Last week, President Xi Jinping addressed the International Confucian Association to mark the 2,565th anniversary of the birth of Confucius.

This would have been impossible for a Communist leader in earlier times. During the reign of Chairman Mao Zedong, Confucius was subjected to vilification and contempt.

But the current Chinese president and Communist Party general secretary praised the philosopher as someone who had profoundly influenced Chinese civilization and continues to play a role in Chinese culture.