Vol. 12, No. 1, January 1006, pp. 29 41
In this paper the author argues that the Chinese theory of All-under-Heaven is the best philosophy for world governance. All-under-Heaven is a deep world concept with a trinity of meanings: the earth, people’s hearts and a world institution. And it introduces a political principle, ‘world-ness’, that arguably transcends the principle of ‘internationality’. The author argues that the theory of All-under-Heaven is a more appropriate ‘world theory’ than ‘international theory’ in dealing with world problems. The author also considers the philosophies of the UN and EU.
‘Empire’ is not only a geographical but also a cultural institutional concept. There have been great empires in the past, always reminding us of their splendid victories and fatal collapse. The modern age has been mainly an age of nations/states, in which the concept of empire has been distorted in terms of the imperialism that should assumed responsibility for the most terrible wars recorded in history. As is now realized, because of penetrating globalization and astonishing technological developments, the modernity of the nations/states system has been weakened, while a still-vague new age emerges,1 an age of globality as the consequence of globalisation. But what is the most likely form of global governance? Personally I feel as if the steps toward a new empire could be now be heard, and indeed it has already been discussed (see Hardt & Negri, 1001). What ideal of empire could we expect for a new empire? It seems an important and serious question.. And here I would like to introduce the Chinese traditional conception of world governance, which is quite different from the usual understanding of empire, and which might give a more constructive and positive way to rethink the best Idea of an acceptable empire.
1. The Concept of ‘All-under-Heaven’
In contract to the western concept of empire, China has a three thousand year-old traditional concept, ‘All-under-Heaven’, very closely relevant to the Idea of empire. We are led to think that a thing always has, in Platonic philosophy, its Idea that essentially makes it as it is. And an Idea also implies, if further interpreted, the perfect conception for a thing to be as it is expected . That means a perfect idea is turned out to be an ideal of a thing. Here the concept of All-under-Heaven could be considered as a supposed ideal of a perfect empire.
The term ‘All-under-Heaven’ (Tian-xia, 天下), found in almost the oldest Chinese texts, means firstly the earth, or the whole world under heaven.2 It is almost equivalent to ‘the universe’ or ‘the world’ in western languages. Its second meaning is the ‘hearts of all peoples’ (民心), or the ‘general will of the people’. The world is always the home-for-people, that is, the earth as it is ours more than the earth as it is . Allunder-Heaven therefore consists of both the earth and the people. Consequently, an emperor does not really enjoy his empire of All-under-Heaven, even if he conquers an extraordinary vastness of land, unless he receives the sincere and true support from the people on the land. Just as Philosopher Xun-zi (313BC 238BC) said in his essay ‘On kingship and supremacy’:
Enjoying All-under-Heaven does not mean to receive the lands from people who are forced to give, but to satisfy all people with a good way of governance.
Its third meaning, the ethical and/or political meaning, is a world institution, or a universal system for the world, a utopia of the world-as-one-family. This political/ ethical ideal of the world boasts of its very distinctness in its philosophical and practical pursuit of world governance ensured by a world institution. The ideal of All-under-Heaven as the philosophical concept of a world institution essentially distinguishes itself from the pattern of the traditional military empire, for instance the Roman Empire, or that of an imperialist nation/state, for example the British Empire. The conceptually defined Empire of All-under-Heaven does not mean a country3 at all but an institutional world instead. And it expects a world/society instead of nation/states. All-under-Heaven is a deep concept of the world, defined by the trinity of the geographical, psychological, and political worlds. From the viewpoint of this political ontology, our supposed world is now still a non-world , for the world has not yet been completed in its full sense. World institution and full popular support are still missing. We are talking nonsense about the world, for the world has not yet been fulfilled with its world-ness.
The concept of All-under-Heaven shows its uniqueness in its political and philosophical world-view that creates the world-wide-measure, or the world-wideviewpoint, of seeing the affairs and problems of the world in the measure of world-ness. It defines the world as a categorical rethinking unit of viewing and interpreting political life, constitution and institution.(点击此处阅读下一页)