Academics interpret modern Chinese civilization

Source: Chinese Social Sciences Today 2024-06-05

More than 100 experts and scholars from such renowned academic institutions as the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Peking University, and Tsinghua University gathered in Beijing on June 2 for a symposium on building a modern Chinese civilization.

Hosted by CASS, the high-level academic meeting comes a year after General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at a seminar on cultural inheritance and development, calling for building a modern Chinese civilization.

Interrelated features

At the seminar on cultural inheritance and development, Xi highlighted the five prominent features of Chinese civilization: continuity, innovativeness, unity, inclusivity, and peaceful nature.

Qian Chengdan, founding director of the Institute of Area Studies at Peking University, attributed the continuity of the Chinese nation to the unique interplay between spiritual and political forces, with philosophies such as Confucianism acting as the spiritual carrier and state power functioning as the institutional guarantor. This enduring synergy, established during the Han Dynasty, distinguishes Chinese civilization from others, he said.

Understanding the prominent continuity of Chinese civilization requires recognizing China’s extensive and enduring historical legacy, said Yang Yanqiu, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of History under CASS. She remarked that continuous historical documentation fostered a persistent consciousness of inheriting history and culture; the generation model of traditional philosophy contributed to the transitional characteristic of Chinese thought evolution; and the cultural trait of keeping abreast with the times enabled Chinese culture to keep developing amid inheritance and innovation.

According to CASS Member Wang Zhenzhong, long-term national unity since antiquity is dictated by the stability of the unified state structure, unified language, shared fine traditional culture, common economy and transportation. These connections are fundamental to Chinese civilization’s unity.

The remarkable inclusivity of Chinese civilization is a crucial condition for maintaining the civilization’s prominent unity, said CASS Member Xing Guangcheng, adding that constant exchanges, communication, and integration within the Chinese nation in history guaranteed and advanced the feature of unity.

Discussing the peaceful nature of Chinese civilization, Wang Chaoguang, former director of the Institute of World History at CASS, emphasized that this characteristic has guided China towards promoting inter-civilizational exchanges and mutual learning, rather than pursuing cultural hegemony.

Xie Lizhong, a professor of sociology at Peking University, said that Chinese civilization represents a sum of all “civilizations” created by the Chinese nation. Inclusive and peaceful while maintaining continuity and unity, Chinese civilization has consistently demonstrated an innovative pattern characterized by unity in diversity.

Modernizing Chinese civilization

The close relations among the five prominent features constitute the core framework of modern Chinese civilization, said Ma Guoqing, a professor from the School of Ethnology and Sociology at Minzu University of China. As Chinese civilization modernizes, its unity lays the foundation for fostering discourse that enables the multi-ethnic nation to embrace modernization.

Chen Guangjin, director of CASS’s Institute of Sociology, pointed out that achieving common prosperity for all forms the social basis for building a modern Chinese civilization. Chinese modernization, marked by the CPC’s steadfast advancement of common prosperity for all, reflects both the inheritance and development of fine traditional Chinese culture.

Modern Chinese civilization not only exhibits the commonalities shared by modern civilizations worldwide, but also showcases China’s distinctive civilizational features shaped by the peculiarity of Chinese modernization, said Zhang Jing, director of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Peking University. Zhang added that China is progressing along a distinct form of modernization, characterized by holistic development, interconnectedness, and rule sharing.

Wang Tianfu, dean of the School of Social Sciences at Tsinghua University, stressed that the basic social structure of Chinese society is compatible with the pace of the digital technology revolution. Interpersonal connections in digital society bear resemblances to the differential mode of association in traditional Chinese societal culture. As such, Chinese people are generally able to understand social relation structures constructed within digital society. This will enable us to make sense of and adapt to the production and living models of digital society, Wang said.


Zhang Yixin, Ban Xiaoyue, Liu Yuanjian, Chen Yajing, and Liu Yue contributed to this story.

Editor:Yu Hui
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