On 31 December 2015, Xi Jinping and members of the Politburo held a ‘group study session’ to end the year. They invited Tsinghua University professor Chen Lai 陈来, one of China’s best-known ‘New Confucian’ 新儒家 scholars, to lead the group in a study of the concept of patriotism. Confucianism and patriotism have become deeply intertwined as Chinese elite search for a Chinese path in the twenty-first century.
Forum: Mind, Body, and Soul
When American swimmer Michael Phelps won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, news of the strange, purplish polka dots across his shoulders raced around the world. International press featured reports on the medical treatment of cupping, increasingly popular among Olympians to aid their recovery from strenuous training. The media discussed the resemblance of these spots to love bites (both are created by suction), their value as a fashion statement (celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham have been sporting them as well), and the pros and cons of cupping as medicine. Advocates of alternative medicine claim that, among other things, it detoxes the body, improves blood circulation, cures skin conditions and respiratory ailments, and boosts autoimmune response. David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London, has described such claims as ‘desperately implausible’, though. He told The Independent: ‘There’s no science behind it whatsoever. There’s some vague conceptual connection with acupuncture, and is often sold by the same people. But how could it possibly do anything? It’s nonsense.’1
When Xi Jinping came to power, some observers optimistically believed that the Party-state would loosen its control over religion. In particular, they speculated that Xi might relax restrictions on Tibetan Buddhists. There was reason for hope: as secretary general of the State Council, Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun 习仲勋, had overseen the last visits of the nineteen-year-old Dalai Lama and of the Panchen Lama to Beijing, and reportedly wore the watch the Tibetan spiritual leader had given him into his old age. In a 2012 interview that the Dalai Lama gave to Reuters, he remembered Xi Zhongxun as ‘very friendly, comparatively more open-minded, very nice’.9 Xi Jinping’s wife, Peng Liyuan 彭丽媛, is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism and his own mother was buried with the full rites of that religion.10