Il conflict in Ukraine it shook the international community and sparked the reaction of most states with very strong declarations in favor of Ukraine or Russia, depending on the sides that are increasingly crystallizing in the international arena.
Of all, however, China's position is certainly the most debated one. The media and Western countries accuse her of ambivalence and lack of clarity in the (non) condemnation of Russia. But how are things really? And why is Beijing taking such an ambiguous position, without openly siding with either side? One word holds the answer: Wu Wei. I'll get there shortly.
Certainly at the base there are concrete reasons for geopolitical and geo-economic aims: the long-term objectives of Beijing and those of Moscow are certainly conflicting, however Moscow can provide useful raw materials to the increasingly voracious Chinese giant from this point of view; however, China also has large economic and strategic interests in Ukraine. But beyond this, to fully understand Beijing's posture, it is always necessary to study its cultural aspects which, as always, are not secondary, especially in a country with such a cumbersome history.
No opposition, but reciprocal influence
The first point to specify is that in the cultures of East Asia of Confucian origin (China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan) the doctrines are not in opposition to each other, but coexist and influence each other. In China there are three dominant doctrines:
- Il Confucianism which teaches the behavior of individuals with the ultimate goal of achieving social harmony;
- Il Taoism which teaches the fundamental role of Nature in shaping life and the Universe;
- Il Buddhism which serves to eliminate earthly desires with the phonal goal of achieving inner peace.
In a nutshell we could say that: Confucianism is for the country, Taoism for the body and Buddhism for the soul.
Now, leaving out Buddhism which pertains more to the individual sphere than to the collective, social and therefore political one, it would seem to our Western eyes that the two doctrines of Confucianism and Taoism are in opposition to each other, as the first teaches action. in an active way in society and in the second, “letting Nature take its course”. Instead, just as the image of Yin and Yang (also a Taoist symbol) that we all know teaches: the two aspects, apparently opposed, coexist and influence each other.
Wu Wei: “don't move”? Far from it
For Taoism, movement is "natural", therefore it is not produced by an external force. Thus, the sage's actions spring from his intuitive wisdom, from his "flowing in the current of the Tao." In Taoist philosophy, such a way of acting is called wu wei, a term that is often simplified with the translation “non-action”, but which actually wants to express more a “refrain from activities in contrast with nature”, as the sinologist Joseph Needham teaches us.
In the West, this concept is often confused with complete non-action, but wu wei does not mean doing nothing and being silent. Rather it is "letting everything do what it does naturally, so that its nature is satisfied." In short, the wu wei teaches us that there can be action through non-action and this is because it is nature that takes its course to fulfill its "will".
All this, in the political sphere, translates into an “inactive” and wait-and-see state, as opposed to the state that is the son of the great Confucian bureaucrats which is fundamentally interventionist.
So how are these two souls reconciled?
Simple: it is al Chinese government choose when to be one or the other, without ever contrasting the two doctrines. This is perhaps the main difference with the Western states. If we understand the cultural, philosophical and historical matrix from which certain political choices derive, perhaps we will be able to better understand the positions (or non-positions) that China takes.