In the last century, scholars and politicians in China have attempted both in theory and in practice to advocate and carry out radically different social policies and political reforms, often in the name of Confucius. With China's rise and her increasing international power and status in recent years, Chinese policy makers have again used the Confucius label as part of their “charm offensive” to win friends and influence in the world.

This essay traces the major interpretations of Confucius and the social manifestations of those evaluations in the twentieth century, culminating in the establishment and mushrooming of Confucius Institutes throughout the world in the last few years. While the globalization of Chinese culture is inevitable, the attempts to name and institutionalize it as modernized Confucianism has the effect of injecting inconsistencies into a system that is already overflowing with internal contradictions and inequities.

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