Xi Focus-Explainer: How ancient teachings underline China's contemporary governance

(Xinhua) 11:22, May 21, 2022

BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has often quoted ancient Chinese teachings and proverbs to illustrate the principles of various aspects of state governance.

By examining such quotes, observers have some insights into how Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, is bringing wisdom passed down through history to the governance of contemporary China from a cultural perspective.

The following is a brief summary of four such examples.

-- A Just Cause for Common Good

"A just cause should be pursued for the common good." This saying originates from the Confucian classic "The Book of Rites," which dates back some 2,000 years. It has been regularly quoted by Xi to convey the Chinese people's vision for a better world.

To Xi, a "just cause" refers to the shared values of humanity, such as fairness and justice, and universal harmony is mirrored in the vision of building a community with a shared future for humanity.

China is taking concrete actions to bring that vision into reality, such as pushing forward the Belt and Road Initiative, proposing the Global Development Initiative as well as the Global Security Initiative, demonstrating China's sense of responsibility as a major country.

Xi spoke of the responsibility of major countries when he held a video call with U.S. President Joe Biden in March. "As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and the world's two leading economies, we must not only guide China-U.S. relations forward along the right track, but also shoulder our share of international responsibilities and work for world peace and tranquility," Xi said.

-- Order and Harmony Echoed in Rites and Music

China's culture of rites and music has played an irreplaceable role in constructing a harmonious and orderly society.

The Confucian classic "The Book of Rites" says that music is an echo of the harmony between heaven and earth, and rites or ceremonies reflect the orderly distinctions in the operations of heaven and earth.

Earlier this year, when lauding a grand ceremony marking the centenary of the CPC, which was held in July 2021, Xi referenced the Confucian saying and said that the order and harmony of heaven and earth are echoed in rites and music.

He noted that the event had brought the whole Party and all of society together as a mighty force to make new achievements in the new era.

Valuing etiquette, order and harmony is a long-cherished tradition in China's state governance and has exerted huge influence on the ethos of the nation.

In the new era, Xi has stressed the need to balance order and vitality in modern society. Harmony features in both core socialist values and the country's goal of building a great modern socialist country by the mid-21st century.

"Only when the state is secure and society is stable can we move forward reform and development," Xi has said.

-- Continuous Self-improvement and Virtue Cultivation

"As Heaven's movement is ever vigorous, so must a gentleman constantly strive for self-perfection; As earth's condition is ever receptive, so must a gentleman foster virtue and be broad-minded to embrace all things."

Xi has referenced the proverb from "Zhou Yi," or "The Book of Changes," on various occasions to encourage people on different fronts to embody the spirit of self-improvement and virtue cultivation.

Xi once said the spirit of self-improvement and broad-mindedness referenced in the proverb is what makes the Chinese civilization unique, and is what has allowed it to continue uninterrupted for millennia.

In addition to encouraging broad-mindedness, the second line is often cited to underscore the importance of fostering virtue in society.

Chinese people pay very close attention to cultivating virtue and a good moral character, endeavors which have been advocated since antiquity.

This tradition has been inherited by the CPC, which has rolled out a set of core socialist values.

Over the past decade, Party leadership has held group study sessions on promoting traditional virtues and core socialist values, aiming to ensure that all areas of social development are imbued with these values and that they become a part of people's thinking and behavior.

-- Cultivating People Through Culture

"Cultivate people through culture" is a saying that Xi has reiterated on various occasions to emphasize the essential role of culture in nurturing people both morally and intellectually.

Party leadership has often stressed the importance of strong cultural confidence and a thriving culture in the pursuit of national rejuvenation.

Since ancient times, the global status and influence of the Chinese people have been built on the appeal of the Chinese culture, rather than violence or expansion.

The traditional ideal of cultivating people rather than conquering them, through culture rather than violence, has distinguished the Chinese civilization throughout history and inspires today's China to uphold its path of peaceful development and build a community with a shared future for humanity.

"Aggression and hegemony are not in the blood of the Chinese people. Our people hope to successfully realize national development, but they also hope to see all peoples of the world leading happy and peaceful lives," Xi has said. 

(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)