when it comes from the government. From a Confucian perspective, the ruling class has to assume a paternalistic, caring function for the population. In contrast to the West, it is not the individual who is responsible for protecting his or her own rights and interests. Rather, society is seen as an extension of the family, and a higher authority is given the task of making the appropriate correct decisions for the family, community or nation. The collection of all knowledge in central hands is thus underpinned by a Confucianist ideal of a hierarchical society in which security and harmony are enforced by a well-informed governing power.(ibid.)

Participation of Chinese citizens in the government

People in China do not participate in forming the opinions of those in power in the same sense as they do in Western democracies. Nevertheless, in the sense of Confucianism, they are not dominated or forced into subordination. According to Confucian rules, governments are obliged to adapt to the demands of their people. Only when it follows the basic needs of the people is a government considered legitimate. Governing is successful when the people are cared for in such a way that they accept the authority of the ruler.(Kirk/Lee/Micaleff 2020)

Social Credit System and Monitoring Technology

Unique to China is the authoritarian control and punishment through the new social credit system, which is accompanied, for example, by travel and consumption blacklists. Citizens who do not behave as desired can be placed on these lists and their actions severely restricted.(Kirk/Lee/Micaleff 2020)

The potential of the social credit system is further enhanced by aspects of digitalization. Mass video surveillance including facial recognition including the analysis of facial expressions and emotions do the rest. (ibid.)

The collection of digital knowledge through the Social Credit System regulates attitudes toward family, work, education, and finances. It monetizes and numbers aspects of personal life that the government considers to be of high value and importance. Chinese citizens are thereby educated to act in certain ways. This educational task is in keeping with the Confucian tradition, which places a high value on the possibility of establishing moral principles of correctness.(ibid.)

A 2015 study found that more than 60 percent of China’s population either supported the idea of the Social Credit System or were neutral toward it. (ibid.)

Whereas in traditional Confucianism, an individual’s morality is based on his or her own integrity and behavior within relationships – especially within the family – in digital Confucianism, it refers to an algorithm that calculates the correctness of comprehensible behavior. Collectivism is thus recreated. A citizen’s score is influenced not only by their own opinions and actions, but also those of their friends and acquaintances. Thus, everyone becomes a guardian of virtue, reflecting the Confucian tendency to view interpersonal relationships as a means of higher social welfare. (ibid.)

Through the Social Credit System, kindness and compassion for all are propagated. All actions become public knowledge and a public common spirit is thus to be formed. (ibid.)

The social credit system is based on the moral Confucian core concept of „credit,“ which can be translated as loan, but also as reputation or trust. It stands as a brand for a person’s honesty and trustworthiness. At the same time, the social credit system uses Confucian values such as shame to encourage citizens to follow the policies of the Communist Party and Xi Jinping. For example, there are large monitors that show citizens who have just run a red light and also inform them on the screen about paying a fine.(Clayton 2020)

The Confucian Society

In summary, Confucian ethics supports a hierarchical approach to the moral development of individuals and society. Depending on the particular level of moral development, people belong to different groups within the community. Therefore, Confucianists support the idea that intellectually and morally superior people guide and lead society. In this context, the moral component plays a stronger role in the choice of leaders than intellectuality or, for example, technical knowledge.(Zhu 2020)

Paternalistic leadership has a central place in Confucianism. While paternalism is often questioned and criticized in Western liberal democracies, this is not the case in the Confucian tradition. The most fundamental relationship is seen as that between parents and children. This is so fundamental that it is also applied as a metaphor for thinking about the relationship between the governed and the governed. For example, mayors are called „fumu guan“ – „fu“ means father, „mu“ means mother, and „guan“ means public administrator. Just as parents guide and love their children, so should rulers do the same with citizens.(Hung 2021, 58)

The Confucian and Western views of technology and the Internet differ immensely in terms of the underlying values. Harmony and overall social hierarchies play an overriding role in Confucianism. Whereas in Western liberal democracies the individual and personal freedom are at the center of discussions in the philosophy of technology, in China it is the community. Individuals have to subordinate themselves to this, which also happens partly with devotion. This makes a certain caution evident in the individual sphere, for example in dealing with the Internet and social media. Even if a small change in mentality has become apparent here in recent years.

Collectively, censorship measures and paternalistic government behavior are accepted. Privacy – an important factor in Western discussions – plays a rather subordinate role in Asian societies. The private and the public become blurred, and thus the agency of the state and the community is justified vis-à-vis the individual. Artificial intelligence is viewed far less critically than in the West – its aspects that are perceived as positive carry more weight in the debate in China.

Basically, it can be said that a deeper examination of Confucian ethics and its impact on the attitudes of the Chinese toward modern technologies will be worthwhile in the future. China is developing into an increasingly strong global economic power and, especially in the digital sector and artificial intelligence, into a pioneer. The Communist Party will continue to expand its authoritarian claim to leadership internally by propagating a modern-day Confucianism with its role models and rituals, thus consolidating its power in the country. Externally, the Chinese state is taking a demanding and active stance in the area of Internet governance and artificial intelligence. This will have a profound impact globally in the coming years and decades and will influence other states far more than is perhaps foreseeable to date.

Reading recommendation: Berberich, Nicolas; Nishida, Toyoaki und Suzuki, Shoko. „Harmonizing Artificial Intelligence for Social Good.“ In: Philosophy & Technology(33), 2020, 613-638. < >


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