Catholic Social Teaching in China: A Role for Business Ethics

Issue 1903

26 February 2019

The recent translation into Chinese of the document by the then Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, The Vocation of the Business Leader[1] (VBL), provides an opportunity for introducing Catholic Social Teaching (CST) not only to Chinese Catholics, but also to non-Catholics with the aim of promoting high standards in international business ethics.

One of the most attractive aspects of the VBL document is that it focuses rigorously on the challenge of forming the conscience of those who conduct business. It does not focus on the broader range of public policy questions, such as human rights, which while usually identified with CST, may hinder it from making much of an impact in China.

Precisely because the VBL document is relatively neutral when it comes to questions of political ideology, it may allow for a fresh reading of CST’s basic orientation to moral leadership, and how it may be integrated into China’s own struggle to establish a public morality capable of sustaining a genuinely civil society.

In what follows, two basic tasks will be highlighted: one is to review the VBL document, indicating its relevance for highlighting CST’s role in constructing a framework for international business ethics; the other is to suggest how the VBL’s perspective may converge with Confucian moral philosophy in ways that promise specifically to enhance international business ethics in China.

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