To understand China, look back

To understand China, look back

In a recent speech at the College of Europe in Belgium, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the key to understanding today's China is an understanding of its past. He outlined several traits of China crucial to the study of his country. Below is an excerpt from his speech.

First, China has a time-honoured civilisation. In fact, it has spanned over 5,000 years. The Chinese characters, invented by our ancestors several millennia ago, are still used today. Over 2,000 years ago, there was an era of great intellectual accomplishments in China, which is referred to as "the period of 100 masters and schools of thought". Great thinkers such as Laozi, Confucius and Mozi, to name just a few, explored a wide range of topics from the universe to the Earth, and from man's relations with nature to relations among human beings, and to that between the individual and society.

Second, China has gone through many vicissitudes. For several thousand years before the Industrial Revolution, China had been leading the world in economic, technological and cultural development. However, feudal rulers of the 18th and 19th centuries closed the door of China in boastful ignorance and China was left behind in the trend of development. The country was subdued to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society.

As a result of incessant foreign invasions thereafter, China experienced great social turmoil and its people had to lead a life of extreme destitution. Poverty prompted the call for change and people experiencing turmoil aspired for stability. After a hundred years of persistent and unyielding struggle, the Chinese people, sacrificing tens of millions of lives, ultimately took their destiny back into their own hands. Nevertheless, the memory of foreign invasion and bullying has never been erased from the minds of the Chinese people, and that explains why we cherish so dearly the life we lead today.

The Chinese people want peace; we do not want war. This is the reason China follows an independent foreign policy of peace. China is committed to non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, and China will not allow others to interfere in its own affairs. This is the position we have upheld in the past. It is what we will continue to uphold in the future.

Third, China is a socialist country with Chinese characteristics. In 1911, the revolution led by Dr Sun Yat Sen overthrew the autocratic monarchy that had ruled China for several thousand years. The Chinese people then started exploring long and hard for a path that would suit China's national conditions. They experimented with constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, multi-party system and presidential government, yet nothing really worked. Finally, China took on the path of socialism. Admittedly, in the process of building socialism, we have had successful experience and also made mistakes. We have even suffered serious setbacks.

After the "reform and opening up" was launched under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, we have, acting in line with China's national conditions and the trend of the times, explored and blazed a trail of development and established socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Our aim is to build a socialist market economy, democracy, an advanced culture, a harmonious society and a sound eco-system, uphold social equity and justice, promote all-round development of the people, pursue peaceful development, complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and eventually achieve modernisation and ensure prosperity for all.

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