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Understanding the Contemporary and Historic Significance of the Second Integration

By Zhang Hongzhi Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2024-07-08

At a ceremony marking the centenary of the Communist Party of China in 2021, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President of the People’s Republic of China, set forth the great task of integrating the basic tenets of Marxism with the best of China’s traditional culture. This was the first time this task was placed on an equal footing with that of integrating Marxism’s basic tenets with China’s specific realities. In his report to the 20th CPC National Congress in 2022, Xi Jinping explained that only by integrating the basic tenets of Marxism with China’s specific realities and with the best of its traditional culture (referred to as the “Two Integrations”) can we ensure that Marxism always retains its vigor and vitality and open up new frontiers in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times.

I. The second integration is essential in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times

Chinese Communists arrived at the conclusion that Marxism’s basic tenets must be integrated with China’s specific reali­ties in advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. In doing so, they paved the way for adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times, and for carving out a distinctively Chinese socialist path to rejuvenation, one that ensured the CPC could lead the Chinese people from victory to victory on their journey. China’s traditional culture is an important consid­eration in integrating Marxism with China’s specific reality, as it makes up a major part of this reality. As socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the unique role of China’s culture has become even more pronounced, and the importance of the second integration has thus taken on a special significance based on the needs of the times.

The vitality and enduring nature of Chinese culture have made it an increasingly important aspect of China’s reality

As part of the superstructure, culture, once established, is relatively independ­ent and enduring compared to its origi­nal economic base. Moreover, it exerts a considerable influence back upon the economic base. The finest aspects of tradi­tional culture have stood the test of time, transcending the ages to form the cultural genes and spiritual symbols of the nation. In guiding the Chinese people’s quest for rejuvenation, Marxism has evolved with the Chinese context and the needs of the times as it has been integrated with China’s specific realities. The proposal to integrate the basic tenets of Marxism with the best of traditional Chinese culture is thus a logical conclusion given Marxism’s devel­opment in line with the Chinese context and the times. Moreover, it is an objective requirement for realizing the rejuvenation of Chinese civilization.


A tablet inscribed with the maxim Seek Truth from Facts at the Yuelu Academy in Changsha, Hunan Province. During his youth, Mao Zedong was influenced by the Xiang (Hunan) School of thought, which emphasized the practical application of knowledge. This tablet at the Yuelu Academy left a deep impression on him. Later, based on explorations of the contemporary value of China’s traditional culture, Mao Zedong provided a new interpretation of the maxim: “Facts” are all the things that exist objectively, “truth” means their internal relations, that is, the laws governing them, and “seek” means to study. VISUAL CHINA / PHOTO BY HONG TAO

In the age of economic globalization and rapid IT application when countries are becoming more economically and socially alike, traditional culture has become the most fundamental and striking charac­teristic of a nation. It is the most crucial and deep-rooted facet of a nation’s reality and what fundamentally sets it apart from other countries and cultures. Therefore, to keep integrating Marxism’s basic tenets with China’s specific realities, we must inevitably place emphasis on integrat­ing these tenets with China’s traditional culture. As such, the second integration is a practical requirement for realizing the first integration, as well as a logical conclusion of this process. It represents a theoreti­cal and intellectual refinement of the first integration and an inevitable outcome of our efforts to stay up-to-date in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times.

The second integration has opened up new horizons for Marxism’s continuous development and injected new vitality into Chinese culture

Ever since Marxist theory was first applied in practice, Marxists around the world have grappled with the question of how to integrate its fundamental tenets with the unique conditions of their respec­tive countries. By successfully managing this integration, Chinese Communists have opened up new horizons for Marxism. Moreover, they have also re-energized Chinese culture and unlocked its inher­ent vitality—which had previously been shackled under the conditions of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society—thus generating powerful inspiration for realiz­ing national rejuvenation. With the intro­duction and ongoing development of the second integration, Marxism has become a more integral part of China, and tradi­tional Chinese culture has been modern­ized. Together, these two elements have naturally merged to form a new cultural entity, which serves as the cultural embodi­ment of Chinese modernization. In advancing the two integrations, the second integration in particular, we have simulta­neously worked to adapt Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times and to develop a modern Chinese civiliza­tion. These two processes have reinforced each other and integrated seamlessly to generate synergy for reaching new heights in both respects. All of this has given rise to a powerful cultural wave that has brought profound changes to both China and beyond. China’s success shows that for Marxism to take root and thrive around the world, it must be integrated with the traditional cultures of the nations where it is being applied. Likewise, to keep abreast of the times, cultures must incorporate advanced cultural elements and scientific theories of humanity.


A Shoushan stone outside the main central hall of the China National Archives of Publications and Culture (NAPC) bears the inscription “Carry Forward our Cultural Heritage.” The NAPC embodies the CPC’s profound consciousness in carrying forward and developing Chinese culture and its initiative in creating a brighter future by drawing on the wisdom of the past. PHOTO BY CNS REPORTER HAN HAIDAN

Since the start of the 21st century, economic globalization has opened the way for interactions between diverse cultures. However, by leveraging their head start in development, Western countries have attempted to impose their culture on the world, claiming it represents modern civili­zation and “universal values.” This has given rise to a profound cultural shock in many countries and has forced nations swept up in the tide of globalization to continuously grapple with questions about their identity, origins, and future trajecto­ries. The challenge has been particularly acute for ancient civilizations pursuing modernization. They have been confronted with significant cultural rifts as the tension between pursuing wholesale Westerniza­tion and returning to traditional cultural values has intensified. This has resulted in profound crises of cultural identity and led to a strong desire for civilizational rejuve­nation. As the survival of their cultures has been challenged, countries around the world, particularly developing ones, have come up with various solutions, but neither cultural revivalism nor religious funda­mentalism or xenophobic nationalism have proved to be the answer for achiev­ing rejuvenation. The second integration, which is a profound summary of CPC’s efforts to adapt Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times, puts forward a well-conceived approach to rejuvenating an ancient civilization. It shows us that rejuvenation will fail if we abandon our history and try to start over by blindly copying another culture. It will also come to nothing if we attempt to return to the past by dogmatically applying ancient wisdom and fall into the delusion of self-superiority. Instead, we must thoroughly grasp the laws underlying the develop­ment of our own national culture and absorb all the advanced cultural achieve­ments of humanity in order to forge a new and enduring culture that will brim with endless vitality. 

II. The second integration is the path we must follow to achieve Chinese modernization

The explosive growth in global produc­tivity arising from the Industrial Revolu­tion brought profound economic and social changes worldwide. Many developing countries regarded it as their mission to catch up with the pace of global progress by achieving industrialization and moderniza­tion. However, after the imperial age, the conventional path to modernization taken by Western countries, which essentially relied on external expansion, was closed off by those who had benefited from it. In any case, this path ran counter to the direction of human progress. Thus, apart from a small few countries and regions that developed as a result of special support from Western powers during the Cold War, most develop­ing countries are still struggling to modern­ize. And even the few that have achieved so-called modernization are not free from their dependence on Western powers. Finding a way to modernize that is compat­ible with a country’s national characteristics thus remains a global issue.

The second integration is an inevitable choice for China to realize its own modernization

It is imperative that developing countries choose a modernization path that is best suited to their circumstances. While the choice of the development path is key in the early stages of economic development, at a certain point, countries must establish modernization goals that are compatible with their needs. This is the ultimate test countries must pass in order to avoid falling at the final hurdle. During this process, they must determine whether their develop­ment path is compatible with their cultural traditions and whether there is potential for cultural tensions to disrupt their progress at the critical moment of transformation. As developing countries, especially those with ancient histories, progress along the path of modernization, they tend to worry more about losing their cultural identity, and thus, the challenges posed by cultural tensions become more acute.

Developing countries must thus adapt the general laws of modernization to their own specific realities. By integrating well-conceived theories from abroad with their own fine traditional culture, they can create a new culture that fits their modernization needs and follow a path to modernization that is in harmony with their traditional culture. As the world’s largest developing country, and possessing a huge population, a long history, and a rich traditional culture, China cannot simply replicate the develop­ment path of any other country. To success­fully chart a path of Chinese modernization, the only choice China has is to integrate the basic tenets of Marxism, which reflect the general laws of human social development, with its own traditional culture.

The second integration clarifies the direction of Chinese modernization and highlights its unique characteristics

The first integration created the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and charted the way forward for Chinese modernization. By fully advancing the second integration, we will reinforce our foundations and endow the path of Chinese socialism with greater historical depth and broader cultural underpinnings. This path is what determines the intrinsic and insepa­rable link between Chinese modernization and Chinese civilization. Just as Chinese modernization infuses Chinese civilization with modern vitality, Chinese civilization imparts a rich heritage to Chinese moderni­zation. It ensures that we will advance Chinese modernization without losing our identity, veering off course, or stalling on the road to success. It also ensures that Chinese modernization will be truly independent and not reliant on others.

The report to the 20th CPC National Congress summarized the features of Chinese modernization, stating that it was the modernization of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of material and cultural-ethical advancement, of harmony between humanity and nature, and of peaceful development. This approach fully embodies the worldview and methodol­ogy of Marxism while also drawing exten­sively on principles from the best of China’s traditional culture, such as pursuing the common good for all, embracing the world with virtue, promoting harmony between humanity and nature, and living in harmony with others. It ensures that Chinese modernization is in tune with the will of the Chinese people, deeply rooted in China’s reality, and harmoniously blends scientific and traditional insights as well as historical and forward-looking perspectives. It could be said that the second integration is what defines the distinctive character of Chinese modernization and sets it apart from the traditional Western model. This form of modernization eschews the erroneous path of pursuing complete Westernization as well as the outdated approach of attempting to revive obsolete cultural traditions. Instead, by means of the two integrations, it opens up broad cultural horizons for exploring a successful path to modernization and creat­ing a new form of human advancement.

III. The second integration helps provide the necessary conditions for building a global community of shared future

Today, the world is undergoing momen­tous changes unlike anything seen in the past 100 years. If we are to overcome our common challenges and ensure lasting peace and development for our world, then the right choice for all of humanity is to build a global community of shared future. However, hegemonism, and especially deep-rooted cultural hegemonism, has become a major obstacle preventing the world from joining forces to create such a community. Realizing equal treatment and harmonious coexistence among our diverse civilizations is essential in order to secure a bright future for humanity.

The second integration is a good example of inclusiveness, mutual learning, exchange, and innovative development among different civilizations and shatters the myth that a single civilization must dominate the world and forcefully assimilate all other civilizations

Marxist theory has its origins in Western culture, coming into existence amid the rise of modern industrial society. The fact that it was possible to integrate Marxism with China’s traditional culture is a testament to the innovative and inclusive nature of Chinese civilization. It was this nature that allowed Chinese Communists to combine Marxism with China’s traditional culture in order to create a socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, which in turn, resur­rected Chinese civilization from its lowest point and saw our nation once more stand­ing tall and proud among the nations of the world. This serves as a template for how ancient civilizations can pursue rejuvenation while preserving and innovating their own time-honored traditions. It opens the way for a brighter and more prosperous future where the diverse cultures of the world can all flour­ish in their own unique way.

The second integration provides strong support for building a global community of shared future by opening a successful path for non-Western civilizations to achieve equal status in inter-civilizational dialogue

Today, various countries and regions with rich and diverse civilizations are explor­ing their own unique paths to moderni­zation. Identifying the best way for these diverse civilizations to coexist and interact is a pressing task in the endeavor to build a global community of shared future. The second integration shows us how we can successfully tap the contemporary value of history and culture. It offers us a way to creatively transform and innovate tradi­tional culture in the course of pursuing modernization. This experience provides an effective approach for ancient civilizations to deal with the challenges of embracing modernity and engage in inter-civilizational dialogue on an equal footing.


Zhang Hongzhi is President of the CPC Literature Research Association and a former member of the Executive Council of the Institute of Party History and Litera­ture of the CPC Central Committee.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 8, 2024)