Speech at the Meeting on Cultural Inheritance and Development
Speech at the Meeting on Cultural Inheritance and Development
Today, we convened a meeting on cultural inheritance and development. Preceding this event, I visited the newly built China National Archives of Publications and Culture and the Chinese Archaeological Museum at the Chinese Academy of History and found them exceptionally insightful.
To establish both the Chinese Academy of History and the China National Archives of Publications and Culture was a decision of great significance made by the CPC Central Committee. The Chinese nation boasts a legacy spanning millions of years of humanity, ten millennia of culture, and five thousand years of civilization. My visit to these two places helped deepen my appreciation for the time-honored Chinese culture and the profound depth of Chinese civilization. Only through a comprehensive and deep understanding of the history of Chinese civilization can we more effectively promote the creative transformation and development of the best of the traditional Chinese culture, vigorously push forward the progress of socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, and cultivate a modern Chinese civilization.
Culture is fundamental to a nation’s foundation and future. Recently, I have consistently pondered the major issue of promoting China’s socialist culture and developing a modern Chinese civilization. This is precisely the reason that led us to convene this meeting today. Here, I would like to address three key points.
I. Developing a profound understanding of the defining characteristics of Chinese civilization
The traditional Chinese culture encompasses a multitude of significant concepts, including social ideals of pursuing the common good for all and achieving universal peace; governance principles of regarding the people as the foundation of the state and governing by virtue; traditions of striving for great unity in the country and ensuring unity amid diversity; values of dedicating oneself to self-cultivation, family management, state governance, and peace for all and shouldering one’s duties to secure the future of the nation; aspirations of embracing the world with virtue and cultivating integrity; economic principles of enriching the people and improving their lives and pursuing the greater good and shared interests; ecological ideas of promoting harmony between humanity and nature and the coexistence of all living things; philosophical thoughts of seeking truth from facts and combining knowledge with action; the mindset of understanding multiple perspectives and seeking harmony through the middle way; and communication approaches of acting in good faith and being friendly to others. These concepts collectively shape the defining characteristics of Chinese civilization.
President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at a meeting on cultural inheritance and development, Beijing, June 2, 2023. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER JU PENG
Chinese civilization is distinguished by its continuity
Chinese civilization is the only great, uninterrupted civilization that continues to this day in a state form. This unequivocally affirms the cultural identity and robust vitality of Chinese civilization as it has responded to challenges and broken new ground through self-development. Chinese people’s deep-rooted sentiments for the motherland and profound sense of history constitute an ideal for upholding great unity and provide spiritual support for guiding the Chinese nation through countless hardships on the path to national rejuvenation. This continuity inherently dictates that the Chinese nation will follow its own path. If not through the prism of its extensive history of continuity, one would not be able to understand ancient China, contemporary China, let alone China of the future.
Chinese civilization is distinguished by its creativity
Chinese civilization places stress on discarding the outdated in favor of the new and making progress on a daily basis. It embodies both profound depth and dynamic forward surges. Continuity doesn’t mean being stagnant or inflexible; on the contrary, it represents a history marked by creativity-driven progress. The Chinese nation embraces the ethos of self-renewal, as an ancient saying goes “improve oneself in one day, do so from day to day, and there will be daily improvement.” This spirit propels the Chinese nation’s sustained material, cultural-ethical, and political advancement, allowing it to stand tall and firm as one of the most prosperous and powerful civilizations throughout a long historical period. The creativity of Chinese civilization determines that it upholds tradition without clinging to the past and respects ancient wisdom without reverting to archaic thinking. It also determines that the Chinese nation is fearless in facing new challenges and embracing new things.
President Xi Jinping learns about the preservation of precious editions of important works at Lantai Cave during a tour of the National Archives of Publications and Culture, Beijing, afternoon of June 1, 2023. The following day, he delivered a keynote speech at a meeting on cultural inheritance and development. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER JU PENG
Chinese civilization is distinguished by its unity
The longtime tradition of great unity underpins its commitment to upholding unity amid diversity and maintaining solidarity through centrality. The internal cohesion of maintaining unity is both a prerequisite and a consequence of Chinese civilization’s continuity. Through bitter experiences, Chinese people have learned that unity and solidarity bring prosperity, whereas national fragmentation and turmoil breed adversity. The unity of Chinese civilization has seen its various ethnic cultures coming together to create a cohesive whole and remaining tightly knit even in the face of serious setbacks. It shapes a common belief that China’s territorial integrity must always be preserved, the country must never be allowed to descend into turmoil, our nation must always remain united, and our civilization must never be interrupted. It firmly underscores the notion that national unity always remains at the core of national interests and that a robust, unified nation is essential to the future of all our people.
Chinese civilization is distinguished by its inclusiveness
Rather than replacing diverse cultures with a single monoculture, Chinese civilization endeavors to integrate various cultures into a shared tapestry, resolving conflicts and forging consensus. By transcending regional disparities, kinship ties, and religious beliefs, the sense of identification with Chinese culture has successfully transformed a vast and diverse nation into one that cherishes unity amid diversity. The more inclusive a civilization becomes, the more favor and support it garners, and the longer it endures. The inclusiveness of Chinese civilization determines the Chinese nation’s direction toward communication, exchange, and integration, as well as the harmonious coexistence of diverse religious beliefs in the country. It also defines the open-mindedness of Chinese culture to embrace and draw on other cultures.
Chinese civilization is distinguished by its peacefulness
Over the five thousand years, Chinese civilization has always upheld peace, amity, and harmony. It advocates applying moral principles to create a world where the common good and individual interests harmoniously coexist and prioritizing others in self-other relationships. It stands against isolation and in favor of interaction, advocates coexistence and shared progress while opposing coercion, and advocates peace through harmony and rejects the law of the jungle. The intrinsic peacefulness of Chinese civilization determines that China will always work to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order. China remains committed to promoting exchanges and mutual learning among diverse civilizations without ever seeking cultural hegemony. China will not impose its values and political institutions upon others. It is committed to cooperation rather than confrontation, and it will never form blocs on a partisan basis.
II. Understanding the significance of integrating the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific realities and the best of its traditional culture
Given the profound foundations of our venerable 5,000-year-old civilization, the only path for pioneering and developing Chinese socialism is to integrate the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific realities and the best of its traditional culture (“two integrations”). This systematic conclusion has been derived from our extensive explorations of Chinese socialism. We have always emphasized integrating the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific realities and have now officially brought forward the integration of the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s fine traditional culture. As I once stated, without the 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization, where would the Chinese characteristics come from? If it wasn’t for these characteristics, how could we have charted the triumphant path of Chinese socialism? Only within the context of more than 5,000 years of Chinese civilization can we genuinely comprehend the historical necessity, cultural significance, and unique advantages of the Chinese path.
Both positive and negative historical experience demonstrates that the concept of the “two integrations” is the strongest assurance for our success.
First, mutual compatibility is the fundamental prerequisite
The “two integrations” is not a far-fetched proposition. Despite their distinct origins, Marxism and traditional Chinese culture exhibit remarkable congruence. For instance, the social principles of pursuing the common good for all and acting in good faith and being friendly to others resonate harmoniously with the ideals and convictions of communism and socialism; the governing concepts of regarding the people as the foundation of the state and governing by virtue align seamlessly with the political principle of putting the people first; and the practices of discarding the outdated in favor of the new and ceaselessly pursuing self-improvement correspond faithfully to the revolutionary spirit of Communists. Marxism sees the essence of man from the angle of social relations, while in Chinese culture, people are defined by their relationships with their family, their country, and the world. Both reject the notion of viewing humans as isolated entities. Genuine integration can only be attained through mutual compatibility. It is in this vein that we say that the Communist Party of China is a steadfast proponent and practitioner of Marxism, while it also works to keep China’s traditional culture alive and strong.
Second, integration represents a mutually beneficial process
Integration extends beyond mere juxtaposition; instead, it creates a new, organically unified cultural entity. On one hand, Marxism entered China with its advanced theories, giving a new lease of life to Chinese civilization with its truthfulness. It ushered China into the modern era, revitalizing and modernizing Chinese culture. Traditional concepts such as regarding the people as the foundation of the state, all regions sharing common customs and practices, all things living side by side, and enriching the people have transformed to modern ideas of pursuing democracy, forging a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation, maintaining harmony between humanity and nature, and striving for common prosperity. This groundbreaking transformation has presented a modern form of Chinese civilization. On the other hand, China’s fine traditional culture has enriched Marxism and facilitated its breakthroughs in adapting to the Chinese context and the needs of the times on an ongoing basis, endowing Marxism with increasingly distinctive Chinese features and style and making it embody the best of Chinese culture and ethos of this era. The integration of the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s traditional culture enables Marxism to take root in China, modernizes traditional Chinese culture, and facilitates the emergence of a new culture that serves as the cultural embodiment of Chinese modernization.
President Xi Jinping visits the Chinese Academy of History, Beijing, afternoon of June 2, 2023, prior to delivering his keynote speech at the meeting on cultural inheritance and development on the same day. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER JU PENG
Third, integration has reinforced the foundations of our path
What sets our socialism apart? What enables it to thrive with such vitality? The answers lie in its distinct Chinese characteristics, and the essence of these characteristics is encapsulated within the concept of the “two integrations.” The path of Chinese socialism is fundamentally socialist, grounded in Marxism. The essential socialist elements in Chinese culture provide an intellectual foundation for the embrace of Marxism in China. The path of Chinese socialism is continually broadening, and our determination to remain on this path is unwavering. In the new era, a significant reason for the historic achievements and transformative progress our Party and country have made is our adherence to the “two integrations.” The path of Chinese socialism has been charted under the guidance of Marxism, building upon China’s 5,000 years of civilization. The integration of the basic tenets of Marxism with the best of China’s traditional culture has endowed the path of Chinese socialism with greater historical depth and broadened its cultural underpinnings. Chinese modernization represents a wide avenue leading to a strong country and national rejuvenation. Just as Chinese modernization infuses Chinese civilization with modern vitality, the rich heritage of Chinese civilization bolsters Chinese modernization. Chinese modernization seeks to build upon, rather than erase, China’s ancient civilization; it has developed within China, not imported from any other country; and it has stemmed from the rejuvenation, not the disruption, of Chinese civilization. Chinese modernization is a new mission for the Chinese nation, and it will allow Chinese civilization to shine with renewed radiance.
President Xi Jinping talks with staff at the cultural artifact conservation and restoration hall of the Sanxingdui Museum in Guanghan City, Sichuan Province, July 26, 2023. He toured Sichuan Province from July 25 to 27, 2023. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XIE HUANCHI
Fourth, integration has opened up new space for innovation
Integration itself embodies a form of innovation, but it also paves the way for significant theoretical and practical breakthroughs. The integration of the basic tenets of Marxism with the best of China’s traditional culture has enabled us to retain both the theoretical and cultural initiative, and exerted a strong influence on the path, theory, and system of Chinese socialism. From this perspective, we can observe that the systems of people’s congresses and political consultation established by our Party reflect the Chinese concept of the people being the foundation of the state, the idea of universal participation in governance, the tradition of collaborative and consultative governance, and the political wisdom of being all-inclusive and seeking common ground while setting differences aside. China’s implementation of a system of regional ethnic autonomy within a unitary state, rather than a federal system, adapts itself to the underlying development trend of the Chinese nation toward internal cohesion and unity amid diversity. It also carries on the Chinese tradition of striving for great unity in the country to see all regions sharing common customs and practices amid rich diversity and all people coming together as one family. The integration of the basic tenets of Marxism with the best of China’s traditional culture is yet another manifestation of our commitment to freeing the mind. It allows us to fully harness the precious resources of traditional Chinese culture to explore future-oriented theoretical and institutional innovations within a broader cultural framework.
Fifth, integration has reinforced our cultural identity
Cultural identity is essential for the continued preservation and empowerment of a nation’s culture, and for it to unite and inspire the people and to foster creativity and influence. The CPC has consistently emphasized cultural development. In the new era, we have emphasized confidence in our culture alongside confidence in our path, theory, and system. Our cultural confidence is rooted in our cultural identity, established by the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC in the land of China. It is established on the basis of creative transformation and innovative development of traditional culture, as well as the inheritance of revolutionary culture and the development of advanced socialist culture. While establishing this identity, we have drawn inspiration from the outstanding achievements of human civilization and integrated Marxism’s basic tenets with China’s specific realities and the best of its traditional culture. The formulation of the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era embodies our cultural identity. This identity has given us a firm cultural sense of self and provided fundamental support for our cultural confidence. With this cultural identity, the CPC gains significant cultural strength to steer the trends of our times; the Chinese nation and people have a solid cultural foundation for national identity; and Chinese culture is endowed with distinctive features that facilitate exchanges and mutual learning with the rest of the world.
III. Better shouldering new cultural missions
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Central Committee has given paramount importance to cultural progress in leading our Party and people in advancing the nation’s governance. Through unwavering dedication over these years, we have witnessed cultural preservation and development adopting a fresh perspective and forging new frontiers. Substantial strides have been taken in developing a strong socialist culture.
We have continually deepened our understanding of the laws governing cultural development through practical experience, proposing a series of new visions, new ideas, and new concepts. These pivotal ideas theoretically summarize our Party’s practices in leading cultural development in the new era, providing fundamental principles for enhancing our public communication and promoting cultural progress. It is imperative that we uphold, implement, and further cultivate these ideas over the long term.
Now at a new starting point, we must persist in cultivating a thriving and strong socialist culture as well as a modern Chinese civilization. These represent our new cultural missions in the new era. Here, I would like to address three points.
1. We must keep firm confidence in our culture
Only self-confidence leads to self-improvement. Only with cultural confidence can a nation stand firm and tall and traverse great distances. Chinese civilization has an uninterrupted history spanning thousands of years and enduring vitality amid numerous hardships. This is a miracle of human civilization as well as the source of our confidence. Unwavering cultural confidence necessitates charting our own path. To bolster cultural confidence, we must prioritize endeavors to distill insights from our experience and transform these insights into distinct Chinese theories, grounded in our great historical and contemporary practices. We must neither blindly follow dogmas nor indiscriminately adopt foreign theories. Rather, we should strive for intellectual independence. We should make cultural confidence part of the Chinese ethos and cultural characters that are characterized by high-spiritedness, rationality, and peacefulness.
2. We must uphold openness and inclusiveness
These principles are not only a source of vitality, but also an outstanding indicator of cultural confidence. Since ancient times, extensive and profound Chinese civilization has benefited from the openness and inclusiveness of Chinese culture. This attitude necessitates that we proactively learn from all the achievements of human civilization. Chinese civilization cannot develop great cohesion and appeal domestically, nor expand its accessibility and influence abroad, without integrating itself with human advancement in other countries, both in the past and present. Through our continuous efforts, we are better positioned than ever to properly address the relations between China and the West, as well as the interplay between ancient and modern civilizations. We are more eager than ever to forge cultural accomplishments that bridge the past and present, and connect China with the West. We must adapt Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times, keep the best of China’s traditional culture alive and strong, facilitate the localization of foreign cultures, and persist in cultivating a socialist culture with Chinese characteristics in the new era.
3. We must uphold fundamental principles and break new ground
In the cultural sector, we will not lose our way or our political bearings as long as we adhere to these fundamental principles. We can keep up with and lead the times only if we consistently embrace creativity. What we need to uphold is the fundamental system for ensuring the guiding role of Marxism in the ideological domain, the fundamental requirement of integrating the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific realities and the best of its traditional culture, our Party’s leadership over cultural development, and our nation’s cultural identity. We must develop new ideas, new discourses, new mechanisms, and new forms. Under the guidance of Marxism, we must adeptly integrate the past with the present, draw on successful foreign experiences, make informed choices through dialectical reasoning, and develop the new from the old, therefore achieving a seamless fusion of traditional and contemporary cultures. Cultural workers in the new era must be upright and enterprising enough to uphold fundamental principles and break new ground, carry forward our cultural traditions, and write a splendid chapter for contemporary China.
Comrades, the best inheritance of history is the creation of history and the greatest tribute to human civilization is the creation of a new form of human progress. I hope all of us will shoulder our missions and make enthusiastic and concerted efforts to create a new culture of our times and develop a modern Chinese civilization.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 17, 2023)