Discover more from Ginger River Review
What does the newly emerged Xi Jinping Thought on Culture entail?
Culture plays a vital role in inspiring national spirit, maintaining national identity, and promoting economic and social development and well-rounded personal development.
I have been contemplating whether to write about today's piece for a couple of days. This is partly because today's piece is very important, but also because it may be a little difficult for overseas China watchers to read, as the topic is somewhat abstract.
From October 7 to 8, the National Conference on the Work of Public Communication and Culture was held in Beijing. The quinquennial meeting, previously held in 2013 and 2018, is a top-level meeting that provides guidance for China's work related to public communication, culture and ideology.
The most important outcome of this year's meeting is that, for the first time, 习近平文化思想 Xi Jinping Thought on Culture was put forward. This is the latest addition to the array of thoughts that Xi has previously proposed, including the thoughts on the 习近平经济思想 economy, 习近平外交思想 diplomacy, 习近平强军思想 military, 习近平生态文明思想 environment and 习近平法治思想 legal affairs.
I understand that this piece may pose a slightly steeper challenge for those familiar with typical reports, given the inherently abstract nature of China's official discourse on cultural matters. Coupled with the nuances lost between Chinese and English translations, some readers might find it demanding to grasp the full scope. However, given the profound influence of Xi Jinping's cultural thought on China's ideology, societal values, and international communication, I believe it is essential to shed light on this significant topic.
My friend and colleague Wu Ziyu, who covers political and cultural news in China, and GRR’s co-editor Liu Xinyi made great contributions to today’s piece.
Subscribe GRR newsletter for free to get a glimpse into the priorities of both the leadership and the general public in China.
In Xi’s instruction made public at the national meeting over the weekend, he made requirements in seven aspects:
-- strengthening the Party's leadership over the work of public communication and culture;
-- developing a socialist ideology that has the power to unite and inspire the people;
-- cultivating and applying core socialist values;
-- strengthening the penetration and credibility of the media and its ability to guide and influence;
-- promoting the creative transformation and development of fine traditional Chinese culture;
-- vigorously developing the cultural sector;
-- enhancing international communication capacity and promoting exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations.
These requirements are in line with Xi's earlier instructions, which were given at a meeting on cultural inheritance and development that took place in June 2023. The following are his 14-point instructions in that meeting, which were conveyed in a Xinhua news article subsequent to the meeting:
-- uphold and strengthen the Party's overall leadership over the work of public communication and culture, shoulder new cultural mission, build a strong socialist culture and secure new successes in developing socialist culture;
-- uphold the foundational system for ensuring the guiding role of Marxism in the ideological domain, adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times, and develop a socialist ideology that has the power to unite and inspire the people;
-- build stronger cultural confidence, helping socialist culture to flourish, and build modern Chinese civilization;
-- guide cultural development with the core socialist values, carry out extensive public awareness activities on socialism with Chinese characteristics and the Chinese Dream, so as to inspire the people to embrace shared ideals, convictions, values, and moral standards;
-- work faster to develop philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics, carry out research on the basis of China's reality, expound China's path, explain China's practice and construct China's theory;
-- promote the creative evolution and innovative development of fine traditional Chinese culture, so as to ensure Chinese culture maintains its charm and evolves with the time;
-- strengthen the penetration, guidance, influence, and credibility of the media, promote China’s underlying values and spread positive energy, and cement and expand the mainstream thoughts and ideas that inspire hard work in the new era;
-- encourage people-centered cultural creation, always prioritize social benefits in cultural creation, and produce more outstanding works that inspire the people;
-- cherish historical and cultural heritage as treasuring our own lives, and attach importance to the preservation, utilization and development of cultural relics and heritage, so as to preserve the roots of the thriving Chinese ethos;
-- understand that the Chinese path to modernization is the modernization of material and cultural-ethical advancement, which can foster common prosperity in cultural-ethical life for all people and promote their well-rounded development;
-- forge a strong sense of community and create a source of inspiration for the Chinese nation;
-- understand that the high-quality development of the internet is crucial to the party's long-term governance, transform the internet from a unpredictable factor into a driving force for our cause, foster a positive, healthy, upward and benevolent cyberspace culture, and promote internet civilization;
-- increase China's cultural soft power and the appeal of Chinese culture, strengthen our international communications capabilities in order to tell China's stories better and better present Chinese culture to the world;
-- uphold humanity's shared values, implement the Global Civilization Initiative, and promote exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations, making the garden of world civilization flourish.
Xi has more than once emphasized the role of culture in China's governance. In a speech he made in 2016, he noted that
Cultural confidence is essential to China's prosperity, cultural security and the independence of China's national spirit.
From the Chinese leader's point of view, Chinese civilization embodies many prominent features that make it distinctive. At the aforementioned meeting on cultural inheritance and development in June this year, Xi elaborated on Chinese civilization's feature of being consistent, innovative, uniform, inclusive and peaceful.
Speaking of its consistency, Xi noted that Chinese civilization is the only great civilization in the world that has existed and developed in the form of a nation without being interrupted. He added that it signifies Chinese civilization's principal cultural role and strong vitality, which enables it to develop itself, respond to challenges and continue to break new grounds.
Xi also underlined the innovativeness of the Chinese civilization. He cited it as the fundamental reason why the Chinese nation upholds fine traditions but never blindly sticks to old ways, respects the fine traditions but never indiscriminately restores old traditions. It is also the reason why the Chinese nation is fearless of new challenges and is always open to new things, said Xi.
When illustrating the uniformity of Chinese civilization, Xi said that it determines that national unification always stays at the heart of China's core interests and a strong and unified country is the pillar upon which the well-being of all Chinese people depends.
Instead of replacing diverse cultures with one single culture, Chinese civilization aims to unite them into a common culture, and seeks to dissolve conflicts and build consensus, said Xi, expounding on the civilization's inclusivity.
The peaceful nature is another prominent feature of Chinese civilization, noted Xi. He added that the ideas of peace, amity and harmony have been embedded in Chinese civilization since ancient times.
Chinese civilization seeks to build a world where an individual actively involves oneself in the world, said Xi. Therefore, China will not impose its own values and political system on others. It will remain a champion of cooperation, not confrontation, nor will it dish out favors to acolytes and punishments to opponents.
For a deeper understanding of Xi Jinping's cultural thought, consider exploring additional articles from this year's 13th issue of Qiushi, the top theoretical journal of the the Communist Party of China. Highlights include "Building a Socialist Cultural Power", "The “Two Integrations”: the Only Path and Strongest Assurance for Our Success" [GRR has found its English version], and "Marching Confidently Towards a New Cultural Mission" [The third part of this English commentary from Qiushi has talked about "Understanding how to effectively shoulder the new cultural mission", which is related to the Chinese version]
Unfortunately, due to GRR's capacity constraints, we cannot provide full translations of all these articles at the moment. If you're keen on this subject, please leave a comment, and I'll do my best to translate select portions when possible.