Breeding confidence in Chinese civilization

Journey from humiliation to success is built on meaningful recognition of nation’s culture

There is a new discourse on China, and by default the Communist Party of China, surrounding the ebbs and flows of what global historians describe as the “cultural confidence” of great nations.

In May this year, during the 39th group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, the Party leadership carried out a study to trace the origins of the Chinese civilization.

Among the findings that aided the study were hundreds of archaeological remains, the human genome project on the origin of the Chinese civilization, and the “catalogization” of ancient relics, for example pottery and stone tools from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-256 BC) unearthed in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The cultural confidence discourse, or wenhua zixin, is a continuation of the “confidence doctrine”, or zixin lun, formulated during the 18th National Congress of the CPC in November 2012.

The Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation is a natural continuation of the doctrine of “confidence in Chinese culture”.

Another tide of cultural confidence emerged in 2017 during the 19th Party Congress to include “globally recognizable cultural images of China”, “Chinese language teaching through the Confucius Institutes”, the “key concepts of Chinese thought and culture” and “rapid economic and technological development” as the “four characteristics of confidence” needed to build “a multidimensional China”.

During the last two centuries, China has experienced both extreme humiliation and extreme success. 

Humiliation at the hands of Western imperialist powers and Japan, and success under the leadership of the CPC, as China overtook all Western countries and Japan to become the biggest trading nation in the world.

Without confidence, a civilization, a nation, a family and even an individual will succumb to the hostile forces of nature and humans, and fall victim to cruelty and conquest.

It is therefore necessary for our survival to combine forces, serve the people, and be assertive and vigilant against invaders.

Today, China’s cultural confidence is again caught between two extremes. The pro-Western forces say China cannot help build a multipolar world and therefore must accept Westernization. The pro-China forces say China must revive Confucianism and become the center of the world again.

The government would do better to carefully weigh in and listen to the traditionalists as well as the progressives. 

Ideally, though, it should never let the Chinese people become victims of foreign diktat again.

Some commentators say, “don’t draw a moon, build a space ship”. To which we reply, all nations want to improve their circumstances, yet it is only those who also have a magnificent culture who succeed.

As a nation thinks, so it becomes.

The writer is the author of The East-West Dichotomy and Shengren — Above Philosophy and Beyond Religion. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.