The Political Thought of Guo Songtao
Author: Kang Chan
Abstract / Chinese PDF Download
For Guo Sontao, the rule of a sage-king or of a worthy prime minister is good, but the goodness of “an empire open to all” is more enduring. Constitutions that are both ancient and modern, both Chinese and Western, confirm his evaluation. “An empire open to all” in China means including more officials in collective decision-making, and bestows the local gentry with access to local administration, while its meaning in the Western principalities is to relegate power to an elected gentry and a hereditary aristocracy.
Since both the rule of one person and “an empire open to all” could be good, the source of bad governance lies elsewhere. An emperor, a prime minister, a governor-general, a governor, officials in a collectivity, and aristocrats and gentry in a collectivity all would rule poorly if they do not study science and investigate reality.
The attention to or the disregard of facts and reason can consolidate into good or bad qi nationwide, which is connected to the qi of the whole world. The decline of China and the rise of the West took place after the year 1800, which corresponded to the effects of people responding to the flow of qi, as the power of nations shifted between the two hemispheres.
With China dominated by bad qi, Guo retired at the age of 61 and founded a local society and a school in Changsha, aiming to refine human minds. Despite being a scholar-official facing scandals, he contributed his private efforts to improving a corner of China, the renewal of which in his estimate would take three hundred years to complete.