“Ruling the world with filial piety” was an effective management model in traditional Chinese society, particularly during the Confucian era. However, this commitment to filial piety was powerfully challenged by China’s New Culture Movement at the beginning of the twentieth century, and disintegrated almost entirely during the Cultural Revolution approximately 50 years later. However, filial piety has recently re-emerged as a topic of debate due to the problems created by China’s aging society. In this paper, the possibility of reconstructing a culture of filial piety is investigated in relation to the rule of law, as discussed by public-policy makers. On the one hand, long-term care policies must be tailored to modern Chinese society, which has been transformed in the last few decades by changes to family structure and the relationship between family and society. On the other hand, policy makers responsible for long-term care policies must acknowledge the traditional value system that has shaped the Chinese way of thinking and moral logic.
In the West, the concept of the rule of law is intrinsically connected with that of human rights. Moving away from the traditional perception of filial piety as a moral duty, it is proposed in this paper that the Confucian ideal of filial piety can be interpreted in terms of human rights. The author combines the Western principle of the rule of law with the Confucian concept of filial piety—that is, legality with morality—to show that filial piety should not be regarded merely as a virtue or a moral sentiment, but as a legally protected and promoted entity. The author argues that adherence to the principle of filial piety, although decreasing in modern China, remains the most important means of regulating the treatment of elderly people by their adult children, and cultivating awareness of the moral responsibility to provide elderly care.