zhì mín zhī chǎn 制民之产
Sustaining the People’s Livelihood
This expression means to ensure a secure livelihood for the people, a requirement for governance proposed by Mencius (372?-289 BC), who believed that if the common people did not have a steady income and could not maintain their survival, they would deviate from moral righteousness in pursuit of survival. Rulers, therefore, must create and provide the necessary means for the common people to maintain their daily lives. “Sustaining the people’s livelihood” is the foundation and prerequisite for rulers who wish to promote the moral edification of the people.
Mencius said, “Only men of education are able, without certainty in their livelihood, to maintain moral standard. As to the common people, without such certainty, they will not maintain moral standard. In this condition, there is nothing they will not do, in the way of self-abandonment, moral deflection, depravity, and wild license. When they have thus engaged in crime, to then punish them, however, would constitute entrapment. How can such a thing be done by a benevolent ruler? An intelligent ruler will regulate the livelihood of the people, so as to make sure they have sufficient resources to care for their parents, and sufficient resources to support their wives and children, so that in good years they shall always be abundantly satisfied, and in bad years they shall escape the danger of being starved to death. After this he may guide them to do what is good, and in this case the people will readily follow him.” (Mencius)