Lessons from China key in adopting national ethos

Thursday, May 26th, 2022 10:18 | By
President Uhuru Kenyatta with visiting State Counsellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of China Wang Yi during an inspection tour of the ongoing construction of the new offshore Kipevu Oil Terminal at the Port of Mombasa. Photo/PD/Ndegwa Gathungu

While corruption is one of the most hated vices, it is ironic that it is also the most prevalent in both public and private life. Sleaze is a fact of life globally, including on the hallowed grounds of Vatican City.

In China, and several other countries where corruption is not condoned, one would rather die, than face a judge on corruption charges. The Chinese hang the grand corrupt for good measure. In Japan, officials are known to commit hara kiri – suicide- than face their families and the public with corruption-related offences.

In the West, ill-gotten wealth is frowned upon, notwithstanding their love for materialism and conspicuous consumption. On the contrary, hard work, innovation, honesty and strategy are seen as the pillars of both national and personal growth.

While the West is basically licentious, people still condemn social ills like sex abuse and fraud. Unexplained wealth is also not kosher. 

In Africa, you guessed it, corruption is glorified. We hold the wealthy corrupt in high esteem. We adore them, and bestow on them leadership positions.

This is simply because we are bereft of the core values that make people accountable for their actions. We long lost the moral compass that kept individuals on the straight and the narrow. And with this moral lacuna, anything goes. The talk of the majority of Kenyan adults today is all about money, from the myriad bills to pay, to making lots of it, legally or illegally. We are hardly passionate about what makes us better human beings, devoid of soul damaging iniquities. Let us get back to the search for a saving grace. How do you make a nation of 1.4 billion people read from the same script? Well, the Chinese people are guided by Confucianism, the moral philosophy that was founded and espoused by Confucius the philosopher. According to encyclopaedic sources, Confucianism is a world view, a social ethic, a political ideology, a scholarly tradition and a way of life.

It is viewed both as a religion and a philosophy, encompassing a way of thinking and living that entails ancestor reverence, and a profound human centred religiousness.

Confucianism, which spread from China to other East Asian countries, has greatly impacted the spiritual and political life in the region. Both the theory and practice of Confucianism have greatly influenced the patterns of government, business, society, education and families.

Confucianism compares well with Islamic culture, which is based on the strict Sharia Law. This law dictates the life of a Muslim from birth until death concerning food, education, business, law and social interactions. Again, corruption in Islamic countries is anathema, due to the dire consequences.

Our lack of moral principles has made us a mean society, with no genuine empathy for the poor or marginalised. That is why very few of our wealthy people have created foundations in areas like health, education, and other social causes. Our mantra is primitive accumulation.

Africa needs to rediscover some of her traditional values including reverence, kindness, socialism, respect for elders, and protection of women and children. It is agreed that Christianity has failed to promote virtues, with the Church today behaving like the secular immoral society it condemns from the pulpit.


Due to the ingrained culture of corruption in all sectors, there is a growing dearth of professionalism in Kenya. What are some of the factors destroying professionalism? First is poor remuneration of professionals in public service, and wide discrepancies among those doing the same job in the private sector and civil society. Employment is about livelihoods, not sacrifice.

Once someone takes a job through the ‘back door’, he or she is not motivated to excel. Survival to keep the undeserved job becomes his or her preoccupation. Think of our politicians, who bribe their way to electoral office.

— The writer comments on international affairs

More on Features