The Fiduciary Community
What is a “Fiduciary Community”?
Tu Weiming: A fiduciary community … is a society of mutual trust instead of a mere aggregate of individuals. In such a society, the goal of the people is not only to live in peace but also to aid each other in moral exhortation as they cultivate their own personal characters. [C&C, 56]
  • Do we live in a society of mutual trust,” or are we merely an aggregate of individuals”?
  • What does this tell us about our assumptions with regard to human nature”?
I. Personal Transformation
The Profound Person
The fact that the way of the profound person can, on the one hand, be manifested in the lives of ordinary people and, on the other, be hidden from the sages is verifiable by common experience. We all, to a certain extent, practice the ordinary virtues of serving our parents, taking care of our children, or helping our friends. Few do all these things regularly and conscientiously. Still fewer try to integrate their daily lives with their quests for self-knowledge. It is indeed rare to find those who act to establish long-lasting values by giving a general structure of meaning to their everyday activities. And it is almost impossible to imagine that a single person, by a strenuous process of self-realization in the context of ordinary human-relatedness, can creatively transform the existing world and formulate an ultimate order of existence which is powerful and pervasive enough to become a defining characteristic of human heritage. [C&C, 32]
Do you think that this approach to self-cultivation is uniquely “Confucian,” or is it a model that might be adapted to any system of morality — whether religious or secular?

II. Political Transformation
The Obligations of Rulership
The goal of politics is not only to attain law and order in a society but also to establish a fiduciary community through moral persuasion. The function of politics then is centered on ethical education. In our ordinary use of the term, we also can consider politics a branch of moral philosophy, dealing with the ethical relations and duties of governments. But the Confucian concept of politics as rectification involves many aspects of ethicoreligious thought that are not usually associated with the political arena.
        Of primary importance is the fact that the project of rectification is originally aimed not so much at the people as at the ruler himself. The idea is that the ruler, for the sake of his leadership, must engage in the rectification of his personal character. ...
The moral integrity of the ruler, far from being his private affair, is thought to be a defining characteristic of his leadership. He must realize that what he does in private is not only symbolically significant but has a direct bearing on his ability to lead, for the kind of people he can attract depends, in large measure, upon his personal character. Without the participation of qualified personnel, the conduct of government, unlike the growth of plants, will be slow and stagnant. The ruler’s moral integrity is therefore an indispensable condition for good government. ...
A person who is incapable of caring for his close relatives can hardly be expected to understand universal love in a real experiential sense. Being “affectionate toward relatives” is therefore taken as the “greatest application” of humanity, because it indicates an immediate extension of one’s inner morality. According to this line of thinking, whether the ruler’s cultivation of his personal character is sincere can best be judged by his relationship with those who are closest to him.  [C&C, 49-51]
  • Is personal morality really essential for leadership?
  • How important is it that we “trust” our leaders?
    • What happens when people don’t “trust” the president?
    • What happens when the world doesn’t “trust” the United States?

If the ruler cultivates his personal life, the Way will be established. If he honors the worthy, he will not be perplexed. If he is affectionate to his relatives, there will be no grumbling among his uncles and brothers. If he respects the great ministers, he will not be deceived. If he identifies himself with the welfare of the whole body of officers, then the officers will repay him heavily for his courtesies. If he treats the common people as his own children, then the masses will exhort one another [to do good]. If he attracts the various artisans, there will be sufficiency of wealth and resources in the country. If he shows tenderness to strangers from far countries, people from all quarters of the world will flock to him. And if he extends kindly and awesome influence over the feudal lords, then the world will stand in awe of him. [C&C, 59 (XX:13)]
Is this perspective hopelessly naive
or does it represent
the foundation of a strong sociopolitical order?
III. Global Transformation
Broader Implications of the Fiduciary Community
During the Warring States, a number of competing states engaged in continuous warfare in the struggle to survive and/or win complete dominance over the Chinese world. Based on this early Chinese context, Tu Wei-ming writes:
It is not enough for the ruler to provide leadership, as a chain of commands extending throughout the country. The most he can achieve by that is to ensure his hegemonic authority for a limited period of time. He can certainly evoke a sense of fear among the feudal lords by sheer force, but if he does so, his influence is confined to areas in which he can directly exercise his political and military power. The ruler who is a real king (wang), rather than a mere hegemon (pa), must cultivate a holistic vision of politics, penetrating deeply into all levels of human-relatedness. Only then will the world stand in awe of him. [C&C, 60]
  • How is this relevant to the contemporary “global” context?

Is this religion yet?