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On The Subject Of Administration

The Governing Principles of Ancient China - Qunshu Zhiyao 360

Appointing Officials

Duke Ai asked Confucius: “What should be done so that people will obey the government?” Confucius said: “Promote the upright men and set them above the crooked, and people will submit. Promote the crooked men and set them above the upright, and people will not submit.”

Scroll 9: Lun Yu

The most important post in the central government is that of a cabinet minister (shang shu). Therefore, the selection of a cabinet minister should not be taken lightly. The current ministers are often promoted from lower-ranked deputies (lang guan). Even though these deputies are proficient in rhetoric, mastery of such subjects is only considered as minor intelligence. Most of them actually do not possess the ability to handle important tasks. Hence, it is more appropriate to choose reputable former state officials to take on the post of a minister. While their response may be slower, and even inadequate at times, they are loyal to the country and thorough in their undertakings.

Scroll 22: Hou Han Shu, Vol. 2

If oratorical skills become the standard in choosing qualified people, people will work on their oratorical skills. If virtuous conducts become the standard in choosing qualified people, people will work on perfecting their virtue. Being cunning in talking is of little use, but to exert all efforts on good causes will guarantee good results.

Scroll 8: Zhou Shu

A good leader will never put flatterers by his side or allow any clique with a private agenda to serve in the government. He uses people’s strengths and does not pressure them to work beyond their abilities. He uses their expertise and does not force them to undertake tasks with which they are unfamiliar. These are general principles to bear in mind when working with the staffs.

Scroll 33: Yan Zi

Be assured when selecting senior ministers. Once appointed, trust them to do the job. Appoint them to a post with full honor and grant them dignity when they have to be dismissed.

Scroll 48: Dian Yu

If a ruler knows he must put forward a policy of austerity but does not know he must increase the remuneration for his staff at the same time, the practice of cheating and bribery will ensue. When he knows he must increase the remuneration for his staffs but does not know he must reduce the number of staffs, the government will soon run out of money. When he knows he must reduce the number of staffs but does not motivate the remaining staffs to optimize their efforts, the increased workload will make the shortage of staffs obvious.

Scroll 47: Liu Yi Zheng Lun

Abolish useless posts to reduce and save on un-necessary official salaries. Stop all expenses paid to non-achievers, merge departments, and dismiss redundant officers. There must be a post for every member of the staff, and for every staff member with job responsibilities a salary must be paid which will replace their earnings from farming. This was a principle regularly applied in ancient times, but the principle should still be applicable to this day also.

Scroll 25: Wei Zhi, Vol. 1

A virtuous man placed in an insignificant post is considered to be a mistake made by the ruler. An unvirtuous man placed in a senior post is considered to be a misjudgment made by a ruler. One would rather have wronged a superior person than to have employed a petty person, for a superior person will not harbor strong resentments but a petty person with power will cause far-reaching disasters.

Scroll 32: Guan Zi

When a leader appoints a good candidate to a government post, he allows unworthy people to impose restrictions on this person. When he appoints a wise person to devise policies, he allows unwise people to appraise this person. When he lets an ethical person implement government policies, he allows malicious people to cast doubts on this person. How can a leader achieve success if he condones these ironies?

Scroll 38: Sun Qing Zi