Ecns wire

(W.E. Talk) Liu Zhipeng: How to look back on the century since the Revolution of 1911 and the founding of the Communist Party of China

2022-08-21 Editor : Liu Yimeng ECNS App Download

The year 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China and the 110th anniversary of the Revolution of 1911. "We have long looked back on the past hundred years from a western viewpoint," said Liu Zhipeng, associate vice president and professor of history at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, in an exclusive interview with China News Service's "W.E. Talk". "When we re-examined it from the perspective of contemporary world history, what we learn is, of course, different from what we have seen in the last 100 years." Chinese culture and civilization have their own characteristics. To pursue innovation never means abandoning the old conventions. We Chinese should take Chinese culture as a foothold as far as possible and look at the world on this basis.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

China News Service: "History is regarded as the best textbook and the best stimulus." As a historian, what do you want to share about the last 100 years in China?

Liu Zhipeng: Over the last 100 years, China has experienced its hardest and most tortuous history, and a major turning point took places during this period. In fact, the former, middle and later periods of the last more than 100 were basically influenced by a certain historical viewpoint, during which major historical events such as the two Opium Wars, the Revolution of 1911 and the founding of the Communist Party of China occurred. The Chinese people should take a deep thought about what kind of point of view should we take to look back over the last 100 years.

For more than 100 years, Western countries have always looked at China with discrimination and even contempt: China is a backward and barbaric country, and the Chinese are a low-class ethnic group. These visions and impressions have shaken some Chinese people's trust in individuals and countries, and have been haunting China's destiny until now.

In Chinese history, people, even in the Yuan Dynasty [1271-1368 A.D.] and the Qing Dynasty 1644-1912 A.D.] were all very confident in their deep-rooted Chinese culture. Whoever came needed to pay respect to it. From the two Opium Wars to the invasion of great powers in the late 19th century, all gave a great blow to the Chinese people in terms of territorial sovereignty, political diplomacy and culture. Cultural backwardness is thought to be one of the reasons for being bullied by the West. And then in the late 19th century, the Westernization Movement broke out. Some intelligent started to reshape people's backward mindset of the world. The May 4th Movement later influenced the development of the whole of China for more than 100 years.

The Revolution of 1911 was the most thorough competition between Chinese civilization and Western civilization. Consequentially, Chinese civilization, characterized by family-oriented politics, gave way to Western civilization, featuring individual-oriented politics. When the revolution in the late Qing Dynasty spread throughout the country, the Manchu Qing Dynasty, as the central government, realized that the social and political system must be changed, so it began to abolish the imperial examination, promote the Western education system, train a new model of army and practice Western law. However, China had no time to wait for top-down transformation. From the Opium War to the Gengzi Incident, the Chinese endured humiliation and bullying of Western forces for half a century. China's hope for change is absolutely urgent.

Therefore, the Revolution of 1911 marks not only a historical turning point, but also the collective demand for the overall transformation of Chinese civilization. Looking back on the last 100 years, the Revolution of 1911 exerts much more far-reaching impact on China than the short-term pain of changing dynasties. Since then, the Chinese have constantly tried to re-examine traditional politics, economics, society and culture from the global perspective, and finally found a new way for China to move toward modern development.

China News Service: What's the biggest difference between Western and Eastern culture? Why are there more clashes between the two cultures nowadays than before?

Liu: It is clear that China has no record of aggression in its history from the Qin [221-206 B.C.] and Han [202 B.C.-220 A.D.] dynasties to Ming [1368-1644 A.D.] and Qing [1644-1912 A.D.] dynasties, but paid more attention to its own arable land areas. In fact, China never invades other countries or emigrates its people to foreign countries. All the emigration in China is voluntary. And agrarian civilization cultivates the love for peace in Chinese people's genes so that they think highly of their farming lands and whether they can feed their families. In Hong Kong, Chinese people always place flower plaques with words like "Hope the wind and rain come in their time, hope the country prospers and the people enjoy peace" at celebration spots during festivals and holidays. China keeps such a national character all the time and changes little even when it meets globalization in the contemporary world. 

China still relied on the peasant economy to support the country in the 20th century while Western countries had increased their production with new technologies in the Second Industrial Revolution. After that, Western countries were eager to conquer the world, and they constructed a new world order by promoting imperialism and colonialism. Britain was one of these initiators and a main participant that colonized China, which changed China's modern history.

American culture has its roots in Britain, and America has been a new power generated from the source of imperialism. When we were little, we often watched films about America's westward expansion, which gave us the impression that the whites were "righteous" while the Indians were "bad guys." We even applauded when we saw these Indians killed. However, we did not know at that time that all these stories had been rewritten by America after the World War Ⅱ. America even believed that the westward expansion had the spirit of promoting justice for the world, which is similar to the spirit of "Captain America." Later, the United States tried to expand its influence in Asia through provoking the Korean War and supporting Chiang Kai-shek's government to start a civil war in China.

The War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea is so significant that only when we figure out the ins and outs of it can we exactly understand how the relationship between China and America developed in the 50 years after the war. After the Korean War, the U.S. once again isolated China through an embargo, brought down the Soviet Union by the Cold War and restricted Japan's economic development through economic means. Regarding itself as the "world police," America has provoked wars in many parts of the world, which kill lots of people and bring the locals disasters. This corresponds to America's way of development in its history. As time passes, things change. America's global hegemony fails to work in various cases, and its withdrawing from Afghanistan shows in particular its reluctance to end this unjust war that lasted half a century.

China News Service: In the midst of a century of unprecedented change, how can Chinese civilization face the future?

Liu: The Covid-19 pandemic that broke out at the end of 2019 began to shake up the world order constructed with gunpowder and money in the modern era. Led by the United States, Western countries put the blame on China, where the pandemic broke out first -- another form of the Siege of the Eight-Power Allied Forces 120 years ago. This is not manifest destiny, but an extension of the history of Western imperialism and colonialism. However, China today is no longer the "sleeping lion of the East" and has not only successfully kept the epidemic under control, but also developed new vaccines for national inoculation and international aid, while the Western developed countries are still struggling in the battle against the pandemic, with a disturbing number of confirmed cases and deaths. At a time when the world is in dire straits, the relationship between China and the United Kingdom and the United States has taken a subtle turn.

When we re-examine the last 100 years of China from the perspective of contemporary world history, we get a different picture from what we've seen for more than 100 years. In the late Qing Dynasty, when the whole nation was on the verge of destruction, many scholars thought that traditional Chinese culture was a stumbling block to national self-improvement, and that if it was not changed or abandoned, it was impossible to make the country wealthy and its military forces strong. Over a century on, the advanced warships and cannons those Western countries once took pride in are now developing rapidly in China, and some technology has even been approaching the world advanced level. To pursue innovation never means abandoning the old conventions. Knowledge and technology have no national boundaries, and the evolution of artifacts such as warships and cannons is not necessarily backed up by cultural traditions, while every country's own historical and cultural genes play an indispensable role in the very foundation on which it is built. The motto "Chinese essence and Western utility" proposed in the Westernization Movement, in fact has a far-sighted vision that penetrates the future.

Culture and civilization are unique to a country, and we shall not take others' culture or civilization as our own. It is good to be on the equal footing to communicate with each other, so where should we stand to take such a view? The foothold is Chinese culture and civilization, which is an attitude of Chinese people toward the future.

China News Service: The combination of Marxism and classic Chinese culture has recently been a hot topic in the ideological field. What do you think about it?

Liu: The common prosperity mentioned recently has attracted much attention. It is actually based on Marxism, and different stages of social development have different characteristics of common prosperity. As put forward in Marxism, common prosperity does not mean averaging wealth. Instead, it means that in a society where public ownership plays the dominant role, everyone strives for its development and gets what they deserve, which is very close to the distribution system within a family or clan in ancient China. Therefore, it is very interesting that the gene of Chinese culture can be consistent with the spirit of public ownership in Marxism.

We can't give up the basis of absorbing the wisdom of the ancients and adhering to Chinese culture while exploring future development. The world is complex and changes rapidly. The most important things are that we must have a foothold to settle down and get on with our pursuits.



Most popular in 24h

MoreTop news


Back to top About Us | Jobs | Contact Us | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©1999-2022 All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
[网上传播视听节目许可证(0106168)] [京ICP证040655号]
[京公网安备 11010202009201号] [京ICP备05004340号-1]