The state is only a larger form of the family and the mutual obligations that exist between father and sons, exist between sovereign and subjects.
In fact, governing one's family correctly was viewed as an essential precondition to governing the State. "To rightly govern the state, it is necessary first to regulate one#39;s own family. One cannot instruct others who cannot instruct his own children. Without going beyond the family, the prince may learn all the lessons of statecraft, filial piety by which the sovereign is also served, fraternal submission by which older men and superiors are also served, kindness by which also the common people should be ministered unto." (Great Learning, c. ix., v. 1.)
Confuius regarded the way that the ruler treated his own family as the seed which would establish the foundation of the government or destroy it: "From the loving example of one family, love extends throughout the state; from its courtesy, courtesy extends throughout the state; while the ambition and perverse recklessness of one man may plunge the entire state into rebellion and disorder." (Great Learning, c. ix., v. 3.)
In this regard, it is interesting to contrast Confucius's belief that in order to be effective, a leader must actually be virtuous with Machiavelli's cynical view that the ruler need only pretend to be good, so as to allow him to carry out schemes and murders in secret.
The concept of filial piety, central to Confucian doctrine in general, was naturally central to his concept of government. "The filial piety with which the superior man serves his parents may be transferred as loyalty to the ruler; the fraternal duty with which he serves his elder brother may be transferred as deference to elders; his regulation of his family may be transferred as good government in any official position." (C. xiv.)