Sunday, June 03, 2018

Reflections on Jiang Shigong on ‘Philosophy and History: Interpreting the “Xi Jinping Era” through Xi’s Report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the CCP’ [ 哲学与历史 —从党的十九大报告解读“习近平时代” 强世功 ]



The 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party ought to be the focus of substantial study in the West.  It's announcement of a "New Era" was not just an ideological flourish.  Rather, it was a  quite transparent effort to explain, in some detail, a substantial evolution in the CPC's Basic Line, in its development of the political theory on which it is based and on the implementation of the political economy of China. These changes have been reflected in law as well--especially important elements of which included the amendments of the Chinese CPC and State constitutions.  But those are the tip of an iceberg of changes--not just in legislation, but in the form, practice, manner, and object of Chinese governance (for the work of our group  touching on some of these issues see The Vanguard Acts: A Focus on China at the Dawn of its “New Era”; The Vanguard Leads: An Initial Consideration of the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress).

They are also reflected in the current thinking among a part of the elite intellectual classes in China. "A senior Communist Party theorist has given a rare lecture in Hong Kong in which he told more than 100 local delegates and advisers to the national legislature that the party had survived almost 70 years ruling China because it learned from its mistakes and moved with the times." (Kimmy Chung, "How has China’s Communist Party kept power? 100 Hong Kong political bigwigs get rare lecture from senior theorist: Qu Qingshan, deputy head of the party’s history and literature research institute, delivers 2½-hour talk to local NPC delegates, as Beijing seeks to assert its influence in Hong Kong," South China Morning Post (23 May 2018)).
Two anonymous sources said Qu analysed how the party had managed to stay in power when communists in Russia failed and the former Soviet Union collapsed. “One problem with the Soviet communist party was its lack of new ideologies and theories after Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. But the Chinese Communist Party has built up its own ideologies according to the changing times and social situation,” a source quoted Qu as saying. Each Chinese leader had formulated his own theories in response to the needs of each generation, Qu said, from Deng Xiaoping Theory, Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents and Hu Jintao’s scientific concept of development, to Xi Jinping Thought laying out “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era”. (Ibid.)
Indeed, some of the most influential Chinese theorists have begun to build analysis around the great leaps in policy and theory produced during the 19th CPC Congress.  Most prominent among then may be Jiang Shigong 强世功, an internationally prominent theorist and scholar resident at Peking University Law School.  His work on constitutional law is well known, though controversial both inside and outside China.  Whatever one's views, it is clear that he, more than most, has his finger on the pulse of the current moment in history, and a better understanding than many, of the nature and trajectory of changes in China.

In January 2018 Professor Jiang published an article, "哲学与历史—从党的十九大报告解读“习近平时代[‘Philosophy and History: Interpreting the “Xi Jinping Era” through Xi’s Report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the CCP’] in the Guangzhou journal Open Times (开放时代) in January 2018.  The essay was meant to capture the meaning and develop the underlying theory that now constitutes "New Era" thought and its implications for Chinese political philosophy, the development of Chinese Marxist Leninist Theory, and its consequences for governance in China. Now that important work has been translated into English (Jiang Shigong: ‘Philosophy and History: Interpreting the “Xi Jinping Era” through Xi’s Report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the CCP’ The China Story (Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) at the Australian National University ) (11 May 2018) (Translation by David Ownby. Notes by Timothy Cheek and David Ownby) Permalink HERE).

This post includes my brief Reflections on Jiang Shigong's excellent essay (drawn from the English language translation cited above). It also includes the essay (original 中文 and English translation). All follows below. The essay may be downloaded HERE. Flora Sapio's thoughts may be found HERE.


In his essay, Professor Jiang sought to interpret the significance of the "Xi Jinping era" in the history of the Party, the Republic, the history of Chinese civilization, the history of the international communist movement and the history of human civilization from the intrinsic relationship between philosophy and history [本文从哲学和历史的内在关联来解读“习近平时代”在党史、共和国史、中华文明史、国际共产主义运动史和人类文明史上的意义。].  Tp that end, Professor Jiang  argued that the major task facing Xi Jinping’s era is to construct a superstructure that adapts to the socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics. Centering that task, in turn, requires the construction of a new constitutional arrangement that rationalizes the relationship between the party and the state, and also to construct the core values ​​of socialism with Chinese characteristics ["因此,本文认为习近平时代面临的重大任务是建构与中国特色社会主义市场经济相适应的上层建筑,既要建构理顺党和国家关系的新宪制安排,又要建构中国特色社会主义的核心价值观。"].

The reaction to the essay in the West has been interesting, but hardly positive. One of the most prominent American Scholars of China, Donald Clarke recently concluded
Jiang is one of the leading, and perhaps the leading, intellectual warrior for Xi’ism. And he has essentially announced that socialism, the concept that justifies the dictatorial rule of the Party, has no content whatsoever, other than the very dictatorship it is supposed to justify. (Donald Clarke, Jiang Shigong on Xi Jinping and socialism with Chinese characteristics: an empty vessel, The China Connection (28 May 2018)
Is Professor Clarke right?  To answer that question, one must carefully consider  the subtleties of Professor Jiang's argument in some detail from a perspective embedded in the positive spirit of criticism-self criticism ("We have the Marxist-Leninist weapon of criticism and self-criticism. We can get rid of a bad style and keep the good. " Mao Zedong, "Report to the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China" (March 5, 1949), Selected Works  IV: 374.).

Jiang first situates the analysis within a historical framework that is itself the product of a progressive historical premise, that is of a premise that human history progresses and that the stable period of such progress (the periods between periods of instability) can be understood as "eras." For China, Jiang identifies the 19th CPC Congress as a memento of a great documentation--that is the registration or inscription, the leaving of a trace to be called up later (Maurizio Ferraris (2012) Documentality: Why It Is Necessary to Leave Traces (Commonalities) 1st Edition (Richard Davies, Translator)). That documentation provides the basis for the systematic organization of what is now called China's "New Era" in three senses: (1) for Chinese Marxist Leninism; (2) for China's place in the world; (3) and for the re-establishment of an individual leader a the "core" of that internal and external progress.

If the 19th CPC Congress was the stage on which the "New Era" was unveiled in its current form, that is was the registration of the socio-cultural movement, then Xi Jinping's Report to the 19th CPC Congress served as the core document, its core inscription. For this reason, Xi's report to the Party Congress is the core text consolidating the people's  hearts in the new era and can even be seen as a political expression of how the CCP will respond to its historic mission over the next thirty years" (Jiang, supra., p. 9).  For the analysis that follows, Jiang's construction of this interlinked binary--center/core; Xi/Party; Party/State; China/world--becomes a central element.  It is the key to understanding his view of the way in which collectivity as the central premise of Leninism can be reconciled with the Leninist principle of leadership singularity in the CPC and its own leader (Deliberative Democracy (协商民主) in Context; Considering the Revisions to Democratic Centralism in the Chinese Communist Party Constitution in the Shadow of Suggested Changes to Leadership Term Limits). Whether that projects works in the end remains to be seen, but Jiang's project is to elaborate its theory rather than to police its faithful implementation by those who owe a paramount duty to this principle. 

Having drawn the connection between the historical imperatives of new era, having tied that profound historical movement to the collective consciousness of the CPC as documented through its 19th CPC Congress, and as then suggested that the core of that documentation is itself embedded in the key artifact of the 19th CPC Congress, Xi Jinping's Report, Jiang moves his analytical gaze back to the CPC itself ("If we want to understand the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress, we must first understand the CCP." (Jiang, supra, p. 9). ).  The CPC is described as the manifestation of the Marxist ideal in its Leninist incarnation.  It is the place where a collection of binaries may be mediated and, thus mediated, can be harnessed for social progress appropriate to the historical circumstances of the times. The binaries are well known in Marxist Leninist theory, though their manifestation, and their place on ideological hierarchies has shifted from historical era to historical era. They are organized within the vanguard party around the ideal of Leninism as the manifestation of Marxist objectives as a "highly secular, rational and organized organ of political action" (Jiang, supra, p. 9).  The binaries include "philosophical truth and historical practice"; the universal truths of Marxism and the concrete historical realities of Chinese political life (Ibid). The binaries (dialectical movement) within the Leninist vanguard permits the resolution of contradiction within constant mediation well known in Chinese Leninism in the fundamental Thought of Mao Zedong with echoes of the mass line (群众路线): "theory guides practice and practice tests theory; and where practice allows for the evaluation, improvement, and creation of theory." (Ibid). " And indeed, Jiang does nod in the direction of the mass line and this binary later in the essay (Ibid., p. 39 ("Although the CCP emphasises the guiding role of political leadership, the reason that a leader can become a leader is that he consistently relies on the Party organization and allows the Party organisation to be grounded in the masses in a relationship of ‘flesh and blood’ 血肉联系, so that people have evolved into a genuinely consolidated people instead of remaining a ‘loose sheet of sand’, [in Sun Yat-sen’s words]")).

This dialectical movement--the mediation among binaries that constitute the dialogue between core and collective, between vanguard and masses, between China and the world--serves both to define the operating system that is Chinese Leninism and to explain the inevitable process of the "Sinification of Marxism" (Jiang, supra, p. 10).  Yet perhaps it is not Marxism that is being Sinified so much as it is the Leninist operationalization that might be understood as sitting at the center of the dialectic that Jiang identifies.  Indeed, it is in the conceptual movement Leninism (and the core understandings of the path toward the ultimate objectives of Marxism) inherent in it, that might better frame the analysis of Xi's 19th CPC Report and its value to the progressive development of a Marxist-Leninism with Chinese characteristics.  The focus is on Leninism--the core-collective dialectic, the vanguard-asses dialectics, and the China-world dialectic point more to the evolution of operating system than a turning from the core of Marxism as a philosophy of labor power. This evolution (however one wishes to characterise it) Jiang ties to the now well known progress of Chinese  Marxist Leninism which has for a long time been set out clearly in the General Program of the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party Paragraph 2 ("The Communist Party of China uses Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as its guides to action.") as then elaborated n the succeeding paragraphs (¶¶ 3-8).

Jiang thus provides a powerful framework for understanding the necessarily dynamic and self-reflexive evolution of Leninism in China.   This is a powerful insight that tends to be lost on the West, and perhaps among many in China as well.  The notion of Leninism as an operating system that is self-aware, that is capable of taking self corrective measures, and that is equally capable of changing with the times, helps distinguish Asian from European Leninism (the later a sad dead end). It also helps detach the operating system of Marxist Leninism from its operational objectives (the core principles of Marxism and its ultimate objectives to which the CPC and Leninism must be faithful if they are to retain their authority and legitimacy). This fundamental binary has served China well in the past--especially as a framework for disciplining the CPC's working stye within a cage of both regulation and of the set of fundamental premises from which even the whims of powerful individuals may not deviate.  That cage has been the object of deep consideration by the CPC through the 19th CPC Congress.  It is to the ideological structures of the operating system within that cage that Xi's 19th CPC Report appears to turn.

Jiang, however, has a greater ambition.  He seeks to tie this dynamic aggregation of binaries (of contradictions and dialectics that constitute the CPC's working style and define the cage within which it must operate) to the pre-Leninist Chinese past. "The actual tradition to which this theory is linked is the Chinese philosophical tradition created by Confucius" (Jiang, supra, p. 10). The object, perhaps, is to aid Westerners in understanding the reasons "why Westerners have difficulty understanding the theories of the CPC" (Jiang, supra, p. 10). The consequence is to imply a cultural blindness.  It would be a pity should that implication be used to support a notion that this blindness cannot be overcome.  Such a notion would be disproved by the way that Chinese scholars over the last several hundred years have had very little trouble bridging the chasm that divides Chinese and "Western" thought , and quite successfully, and naturalizing the insights harvested to suit the times and tastes.  Indeed, one wonders about this possible conclusion in light of the CPC's own fundamental insight that such cross cultural understanding is presumed as a basic element of the process of socialist modernization ("The Party must uphold the fundamental national policy of making China open to the world and embrace and learn from all achievements of human society." CPC Constitution General Program ¶ 18). 

Moreover, the centering of a Confucian structure underlying Sinified Marxist Leninism itself creates a contradiction that might merit some deeper thought--the contradiction between a frame of reference inherently feudal and that which has as its object the breaking of the shackles of feudalism including the cultural baggage that itself reinforced feudalism in practice--the very point that Jiang makes but in defense of Sinified Marxist-Leninism. More importantly, perhaps, it creates a perhaps insurmountable wall separating the Chinese path from that of the rest of the worls.  In terms of China's global engagement, the result could be regrettable. The more important the historico-cultural connection between Chinese dialectics and its current manifestations as Leninist vanguardism, the less value such evolution is for Marxist Leninism as a global force that shapes approaches to governance.  It is not clear that a theory that is grounded on its exclusivity might be useful as China seeks to build its Silk roads in ways that embrace cultural, political and security ties, as well as those of relations among merchants. 

So how does Jiang suggest that the "great report to the 19th Party Congress was written in such a way as to integrate philosophy and history, and thus to link universal philosophic reflections with concrete historical practice"? (Jiang, supra, pp. 10-11).  Jiang argues that the 19th CPC Report "actually positions the Xi Jinping era in history in four ways" (Ibid, p. 11, generally pp. 11-16). First, it reframes Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" for a new historical stage, one that appears, to some great extent, to finally correct the humiliation of the late Ching dynasty and the disaster of the early Republic. Echoing Mao Zedong's call for a great leap forward (大跃进), Jiang notes the progress inherent in the modern categorization of  the historical stages through which the Chinese peiople are passing: "have now made a great leap, from standing up 站起来 [Mao era], to becoming rich 富起来 [Deng era], to becoming strong 强起来 [Xi era]" (Jiang, supra, p. 11).  Analyzing this from what Jiang terms a political angle, he notes the intermeshing of historical divisions to express political thought in contradistinction to the approach of what he calls Western civilization, which is grounded in a more rigid tradition of "binary antagonisms, between phenomenon and existence, life on earth and in heaven." (Ibid.). 

It is not clear that this distinction works entirely satisfactorily.  It is true that among some Westerners, for some portion of the West's histry, the "ultimate goal and meaning of human existence comes from Gid in heaven, which is why the final goal of Western striving is to arrive at the realization of various versions of the 'end of history.'" (Jiang, supra, p. 11).  And yet. . . and yet. . . . That exteriorization of the ultimate goal to which  all vanguards must strive is as much a core element of Chinese Marxism as it is of Western Christianity. Consider that the "Party’s highest ideal and ultimate goal is the realization of communism" (CPC Constitution, General Program ¶ 1; a responsibility Jiang himself acknowledges but at p. 20).  That principle of the exteriorization of the higher goal to which the entire Party apparatus must adhere, and even more so its core, is specified with some particularity, as a historical charge at the core of the vanguard's duty:
The highest ideal of communism pursued by Chinese Communists can be realized only when socialist society is fully developed and highly advanced. The development and improvement of the socialist system is a long historical process. By upholding the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and following the path suited to China’s specific conditions as chosen by the Chinese people, China’s socialist cause will ultimately be victorious (CPC Constitution, General Program ¶ 3).
It is to those ends that the historical divisions can serve as useful markers in th way that Jiang profoundly demonstrates. Yet Marxist determinism shares this with that of Christianity.  It must if it is to remain Marxist. A sinification that strips Marxiasm of its objectives, that redirects the Leninist project away from this external objective to which all productive forces must be devoted, is to suggest a Sinification of Marx without Marxism

That, certainly cannot be what Jiang meant.  Instead, Jiang undertakes the quite profound task of embedding Mrax within China, without losing either China or Mrax.  To that end, historical determinism requires a journey that recognizes the foundations of the society from out of which its people, guided by a vanguard sensitive to the realities of the era in which it leads, must be guided toward the realization of communism. Jiang's discussion of historical periodisation serves those ends well. It embeds the idea of the necessity of moving from era to era as inherent in a system with an ultimate goal. He also uses periodizaton to naturalize the notion of core-collective within CPC changes in leadership (Jiang, supra, p. 13). His view of generational politics as embed within the larger motons of historical periodization is worth further study, as is his caution against misunderstanding its import (Ibid., p. 14). That caution requires emphasis: "the political authority of every generation of political leadership comes from their belief in Marxism and from the power bequeathed to them by the people of the entire nation. It is a legitimacy grounded in an historical mission and the support of the people. " (Ibid., p. 14). That suggests both that individual leaders can serve as metaphors for eras, but also that the eras ought not to be understood as the reflection of the individual (that inherent caution against cults of personality should be well taken and centered in this discussion) (see, e.g., ibid., at 15 on the periodization of the hisory of the CPC).

This insight permits Jiang to then turn to "correctly understanding the positioning of a leader in history" (Jiang, supra, p. 16; generally pp. 16-20).   The discussion is grounded in Jiang's argument that periodization is the result of great and conscious dialectic processes around "thought, strategy, and era together." (Ibid., 16). The object, in part, in this case, is an effort to find a way to reconcile the Mao and Deng eras (Ibid., p. 17).  Jiang criticizes scholars in China and elsewhere who have been in the habit of pitting one era against the other. This line of thinking, Jiang asserts, after the 18th CPC Congress, constituted a threat; "China at the time faced a double crisis: one was to repeat the errors of following the ‘heterodox path of changing banners’ 改旗易帜的邪路 that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the other was to return to the ‘old path of feudal stagnation’ 封闭僵化的老路 from the period before Reform and Opening" (Ibid., 17). Xi Jinping, Jiang asserts, then through his efforts "turned the tide." (Ibid). 
More important is the fact that Xi Jinping, at a particular moment in history, courageously took up the political responsibility of the historical mission, and in the face of an era of historical transformation of the entire world, demonstrated the capacity to construct the great theory facilitating China’s development path, as well as the capacity to control complicated domestic and international events, thus consolidating the hearts and minds of the entire Party and the people of the entire country, hence becoming the core leader praised by the entire Party, the entire army and the entire country, possessing a special ‘charismatic power’. (Ibid, p. 18).
One is reminded here, not just of the argument that historical periods ought to be identified with the individuals who presided over that era, but also that such persons may have a disproportionate effect on shaping that era.Jiang shares this view with many theorists in the West. It reminded, in particular, of the great 19th century debates between the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle who in the 1840s propounded the "great man theory" of history, and Herbert Spencer who argued that such great men are the products of their societies whose actions are deeply embedded and constrained by the historical era in which they act (See, e.g., Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (NY: Fredrick A. Stokes & Brother, 1888) and Herbert Spencer, The Study of Sociology, NY: D. Appleton, 1896, (cf. p. 31)). 

Jiang's "evolving expression of Leninist collectivity, this refinement of the notion of centrality and democratic participation within levels of leadership, also leaves questions open for further development, might be more usefully read within the context of a long development of the intellectual idea of the form and exercise of collective leadership with Chinese characteristics" (here). One might read Jiang (especially the discussion at Jiang supra pp. 19-20) as embellishing Hu Angang's Collective Presidency in China (2014), which was considered in "Crafting a Theory of Socialist Democracy for China in the 21st Century: Considering Hu Angang’s Theory of Collective Presidency in the Context of the Emerging Chinese Constitutional State," Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal 16(1):29-82 (2014). Yet there is value in caution in reading too much into the assertion that the reality of the great dialectic of core/collective that marks every level of Chinese society and is inherent in both the organization of CPC leadership, and the principles of the mass line and democratic centralism. 

This leads Jiang to consider the positioning of the 19th CPC Congress report "within the history of Chinese civilization." (Jiang, supra. 20, generally pp. 20-27). This is the second positioning of the Xi era. This long section ties Jiang's conceptual framework--aligning Chinese Communist history with that of the history of Chinese civilization in the context of a theory/action progression through historical eras--with the documentation of era change marked by the 19th CPC Congress Report itself. The difficult task here, for Jiang, is to naturalize a foreign theory--Marxism-Leninism itself--with the rich native trajectories of Chinese historical determinism. Thus the Sinification of Marxist Leninism is necessary not merely to make it relevant, but to ensure its authority and legitimacy by application of those measures within Marxist Leninism itself. But not just Marxist-Leninism.  The ambition is larger and a reflection of the "‘two vanguards’, representing both the working classes and the Chinese people as a whole, the political ideology of the CCP evolved toward the organic unity of communism and nationalism, which initiated the gradual unfolding of the Sinification of Marxism." (Jiang, supra, p. 21). The critical task is to embed the universalism of Marxist-Leninism within the national aspirations of the Chinese nation.  

But there is a danger here, one whose effects can be seen most acutely in the reaction to the move by the United States away from a sacrificial universalism to an America First regime.  Reconciling nationalism with Marxist-Leninism may be undertaken in a particular and distinctly Chinese way within China.  But the very success of that reconciliation of contradiction creates a perhaps greater one--the contradiction between self-centering of nationalism and the universal responsibilities not just of class struggle but of the individual in all places where China operates. That has been the lesson the U.S. has been learning, if somewhat painfully, over the last several years.  And it is a lesson that will continue to exact a large toll on both states.  It is perhaps the challenge that will be faced buy those who come after the Xi era in China and the Trump era in the United States. Yet to fail to acknowledge such a reality poses the danger of reading too much into this section of Jiang's quite powerful arguments. In that respect, Jiang's cautions against the "China threat" line developed by states beyond China (and it is a mistake to assume that it is merely an American creation) (Ibid., pp. 22-23),  might warrant further examination. In any case, the power of that line ought not be so easily dismissed. And that is perhaps something to keep in mind as one considers Jiang's argument that both diminishes and Westernizes Marx, and  augments and Sinifies unity.
In this way, communism merges with specific historical process and daily life as ideals and struggles. Precisely within the context of traditional Chinese culture, the understanding of this highest ideal is no longer that of Marx, who thought within the Western theoretical tradition; it is no longer in humanity’s Garden of Eden, ‘unalienated’ by the division of labor within society. Instead it is intimately linked to the ideal of ‘great unity under Heaven’ 天下大同 from the Chinese cultural tradition. (Jiang, supra, p. 25).
Whatever the intention, this will not be read the same way outside of China (and not in the West) than it will be read in China. That is regrettable because the point is an important one: to Sinify Marx without losing either Marx's universal foundation or to sinify to the extent that concept is lost in tradition. There is a danger here, a historical danger, for the CPC.   Taking Jiang's argument to its limits in this case might open the possibility of undermining the Marxist project of the CPC entirely. The problem is simple--at this limit, Jiang's powerful incite can as easily transform Marx and Lenin into little more than a modern variant of the Yuan dynasty (元朝) which itself represents the way in which absorption might rob the community of its core concepts. That cannot be what Jiang meant, though it is a line of reasoning that is not alien to the analysis (see, e.g., Jiang, supra, pp. 23-24 on the Confucianisation of the CPC). 

That brings Jiang to a consideration of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era (Ibid., pp. 27-34), the third positioning of the Xi era. Again, Jiang nicely draws on a well tuned analysis grounded in historical determinism to make his argument. He goes back, of course, to Marx and Engels, but focuses on Mao Zedong and the relationship (in every respect) with the Soviet Union in the 1950s. It owes its genesis (and is meant to buttress Jiang's arguments about communism and nationalism of the last section) to the lessons China learned from the failures of the Soviet Union--something that has been much in the minds of Chinese leaders for more than a generation (Ibid., pp. 27-29). But it is here that Jiang again seeks to reconcile the Sinification project with the logic of communist internationalism (see, e.g.m here) and China's role.  Reduced to its simplest, Jiang appears to suggest not that China earned from the USSR, but rather than China supplanted the USSR and assumed its role at the head of a new international. 

And indeed, Jiang asserts that nationalization of Marxist Leninism in China was a necessary predicate to reshaping it so that it might serve as a universal force.
Once we adopt the perspective of the international communist movement, the positioning of the Xi Jinping era can no longer be limited to Party history, the history of the republic or the history of Chinese civilisation. It enters the history of world civilisation through the international Communist movement. This means that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics must achieve universal recognition throughout the entire world (Jiang, supra, p. 29).
This makes for an interesting dialectic in its own right.  One moves, in this analysis, from a Europeanized Marxism to a Soviet dominated communist international.  And then one moves from the Sinification of Soviet communist internationalism to Marxism with Chinese characteristics only form out of which might a new communist internationalism emerge again. "In this international context, the construction of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics not only has great significance with respect to the great revival of the Chinese nation within the context of the history of Chinese civilization, it also possesses great significance with respect to the search for the future of the civilization of humanity at large" (Jiang, supra., p. 30)).  One sees here the conceptual basis for a Chinese communist international, built from both socialism with Chinese characteristics and China's going out policies--its One Belt One Road initiative, its AIIB and its internationalization of the yuan (see, e.g., here, here, and here).

It is not clear, though that the tensions inherent in sinification (as a powerful and powerfully persuasive Chinese project) can be reconciled with the sinification of communist internationalism without bringing back to the fore the problem of Soviet communist internationalism--its ethnocentric chauvinism. That is the great challenge as China simultaneously transforms its Marxist Leninism to suit the times and the national context (in a way that suggests that foreigners might, they say, find hard to understand) and then offers this Marxist Leninism to the world (without a coherent understanding of how that leap can be made over the incomprehensibility of sinification to foreigners who now are offered the resulting conceptual system. Jiang has an answer--again in historical examples. This time from Europe (Jiang, supra., 29-30). Yet one worries that history is itself one that Rosa Luxembourg might have considered as inextricably intertwined with capitalist imperialism. Jiang quite correctly notes the risk and contingency of sinified internationalism. "Whether Chinese civilisation can make a new contribution to all of mankind depends, to a great degree, on whether Chinese civilisation can search out a new path to modernisation for humanity’s development." (Jiang, supra. p. 30). But the answer appears to be a greater effort to use the Chinese model as one grounded in the ideal union of nationalism and Marxist Leninism--one grounded in "Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind.’" (Ibid). This "going-out" policy  goes to the development of socialist power and in contradistinction to the internal (rather than internationalist) project of the Deng era (Ibid.).

Yet the tension with the prior two sections of analysis remains, and remains largely undisturbed.  Jiang puts forward a powerful dialectic, and contradiction--that the path toward internationalism is inevitably nationalist.  Yet that is precisely the position of the Trump administration. The discussion about the differences between Chinese and American internationalism is telling (Jiang, supra, p. 32-33). Jiang bases those differences on an obsolete American model.  Having noted to profound effect the transformation of China under its new era, it is a pity that Jiang has not noted that the United States has also and quite powerfully moved to its own new era.  The difference between the two, then, both in their respective new eras, might be reduced to the focus on the distribution of power and the identification of the external objectives to which national vanguards are obliged.  In that sense, the references to Germany and the USSR might be useful as cautionary tales, but they do not address the nature, philosophy or actions of the contemporary American state.

With the establishment of Chinese sinified internationalism, Jiang then introduces the fourth positioning of the Xi era: the centrality of hierarchy n both theory and practice (Jiang, supra., pp. 34-38). This long section is at its most useful for foregrounding the very powerful effect of history on current sensibilities, on the way that historical ghosts continue to walk freely in a land that has accumulated a great many ghosts over a 5,000 year history, and which remains as present as it time itself continuously folds in on itself. Westerners dismiss this at their peril--this is Jiang's most powerful point, and  one worth repeating. But it carries with it very little resonance in the West--and that knowledge is understood abstractly by Chinese scholars who may sometimes commit the same error as their Western colleagues--the give the difference little weight in theorizing the West and then calculating its own perspectives.

Jiang contrasts Western capitalism and Soviet socialism as more united with each other than either with Chinese philosophies and cultures (Jiang, supra., pp. 34-35). That choice remains as distasteful to Chinese today as it did at the time choices of this kind had to be made form the time of the late Ching. In contrast to what is offered as a fundamental embrace by Western philosophy--the fundamental infusion of master/slave binaries in everything--Jiang offers the Chinese focus on harmony (Ibid).  Yet even in harmonious society there are the realities of rank.  The difference may express differently but they might not be as mutually incompatible as it might seem. This approach to the "Western mind" is then detailed in the pages that follow.  The result, Jiang argues, is unsatisfying because of its tendency to divide the world into masters and slaves. China, he suggests, offers a different path (Ibid., pp. 37-38).

This tension between Western and Chinese internationalism is then considered further as Jiang offers in place of what he calls the Western theory of subjectivity, a Chinese theory of contradiction (Ibid., pp. 38-45) before he returns the reader to a final consideration of the new era sinification of Marxism through its construction of core values (Ibid., pp. 45-50). Jiang starts by suggesting that a more aggressive Chinese approach to international relations was inevitable in a world of the West's making. If one would either be treated as a master or a slave, then the path for China was clear (Ibid., p. 38).
In the face of changes in the world system unseen in a thousand years, if the Chinese people want to realise the great revival of the Chinese nation and change the Western model of modernisation through which the West has dominated the world, providing late-developing countries with the ‘China solution’ to modernisation, they must engage in uncompromising struggle. (Ibid.).
They do have a point (see, "Economic Globalization Ascendant and the Crisis of the State: Four Perspective on the Emerging Ideology of the State in the New Global Order," 17 La Raza L.J. 141 (2006)). And yet, that very point contains a trap.  By embracing the reality of the world order into which one aggressively projects one's own power in ways that are comprehensible to others, one will necessarily absorb both the philosophy and methods, the sensibilities, of the system.  As a consequence the great danger for Jiang's project is that in victory, the project of Chinese Marxist-Leninism, and the greater project of a 4th International, will appear merely as variants of a common theme, one that is already well in play.

It is in this context that the notion of struggle is again centered.  Struggle here  is a complex term.  It references the traditional Marxist notion of class struggle.  But at the same time, Jiang uses it to denote the  struggle inherent in all of the binaries that he has introduced: national/international, China/West, etc. To struggle is to confront contradiction.  But it is here that Jiang reinforces what he might understand as the uniquely Chinese contribution--the power to overcome contradiction through harmony.
In fact, the mutual absorption of Marxism and Chinese culture began with the process of the first Sinification of Marxism. Mao Zedong gave class struggle and the dialectics behind it a Chinese remake, which led to the mutual interpenetration of Marxism and Chinese traditional culture as can be seen in the ideas he expressed in ‘On Contradiction’ and ‘On Practice’. The basis of the CCP’s philosophy of struggle is grounded not only in the philosophy of mastery, but also in the theory of contradictions according to which any antagonism in the world can be unified in practice. In the world-view of the theory of contradiction, ‘conflict’ does not have a necessarily absolute position and whether or not to engage in struggle, or what kind of struggle to engage in, is in the final analysis decided by a practice-based judgement of the contradiction and its nature, and by the greater contradictions and the lesser contradictions, by correctly grasping the greater and lesser aspects of the contradiction. (Jiang, supra, p. 40-41)
Theory through action, action in theory, action as theory.  These are the core concepts that power everything from the One Belt One Road Initiative, to the strictures of the Shanghai Cooperation Council. It is what drives the actions of the CPC, and in so driving, then determines its theoretical approaches.  
The CCP does not represent globe-trotting capitalists or detached intellectuals but is consistently grounded in the great land of China, representing the Chinese people who are living and thriving in this great land, and particularly the basic laboring masses that make up the majority of the population.   (Jiang, supra, p. 39). 
Yet consider the ambiguity.  Taken to their limits, the insight eviscerates the cage of regulation around which both individual and collective might be disciplined to the great task of establishing communism.  That objective is non-negotiable; it is not subject to the fudging of shifting engagements with history or culture; it cannot be sinified away. And yet that is the danger of centering the individual within a system that is, at its core abstractly communal. It is also a system that must now overcome the inherent contradiction of being essentially Chinese and simultaneously global.  Jiang points the way, to be sure, but there is much work that remains to be done.

Jiang's theory of contradiction is worthy of more intense study. It clarifies even as contradiction emerges from its depths. Jiang joins concepts of struggle and contradiction to produce a theory of contradiction.  That theory, again, seeks to find in Chinese Marxism, and struggle, the key to the means to bring harmony to contradiction. "The basis of the CCP’s philosophy of struggle is grounded not only in the philosophy of mastery, but also in the theory of contradictions according to which any antagonism in the world can be unified in practice." (Jiang, supra, 40). The basis for this is the powerful notion of interpenetration. "Mao Zedong gave class struggle and the dialectics behind it a Chinese remake, which led to the mutual interpenetration of Marxism and Chinese traditional culture as can be seen in the ideas he expressed in ‘On Contradiction’ and ‘On Practice’." (Jiang, supra, 40).

From these Jiang returns the reader to the start of the analysis--from theory back to the foundational role of practice in documenting, in performing, theory (Jiang, supra, pp. 41-42). .
 In the world-view of the theory of contradiction, ‘conflict’ does not have a necessarily absolute position and whether or not to engage in struggle, or what kind of struggle to engage in, is in the final analysis decided by a practice-based judgement of the contradiction and its nature, and by the greater contradictions and the lesser contradictions, by correctly grasping the greater and lesser aspects of the contradiction. In this sense, we can say that the theory of practice is higher than the theory of contradiction, because contradiction can only be judged from the perspective of practice. (Ibid., 41)
Jiang argues, then, that CCP theory is not centered on contradiction and struggle but rather in their perception from practice. In practice, as well, lay the foundation for accountability and assessment. "Whether it could begin from practice, and by seeking truth from facts, correctly analyze and judge the political and social contradictions of each period, and on that basis propose correct measures and policies, became the test of the political wisdom of the CCP. " (Ibid.).

And yet, where is the cage of regulation, and where is the authority of the ideology of of the vanguard that lends it legitimacy.  If it is principally inherent in individuals, then supervision and discipline become personal rather than collective.  Errors will be likely.  That wisdom articulated by the 16th through 18th CPC Congresses ought not to be flushed in the enthusiasm for the powerful new line of the present era. Truth from facts has not been understood to be a claim to limitless discretion--exercised either by the core or the collective.  The opposite is true: legitimate action, the value of practice, is undertaken only in fidelity to the core objectives of Marxism--that is meant to be the genius of Leninism.  And when that insight has been forgotten in the rush to value the individual over the foundations of historical determinism, the objectives to which the vanguard must devote itself, then all such practice will eventually be swept aside.  That is the great lesson not just of the lost Soviet state but of the period of error in the Cultural Revolution. Jiang is correct to assert the genius of the power of Marxism with Chinese characteristics to overcome contradiction in struggle; yet that practice must be undertaken in the shadow of the CPC Basic Line even as practice itself must recognize historical changes that may affect the development of the Basic Line itself. There is no one without the other.

Jiang recognizes the danger. He notes the challenges of both left and right error in the way that the current elites struggle to avoid the excesses of the Cultural Revolution while avoiding drafting away from the responsibilities of a vanguard party.
 One might say that over the past thirty years, Chinese academics and thinkers have gradually forgotten the theory of contradiction, the theory of struggle and the theory of practice. While Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought appear as nouns in mainstream discourse, in practice they do not function as philosophical methods by which we understand, grasp, and solve problems, which has led to Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought becoming empty expressions without vivid meaning in practice. They are no longer philosophical tools for understanding problems, no longer have any internal connection with the construction of the people’s political life, and thus cannot truly penetrate people’s minds. (Jiang, supra, p. 42).
But to speak of Mao and Marx and to fail to speak to Deng is itself a weakening of the Chinese Marxist toolkit in ways that might itself produce a revisionism that reverses the core trajectories of socialist modernization and turns its back on the full development of productive forces.  Every era is important and adds an important layer of knowledge.  If Jiang has taught his readers nothing else, this is at the core of his lesson.  Yet that requires an embrace and acknowledgement in equal measure of Deng, and Jiang, and Hu, as well as Mao and Marx.  The great challenge for the new era is to find a way that respectfully acknowledges the power of the era that came before it, and to understand how that era is both connected with and different form the new. That task remains an important work in progress. But Xi provided an important element--not in practice but in theory:
It was precisely on the philosophical foundation of the theory of contradiction and the theory of practice that the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress for the first time identifies the principal contradiction in Chinese society as ‘the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life’.(Jiang, supra, p. 44).

Jiang certainly and correctly acknowledges the importance  of this contradiction and its power to manage theory-in-action.He places that development in its historical context (Ibid., p. 45).  Yet at the same time it must be understood that the concepts as much makes history as it is forged by it. It is the product of the collective as much as it might have assumed shape under the guidance of the core.  It is both essentially Chinese and inherently universal. These binaries produce both harmony in contradiction in struggle (Jiang's focus), but also a stronger dialectical connection, one that implies a strong disciplinary supervision of theory over practice.

Jiang ends his essay with a return ot the issue of the sinification of Marxism.  This is reiterates marks the inevitable process of merging Marxism with traditional Chinese culture, the hallmark of the Mao Zedong era (Ibid., p. 45). The New Era ideology is different form its predecessors principally as a consequence of a shift in principle contradiction, a subject discussed in the prior section of the essay. Here Jiang conflates sinification with the historical determinism of the march from the Mao through the Xi eras (Ibid.m pp. 46-47).  Her at last one at last confronts that contradiction between law and politics (Ibid., p. 47-48). Jiang perhaps simplifies the somewhat more complex  history of the dialogue among the various schools of law in its relationship to the protection of the legitimacy of the vanguard status of the CPC and in the construction of the state apparatus.

In centering the largest deviation he gives less space than might be deserved to those quite committed communists who saw in the institutional conceptions of law a means for a robust evolution of the great an enduring collectivist principles of Leninism.  Neither focusing on the application of the CPC Line through its expression in the state constitution, nor the advancement of socialist modernization through the development of the CPC's core obligations to the masses suggests the rightist error intimated in this part of the essay.  Building a socialist legal system that does not include the CPC itself as its master detaches law and institution from politics in a way that contradicts the core premise of Leninist vanguard roles for the CPC itself.  These are issues that deserve substantially more development and one to which all look forward to Jiang's further study.

Jiang intimates its direction by correctly noting the connection between the rule of law and the rule of virtue (Ibid., p. 48-49).  Jiang sees in the development of rule of law in China a tendency toward "rightist error." This is a theme that Jiang picks up again after his consideration of the issue in the context of the construction of political time.
But in the recent past, the construction of China’s rule of law gradually fell into the erroneous zone of Western concepts in the process of studying the Western rule of law, and consciously or not, the notions of ‘rule of law’ 法治 and ‘rule of man’ 人治 came to be seen as antagonistic. (Jiang, supra p. 19)
Jiang picks up this theme with an emphasis of the inter-connection between law, culture and the historical context in which it is to be deployed (Jiang, supra., p. 49).  He worries about the use of law as a sword to eviscerate the fundamental obligation of Leninist vanguards in their political work--inverting the relationship between law and politics.  Is law the expression of the political line or is the political line the expression of law? Jiang argues the former position vigorously (Jiang, supra, 46-48).  More specifically he worries that the great reforms of Deng Xiaoping had become unbalances--that the fundamental and contextually relevant dialectic of Chinese Marxist Leninism--had lost a vital connection to politics.  "We might say that the market economy base of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, constructed since the institution of Reform and Opening, has become disconnected from the superstructure of the state-led Party in some areas." (Ibid., 48). The great value of Xi era thinking, then, was to serve as a corrective, to rebalance Chinese economics and politics. "The system of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era must resolve this problem, by constructing a superstructure that matches the market economy of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" (Jiang, supra., p. 48).  Here at last we come to a core insight offered by Jiang--the necessity of "New Era" thought as a corrective, as the way in which the CPC's operating system is rebooted back to a political rather than an economic foundation.  If the question for China was whether politics or economics would drive the Leninist project, Jiang suggests that the answer after the 19th CPC Congress is definitively politics. The issue of course centers on the character of socialist modernization and the leadership of the CPC within that project, and the political project, in turns, focuses on the character of CPC leadership "of the state on the theoretical and institutional level." (Jiang, supra, p. 48).. 

Yet, it is not altogether clear that a necessary consequence is to position rule of law as veering toward "rightist error."  More importantly, the connection between CPC, supervision, and law is central to the new era construction of the structures of the state and the institutional structures of the CPC itself, without which the vanguard would betray its Leninist obligations to lead the people effectively. It is not clear that either rule of law or supervision is detachable from or constitutes a peripheral element of the vanguard obligations of the CPC.  One might be inclined to argue rather that both are central to the Leninism that is at the core of the practice of Marxism, even Marxism with Chinese characteristics.  One practices and applies the CPC line through the construction of the state system enshrined in the administrative or state constitution.  One practices, one acts politically precisely through the efforts of the disciplinary committees under the rules of supervision.  The issue of the exercise of discretion--the practice of politics--produces both tendencies toward left and right errors.  Jiang does an excellent job of clarifying the nature of "rightist" error--and the move toward liberal democratic ideals by adopting Western rule of law modalities. I would agree (see, e.g., "Between the Judge and the Law — Judicial Independence and Authority with Chinese Characteristics, "forthcoming Connecticut Journal of International Law). Yet, there is an equal danger of leftist error as well. Politics reduced to unfettered administrative discretion runs the very real danger not merely of personal abuse, and the challenge of cults of personality.  Leftist error also runs the real risk of providing the Leninist collective with no historical and national basis for considering and assessing political judgment against ideological duty.  If right error produces a tendency toward Western politics, then left error leads directly to the Gang of Four.  

Chinese Leninism cannot tolerate either left or right error. There is probably no greater fundamental insight in the guidance offered by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Neither the CPC nor politics can be understood as free floating conceptions unattached to its practice.  But that attachment itself is possible only through action, and action is authoritative only when the CPC adheres to its own self-reflexive politics--through its rules and through its methodologies of supervision, of accountability. To say "‘The Party leads everything: Party, government, army, people, and scholars’. ‘The Party is the most exalted force of political leadership’" (Jiang, supra, p. 48) acknowledges the core premise of national organization.  It it does not speak to the practice of politics, nor the exercise of power. Jiang acknowledges that new era politics requires more than a statement of the obvious.
All governmental systems need the support of corresponding core values, thus becoming a political education system in which politics and culture are mutually reinforcing. The Western capitalist system is supported by the core values of liberalism, which upholds the liberal democratic system, thus constituting the core of Western civilisation. The core values supporting the new party-state system must necessarily be the core values of socialism with Chinese characteristics (Jiang, supra, 49).
The new era requires values.  That takes us back to the historical positioning of the New era through its practices in the shadow of values, the mutual interdependence of which will serve to mark the evolution of this new era to its successor. "In the absence of coherent core values, values pluralism can lead not only to political confusion, but can also bring about a conflict between values and social interests." (Ibid, 49). And from this national revival, Jiang suggests, "surely means that Chinese civilisation is spreading and extending itself into even more parts of the world. This undoubtedly constitutes the greatest historical mission of the Chinese people in the Xi Jinping era." (Ibid., p. 50). 

A careful reading of Jiang's excellent essay, than suggests that Professor Clarke's criticism, with which the analysis here began, may not be entirely accurate.  Professor Jiang makes a bold claim for the centrality of politics in the construction of the Chinese Marxist Leninist system.  And he asserts even more boldly that such politics can be made visible and legitimate only through the action of the CPC acting in a complex binary relation between the CPC core and its collective. But taken as a whole, it is clear that the system Jiang sketches here, the the new era structures of Chinese Marxist Leninism, are neither expressions of unconstrained discretionary authority in a core, nor the unbounded authority to direct China on the whim of the collective.  Rather, Jiang reaffirms the complex character of the operation of Chinese politics, and its embedding in interpenetrating dynamic binaries that  define the character of the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation. Yet there is much that deserves further treatment.  It would be too much to expect full treatment in an essay of about 40 pages. Yet Jiang does us a great service by pointing us to both the context and the challenges that the robust embrace by China of its new era now point. For China, that may require eventually confronting the unresolved contradiction of universalism in nationalism, and way that politics can be expressed in and through a cage of regulation, the keys to which are retained by the CPC but to which the CPC (its core and collective) are bound. For the West, the challenge is to see in China the development of a complex politics that is not merely the sum of unpredictable exercises of discretion with impunity.

Jiang's basic intuition is powerful and accurate. Xi Jinping, at the core, and the CPC as the collective, are now moving China into a new era. That era is at once strongly inward looking, yet at the same time pointed toward the aggressive projection of Chinese strength abroad.  That strength is not measured merely in its economic power, but also as a leading force in politics, society, and theory.  It is deeply historical and conceptual, but at the same time grounded in practice and struggle. It is sensitive toward the differences and attractions of the West and yet essentializes Western theory and practice as "the other" in ways that when undertaken by Western scholars studying China, can sometimes prove unhelpful. This is especially important in the context of the United States whose own historical determinism may prove to be a surprise to Chinese analysts if not carefully studied. And yet the differences are quite real, and may be useful, even as the picture of unity in Chinese or Western culture may reduce the value of the insights from which it seeks to draw. 

The most valuable part of Jiang's essay are the questions he poses and leaves for his readers, and for further development. The consequences of the contradictions identified, both within and beyond history, remains to be teased out.  Likewise the tensions between Marxism as theory and practice, and Leninism its operating system remains a robust subject of study.  Yet, as Jiang suggests, that requires a commitment by the CPC itself to robust development appropriate to the historical era within which it must be applied.  Likewise, the numerous and sometimes quite direct engagements with currents of Chinese scholarship are worthy of an essay in their own right.  Jiang has strong views about these currents, and they are indeed worthy of further study, especially his taxonomy of left and right error. In that context, the re-centering of Mao Zedong Thought, and the redrawing of its relation to the theories of Deng Xiaoping requires careful consideration.  This is particularly important as the former may increasingly be understood as defining the framework for thinking from the "left" and the latter comes to epitomize the theoretical basis for thinking from the "right." The dialectic between Deng and Mao will likely to define the core parameters within which the practice of Marxism and Leninism will be framed not not for the eras that have passed as well as those that are to come. To understand the thought of the current "New Era" is is, as Jiang suggests, critically important to understand the theory and practice (the successes and challenges) of the historical eras of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.   
Where does that leave the reader? Jiang has provided a complex, subtle and balanced analysis, powerfully condensed within a relatively few pages. Jiang's analysis is at its best as it analyzes the trajectory of Chinese development from a correct perspective.  This short essay cannot do justice to Jiang's engagement with currents of contemporary Chinese thought, but that alone would make the essay worth reading. There is still much work to be done, to be sure. But that work has been substantially advanced by Jiang's analysis, providing an important addition to our knowledge of China in its new era.  In the end, Jiang is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the China's new era.
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【内容提要】 本文从哲学和历史的内在关联来解读“习近平时代”在党史、共和国史、中华文明史、国际共产主义运动史和人类文明史上的意义。近代以来,中国历史的主线就是中国人以国家主人的姿态和斗争精神不断探索一条独立的现代化道路。新时代中国特色社会主义作为现代化道路的“中国方案”,就是在借鉴、消化西方模式和苏联模式的同时,以中国文化为基础,形成一套新的发展理念和发展思路,从而为人类文明的现代化进程贡献出“中国智慧”。在这个过程中,中国始终面临着马克思主义如何中国化的问题。马克思主义作为一种普遍的哲学真理不仅要与中国具体历史实践相结合,而且要与中国传统文化相融合。党的十八大以来形成的习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,一方面用中国传统“心学”重新激活了共产主义理念,从而使其与中华民族伟大复兴共同构成凝聚全党全国人民的精神力量;另一方面用现代法治思路来完善党对国家的领导,激活中国传统政治文化,推动国家治理迈向现代化。因此,本文认为习近平时代面临的重大任务是建构与中国特色社会主义市场经济相适应的上层建筑,既要建构理顺党和国家关系的新宪制安排,又要建构中国特色社会主义的核心价值观。
【关键词】 习近平时代,习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,现代化的中国方案,马克思主义中国化


  2017年10月18日,中国共产党第十九次全国代表大会在北京顺利召开。一些媒体宣称世界进入了“中国时间”,因为大会提出的“中国特色社会主义进入新时代”不仅给中国迎来了新时代,而且也给世界历史开辟了新时代。这个新时代已被海内外敏锐的学者称之为“习近平时代”①。

  要理解习近平时代,首先要认真解读题为《决胜全面建成小康社会 夺取新时代中国特色社会主义伟大胜利》的党的十九大报告。目前,媒体刊发各种专家解读,反复聚焦报告中提出的各种新概念、新观点、新思路和新措施,其目的是让这些概念、观点、思路和措施进入全体党员和社会大众的头脑、话语和行动中,从而凝聚全党和全国各族人民的政治共识,使得党领导人民构成一个步调一致、有机统一的行动主体,实现习近平时代的战略任务和宏伟蓝图。因此,党的十九大报告是新时代凝聚人心的核心文本,甚至可以看作中国共产党在未来三十多年如何回应历史天命的政治表达。

  要理解党的十九大报告,首先要理解中国共产党。中国共产党是信仰马克思主义的理念型政党,是为马克思主义所揭示的历史天命具有使命承担和献身精神的先锋队集体,是一个高度世俗化、理性化和组织化的政治行动组织。因此,党的首要任务就是解决哲学真理与历史现实之间的张力,将马克思主义的普遍真理与中国具体的、历史的现实政治生活相结合,变成可以指导具体实践的路线、方针和政策。这个过程既是理论指导实践进而在实践中检验理论的过程,也是从实践出发对理论进行总结、提升和创新的过程。这种理论与实践、哲学与历史之间的辩证运动过程就是“马克思主义中国化”,并由此形成了一个源远流长而又丰富多彩的思想传统。从马克思主义、列宁主义、毛泽东思想、邓小平理论、“三个代表”重要思想、科学发展观到党的十九大报告所展现的习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,党的新思想只有放在这个传统中才能得到理解、传承和发扬光大。

  这种理论联系实际的传统实际上就是“轴心时代”孔子所创立的中国哲学传统。哲学意义上的“学”与“知”必须与具体生活实践的“习”与“行”结合起来,“学而时习之”“知行合一”才能获得真知。因此,对于中国人而言,哲学不仅是西方形而上学传统所理解的学院派理论研究的“学”,更是作为揭示历史天命以凝聚全党和全国各族人民的政治共识并因此成为行动的指南。西方人之所以难以理解中国共产党的各种理论表述,一个重要原因就是他们的哲学思维方法局限在西方形而上学传统中,习惯于从概念到概念的逻辑演绎,而未能真正理解“知行合一”的中国哲学传统,未能将这些理论概念与具体的历史实践结合起来,未能理解中国哲学所固有的独特的解经方法。因此,要理解十九大报告所开启的习近平时代、习近平时代的历史使命以及为完成这个使命而形成的习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,不仅要有哲学的维度,更要有历史的维度。整个党的十九大报告在写法上就是将哲学与历史交织在一起,从而把普遍主义的哲学思考与具体实践的历史行动联系在一起。

一、习近平时代的历史定位:从自然时间到政治时间

  从本研究的角度看,党的十九大报告实际上对习近平时代进行了四重历史定位。

  首先是在中国共产党党史和中华人民共和国国史中的定位。报告明确指出:“中国特色社会主义进入新时代,意味着近代以来久经磨难的中华民族迎来了从站起来、富起来到强起来的伟大飞跃。”②这里用“站起来”、“富起来”和“强起来”三个概念来划分党史和共和国史,分别对应过去的毛泽东时代、邓小平时代和正在进入的习近平时代。需要注意的是,这种划分不是学院派史学家所理解的史学分期,而需要从政治角度来理解。通过历史划分来表达政治思想乃是中国传统哲学的基本方法。

  西方文明建立在现象与存在、此岸与彼岸二元对立的哲学-神学传统中。在基督教传统中,人生的最终目的和意义来自彼岸世界的上帝,因此西方人努力的最终目标就是要推动实现各种不同版本的“历史终结”。然而,在中国文明传统中,没有彼岸和此岸的割裂,而是将两者消融在天人合一的完整世界中。中国人的人生目的和意义不是如何进入彼岸世界,而是如何在“家国天下”的历史进程中找到普遍永恒的意义。因此,中国人,尤其是政治家,都追求建功立业以名留青史。中国的史学也不单纯是现代实证史学所强调的事实记录,而在事实记录中包含着对普遍价值和意义的哲学探索。“六经皆史”“经史不分”也就是这个道理。

  因此,中国政治秩序的正当性建构要从历史建构开始。中国古典政治秩序要从三皇五帝和尧舜禹三代开始,嬴政之所以把自己拥有的最高统治称之为“皇帝”,就是希望从三皇五帝那里获得革命奠基的政治正当性。而现代政治秩序则奠基于对1840年以来中国近代历史的建构。因此,中国的政治分歧也往往从历史叙述的分歧开始。近年来,国内新清史、辛亥革命史、民国史和党史研究中的理论创新可以说在不同程度上隐含着政治诉求。因此,对党史和共和国史的划分及其带来的对党和国家领导人的历史定位,对于中国政治秩序的建构非常重要。这种历史划分构成了中国政治生活最深层次的根本性大法。中国的宪法序言一开始就从历史叙事开始,而且每次党章关于党的理论发展、修改必然带动宪法序言的修改,这无疑是把政治的根本大法转化为实定法意义上国家的根本大法。故此,历届中国共产党全国代表大会报告首先就要从党史和国史的角度出发,通过历史阶段的划分来讨论党的路线、方针和政策的发展变化,从而在党的理论传统中形成继承与发展的辩证关系。

  从党的十四大报告开始,党代会报告采用了一种新的历史划分模式,即采用代际政治的定位模式,分别叙述以毛泽东为核心的党的第一代中央领导集体和以邓小平为核心的党的第二代中央领导集体的历史贡献。此后,党的十七大报告和党的十八大报告将之进一步发展为“以毛泽东同志为核心的党的第一代中央领导集体”“以邓小平同志为核心的党的第二代中央领导集体”和“以江泽民同志为核心的党的第三代中央领导集体”的表述。采用代际政治的历史定位方式是在1989年特定的历史背景下提出来的,它有效地巩固了江泽民总书记在党内的权威地位,确保了改革开放政策的连续性和稳定性。正是在这种政治稳定和政策稳定的持续发展中,中国实现了从毛泽东时代“站起来”到邓小平时代“富起来”的历史性转变。

  代际政治很容易被中国人所接受。一方面,中国儒家文化强调长幼有序,很大程度上就是肯定自然时间延续所形成的客观政治效果,因此代际政治有利于政治稳定;另一方面,这种代际更替刚好和宪法中关于国家领导人任期的规定结合起来,这在客观上形成代际更替的政治格局。然而,人类历史不是自然时间的均匀延续。政治生活在本质上不是自然的,而是人为的,历史也始终是人类创造的。历史时间绝非牛顿物理学的自然时间,而是人为创造的政治时间,甚至历史纪年所采用的历法也是政治的产物。正是基于政治进程所展现出历史天命意义的不同时间节点,我们才有古代与现代的划分,才有“1840年以来”“1949年以来”和“改革开放以来”的历史时间划分。可以说,基于自然时间的代际政治很难成为建构政治时间的依据。例如,中国政治历史上名垂青史的秦皇汉武、唐宗宋祖,其历史地位并不是按照代际来定位的,而是按照他们所开辟的历史空间来定位的。恰恰是他们的政治努力创造了政治时间,从而形成了后人进行时代划分的坐标。

  更重要的是,代际政治很容易给人一种误解,仿佛每一代领导人的政治权威是由上一代所赋予的,是继承而来的。而事实上,中国共产党每一代政治领导人的政治权威都来自于对马克思主义的信仰和全国人民的授权,是由历史使命和人民的拥护赋予其正当性。若混淆正当性来源,无疑会瓦解共产主义的信仰、理想和代表人民利益及民族利益的政治信念,从根本上削弱党的政治权威。因此,党的十九大报告不再用代际政治的自然时间来建构中国共产党的历史,相反是从历史天命的角度,按照特定的政治时间节点开辟的新的政治空间,将中国共产党的历史划分为“站起来”“富起来”和“强起来”三个阶段,也由此概括了在每个时代党领导全国各族人民回应历史天命所做出的巨大贡献。事实上,这种政治时间的叙述模式也是多个党代会报告采取的历史叙述模式。比如,在党的十五大报告中就用辛亥革命、新中国建立和改革开放三个政治时间节点来定位邓小平理论,从而明确了邓小平与孙中山和毛泽东一样,是人民共和国的奠基人。

  因此,党的十九大报告并没有直接采取十八大报告的历史叙述模式,而是采用经史结合、以史解经的叙述方式,用三个“我们深刻认识到”来划分中国共产党的历史。第一阶段是从1921年中国共产党成立到1949年新中国成立,中国共产党完成了民主革命的建国任务,“实现了中国从几千年封建专制政治向人民民主的伟大飞跃”;第二阶段是从1949年新中国成立到1978年改革开放,中国共产党团结带领人民实现了由“站起来”向“富起来”的转变,即“建立符合我国实际的先进社会制度。……完成了中华民族有史以来最为广泛而深刻的社会变革,为当代中国一切发展进步奠定了根本政治前提和制度基础,实现了中华民族由近代不断衰落到根本扭转命运、持续走向繁荣富强的伟大飞跃”;第三阶段是从1978年改革开放到十九大召开,我们党“合乎时代潮流、顺应人民意愿,勇于改革开放,让党和人民事业始终充满奋勇前进的强大动力。我们党……开辟了中国特色社会主义道路,使中国大踏步赶上时代”,实现了由“富起来”向“强起来”的历史性转变。③

  正是这种政治逻辑的内在必然性将中国共产党的历史推进到第四个阶段。党的十九大报告明确宣布中国特色社会主义进入了新时代,即从党的十九大到新中国成立一百年,将实现社会主义现代化和中华民族伟大复兴。为了实现这个宏伟的战略目标,党的十九大报告系统地提出了习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,并对新时代的总任务、发展战略、社会主要矛盾和发展总体布局、战略布局以及各项具体工作等进行了全面系统的规划,其中既有哲学理念又有政治原则,既有目标任务又有总体布局,既有战略重点又有系统筹划,既有长远发展步骤又有五年工作部署……这一切构筑了新时代中国特色社会主义的整体方略。正是习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想和按照这种思想构筑的治国方略,将中国特色社会主义推进到新的历史时代,从而开辟了新的政治空间。

二、政治时间的建构:正确认识领袖在历史中的地位

  党的十九大报告提出了习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想,系统阐述了新时代治国理政的方略并由此进入了学者们所理解的习近平时代。思想、方略和时代构成了三位一体的关系,而其核心在于思想。可以说,习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想孕育了实现社会主义现代化和中华民族伟大复兴的方略,而正是这种治国方略在历史中的具体落实,推动了中国特色社会主义迈向新时代。因此,习近平时代不是在自然时间中自动到来的,而是以习近平同志为核心的党中央带领全党全国各族人民经过努力奋斗创造出来的。

  回顾党的十八大之前很长一段时间,党内外有一股政治力量企图将邓小平时代与毛泽东时代对立起来,企图用邓小平开创的改革开放路线来否定毛泽东时代确立的社会主义体制,主张在经济改革之后开展颠覆性的政治体制改革,甚至宣称如果再不进行这种“政治体制改革”,经济改革就会出现倒退且经济改革的成果也无法保障。他们所谓的“政治体制改革”不言而喻的目标就是在党政分离基础上,逐步弱化并最终取消党的领导,实现西方自由民主体制。

  在上述背景下,面对改革开放过程中出现的不平衡发展和贫富分化现象,尤其看到一些资本力量肆无忌惮地席卷国民财富时,基层百姓开始怀念毛泽东时代,由此也引发不少人反过来试图用毛泽东时代来否定邓小平时代,否定改革开放路线。用党的十九大报告的话来说,当时中国面临双重危险:一个就是重蹈苏联崩溃覆辙的“改旗易帜的邪路”,另一个就是退回到改革开放前的“封闭僵化的老路”。④

  在危急的历史关头,习近平就任中国共产党中央委员会总书记以来采取了一系列有效措施,尤其是从严治党,高压反腐,可谓力挽狂澜。有不少人评价为这是在危急关头挽救了党和国家,挽救了中国特色社会主义。党的十九大报告对这五年的总结是“极不平凡的五年”,是“历史性变革”的五年:“解决了许多长期想解决而没有解决的难题,办成了许多过去想办而没有办成的大事,推动党和国家事业发生历史性变革”。⑤正是这五年取得的历史性成就,奠定了习近平在党内作为领导核心的领袖权威地位。

  如果用社会学家韦伯的理论来说,习近平总书记作为党中央的核心、全党的核心,其领袖的权威地位不仅来源于担任党的总书记和国家主席、中央军委主席这些法定职务而获得的“法理型权威”,来源于在党的历史传统中成为“传统型权威”,更重要的是由于他在特定历史时刻具有勇于承担历史使命的政治责任、面对全球历史转折时代指明中国发展道路的强大理论建构能力和驾驭国内外复杂局面的能力,凝聚了全党和全国各族人民的人心,从而成为全党全军全国公认的核心领袖,具有“克里斯玛权威”的特征。

  党的十八大之后,习近平明确提出改革开放前三十年和后三十年不能相互否定,并且按照党的政治信仰和“党领导一切”的政治原则将前后两个三十年贯通起来,从而形成了党的十九大报告中将党史和人民共和国史阐释为前后贯通、继承发展的历史。在这个历史发展过程中,领袖无疑发挥着重要的历史推动作用。在改革开放之初,曾有一些人想要全面否定毛泽东,邓小平坚决反对这种主张,明确指出“如果没有毛泽东同志,至少我们中国人民还要在黑暗中摸索更长的时间。”正是在邓小平的主持下,党中央对毛泽东的功过做出了客观评价。同样,如果没有邓小平所推动的改革开放和现代化建设,中国不可能如此迅速崛起,实现从“站起来”到“富起来”的历史性跨越。

  因此,习近平时代不是自动到来的,而是领袖领导人民干出来的。领袖依靠政党、政党扎根人民,领袖、政党与人民群众之间形成良性互动。这既是马列主义的重要组成部分,也是中国历史的经验总结。然而,一段时间以来,中国的法治建设在学习西方法治的过程中逐渐陷入西方法治概念的误区,自觉不自觉地将“法治”与“人治”对立起来,过分迷信法律教条,迷信制度改革,将法治简单理解为规则自动运行的机器,而忽略要通过“良法”实现“善治”就必须有良好的社会文化和道德价值系统来支撑法律规则和制度的有效运作。法治与人治不是截然对立的,而是互补的。法治社会不能忽略对人进行理想信念的价值观教育,不能忽略道德价值观和良好社会风气对治理发挥的积极作用,更不能忽略领袖和伟人、政党和人民群众在历史中发挥的关键作用。

  翻开人类历史,在历史发展中起决定性作用的依然是人,因为人类历史本身就是人所创造的,好的制度需要人来运作。西方思想家之所以不断反思西方民主制的弊端,一个重要原因在于这种民主体制在败坏人性,尤其金钱和媒体操纵的竞争性选举将“民主”蜕变为“选主”,这种制度很难培养出真正代表人民的政治家,而很容易产生服务于各种利益集团的政客。正是在总结人类历史经验的基础上,党的十八大以来,党中央对改革开放以来提出的法治建设方针进行了纠偏,把党的领导贯穿于社会主义法治建设的始终,不仅明确提出“以德治国”和“依法治国”相结合的法治原则,而且把党章所统帅的党规党纪纳入了中国特色社会主义法治体系中,坚实地奠定了党领导人民治理国家的法统基础。

三、共产主义与中华民族伟大复兴

  党的十九大报告对习近平时代的第二个定位是在中华文明史上的定位。

  中华文明曾经创造了农业时代人类文明的最高成就,而中国文明通过古代陆上丝绸之路和海上丝绸之路的贸易往来与西方文明有着密切的交流互鉴。当西方陷入中世纪的黑暗时代,欧洲人为了推动与东方的贸易才偶然地发现了美洲新大陆,由此开始了欧洲帝国的全球殖民时代。按照美国“加州学派”的观点,中国至少在18世纪之前是世界经济的中心,当时的中国文化是西方人仰慕的对象,中国的繁荣是推动全球化的重要动力。然而,1840年以来,近代中国经历了屈辱悲惨的命运。从洋务运动、戊戌变法到辛亥革命,无数仁人志士不断探索民族复兴的命运,但都未能成功。直到1921年中国共产党成立,中华民族的历史命运才发生了转机。

  作为马克思主义政党,中国共产党始终以实现共产主义作为最高政治理想。然而,在如何实现这个最高理想的现实历史中,党内从一开始就出现过两条革命路线的斗争。一条是“以俄为师”,从国际共产主义运动的全球格局来定位中国革命,完全照搬照抄苏俄模式的革命路线;另一条是扎根中国本土,从中国近代历史来定位中国革命,按照中国实际来开创新的革命路线。在抗日战争期间,这对路线矛盾在党内演化为阶级斗争与民族斗争何者优先的问题。直到瓦窑堡会议上提出了中国共产党既代表中国工人阶级又代表中华民族的 “两个先锋队”理论之后,中国共产党在政治意识形态中才形成了共产主义与民族主义的有机统一,并由此逐步展开了马克思主义中国化。

  新中国成立后,中国共产党借助社会主义和共产主义的理想信念实现了全面的社会动员,释放出巨大的政治能量来奠定人民共和国的制度基础。然而“文革”之后,中国陷入了前所未有的信仰危机。为此,邓小平借助社会主义初级阶段的理论将共产主义放置到较遥远的未来,并提出了“有中国特色的社会主义理论”。然而,由于人们仍普遍缺乏坚实精神信仰的支撑,西方资本主义的价值观念借机迅速主导社会,由此引发了一场政治风波。

  正是在这种背景下,1992年江泽民在哈佛大学演讲中第一次提出了“实现中华民族的伟大复兴”这个口号,紧接着又提出“三个代表”这个概念。前者以民族主义作为凝聚全党全国人民的精神力量,后者使得共产党能够代表新兴阶层的政治利益,成功地避免了中国共产党只代表工农利益而出现的代表性危机。此后,胡锦涛又进一步提出党的“先进性建设”,以避免中国共产党因丧失理想信念而蜕变为简单协调各阶层利益的利益型政党,避免变成前苏联当年的“全民党”。可以说,在中国特色社会主义理论的发展进程中,提出“中华民族伟大复兴”这个口号是一个关键性的转折。从中华文明史角度看,中华民族伟大复兴意味着中国继商周时代、秦汉时代、唐宋时代和明清时代之后进入了第五个全面复兴的时代。中华文明几千年辉煌的政治想象成功地填补了共产主义愿景弱化所留下的信仰真空。这种民族主义的政治信念成为凝聚全党和全国人民的重要精神力量,这份民族自信心和自豪感有助于中国政治的稳定,从而推动中国在经济上迅速崛起。党的十八大之后,习近平进一步将中华民族伟大复兴提升到“中国梦”的高度,从而为中国人提供了理想生活的未来愿景。

  当然,如果缺乏共产主义这种更高理想信念的引导,仅提中华民族伟大复兴也可能让中国在前进中迷失方向。从国际政治角度看,简单化民族复兴口号很容易引发其他国家,尤其中国周边国家对中国趋向于民族主义的联想和担忧,西方的“中国威胁论”也因此具有很大的市场。西方人往往从自身霸权的历史经验出发,将中华民族伟大复兴理解为恢复历史上中国在东亚的主导权,从而把中国崛起看作对西方霸权的挑战。美国试图“重返亚洲”,在东海、南海问题上对中国发难,也是以此为借口。西方学界普遍将中国崛起错误理解为历史上的德国崛起挑战英国霸权,或苏联崛起挑战美国霸权,开始关注所谓的“修昔底德陷阱”。“一带一路”倡议是从推动全球贸易自由化的立场出发,以“共商共建共享”的新理念和大格局来重现“丝绸之路”时期东西方贸易所带来的繁荣和稳定。然而,在西方霸权主义的世界观中,“一带一路”倡议被理解为麦金德与马汉相结合的地缘政治战略,他们以此来鼓动和挑拨“一带一路”沿线国家与中国的关系,试图牵制中国的发展。

  从国内政治角度来看,中华民族伟大复兴与西方自由民主体制并不矛盾。国内的自由主义者从中看到了新的政治可能,于是自由主义内部发生分化,一部分人开始调整策略,将过往迷信个人权利和自由市场并因此对抗国家和民族看作一种政治幼稚,迅速拥抱国家崛起这个政治主题。由此发展出的“大国派”主张只有采取自由民主宪政才能真正实现民族伟大复兴,英美宪政由此必须成为中国崛起的政治样板,而德国和前苏联的失败将是中国崛起中的反面教训。与此同时,伴随着中华民族伟大复兴口号发展起来的文化保守主义中,发展出了一种复古派,主张“儒化共产党”,否定中国共产党领导民主革命所取得的人人平等的历史性成就,为此甚至不惜否定五四运动和辛亥革命。在这种背景下,一时间封建复古思潮沉渣泛起,商业资本与文化资本相结合,试图推动各种封建依附关系和利益关系的团团伙伙渗透到党内。可以说,这两种政治思潮与自由派的所谓“政治体制改革”思潮结合在一起,对中国共产党领导国家的政治权威和政治体制构成挑战。在这种背景下,习近平重提共产主义理想信念,为中华民族伟大复兴确定了最高的理想信仰和最终的发展方向。

  无论是乌托邦还是共产主义,都是源于西方文明传统中的概念。正是基督教线性时间的历史观改变了古典的时间循环的历史观。这不仅孕育了对未来美好想象的乌托邦思想,而且孕育了西方理论中的社会进步发展观。因此,西方学者认为基督教的救赎神学与现代理论中的历史进步发展观一脉相承,甚至将共产主义的起源诉诸于基督教中的灵知主义。马克思主义也因此被解读为世俗版的先知预言。然而,马克思始终强调要将“共产主义”从乌托邦理念变成一种科学社会主义,这就意味着共产主义必须落实在现实生活中,成为一个可以检验的具体生活状态,“共产主义”要变成在实证科学意义上的“共产主义社会”。如果说在马克思的时代社会主义还没有建成,共产主义社会只能是一个遥远的哲学构想,那么当苏俄和中国建立起社会主义国家之后,实现共产主义社会的“时间表”和“路线图”就变得尤为迫切。共产主义面临着从哲学理念转化为“共产主义社会”的具体制度建构。无论是列宁构想的“苏维埃加电气化”,还是毛泽东构想的人民公社时期的“大锅饭”,理想一旦落到现实生活中就丧失了原来的色彩。正是由于共产主义哲学理念与实证科学意义上的共产主义社会建构之间的内在张力,引发毛泽东开始思考共产主义社会究竟是否存在矛盾这样一个根本的哲学问题。类似基督教中的“千禧年追求”,上帝的降临只能被不断地延后,如果我们真的可以在社会生活中证实上帝审判,恐怕基督教也将面临丧失信仰色彩的难题。

  我们要特别注意的是,习近平在重提共产主义概念时并没有在科学社会主义的脉络里重提“共产主义社会”这个概念,而是借用中国传统文化中“不忘初心,方得始终”这句格言,把共产主义从西方实证科学传统中的具体社会形态,巧妙地转化为中国传统哲学的心学,从而将共产主义提升为一种理想信念和精神信仰,用中国传统文化中的心学重新激活了共产主义这个概念所具有的精神能量。由此,共产主义不再像在毛泽东时代那样成为一种马上要实现的生活状态,而是作为党的最高理想信念,成为党性教育和党性修养的一部分,成为中国共产党的“心学”。共产主义不仅是在遥远的将来有待实现的某种具体社会状态,而且是将最高理想融入当下政治实践中的、生机勃勃的精神状态。共产主义不仅是未来的美好生活方式,更是中国共产党人在当下政治生活实践中的精神状态,共产主义由此融入了为理想而奋斗的具体历史进程和日常生活中。正是在中国传统文化的脉络里,对共产主义这个最高理想的理解也就不再是马克思在西方理论传统里构想的、没有被社会分工“异化”的人类伊甸园状态,而更多地与中国传统文化中“天下大同”的理想紧密联系在一起。党的十九大报告的最后一段一开始就用“大道之行,天下为公” 这个最高理想来激励全党和全国各族人民。而在报告的具体内容中,更在中国传统的“大同理想”基础上进一步提出了“幼有所育、学有所教、劳有所得、病有所医、老有所养、住有所居、弱有所扶”的社会状态。

  因此,同样讲“不忘初心”,在2016年纪念中国共产党成立95周年的讲话中,习近平用“初心”来指代共产主义远大理想,而在党的十九大报告中则用来指“为中国人民谋幸福,为中华民族谋复兴”。这两个表述之所以有差异,是因为“七一讲话”对全党而言是一次哲学高度上的思想回顾和精神洗礼,因此更着眼于共产主义这个最高理想信仰,将其转化为中国共产党人的“心学”;而党的十九大报告更多是全党在现实历史阶段中的使命担当和具体治国方略,因此更多着眼于中华民族伟大复兴这个更为切近的信念和目标,而将共产主义放在社会主义核心价值和党的建设等具体工作之中。可以说,习近平对共产主义概念的重新阐释是新时期马克思主义中国化的典范,即马克思主义不仅要和中国实际相结合,而且要和中国文化相融合。由此,共产主义的最高精神追求和中华民族伟大复兴的理想愿景相互支撑、相得益彰,共同成为习近平时代凝聚全党和全国各族人民的精神支柱。

  正是有了共产主义的理想信念,中华民族伟大复兴就绝不可能回到中国的过去,而必然是“旧邦新造”。中华民族伟大复兴必须和中国特色社会主义的建构紧密联系在一起。如果说在邓小平时代,“有中国特色社会主义”这个概念的重心在“中国特色”,那么在习近平时代,中国特色社会主义的重心则在“社会主义”,用社会主义的基本政治原则来校正自由派和保守派对中华民族伟大复兴的各种解释。这就意味着中国特色社会主义必须放在全球共产主义运动中重新定位。

四、新时代中国特色社会主义:现代化的中国方案

  党的十九大报告对习近平时代的第三个定位是在国际共产主义运动史中的定位。报告特别指出中国特色社会主义进入新时代,“意味着科学社会主义在二十一世纪的中国焕发出强大生机活力,在世界上高高举起了中国特色社会主义伟大旗帜”。⑥

  马克思和恩格斯提出科学社会主义并在世界上推动了共产主义运动,从而开始探索社会主义的现代化道路。如果说马克思和恩格斯在西欧的社会主义实验(例如巴黎公社)属于第一个阶段,那么十月革命之后苏联的社会主义建设所形成的苏联模式及其对社会主义阵营的影响可以看作第二阶段。新中国在成立后的一段时间里也基本上是在学习苏联模式。从邓小平开始探索中国特色社会主义到习近平提出推动中国特色社会主义的不断成熟定型,无疑是社会主义现代化道路探索的第三个阶段。

  这个阶段实际上是从1956年毛泽东反思苏联模式并提出“论十大关系”开始,中国开始走上了独立探索社会主义现代化的发展道路。然而在特殊历史背景下,当时对中国道路的探索走向了更为激进的“文化大革命”。改革开放实际上重新回到了“论十大关系”所开辟的道路上,重新探索中国特色社会主义建设。当苏联模式的社会主义现代化道路随着苏联解体和冷战结束而全面失败时,中国在世界上举起了中国特色社会主义的伟大旗帜,成为西方资本主义发展模式的有力竞争者。以至于有学者提出,当年社会主义救了中国,而如今中国救了社会主义。

  需要注意的是,邓小平最初使用的概念是“有中国特色的社会主义”,这个概念也是党的十三大报告的主题。党的十四大报告将这个概念改为“有中国特色社会主义”。从党的十六大报告开始,这个概念变成了“中国特色社会主义”。表面上看起来,这仅仅是文字表达的凝练,而实际上包含着深刻的政治含义。无论“有中国特色的社会主义”还是“有中国特色社会主义”,似乎都假定有一个原教旨的“社会主义”在那里,这就是马列著作和苏联实践中所定义的社会主义,而我们不过是在这个“社会主义”的基本框架中增加一些“中国特色”。然而,“中国特色社会主义”这个概念意味着社会主义并没有一个原教旨的发展模式,而是一些基本的原则和理念。这些原则和理念需要随着时代的发展而在实践中不断地进行探索和发展。“中国特色社会主义”不是在既定的“社会主义”框架中增加中国特色,而是用中国的实践经验来探索并定义究竟什么才是“社会主义”。因此,“社会主义”不是僵化的教条,而是一个开放的、有待探索和界定的概念。中国不是亦步亦趋地学习西方经验中产生的社会主义思想和制度,而是以更大的自信心来开创社会主义的发展道路,将社会主义现代化建设推进到第三个阶段。党的十八大报告由此明确提出了建设中国特色社会主义的“道路自信”“理论自信”和“制度自信”。中国在探索社会主义现代化道路上之所以越来越自信,底气就来自深厚的中国文化传统。正是中国文化为“共产主义”理念注入了新的精神能量,为社会主义现代化开辟了新的道路,激励着每个发展中国家开辟自己的现代化道路。因此,十九大报告在原来“三个自信”的基础上,又增加了“文化自信”,变成了“四个自信”。

  一旦进入国际共产主义史的视野,就意味着对习近平时代的定位不能局限在党史、共和国史和中华文明史,而是要从国际共产主义运动史进入到全球文明史。这就意味着中国特色社会主义必须在全球范围内获得普遍认可。

  一部全球文明史就是全球不同国家和民族从传统迈向现代的历史。在这个转型过程中,美国和部分西欧国家率先完成了现代化转型,从此开始殖民其他国家和民族,迫使其他国家和民族选择西方模式。进入19世纪,德国第一次开始探索不同于英美的资本主义现代化道路,这个道路不同于英美自由资本主义模式,后来被称为“国家资本主义”。随着德国在两次世界大战中战败,德国模式对英美模式的挑战也宣告失败。进入20世纪之后,苏联对西方资本主义现代化道路发起第二次挑战,提出了一条苏联模式的社会主义现代化道路,并因此改变了全球格局。苏联、中国等这些后发达国家从落后的封建农业国家一跃而为世界强国,无疑显示了社会主义道路内在的优越性。然而,苏联模式发起的挑战也随着苏联解体而失败了。美国主导的西方资本主义似乎迎来了全球胜利并开启了以西方模式为标准的“全球化”。因此,在一些西方思想家看来,西方现代化道路已成为唯一普遍的真理,世界历史正在进入“历史终结”;而在另一些思想家看来,这种全球化表面上导致“历史终结”,然而实际上将导致以“文明冲突”取代冷战意识形态冲突,人类文明会重返前现代的黑暗时代。

  在这种国际背景下,中国特色社会主义建设就不仅是在中华文明史的尺度上对中华民族伟大复兴具有重大意义,而且是在人类文明史的尺度上对探索人类文明的未来走向具有重大意义。中国文明能否对全人类作出新的贡献,很大程度上取决于中国文明能否为人类文明的发展探索出一条新的现代化道路,尤其是对所有后发达国家而言,能否摆脱资本主义现代化带来的依附命运以及突破在全球分化中面临的文明冲突困境。正是在这个意义上,党的十九大报告对习近平时代在全球文明史上做出了明确的定位:“拓展了发展中国家走向现代化的途径,给世界上那些既希望加快发展又希望保持自身独立性的国家和民族提供了全新选择,为解决人类问题贡献了中国智慧和中国方案”。⑦

  在邓小平时代,中国特色社会主义的探索主要是为了解决中国自身的发展问题,防止在全球化浪潮中被“开除球籍”。这种现实的历史处境导致中国在国际秩序中长期“韬光养晦”。然而,随着中国崛起为世界第二大经济体,中国已经站在了世界舞台的中央,不可能脱离全球而独善其身。中国必须重新调整世界与自身的关系,把中国特色社会主义建设与全球的发展联系起来,积极参与全球治理,承担起对全人类的责任。为此,习近平从党的十八大以来就全力推动中国在政治、经济和思想的转型,明确提出“共商共建共享的全球治理观”来构建新的国际治理体系。这种“共商共建共享”的思想恰恰来源于中国传统文化中“天下为公”思想与“和而不同”的和合理念,这无疑是中国智慧对全人类的贡献。

  在党的十九大报告中,“贡献”这个概念出现了11次,是历次党代会报告中最多的一次。而中国共产党之所以把对全人类的“贡献”作为自己的行动指南,恰恰证明中华民族伟大复兴不是民族主义的,而是世界主义的。这种世界主义精神一方面来源于中国儒家的天下主义传统,亦即党的十九大报告最后援引的“大道之行,天下为公”;另一方面来源于解放全人类的共产主义信念。党的十九大报告中特别指出,“中国共产党是为中国人民谋幸福的政党,也是为人类进步事业而奋斗的政党。中国共产党始终把为人类作出新的更大的贡献作为自己的使命。”⑧

  中华文明在历史上曾经对东亚乃至全世界的文明发展作出原创性的巨大贡献。近代以来,中国的民主革命和社会主义道路虽然对被压迫民族的解放事业作出了重要贡献,但这种贡献主要来自对西方现代化模式的选择和运用。而今天我们之所以强调中华民族的伟大复兴,复兴的重要使命之一就是要将西方文明的各种现代化成就与中华文明传统融为一体,开辟一条新的现代化道路,从而为人类文明从传统进入现代开创一条具有原创色彩的道路。尽管有不少学者提出“中国模式”这个概念以区别于“西方模式”,但习近平在2016年“七一讲话”中选择的是“中国智慧”和“中国方案”这两个概念。这些概念的选择本身就体现了中国智慧,即真正的天下主义要能够包容多样化的发展模式。事实上,新中国始终秉持的“和平共处五项基本原则”与中国传统文化中的“王者不治化外之民”是一脉相承的。中国在历史上从来没有向周边地区强制输出文化,中国文化之所以能源远流长、不断发扬光大,就在于尊重周边文化并善于取其所长不断完善和提升自己,从而提供生活的榜样而吸引周边国家和地区来学习模仿。

  因此,“中国方案”意味着中国绝不会像西方那样将自己的发展道路强加给其他国家,而是提供一套发展的理念、思路和方法,让其他国家根据自己的国情来探索适合本国的发展道路。同样,中国特色社会主义作为一种现代化的中国方案,并不像前苏联的社会主义模式那样试图全面挑战并取代西方资本主义模式。在西方霸权主义主导的世界中,“中国方案”的提出必然会遇到阻力、矛盾和冲突,但中国绝不会因此而主动挑起新的冷战,因为中国始终尊重每个国家自己的发展模式,并始终坚持学习和借鉴其合理内涵,从而丰富和完善中国的发展。党的十九大报告明确提出要“推动中华优秀传统文化创造性转化、创新性发展”,要“不忘本来、吸收外来、面向未来”。⑨正因为如此,面对西方推动“历史终结”所引发的地缘冲突和文明冲突,中国虽然崛起但始终保持低调克制,采取不结盟立场,在国际事务中始终不会因为种族、宗教信仰和文化意识形态的分歧而预先选择立场,始终以务实的态度与冲突各方尽可能保持良好的商业贸易和政治文化关系,并努力为全球尤其是后发达国家提供基础设施、交通和互联网等公共产品,以“无所争而无所不争”的中国智慧在静悄悄地改变世界格局,从而真正展现出一种文化自信和政治成熟。因此,与德国、苏联、美国的崛起追求世界霸权不同,中国崛起实际上秉持了一种独特的“中国例外论”。这种例外主义恰恰展现出中国文化与西方文化的不同,即西方文化始终试图在二元对立中最终克服矛盾对立而追求绝对的同一,而中国文化始终强调对立中的统一与包容,从而形成多元一体的和合理念。因此,“中国方案”的雄心恰恰在于立足中国文明传统来吸收世界上所有文明的长处,从而推动中国文明传统的现代性转化,最终建立超越西方文明并包容西方文明的人类文明新秩序。

  由此来看,无论是19世纪的德国模式还是20世纪的苏联模式,这两次对西方现代化道路的挑战始终是西方文明内部发展道路的分歧。这几种发展模式都是在基督教传统上发展起来的“历史终结”模式。唯有目前我们正在建构的“中国方案”才真正是从中国文明的历史传统出发来建构新的现代化发展道路。如果说近代以来一直到邓小平时代,中国现代化的主要任务是怎么学习和消化西方资本主义现代化和社会主义现代化所取得的成就,那么习近平时代所建构的现代化的“中国方案”无疑要把这种学习和借鉴转化为传统文明的再生,从而缔造不同于西方文明的现代化发展道路。这不仅意味着要终结地理大发现以来西方文明一统天下的全球政治格局,也意味着要在文化和文明意义上打破过去五百年来西方文明在全球的支配地位,从而迎来人类文明发展的新时代。党的十九大报告将这个新时代表述为:“要尊重世界文明多样性,以文明交流超越文明隔阂、文明互鉴超越文明冲突、文明共存超越文明优越”。⑩这无疑是从中国文明的立场出发,否定了后冷战以来西方人给出的“历史终结”与“文明冲突”这两条文明发展道路,描绘出人类文明发展的新图景。

五、主人与奴隶:西方主体性哲学的起源

  党的十九大报告以中华民族五千年文明史为时间背景,以鸦片战争以来西方文明对中国文明的挑战为空间场景,叙述一代又一代的中国人在这样一个时空交错的巨大历史舞台中上演的“壮丽史诗”。这个历史的时空背景构成了中国现代思想的出发点。

  中国古典的文化传统在整个东亚世界形成了一种普遍主义的天下秩序观,并由此构建了连接伊斯兰世界和西方世界的古典国际法体系:朝贡体系。天下秩序和朝贡体系是一个普遍主义的多元一体系统,可以容纳不同的民族、文化和宗教信仰,中国人由此保持高度的文化独立性和自主性。然而,伴随着西方文明率先完成现代化转型并以此推动资本主义的全球化,每一个非西方文明面对西方冷酷无情的商业资本主义和赤裸裸的枪炮殖民主义,要么被毁灭,要么成为殖民地,要么必须放弃本国的文化传统,全面接受西方的文化信仰和生活模式并就此依附于西方。这就是1840年以来西方枪炮带给中国人的现代性命运:要么“亡国灭种”,要么像日本那样全盘西化并转而殖民、奴役其他国家。马克思在系统批判资本主义现代化道路的基础上提出了共产主义理想和社会主义现代化道路,其中全面肯定被压迫人民和民族的一律平等。这种社会主义的现代化道路率先在俄国取得首阶段的胜利,从而将人类的现代化进程从西方中心的资本主义阶段发展到东方中心(苏联和中国等)的社会主义阶段。因此,正是十月革命的胜利和马克思主义传入中国,为中国人开辟了另一条现代化道路。

  表面上看来,西方资本主义与苏联社会主义两条现代化道路是资产阶级和无产阶级这两个阶级作为现代化担纲者所选择的两种不同的制度模式、发展战略,但其背后实际上是两种生存价值的选择:是野蛮掠夺与平等共处之间的选择,是依附西方与独立自主之间的选择。对中国人而言,这更是两种人格、国格和精神生活的根本性选择,属于道体层面而非器用层面的选择。就像两个人打架,有的人被打败了就认怂服输,从此变成小弟或狗腿子;有的人虽然被打败但绝不服输,屡败屡战并最终要战胜对手。前者日子很舒服但缺乏尊严,后者意味着要捍卫自己的尊严就必须走一条艰难和痛苦的道路。在西方哲学中,这两种人格就在哲学上构成了奴隶人格和主人人格的区别。

  中国传统哲学思想推崇天人合一的和谐状态。因此,中国人并不能完全理解西方哲学中的主体与客体、主人与奴隶这样的思维方式。近代以来,伴随西方船坚炮利而来的就是这套西方所谓的“主体性哲学”。过去,我们将这套主体性哲学理解为现代科学摧毁宗教迷信从而确立人的主体地位,是科学认识论将世界客观化、对象化之后产生的主客体对立,近代西方主体性哲学也因此被看作认识论哲学。这种西方主体性哲学与西方政治生活有着密切的内在关联。

  西方主体性哲学萌芽于古希腊哲学。“人是万物的尺度”奠定了人的主体地位。然而,这里所说的“人”需由希腊城邦政治生活提供具体的所指。古希腊政治生活建立在奴隶制所确立的主奴关系基础上。奴隶不过是“会说话的工具”,因此他们不是“人”而是“物”。唯有城邦中拥有奴隶的主人才能成为自由人,成为城邦的公民,由此才能成为哲学意义上的“人”。因此,在西方思想中,主人、自由人、公民、人和主体实际上指的是一个概念。

  伴随着西方地理大发现和现代国家建立过程中争夺领土的惨烈战争,西方哲学认为只有独立的、敢为自己的生存权利拼死搏斗的人才具有“主人人格”,才具有“主体”资格,其主体权利才能上升为“主权”。从霍布斯、黑格尔到尼采、马克思都将争夺主人地位的斗争理解为推动历史发展和进步的动力。而只有在斗争中彼此获得承认的主权者才能构成平等的国际法主体,进入到国际社会俱乐部。这就是威斯特伐利亚体系的开端。从此,无论是维也纳会议还是巴黎和会,无论是雅尔塔会议还是八国集团首脑会议,都是这种主体性哲学的产物。秩序就是由主体支配客体而形成的,国内秩序是阶级支配,国际秩序是强国支配。

  马列主义进入中国的第一天就带来了一种新的主体哲学观念。这就是工人阶级和劳苦大众作为历史命运的主体。中国究竟走一条依附于西方的现代化道路,还是探索一条符合中国实际的、独立自主的现代化道路,在哲学上意味着中国人究竟能不能作为自己命运的主人,以主人的姿态生存于世界民族之林,而在政治上就变成中国革命的主体究竟是依附西方的资产阶级和小资产阶级,还是追求独立解放的工人阶级和劳苦大众。中国共产党从成立的第一天起,就意味着马克思主义的主体哲学与中国人民作为政治主体的历史建构紧密地结合在一起,从根本上结束了晚清以来中国资产阶级精英对西方世界的软弱妥协的依附品格,以不妥协的、独立的主人姿态出现在全球政治舞台上,挑战西方的现代化道路以及由此形成的全球秩序。

  党的十九大报告对中国共产党的诞生用这样一句话来评价:“中国人民谋求民族独立、人民解放和国家富强、人民幸福的斗争就有了主心骨,中国人民就从精神上由被动转为主动。”11“主心骨”这个词来源于中国传统哲学中的心学,强调心是身体的主人,而道体乃是心的主人,“精神”这个词则来源于西方的主体哲学,强调精神、思想对身体、物质的统帅作用。中国人民在斗争中有了“主心骨”,“精神上由被动转为主动”就意味着中国人终于全面转向了主人人格,开始牢牢把握自己的历史命运。

六、斗争精神:从主体哲学到矛盾论

  面对物竞天择,适者生存的全球竞争格局,中国人要作为主人出现,就必须有“亮剑”的勇气面对每个民族,卷入其中的生死搏斗。这种“亮剑”勇气就是党的十九大报告中反复提到的“斗争精神”。面对全球秩序千年未有之大变局,要实现中华民族的伟大复兴,改变历史上西方支配全球的现代化模式,为后发达国家提供现代化的“中国方案”,中国人必须进行不妥协的斗争。

  早在党的十八大报告的起草过程中,习近平就主张写入这句话:“发展中国特色社会主义是一项长期的艰巨的历史任务,必须准备进行具有许多新的历史特点的伟大斗争。”从十八大到十九大的五年之所以被看作是“不平凡的五年”,就是因为在这五年,面对国内外错综复杂的变化局势,党领导全国人民以斗争的精神“迎难而上,开拓进取”,取得了“历史性成就”。党的十九大报告最大的亮点之一就是“斗争”成为报告的关键词之一,在全文共使用了23次。报告明确提出“实现伟大梦想,必须进行伟大斗争”。12这种斗争精神无疑是主人人格的体现。党的十九大报告甚至用文学的笔法比较了历史潮流中的两种形象:“历史车轮滚滚向前,时代潮流浩浩荡荡。历史只会眷顾坚定者、奋进者、搏击者,而不会等待犹豫者、懈怠者、畏难者。”13前者是以斗争精神争取胜利的主人形象,而后者缺乏斗争勇气,必然落入奴隶的命运。两种形象的描述和对比,在于激励中国共产党人不忘初心,以主人的斗争精神和品格,争取实现中华民族的伟大复兴。

  中国共产党的“斗争精神”无疑来源于历史唯物主义的阶级斗争思想。斗争是人民大众作为历史主人必备的精神品格,正是人民群众赋予了中国共产党强大的行动能力。中国共产党不是代表那些在全球化时代可以到处自由流动的资产阶层或自由漂泊的知识分子,而是始终扎根中国本土大地,代表在本土大地上生生不息的中国人民,尤其占据人口大多数的基层劳苦大众。中国共产党虽然强调政治领袖的主导性作用,但领袖之所以能够成为领袖,就在于始终依靠党组织并让党组织扎根人民群众,与人民群众建立“血肉联系”,从而将一盘散沙的民众凝聚为真正的“人民”。相反,凌驾于党组织之上的领袖和脱离人民群众的党组织很容易走向独裁和腐败。在党的十九大报告中,“人民”这个关键词出现了201次,党与人民建立“血肉联系”这个词出现3次,在历届党代会报告中是最多的一次。

  因此,中国共产党始终扎根本土大地,其政治性尤其说来源于其阶级性,不如说来源于其本土性和民族性,是地地道道的中国品格。中国共产党所具有的这种斗争品格,不仅来源于马克思的主体哲学,更是来源于“天下兴亡,匹夫有责”“君子自强不息”的中国文化精神。正是五千年中华文明的精神传承和全中国十多亿人民不屈不挠的奋斗精神,赋予了中国共产党这种敢于斗争、善于斗争的精神品格。党的十九大报告特别强调,“我们党要始终成为时代先锋、民族脊梁,始终成为马克思主义执政党。”14而正是这种斗争精神让中国人呈现出“苟日新,日日新”的精神面貌。在十九大报告中,“新”这个字被广泛运用,提出“新时代”“新格局”“新理念”和“新举措”等各种概念,其中“创新”一词就出现了53次。“新”这个概念展现出整个世界在矛盾运动中生生不息的变化状态,而这恰恰是中国传统哲学的精髓所在,中国古典“五经”之一的《易经》就将生生不息的变化更新作为理解整个世界的出发点。世界是由矛盾运动推动发展和变化并由此带来斗争精神和推陈出新,马克思主义与中国传统文化在这一点上具有高度的内在一致性,这恰恰构成了马克思主义中国化的深层哲学根源。因此,中国人很容易从传统文化所强调的道德精神状态的“新”转向马克思主义所强调的科学技术和物质力量的“新”。“科学技术是第一生产力”“发展才是硬道理”始终是中国共产党的政治信念,而中国共产党正是要作为“先进生产力”的代表,努力走在科技革命的前列,最终引领人类科技发展的未来。

  事实上,马克思主义与中国文化相融合早在马克思主义第一次中国化的过程中就已经开始。毛泽东曾经对阶级斗争及其背后的辩证法思想进行了中国式改造,从而使马克思主义与中国传统文化相融合,提出了“矛盾论”和“实践论”的思想。中国共产党的斗争哲学基础不仅基于主体性哲学,而且基于在实践中把握整个世界对立统一的矛盾学说。在矛盾论的世界观中,“斗争”并不具有必然的绝对地位,是否要进行斗争乃至于采取怎样的斗争,最终取决于在实践中对矛盾及其性质的判断,取决于对主要矛盾、次要矛盾,矛盾的主要方面和次要方面的精确把握。在这个意义上,我们可以说实践论要高于矛盾论,矛盾只有在实践中才能进行判断。正是从实践论出发,毛泽东提出敌我矛盾和人民内部矛盾相区别的“两种矛盾学说”,对于人民内部矛盾而言,斗争就不是首要的,说服教育才是主要手段。

  因此,在中国共产党的理论中,重点不在于矛盾和斗争,而在于如何从实践出发来把握矛盾的性质。能否从实践出发,实事求是地对每一时期政治社会矛盾作出准确的分析和判断,从而提出正确的策略和政策,就成为对中国共产党的政治智慧的考验。政策和策略之所以被看作是党的生命,就在于考验党是否有智慧、有能力从现实社会形形色色、纷繁复杂的矛盾中辨识出主要矛盾,认清矛盾的主要方面,从而能够真正把握历史跳动的脉搏。自新中国成立以来,每次中国共产党全国代表大会都会对党所面临政治生活的主要矛盾做出政治判断,党的事业成败很大程度上就取决于能否从实践出发对社会政治矛盾作出科学准确的判断,从而有针对性地提出相应的政策和策略。新中国成立之后的一段时间里,中国的社会主义事业之所以遭受挫折甚至陷入“文革”悲剧,很大程度上是由于中央偏离了中共八大对社会主要矛盾的判断,把阶级矛盾看作是社会主要矛盾。而改革开放之所以取得成功,是由于党中央重新恢复了实事求是原则,重新调整了对主要矛盾的判断,从而确立了以经济建设为中心的基本方针和政策。

  改革开放以来,对“文革”的否定也自然带来对矛盾哲学和斗争精神的冲击。在与西方接轨过程中,形成了经济学和法学主导的、以中立性和非政治化为特征的新政治话语。这套话语渐渐遗忘了中国的历史和实践,削弱了中国的政治主体性,从而日益变成了一种新教条主义,背离了矛盾论和实践论,忘记了“鞋子合不合适只有脚知道”这样浅显的道理。可以说,这三十多年来,中国学术界和思想界在逐渐淡忘矛盾学说、斗争学说和实践学说。马列主义和毛泽东思想作为名词概念虽然出现在主流话语中,但在实践中却未能完全将其作为认识问题、把握问题和解决问题的哲学方法论,由此导致马列主义和毛泽东思想成为空洞的概念表达,而不再具有鲜活的实践内容,不再作为认识问题的哲学工具,不再能与人们的政治生活建立内在的联系,因此也无法真正深入人心。作为一个理念型政党,中国共产党如果丧失了马列主义和毛泽东思想提供的哲学分析工具和分析方法,就丧失了指明未来发展方向的理论法宝,必然丧失理想信念的价值支撑和凝聚人心的理论武器,从而为各种政治思潮的泛滥打开方便之门。一旦如此,市场经济的利益交换原则将渗透到党内,各种力量将“围猎”政府官员并结成利益集团以谋求政治上的权力,甚至企图攫取党和国家的最高权力,改变党的性质,中国将面临着重蹈前苏联崩溃覆辙的危险。

  习近平在担任中共中央委员会总书记之后就提出一个引发全党深思的问题:苏联共产党被解散时,为什么两千多万党员竟无一人是男儿?表面上看,这是从戈尔巴乔夫的“新思维”开始,但深层根源要从赫鲁晓夫借批判斯大林而搞修正主义开始。无论是与美国搞“和平竞赛”,还是将共产党蜕变为“全民党”,苏联共产党从根本上丢掉了马列主义的哲学武器,导致苏联共产党不仅丧失了共产主义的理想信念,更重要的丧失了为政治信念而斗争的政治本能和生存勇气。哲学武器的丧失必然带来斗争精神的丧失,理想信念的丧失也必然带来主体精神的丧失。从这个角度看,中国之所以能够避免重蹈前苏联覆辙,恰恰是由于毛泽东从一开始就严肃批判赫鲁晓夫的修正主义路线,推动中国彻底摆脱苏联模式。对苏联模式的批判导向中国开始独立探索社会主义的现代化道路,尽管后来一度走到了“三面红旗”和“文化大革命”的极端,但是这种独立自主寻找发展道路的革命斗争精神和实现共产主义的崇高理想在政治上全面锻造了年轻一代的中国精英。他们不仅在革命运动中锻造了斗争的勇气和创新的精神,而且在“上山下乡”运动中培育起与人民同呼吸共患难的深厚感情,从而培养了一代扎根中国大地的政治精英。今天,这一代人正成为推动中国进入新时代的主导力量。

  因此,习近平担任总书记之后紧紧围绕“党的领导”这个核心问题“举旗定向”,正心诚意高举马列主义理论和共产主义理想信念的大旗,坚定不移走中国特色社会主义道路。这就意味着中国共产党重新掌握了唯物辩证法这个哲学武器,用矛盾论和实践论的世界观和方法论来认识世界。一旦重新掌握了矛盾论和实践论的哲学分析工具,那么斗争品格必然重新回到中国共产党的政治思想建设中,成为中国共产党的政治灵魂。换句话说,中国共产党的斗争品格来源于马列主义的哲学自觉,主体哲学中斗争精神与矛盾论和实践论的哲学思想有机地结合了起来。有矛盾就意味着有冲突、有斗争,而斗争必须在实践中针对现实问题展开,从而解决现实矛盾,推动实践向前发展。因此,党的十九大报告明确指出,“中国共产党是敢于斗争、敢于胜利的伟大政党”15,要“实现伟大梦想,必须进行伟大斗争”。16而斗争的根源就在于矛盾运动推动社会发展的必然性:“社会是在矛盾运动中前进的,有矛盾就会有斗争。我们党要团结带领人民有效应对重大挑战、抵御重大风险、克服重大阻力、解决重大矛盾,必须进行具有许多新的历史特点的伟大斗争,任何贪图享受、消极懈怠、回避矛盾的思想和行为都是错误的。”17

  正是在矛盾论和实践论的哲学基础上,党的十九大报告第一次提出中国社会的主要矛盾变为“人民日益增长的美好生活需要和不平衡不充分的发展之间的矛盾”。18早在1956年党的八大报告中,明确提出中国社会的主要矛盾是人民日益增长的对物质文化的需要与落后生产力之间的矛盾。“文革”之后,十一届三中全会又回到党的八大报告对社会主要矛盾的分析和判断上来。可以说,经过这70多年的努力,中国实现了从毛泽东时代、邓小平时代到习近平时代的历史性跨越。新的社会矛盾将中国推进到新的历史时代,而新的时代自然需要新的思想来解决面临的新问题。因此,习近平重提矛盾论和斗争哲学绝不是简单地回到毛泽东时代,而是把毛泽东、邓小平开创的中国社会主义事业推进到了更高的历史阶段。这无疑构成习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的历史起源。

七、马克思主义中国化:新党政体制与核心价值建构

  习近平时代的宏伟蓝图是通过历史展现出来的。在经史不分的叙述传统中,这种历史叙述背后隐含着一套哲学思想。和毛泽东思想一样,习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想不仅是习近平个人的思想,更是全党集体智慧的结晶,是在继承毛泽东思想、邓小平理论、“三个代表”重要思想和科学发展观基础上的又一次理论创新。它不仅是马克思主义与当代中国实践相结合的产物,更是马克思主义与中国传统文化相融合的产物。

  马克思主义中国化的过程始终是马克思主义与中国传统文化的融合过程,这个过程从毛泽东时代就已经开始。如果说习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想与毛泽东思想和邓小平理论有什么不同,首先就在于面临的社会主要矛盾不同,在思想理论上要解决的问题也有所不同。马克思主义第一次中国化要解决的是一个半封建半殖民地的社会如何完成无产阶级革命的问题,由此形成的毛泽东思想主要是一套革命建国的理论。马克思主义第二次中国化要解决的如何摆脱苏联模式的影响,立足中国现实探索一条社会主义现代化的建设道路,从而实现“四个现代化”,解决中国社会面临的主要矛盾。这条道路的探索从毛泽东开创并最终由邓小平完成,由此形成的“建设有中国特色社会主义”理论,主要是经济建设的理论。然而,面对中国社会的主要矛盾的变化,习近平要在毛泽东和邓小平所开创的经济基础现代化(“四个现代化”)的基础上,进一步推进上层建筑的现代化,这就是习近平提出的国家治理体系和治理能力现代化。这可以看作是马克思主义的第三次中国化。党的十九大报告将习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的基本内涵和基本方略,概括为“八个明确”和“十四个坚持”,但其核心思想在于探索党如何领导国家,实现全面依法治国,推进国家治理体系和治理能力的现代化,推动中国特色社会主义制度更加成熟定型。因此,国家治理现代化不能简单地理解为“四个现代化”之后展开的“第五个现代化”,而应当理解为在“四个现代化”所奠定的中国特色社会主义市场经济的基础上构筑与此相适应的上层建筑。

  自1949年以来,新中国就按照马列主义的基本原理,学习苏联模式,开始创建人民民主专政的国家政体,包括党的领导、政治协商制度和人民代表大会等等。由于俄国革命依赖大城市的胜利,因此在前苏联政体中党的领导高度依赖国家体制自上而下的强制,与此相反,中国革命走的是农村包围城市的道路,因此我们党直接扎根于社会,相对独立于国家体制。新中国成立之后,中国现代化道路的探索过程始终面临如何处理党和国家关系的问题。在“文革”中一度出现了摧毁国家机器,“以党代政”的乱象。改革开放之初,针对“文革”中“党政不分”“以党代政”的“人治”弊端,邓小平提出法治思想,并提出按照党政分工的思路改革党和国家领导体制。党的十三大报告中进一步发展为在党政分开基础上推进政治民主化的政治体制改革思路。20世纪80年代末的政治风波,迫使邓小平重新思考党领导国家的体制机制,开始全面强化党的领导,不仅取消了中央顾问委员会,而且重新回到了毛泽东创立的党的领导、国家领导和军队领导“三位一体”的领导体制,由此党和国家开始出现了整合趋势。

  随着依法治国的推进,党的领导和法治主张出现了潜在的张力。有部分人认为,强调依法治国就意味着要强化国家体制在宪法和法律上的绝对权威性,由此提出所谓的“落实全国人大的最高权力”、实现“司法独立”乃至“宪法司法化”,并由此提出所谓“党大”与“法大”的争论,潜在地挑战党对国家的领导。此外,法治发展推动了人权保护,一些有政治诉求的运动就借“人权”和“法治”的名义展开,通过“法治”实现“民主”也因此成为推进“政治民主化”的新策略。可以说,改革开放以来建立起来的中国特色社会主义的市场经济基础与党的领导国家上层建筑之间出现了一些不协调的地方。新时代中国特色社会主义制度就必须解决这个问题,建立与中国特色社会主义市场经济相匹配的上层建筑。正是针对这个长期探索但始终在理论上和实践中未能有效解决的问题,习近平总书记在十八届三中全会上提出了推进国家治理体系和治理能力现代化的理论。而作为十八届三中全会的姊妹篇,十八届四中全会进一步提出建设中国特色社会主义法治的理论,其中明确提出“党的领导是中国特色社会主义最本质的特征,是社会主义法治最根本的保证。”19党的十九大报告在此基础上进一步强调“党政军民学,东西南北中,党是领导一切的”“党是最高政治领导力量”。20

  可以说,习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的核心就是在理论上和制度上提出一套党全面领导国家的新体制。这套新党政体制无疑是“中国方案”的重要组成部分,既区别于西方资本主义的自由民主体制,又区别于苏联模式的旧党政体制,成为符合中国特色社会主义经济基础上的新体制。而这个新体制必然意味着要将马克思主义所强调的党的领导与中国传统文化中的政治传统有机地融合在一起。比如党的十八届四中全会明确提出“坚持依法治国和以德治国相结合”原则21,把党章所统帅的党规党纪体系纳入国家法治体系,从而让党规和国法形成一套现代的礼法互动关系。而国家监察体制的建立无疑是中国传统政治文化现代化的重要组成部分。党的十九大宣布中央成立“全面依法治国领导小组”22,不仅要进一步完善党领导国家的新体制,而且要在中华法系的基础上,吸收西方法律传统的有益要素,探索形成一套新的中华法治传统。

  国家上层建筑不仅包括政治法律制度,而且包括文化意识形态。每一种政治体制都需要一套相适应的核心价值的支撑,由此形成政治与文化相互支撑的政教体系。西方资本主义制度提供了由自由主义的核心价值所支撑的自由民主体制,它构成了西方文明的核心。支撑新党政体制的核心价值必然就是中国特色社会主义的核心价值。改革开放以来,市场经济和社会分化带来了各种价值观念的兴起,中国看起来进入了多元价值观念的时代。党的十八大报告中将中国传统文化中的核心价值、毛泽东时代的社会主义核心价值,改革开放时期引入的西方自由主义的核心价值并列在一起,形成一个庞大的价值体系。如果缺乏核心价值观念的凝聚,多元价值不仅可能导致政治的迷失,而且会带来价值观念和社会利益的冲突。党的十九大报告没有重提十八大报告所总结的核心价值体系,意味着建构更为凝练、更能代表中国特色社会主义的核心价值将成为党的十九大之后的重要任务。这项工作无疑是马克思主义第三次中国化的重中之重。

  事实上,党的十八大以来,以习近平同志为核心的党中央已经开始推动将马克思主义与中国传统文化相融合。比如我们前面所讨论的,将马克思主义的共产主义信仰融入中国传统的“心学”,将西方主体哲学融入自强不息的传统君子人格,将西方辩证法融入矛盾论和实践论,融入生生不息、变化求新的中国传统哲学思想。这就意味着中国特色社会主义的核心价值必然是马克思主义理论中共产主义所代表的核心价值与中国传统儒家文化奠定的核心价值的融合,由此才能提出真正符合中国人的精神气质和现代社会客观要求的核心价值。

  从这个角度看,中华民族的伟大复兴就不仅仅是经济和政治的复兴,而且是一种政治体制和核心价值相互支撑的新的政教传统的复兴,它必然是中华文明的伟大复兴。如果说中华文明曾经面临佛教的挑战而经由宋明理学实现了伟大复兴,从而将中华文明从华夏本土扩展到整个东亚,那么面对近代以来西方新教-自由主义的挑战,我们今天正在经历中华文明的再次伟大复兴,而这次伟大复兴必然意味着中华文明要扩展、辐射到世界上更大的范围。这无疑构成了中国人民在习近平时代最伟大的历史使命。


【注释】

①参见James C. Hsiung(eds.), The Xi Jinping Era: His Comprehensive Strategy Toward the China Dream, New York: CN Times Books Inc., 2015。

②习近平:《决胜全面建成小康社会 夺取新时代中国特色社会主义伟大胜利》,载本书编写组(编著):《党的十九大辅导读本》,北京:人民出版社2017年版,第10页。

③同上,第14—15页。

④同上,第17页。

⑤同上,第8页。

⑥同上,第10页。

⑦同上,第10—11页。

⑧同上,第56—57页。

⑨同上,第23页。

⑩同上,第58页。

11同上,第13页。

12同上,第15页。

13同上,第68页。

14同上,第16页。

15同上,第68页。

16同上,第15页。

17同上,第15页。

18同上,第19页。

19《中共中央关于全面推进依法治国若干重大问题的决定》(2014年10月23日中国共产党第十八届中央委员会第四次全体会议通过),人民网,http://cpc.people.com.cn/n/2014/1029/c64387-25927606.html,2017年12月29日访问。

20同注②,第20页。

21同注19。

22同注②,第38页


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Abstract

This text interprets the significance of the ‘Xi Jinping era’ in Party history, the history of the Republic, the history of Chinese civilisation, the history of the international Communist movement, and the history of mankind, from the perspective of the internal linkages between philosophy and history. In the modern era, the central narrative of Chinese history has been that of the Chinese people as masters of the nation, possessed of a spirit of struggle, unstintingly seeking out their own independent path to modernity. The ‘Chinese solution 中国方案’, which is the path to modernity created by socialism with Chinese characteristics of the new era, while learning from and absorbing the Western and the Soviet models, and taking Chinese culture as its base, has fashioned a new set of development concepts and theories that will serve as the contribution of ‘Chinese wisdom 中国智慧’ to the process of the modernisation of the civilisation of all mankind. Throughout this process, China has consistently confronted the question of the Sinification of Marxism. As a universal philosophical truth, Marxism must not only be integrated into the concrete practice of Chinese history but must also be merged with Chinese traditional culture. The Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era that has taken shape since the Eighteenth Party Congress employs the traditional Chinese ‘Learning of the Heart’ 心学 to re-enliven Communist ideas, and this accomplishment, together with the great revival of the Chinese nation, has constructed and consolidated the spiritual strength of the entire Party and people. In addition, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era uses modern legal thinking to perfect the Party’s leadership of the state, thus reactivating Chinese traditional political culture, and propelling national governance toward modernity. For this reason, I will argue that the great mission facing the Xi Jinping era is to construct the superstructure to be integrated into the market economy of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, which requires both devising new constitutional arrangements that will smooth relations between Party and state, while also building the core values of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

Keywords: ‘Xi Jinping Era’, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Chinese Solution for Modernisation, Sinification of Marxism

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On 18 October 2017, the Nineteenth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party opened smoothly in Beijing. Some media outlets proclaimed that the world had entered the ‘Chinese age’, because the fact that ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has entered a new era’ refers to a new era not only in China, but in the world at large. This new age has already been labeled the ‘Xi Jinping era’ by perceptive scholars in China and abroad.

If we want to understand the Xi Jinping era, we must first seriously study Xi’s great address to the Nineteenth Party Congress, ‘Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era 决胜全面建成小康社会,夺取新时代中国特色社会主义伟大胜利’.[11] At present, the media is circulating expert analyses and interpretations, focusing on the new concepts, viewpoints, ideas and measures pronounced in the speech, in the hopes that these will enter into the minds, speech and actions of all Party members and society at large, becoming the political consensus of the entire Party and the various peoples of the entire nation, bringing Party leadership into step with the people as an organic, unified active agent, thus realising the strategic challenges and magnificent plans of the Xi Jinping era. For this reason, Xi’s report to the Party Congress is the core text consolidating the people’s hearts in the new era and can even be seen as a political expression of how the CCP will respond to its historical mission over the next thirty years.

If we want to understand the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress, we must first understand the CCP. The CCP is a principle-driven political party that believes in Marxism. It is a collective vanguard whose historical mandate, revealed by Marxism, is pursued with commitment and a spirit of sacrifice. It is a highly secular, rational and organized organ of political action. For this reason, the Party’s first mission is to resolve the tension between philosophical truth and historical practice, to unite the universal philosophical truth of Marxism with the concrete, historical reality of China’s political life, producing lines, orientations and policies that can provide concrete guidance in practice. This process is one where theory guides practice and practice tests theory, and where practice allows for the evaluation, improvement, and creation of theory. This process of dialectical movement between theory and practice, philosophy and history, is precisely the ‘Sinification of Marxism’, which has created a long and rich intellectual tradition.[12] The Party’s new thought can only be understood, inherited, and carried forward when viewed within a tradition beginning with Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Important Thought of the ‘Three Represents’, Scientific Developmentalism, and Xi Jinping Thought for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era, revealed at the Nineteenth Party Congress.

The actual tradition to which this theory is linked is the Chinese philosophical tradition created by Confucius in the ‘Axial Age’, circa 500 B.C.E. Philosophical notions such as ‘study’ and ‘knowledge’ must be integrated with ideas of ‘practice’ and ‘action’ from concrete life practices, and only when we ‘study, and in due time practice what we study 学而时习之’, only with ‘the unity of knowledge and action 知行合一’ can we obtain true knowledge.[13] For this reason, the Chinese people feel that philosophy is not just ‘knowledge’ as understood in the Western metaphysical tradition as theories and research produced by academic scholars, but is instead something that reveals a historical mandate and consolidates the political consensus of the entire Party and people and which, for this reason, becomes a guide to action. One important reason why Westerners have difficulty understanding the theories of the CCP is that their way of philosophical thinking has been constrained by the metaphysical tradition of the West. They are accustomed to a logical process that proceeds from concept to concept, and hence cannot truly understand the Chinese philosophical tradition of the ‘unity of thought and action’. They cannot link up theoretical concepts with concrete historical practice, and cannot understand the unique interpretive strategies that the Chinese philosophical tradition has always employed. For this reason, if we wish to understand the Xi Jinping era announced by his great report to the Nineteenth Party Congress, as well as the historical mission of the Xi Jinping era and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era developed to accomplish this historical mission, then we must have not only a philosophical approach, but also, and more importantly, an historical approach. This great report to the Nineteenth Party Congress was written in such a way as to integrate philosophy and history, and thus to link universal philosophic reflections with concrete historical practice.

The historical positioning of the Xi Jinping era: from natural time to political time

From the point of view of my research, the great report at the Nineteenth Party Congress actually positions the Xi Jinping era in history in four ways.

First is its position in the history of the CCP and in the history of the PRC. The report clearly points out that: ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has entered a new age, meaning that the Chinese people, who have long suffered in the modern age, have now made a great leap, from standing up 站起来, to becoming rich 富起来, to becoming strong 强起来. ‘Standing up’, ‘getting rich’, and ‘becoming powerful’ are ways to divide the histories of our Party and our Republic, referring respectively to the Mao Zedong era, the Deng Xiaoping era, and the Xi Jinping era that we are currently entering. These divisions are not those understood by academic historians but must be analyzed from a political angle. Using historical divisions to express political thought is a basic method employed by traditional Chinese philosophy.

Western civilisation is built on a philosophical-theological tradition of binary antagonisms, between phenomenon and existence, life on earth and in heaven. In the Christian tradition, the ultimate goal and meaning of human existence comes from God in heaven, which is why the final goal of Western striving is to arrive at the realisation of various versions of the ‘end of history’. But in the tradition of Chinese civilisation, the worldly and otherworldly realms are not strictly separated, and are both absorbed in a complete world where heaven and mankind are one. The goal and meaning of life for Chinese people was not how to get into heaven, but rather how to locate a universal, lasting meaning within the historically existing ‘family-state universe 家国天下’. For this reason, Chinese people, and especially politicians, all sought to establish their name in history through professional achievements. And the goal of Chinese historians was not a simple research for objective facts, as emphasized by modern historians, but was rather a philosophical search for universal values and meaning in the factual record. Sayings like ‘the Six Classics are all histories 六经皆史’ and ‘the classics and history are one and the same 经史不分’ confirm this idea.

For this reason, the construction of legitimacy in the Chinese political order must first be a historical construction. The classical political order in China began with the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors [roughly the third millennium BCE] and the reigns of Yao, Shun and Yu [who ruled during this period], and the reason that those who won power and ruled called themselves ‘emperor’ was because they hoped to obtain political legitimacy from the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors as they worked to establish a new regime. But modern political order must be constructed on the basic of China’s modern history since 1840. For this reason, China’s political disagreements often also begin from differences in historical narratives. In the past few years, theoretical innovations that we have seen in China in fields like the New Qing History, the history of the Republican Revolution, the history of the Republic, and in Party history have all to different degrees contained veiled political demands.[15] Hence, the periodisations applied to Party history and Republican history and the historical positions accorded to the Party and to national leaders, and to the construction of the Chinese political order, are all extremely important. These historical periodisations constitute the most basic principles of Chinese political life at the deepest level. The preface to China’s Constitution begins with an historical narrative, and each time that there are theoretical advances in or revisions to the Party Charter, this requires changes to the preface to the Constitution, which undoubtedly signals the transformation of basic political principles into the basic principles of the nation in terms of the fundamental law. For this reason, all reports to the Party Congress start with the history of the Party and the history of the country. They discuss the development of and changes to the Party’s line, principles and policies, adjusting the periodisation as necessary. This is the dialectical relationship between inheritance and tradition in the Party’s theoretical tradition.

Beginning with the report to the Fourteenth Party Congress, a new style of periodisation was employed, based on generational politics 代际政治, respectively recounting the historical contributions made by the first generation of the central leadership collective with Mao as the core Party leader, and the second generation of the central leadership collective with Deng Xiaoping as core Party leader. Subsequently, the reports to the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Party Congresses took this a step further in their discussion of ‘the first generation of the central leadership collective with Comrade Mao Zedong as the core Party leader’, ‘the second generation of the central leadership collective with Comrade Deng Xiaoping as core Party leader’, ‘the third generation of the central leadership collective with Comrade Jiang Zemin as core Party leader’. The use of this generational political historical periodisation grew out of the special background attached to the events of 1989, and it was effective in consolidating Party Secretary Jiang Zemin’s authority within the Party and in preserving the continuity and stability of the policy of Reform and Opening. It was the prolonged development ushered in by this political and policy stability that allowed China to carry out the historical transformation from the ‘China has stood up’ of the Mao Zedong era to the ‘China has become rich’ of the Deng Xiaoping era.

The Chinese people readily accept generational politics. For one thing, Chinese Confucian culture emphasises the hierarchy of relationships between elder and younger, and to a great degree affirms the objective political results achieved over the natural passage of time. For this reason, generational politics is beneficial to political stability. In addition, this generational change neatly accords with the lengths of the mandates accorded to national leaders by the Constitution, and objectively constitutes a political situation requiring generational change. But the history of humanity does not respect the divisions of natural time. Political life by its very nature is not natural, but man-made, and history is ultimately produced by human beings. Historical time is absolutely not the natural time of Newtonian physics but is instead political time as created by people, and even the way we periodise history is a product of politics. Indeed, it is precisely because of different time periods referring to historical missions and meanings developed out of political processes that we have the distinction between ancient and modern times, or ‘since 1840’, ‘since 1949’, ‘since the period of Reform and Opening’. One might say that generational politics based on natural time cannot easily become the basic form of the construction of political time. For example, illustrious figures in Chinese political history like founding emperors Qinshihuang (秦始皇, r.247-220 BCE), Han Wudi (汉武帝, r.141-87 BCE), Tang Taizong (唐太宗, r.626-649 CE) or Song Taizu (宋太祖, r.960-976 CE) did not achieve their place in history because of their generational position but instead because of the historical space they opened up through their actions. It was their own political efforts that created political time, which later became references as people established historical divisions.

Even more important is the fact that generational politics can easily be misunderstood, as they can give the impression that the political authority of every generation of leadership is handed down or inherited from the previous generation. In fact, in the case of the CCP, the political authority of every generation of political leadership comes from their belief in Marxism and from the power bequeathed to them by the people of the entire nation. It is a legitimacy grounded in an historical mission and the support of the people. Should we confuse the source of legitimacy it would undoubtedly diminish our Communist ideals and convictions and the political confidence that these ideals and convictions represent the interests of the people and the state. It would weaken the Party’s political authority at a basic level. For this reason, the report presented at the Nineteenth Party Congress no longer employs the natural time of generational politics to construct the history of the CCP, but instead approaches the question from the perspective of historical mission, and opens a new political space on the basis of a specially determined political time period, dividing the history of the CCP into the three stages of ‘standing up’, ‘getting rich’, and ‘becoming strong’, and on this basis sums up the great contributions made by the Party leading the whole nation and its people in each stage. In fact, this style of narrating political time is a style of historical narration used by many Party congresses in their reports. For example, the report of the Fifteenth Party Congress (1997) used three historical periods—the Republican Revolution, the founding of New China, and the period of Reform and Opening—to position Deng Xiaoping Theory, thus clarifying that Deng Xiaoping, like Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong, was a founder of the Republic.

For this reason, the report of the Nineteenth Party Congress does not directly employ the historical narrative style of the report to the Eighteenth Party Congress, choosing instead a narrative style that combines classics and history, or that uses history to explain the classics, using three examples of ‘deep awareness’ to periodise CCP history.[15] The first stage in this periodisation was from 1921, when the CCP was founded, through 1949, when New China was established and the CCP completed the nation-building mission of the democratic revolution, ‘realizing the great leap from thousands of years of feudal autocratic politics to popular democracy’. The second period was from 1949 and the founding of New China, through 1978 and the policy of Reform and Opening, in which a unified CCP led the people to accomplish the transformation from ‘standing up’ to ‘getting rich’, or in other words, ‘establishing an advanced social system corresponding to our country’s conditions, completing the broadest and deepest social change in the history of the Chinese people, providing the basic political preconditions and institutional basis for all of the developments and progress in contemporary China, and accomplishing a great leap in which the Chinese people, who had been continually backward in modern history, changed their fate, and steadfastly moved toward prosperity, wealth and power’. The third phase was from 1978 and the policy of Reform and Opening, through the opening of the Nineteenth Party Congress, when our Party ‘followed the tide of the times, responded to the wishes of the people, and had the courage to reform and open up; and this awareness created a powerful force for advancing the cause of the Party and the people. Our Party embarked on the path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Thus was China able to stride ahead to catch up with the times’. This accomplished the historical transformation from ‘getting rich’ to ‘becoming powerful’.

It was precisely the internal necessity of such political logic that propelled the history of the CCP to this fourth period. The report to the Nineteenth Party Congress clearly proclaims that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has entered a new era, which will extend from the date of the Nineteenth Party Congress to China’s 100-year anniversary, during which time will be realised the modernisation of socialism and the great revival of the Chinese nation. To realise this great strategic objective, the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress systematically develops Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and carries out comprehensive, systematic planning regarding the overall mission of the new era, its development strategy, main social contradictions, general and strategic development stages, and concrete work requirements. The planning contains both philosophical concepts as well as political principles, mission goals and overall steps, strategic points of emphasis and systematic plans, long-term developmental goals and five-year work deployments. All of this constitutes an overall strategy for building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the new era. It is the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and the national governance plan constructed on the basis of that ideology, that will propel socialism with Chinese characteristics into a new historical period, and thus open up a new political space.

The construction of political time: correctly understanding the positioning of a leader in history

The report to the Nineteenth Party Congress puts forward Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and systematically discusses the strategy for governing the country and organizing politics in the new era, and on this basis, China enters what scholars understand as the Xi Jinping era. Thought, strategy and era together constitute a trinity, but the core element is thought. One can say that it is Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era that gives birth to the strategy leading to the realisation of the modernisation of socialism and the great revival of the Chinese nation, and it is precisely this governance strategy, in its concrete implementation in history, that has propelled socialism with Chinese characteristics into the new era. For this reason, the Xi Jinping era does not appear automatically as a part of natural time but is created by diligent struggle of the entire Party, the entire country and the entire people, under the leadership of the Party center with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core.

When we look back at the relatively long period before the report to the Eighteenth Party Congress, we see that there were political forces, inside the Party and out, that hoped to pit the Deng Xiaoping era against the Mao Zedong era, that hoped to use the Reform and Opening line created by Deng Xiaoping to negate the socialist system established during the Mao Zedong era, and that advocated undertaking subversive reforms of the political system following the economic reforms, even proclaiming that if such ‘reforms of the political system’ were not undertaken, then the economic reforms might well be reversed, and the results of the economic reforms could not be guaranteed. The goals of their so-called ‘reforms of the political system’, it goes without saying, were to gradually weaken and eventually eliminate the leadership of the Party on the basis of a separation of Party and government and to bring about a Western democratic system.

Given this background, and in the face of the unequal development and increasing disparities in wealth appearing in the process of Reform and Opening, and especially the appearance that capitalist forces were wantonly monopolising the people’s wealth, the common people began to feel nostalgia for the Mao Zedong era, which led some people to turn things around and to try to use the Mao Zedong era to negate the Deng Xiaoping era and the policy of reform and opening. In the words of the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress, China at the time faced a double crisis: one was to repeat the errors of following the ‘heterodox path of changing banners’ 改旗易帜的邪路 that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the other was to return to the ‘old path of feudal stagnation’ 封闭僵化的老路 from the period before Reform and Opening.

At a moment of historical crisis, Xi Jinping assumed the position of General Secretary of the CCP and adopted a series of effective measures, especially those of governing the Party with sternness and fully suppressing corruption, which can be said to have turned the tide. In the evaluation of many, this reaction in a moment of crisis saved the Party and the state and saved Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. The evaluation of these five years in the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress is that these were ‘an extraordinary five years’ 不平凡的五年, five years that contained ‘an historical change:’ ‘We have solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda but never resolved and accomplished many things that were wanted but never got done. With this, we have brought about historic shifts in the cause of the Party and the country’. It was the historical nature of the achievements of these five years that established the foundation for the position of leadership authority that Xi Jinping achieved as core leader.

In terms of Weberian theory, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s position as the core of the Party center, the core of the entire Party, his authoritative position as leader, arises not only from the ‘legal authority’ obtained by virtue of his legally defined positions as Party Secretary, National Chairman, Chairman of the Central Military Committee and not even from the ‘traditional authority’ born of the Party’s historical tradition. More important is the fact that Xi Jinping, at a particular moment in history, courageously took up the political responsibility of the historical mission, and in the face of an era of historical transformation of the entire world, demonstrated the capacity to construct the great theory facilitating China’s development path, as well as the capacity to control complicated domestic and international events, thus consolidating the hearts and minds of the entire Party and the people of the entire country, hence becoming the core leader praised by the entire Party, the entire army and the entire country, possessing a special ‘charismatic power’.

After the Eighteenth Party Congress, Xi Jinping clearly noted that the thirty years before Reform and Opening and the thirty years after Reform and Opening could not be seen as mutually contradictory. In addition, both the Party’s political beliefs and the political principle that ‘the Party leads everything’ dictate that the two thirty-year periods be linked together, as was done in the Party’s report to the Nineteenth Party Congress, which presents Party history and PRC history as an integrated, continuous history of development. In the process of this historical development, leadership undoubtedly played an important role in pushing history forward. In the early period of Reform and Opening, there were a few people who wanted to completely repudiate Mao Zedong, but Deng Xiaoping resolutely opposed these proposals, clearly pointing out that ‘Had there been no Comrade Mao Zedong, at the very least our Chinese people would have groped in the dark for a much longer period’. And it was under Deng Xiaoping’s guidance that the Party center arrived at an objective evaluation of Mao Zedong’s contributions and failures.[16] In the same way, in the absence of Reform and Opening and the modern reconstruction pushed forward by Deng Xiaoping, China could not have risen so quickly, carrying out the historical leap from ‘standing up’ to ‘getting rich’.

For this reason, the Xi Jinping era did not occur naturally, but was created by leaders leading people. Leaders rely on political parties, and political parties are rooted in the people; leaders, political parties, and the masses interact in a healthy manner. This is both an important aspect of Marxist-Leninist organisation and the result of the experience of Chinese history. But in the recent past, the construction of China’s rule of law gradually fell into the erroneous zone of Western concepts in the process of studying the Western rule of law, and consciously or not, the notions of ‘rule of law’ 法治 and ‘rule of man’ 人治 came to be seen as antagonistic. We overly fetishized legal dogma and institutional reforms and came to understand the rule of law simplistically as a machine in which rules functioned automatically, overlooking the fact that if we want to use ‘good laws’ to carry out ‘good governance’ then we need good social culture and moral values to systematically support the effective functioning of legal regulations and institutions. The rule of law and the rule of man are not completely opposed to one another but are complementary. A society governed by the rule of law cannot ignore the need to provide people with ideals and beliefs and a moral education. It cannot ignore the positive role played by moral values and a healthy social climate in governance, nor can it ignore the key historical function of leaders and great people, political parties and the masses.

In the annals of human history, what has always played a determining role in the unfolding of history is people, because the history of mankind was itself created by people, and good institutions require people to administer them. One important reason that Western thinkers are continually examining the flaws in the Western democratic system is that these democratic institutions are corrupting human nature. This is especially true in competitive elections controlled by money and the mass media, which have reduced ‘democracy’ to mere ‘elections’. This kind of system will find it difficult to produce politicians who can genuinely represent the people. It will instead easily produce glorified lobbyists at the beck and call of various interest groups. It was on the basis of conclusions about the history and experience of humanity that, since the Eighteenth Party Congress, the Party center has carried out correctives to the plans underway since the policy of reform and opening with regard to building the rule of law. This corrective merged the Party leadership with the entire process of construction of a socialist rule of law, not only pointing out that ‘ruling the country through morality’ and ‘ruling the country through law’ are mutually supporting principles of governance, but also bringing Party rules and Party discipline that are under the control of the Party constitution into the system of governance of socialism with Chinese characteristics, firmly laying the foundation of the legal basis for the Party leading the people in governing the country.

Communism and the great revival of the Chinese nation

The second positioning of the Xi Jinping era accomplished in the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress is its positioning within the history of Chinese civilisation.

Chinese civilisation once realised the greatest accomplishments of the agricultural era of human history, and, through the commercial relations facilitated by the land-based and the maritime Silk Roads, exchanged with and learned from Western civilisation. When the West fell into the dark period of the Middle Ages, Europeans in search of trade with Asia accidentally discovered the new American continent, which gave rise to the age of European imperialism throughout the world. According to the view of America’s ‘California scholars’, prior to the Eighteenth century, China was at the very least the center of the world economy.[17] At the time, Chinese culture was the envy of the West, and China’s prosperity was an important force creating globalization. Yet since 1840, modern China has experienced humiliation and misery. From the Self-Strengthening Movement through the 1898 Reforms and the 1911 Revolution, countless brave souls continually sought out the path for the renewal of the nation, but without success. Only in 1921, with the founding of the CCP, did the history of the Chinese people experience a fundamental transformation.

As a Marxist political party, the highest political ideal of the CCP has always been to bring about the arrival of communism. But in the actual history of the efforts to achieve that highest ideal, there emerged within the Party from the very beginning a struggle between two revolutionary lines. One was to ‘take Russia as our master’, and thus to position the Chinese revolution within the global picture of the international Communist movement, blindly copying the revolutionary line of Soviet Russia. The other line was rooted in the soil of China, and positioned the Chinese revolution within modern Chinese history, aiming to create a new revolutionary line based on Chinese realities. During the anti-Japanese War, this contradiction became the question of whether to prioritize class struggle or national struggle. After the Wayaobao 瓦窑堡 meeting in December 1935, when the theory was put forth that the CCP could contain ‘two vanguards’, representing both the working classes and the Chinese people as a whole, the political ideology of the CCP evolved toward the organic unity of communism and nationalism, which initiated the gradual unfolding of the Sinification of Marxism.

After the founding of New China, the CCP drew on its belief in the ideals of socialism and communism to engineer a comprehensive social mobilization, which released a great political force to establish the institutional basis for the People’s Republic. But after the ‘Cultural Revolution’, China fell into an unprecedented crisis of confidence. In the face of this, Deng Xiaoping used the theory of the early period of socialism to project communism into a more distant future, and also brought forth the ‘theory of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. Yet because people in general lacked the support of a genuine spiritual belief in this theory, the values of Western capitalism took advantage of the situation and rapidly came to dominate society, which provoked a political firestorm.

It was against this background that Jiang Zemin 江泽民 (b. 1926), in a talk at Harvard University in 1992, first used the slogan concerning the ‘great revival of the Chinese nation 中华民族的伟大复兴’, and shortly thereafter also proposed the concept of the ‘Three Represents’. The former consolidates the spiritual strength of the entire Party and the people of the entire nation via nationalism, and the latter allows the CCP to represent the political interests of newly arisen social strata, successfully avoiding the crisis of representativity that would occur if the Party could only represent the interests of workers and peasants. Later on, Hu Jintao 胡锦涛 (b. 1942) went a step further in offering his notion of the ‘advanced construction’ 先进性建设 of the Party, so as to avoid the situation where the CCP would lose confidence in its ideals and become an interest-group political Party whose goal was the simple harmonization of various interests, avoiding becoming the ‘Party of the whole people 全民党’ like that of the former Soviet Union. One could say that in the process of the development of the theory of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, launching the slogan ‘the great revival of the Chinese nation’ was a key shift. From the perspective of the history of Chinese civilisation, the great revival of the Chinese nation means that China is following the Shang-Zhou period, the Qin-Han period, the Tang-Song period, and the Ming-Qing period and is entering into the fifth period of overall revival. The brilliant political imagination of thousands of years of Chinese civilisation successfully fills the spiritual vacuum left by the weakening of the Communist vision. This nationalist political confidence has become an important spiritual force consolidating the entire Party and the people of the entire nation; this national self-confidence and feeling of pride are beneficial to China’s political stability and have propelled China’s economy through its rapid rise. After the Eighteenth Party Congress, Xi Jinping went a step further and raised the great revival of the Chinese nation to the level of the ‘China Dream’ 中国梦, providing the Chinese people with a future vision of an ideal life.

Of course, if we lack the guidance of the higher ideals and faith of Communism and rely only on the great revival of the Chinese nation, then China might well lose its way. From the perspective of international relations, simplistic nationalist slogans can easily provoke nationalist reactions and worries in other countries, particularly countries close to China. This is why the Western ‘China threat’ theory is so attractive. Westerners often start out from their own historical experience as a hegemon and interpret the great revival of the Chinese nation as a restoration of China’s historical suzerainty in East Asia, thus seeing China’s rise as a challenge to Western hegemony. America’s ‘pivot to Asia’ and her attacks on China on questions related to the East China Sea and the South China Sea use this as an excuse. Western scholars always wrongly see China’s rise as a replay of Germany’s challenge to English hegemony, or the Soviet Union’s challenge to the United States, and have begun to pay attention to what they call the ‘Thucydides trap’.[18] What ‘One Belt One Road’ proposes is a new concept and structure for ‘negotiating, building and sharing together’ on the basis of promoting global free trade, that will recreate the prosperity and stability that the commerce between East and West during the era of the ‘Silk Road’ produced. But in the world-view of Western hegemony, the propositions of ‘One Belt One Road’ have been understood as a regional political strategy worthy of Halford Mackinder and Alfred Thayer Mahan.[19] They use this to sow discord between China and the countries involved in ‘One Belt, One Road’, in the hopes of containing China’s development.

From the perspective of China’s internal politics, the great revival of the Chinese nation is not necessarily in contradiction with Western liberal democratic systems. China’s liberals have seen new political possibilities in this, which has resulted in divisions within the liberal ranks, in which one group has begun to adjust its strategy, seeing their past fetishisation of individual rights and free markets, and their consequent opposition to the nation and the people, as a kind of political immaturity. This group has hastened to embrace the rise of the nation as a political subject. This has spurred the development of the ‘big country group’ 大国派, which argues that only by adopting a liberal democratic constitution can we truly carry out the great revival of the Chinese nation. For them, the English and American constitutions must become the model for the rise of Chinese politics, while the failures of Germany and the former Soviet Union serve as negative lessons for China’s rise. At the same time, a group of cultural conservatives has also emerged with the launching of the slogan of the great revival of the Chinese nation. They have developed into a kind of ‘revive antiquity group’ 复古派 and advocate the ‘Confucianisation of the Party’, denying the historical accomplishments of the nationalist revolution led by the CCP in terms of equality, and going so far as to negate the May Fourth Movement and the Republican Revolution. In this context, the dregs of feudal restorationist thought have floated to the top, joining together with commercial capital and cultural capital, hoping that these feudal relationships and interests will penetrate the Party. One could say that these two streams of political thought have joined together with liberal thinking about the so-called ‘reform of political institutions’ to present a challenge to the political authority of the CCP’s leadership of the country and to the political system. In this context, Xi Jinping’s renewed insistence on Communist ideals and beliefs has determined the highest ideals and beliefs and the final developmental direction of the great revival of the Chinese nation.

Both utopianism and communism are ideas that trace their origins to the Western civilisational tradition. It was Christianity’s historical conception of linear time that changed the classical view of time as cyclical. This not only planted the seeds of utopian thought that imagined a beautiful future, but also introduced the notion of the development of social progress in Western theory. For this reason, Western scholars believe that Christian salvationist theology and views of historical progress in modern theory are part of the same genealogy, and some attribute the rise of communism to Christian Gnosticism. This is why Marxism can be read as a secular version of determinism. But Marx consistently emphasised that ‘communism’ must be transformed from utopianism into a scientific socialism, which meant that communism had to be realised in real life, becoming a concrete state of life subject to testing, in which ‘communism’ would become a ‘communist society’ in a truly scientific sense. If we say that in Marx’s time, socialism had not yet been built, meaning that communism could only be a distant philosophical notion, then after Soviet Russia and China built socialist countries, the ‘time table’ and the ‘route map’ for the realisation of communist society became more accessible. Communism now confronts the challenge of being transformed from a philosophical concept to a ‘communist society’ with concrete institutions and structures. Whether in the case of Lenin’s fantasy of ‘Soviet power plus electrification’ or Mao Zedong’s imagining of eating from the ‘community pot’ in the period of the People’s Communes, ideals, once they descend into the world, lose their original lustre. It was precisely the inner tension between communism as a philosophical concept and the construction of a communist society in a genuinely scientific manner that led Mao Zedong to begin to wonder about basic philosophical questions such as whether communist society was a contradiction in terms. It is like the ‘pursuit of the millennium’ in Christianity, in which God’s return to earth can only be repeatedly pushed forward. If we really were to experience God’s judgement here on earth, Christianity might also lose some of its lustre.

What we must pay particular attention to is the fact that when Xi Jinping emphasises a return to Communist principles, he is not talking about the ‘communist society’ that was of a piece with scientific socialism but is instead using the idea that ‘those who do not forget their original intention 初心 will prevail’, drawn from traditional Chinese culture. In so doing, he removes communism from the specific social setting of the Western empirical scientific tradition, and astutely transforms it into the Learning of the Heart in Chinese traditional philosophy, which in turn elevates communism to a kind of ideal faith or a spiritual belief. For this reason, communism will never again be like it was under Mao Zedong—something that was meant to take on a real social form in the here and now—but is instead the Party’s highest ideal and faith. It has become part of Party education and Party cultivation, the ‘Learning of the Heart’ of the CCP. Communism is not only a concrete society to be realized in the distant future but is also the highest ideal that will be absorbed into current political practice, a vibrant spiritual state. Communism is not only a beautiful future life, but is also, and more importantly, the spiritual state of Communist Party members in their practice of political life. In this way, communism merges with specific historical process and daily life as ideals and struggles. Precisely within the context of traditional Chinese culture, the understanding of this highest ideal is no longer that of Marx, who thought within the Western theoretical tradition; it is no longer in humanity’s Garden of Eden, ‘unalienated’ by the division of labor within society. Instead it is intimately linked to the ideal of ‘great unity under Heaven’ 天下大同 from the Chinese cultural tradition. The last section of the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress begins with the phrase ‘when the Way prevails, the world is shared by all’ 大道之行,天下为公, an ultimate ideal that encourages the entire Party and the people of the entire nation. And in the specific contents of the report we also find the passage, developed on the basis of the notion of ‘great unity under Heaven’ from China’s tradition, to the effect that ‘the young will have education, the students will have teachers, the workers will have remuneration, the sick will have doctors, the elderly will have care, those seeking housing will have housing, the weak will have support’.

For this reason, to return to the topic of ‘not forgetting original intentions’, in his 2016 speech commemorating the 95th birthday of the CCP, Xi Jinping used the term ‘original intentions’ to refer to the great ideals of communism, and in the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress he referred to ‘seeking the happiness of the Chinese people, seeking the revival of the Chinese nation’. The difference between the two is that, for the entire Party, the ‘July 1 address’, celebrating the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, is a highly philosophical intellectual reflection and a spiritual baptism, which is why he paid even more attention to the highest ideals of communism, and transformed them into the ‘Learning of the Heart’ for CCP members. By contrast, the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress is concerned more with the entire Party, with its mission in this stage of history, and with concrete strategies of governance, and hence he accords more attention to the great revival of the Chinese nation, a more pressing belief and goal, in which communism takes its place in the concrete work of Party-building as a core socialist value. We can say that Xi Jinping’s new reading of communist concepts is a model of the Sinification of Marxism in the new era, in which Marxism must not only be integrated into China’s current situation but must also be absorbed into Chinese culture. For this reason, communism’s highest spiritual pursuit and the realisation of the great revival of the Chinese nation are mutually supporting and complementary, and together have become the spiritual pillars through which Xi Jinping has consolidated the entire Party and the peoples of the entire nation.

It is precisely because of its faith in the ideals of communism that the great revival of the Chinese nation absolutely cannot return to China’s past, and instead must ‘renew an ancient country’. The great revival of the Chinese nation must be closely linked to the building of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. If we say that during the Deng Xiaoping era, the accent, in the slogan ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ was on ‘Chinese characteristics’, then in the Xi Jinping era the accent is on ‘socialism’, using socialism’s basic political principles to correct both the liberal and the conservative interpretations of the great revival of the Chinese nation. And this means that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics must once again assume a position within the world communist movement.

Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era: the Chinese solution for modernisation

The third positioning of the Xi Jinping era provided by the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress is within the history of the international Communist movement. The report especially points out that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has entered a new era, indicating that ‘scientific socialism is full of vitality in 21st century China, and that the banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is now flying high and proud for all to see’.

Marx and Engels advocated scientific socialism and promoted the communist movement in the world, and thus began the search for the road toward the modernisation of socialism. If we say that Marx and Engels were part of the first phase of socialist experimentation in Western Europe (i.e. the Paris Commune), then the second phase is the Soviet model based on the construction of socialism after the October Revolution, and the impact this had on the socialist camp. New China basically imitated the model of the URSS in the period immediately after its founding. From Deng Xiaoping’s initial exploration of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics through Xi Jinping’s further advocacy of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, this approach has continually matured and taken shape, and now firmly stands as the third phase in the search for the path toward the modernisation of socialism.

In fact, this phase began with Mao Zedong’s reflection on the Soviet model after 1956 and with his ‘On the Ten Great Relationships’, as China began to chart an independent developmental path toward the modernisation of socialism. Yet because of particular historical circumstances, the search for a Chinese path became the even more radical ‘Cultural Revolution’. Reform and Opening in fact returned to the road opened by the ‘On the Ten Great Relationships’, once again searching to build socialism with Chinese characteristics. When the Soviet path toward the modernisation of socialism completely failed, due to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, China lifted the great banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics onto the world stage, and it became a powerful competitor to Western capitalism as a model of development. Scholars have pointed out that if, at the outset, socialism saved China, now China has saved socialism.

What should be noted is that the concept first employed by Deng Xiaoping was ‘a socialism with Chinese characteristics’, which was also the central topic of the report of the 13th Party Congress (1987). The report of the Fourteenth Party Congress (1992) changed this to ‘Socialism, with Chinese Characteristics’. Beginning from the report of the Sixteenth National Congress, this became ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. On the face of it, this appears to be nothing but linguistic hair-splitting, but in fact, the changes reflect a profound political importance. The first two expressions take for granted that a fundamental ‘socialism’ exists, the socialism defined by the works of Marx and Lenin and by the practice of the Soviet Union, and that we had only added a few ‘Chinese characteristics’ to the basic socialist framework. But the idea of ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ means that socialism does not really have a fundamental developmental model, and instead consists of a handful of basic principles and ideas. These principles and ideas must be continually explored and developed in practice following the advance of time. ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ is not adding Chinese characteristics to an already defined ‘socialist framework’. Rather, it uses China’s lived experience to explore and define what, in the final analysis, ‘socialism’ is. For this reason, ‘socialism’ is not ossified dogma, but instead an open concept awaiting exploration and definition. China is not blindly following socialist ideas and institutions produced by the Western experience of socialism, but rather is charting the socialist developmental path on the basis of a greater self-confidence, taking the project of the modernisation of socialist construction to its third phase. For this reason, the report of the Eighteenth National Congress correctly talked about ‘self-confidence in the path’, ‘self-confidence in the theory’, and ‘self-confidence in the institutions’ involved in the construction of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. The reason that China has become increasingly self-confident and emboldened in its search for the path toward the modernisation of socialism has to do with the depths of the Chinese cultural tradition. It was precisely Chinese culture that infused the idea of ‘communism’ with new spiritual capacity, opening a new path to the modernisation of socialism, and encouraging all developing countries to open their own paths to modernisation. For this reason, the report to the Nineteenth National Congress added ‘cultural self-confidence’ to the other three, so that now there are ‘four self-confidences’.

Once we adopt the perspective of the international communist movement, the positioning of the Xi Jinping era can no longer be limited to Party history, the history of the republic or the history of Chinese civilisation. It enters the history of world civilisation through the international Communist movement. This means that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics must achieve universal recognition throughout the entire world.

The history of world civilisation is the history of the different countries and peoples throughout the world moving from tradition to modernity. In this process of transformation, the United States and certain Western European countries led the way in carrying out the transition to modernity. This led them to colonise other countries and peoples, forcing these countries and peoples to choose the Western model. Over the course of the Nineteenth century, Germany was the first to initiate the search for a path to modernisation that was different from the capitalism of England and the United States, a model that was later dubbed ‘state capitalism’. After Germany’s defeat in the two world wars, the challenge of the German model to the Anglo-American model failed. In the 20th century, the Soviet model posed the second challenge to the Western capitalist route to modernity, setting forth its own Soviet-style socialist route to modernity, and in so doing changed the world configuration. Late-developing countries like the USSR and China transformed themselves overnight from backward, feudal, agricultural countries to world superpowers, clearly illustrating the internal superiority of the socialist path. Yet the challenge of the Soviet model failed with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Western capitalism led by the United States seemed to usher in a worldwide victory and launched a campaign of ‘globalisation’ based on the Western model. For this reason, for some Western thinkers, the Western path to modernisation had become the only universal truth, and world history had entered the phase of the ‘end of history’. In the eyes of other thinkers, however, while globalisation superficially led to ‘the end of the history’, in reality the end of history produced conflicts resulting in a ‘clash of civilisations’.[20] This notion replaced the ideology of the Cold War, and the civilisation of mankind risked a return to the premodern dark ages.

In this international context, the construction of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics not only has great significance with respect to the great revival of the Chinese nation within the context of the history of Chinese civilisation, it also possesses great significance with respect to the search for the future of the civilisation of humanity at large. Whether Chinese civilisation can make a new contribution to all of mankind depends, to a great degree, on whether Chinese civilisation can search out a new path to modernisation for humanity’s development. This is especially true in the case of late-developing countries: can they shake off the dependency imposed on them by capitalist modernity and break through the cultural conflicts and difficulties that they face in current world divisions? It was precisely in this sense that the report of the Nineteenth National Congress clearly positioned the Xi Jinping era within the history of world civilisation: ‘It offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence; and it offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind’.

During the Deng Xiaoping era, the goal of the exploration of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics was to understand how to solve China’s own development issues, and to avoid being ‘left behind’ by the tide of globalisation. The realities of this historical juncture led China to ‘hide its light under a bushel’ 韬光养晦 in the international system for some time. But following China’s rise to become the world’s second economy, China now stands at the center of the world stage and cannot ignore its obligations to the rest of the world by concentrating solely on her own fate. China must recalibrate its relations with the world, linking the construction of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics together with the development of the entire world, actively joining in the governance of the world, taking up her responsibilities to all of humanity. To accomplish this, since the Eighteenth Party Congress, Xi Jinping has devoted himself to pushing forward the transformation of Chinese politics, economics and thought, clearly pointing out the necessity of building a new system of international governance on the ‘principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration’ 共商共建共享的全球治理观. This notion of ‘achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration’ traces its roots to ‘the world belongs to all’ 天下为公 thought from Chinese traditional culture, as well as from notions of harmony as expressed in the saying ‘harmony without uniformity’ 和而不同. All of this is without a doubt the contribution of Chinese wisdom to all of mankind.

In the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress, the word ‘contribution’ appears eleven times, the most in any such Party report in history. And the reason that the CCP takes its ‘contribution’ to humanity as its own guide to action is precisely to prove that the great revival of the Chinese people is not nationalistic, but cosmopolitan. One root of this cosmopolitan spirit is in the Confucian universalistic (tianxia 天下) tradition, as we see when the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress invokes the notion of ‘when the Way prevails, tianxia is shared by all’ 大道之行,天下为公; another root is the communist belief in the liberation of all of humanity. The report to the Nineteenth Party Congress especially points out that ‘the Communist Party of China strives for both the well-being of the Chinese people and human progress. To make new and greater contributions for mankind is our Party’s abiding mission’.

Historically, Chinese civilisation made fundamental, important contributions to the development of civilisation in East Asia and throughout the world. Since the modern era, although China’s democratic revolution and socialist path have made important contributions to the liberation of oppressed peoples, these contributions were basically a result of choices and decisions made in the face of the Western model of modernization. But one of the reasons why we now emphasize the great revival of the Chinese nation and the historical importance of this revival is that we hope to integrate the various accomplishments of Western civilisation with the Chinese civilisational tradition, and create a new path to modernization, thus paving a foundational path for the civilisation of mankind as it moves from tradition to modernity. While many scholars propose the ‘Chinese model’ as being distinct from the ‘Western model’, Xi Jinping in his July 1, 2016 talk commemorating the founding of the CCP chose instead ‘Chinese wisdom’ and the ‘Chinese solution’. The very choice of these concepts illustrated Chinese wisdom, because a truly universal tianxia theory can contain within it varied developmental models. In fact, the ‘five basic principles of peaceful coexistence’ long upheld by the New China, and the traditional Chinese cultural notion that ‘the righteous king does not seek to rule people beyond the reach of law and civilisation’ 王者不治化外之民 are part of a shared vision. Historically, China never forced its culture on neighboring countries, and the reason that China’s culture has such deep roots that have continually developed and radiated outward, is because China respected the culture of neighboring countries and was good at adopting the positive points of those cultures for her own continual improvement, in such a manner providing a model posture and attracting the study and emulation of neighboring countries and regions.

For this reason, the ‘Chinese solution’ means that China absolutely will not force its development model on other countries as the West has done, but will instead provide a set of development principles, ideas and methods, allowing other countries to seek out a suitable development path in accordance with their own national character. In the same way, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, as the Chinese solution to modernisation, will not seek to mount a full-scale challenge to supplant the Western capitalist model, as did the Soviet model of socialism. In a world led by Western hegemony, proposing a ‘Chinese solution’ will naturally encounter opposition, contradictions and conflicts, but China will absolutely not take the initiative to provoke a new Cold War, because China consistently respects the development model of all counties, and continues to study and profit from the reasonable achievements of other models, hence enriching and bringing to perfection China’s own development. The report to the Nineteenth Congress clearly points out that we must ‘promote the creative transformation of China’s excellent traditional culture, creating a new development’, and we must ‘not forget our original intention, absorb elements from the outside, and face the future’. For just this reason, facing the regional and civilisational conflicts provoked by the Western advocacy of ‘the end of history’, China will, despite its rise, continue to maintain a low-key stance of restraint and avoidance of pacts, and in the course of the unfolding international events will never first choose sides on the basis of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological disagreements.

China will always adopt a pragmatic attitude and in the face of conflict do its utmost to preserve excellent commercial, political and cultural relations, all the while striving to provide public goods such as infrastructure, transportation and the Internet to the rest of the world, especially to developing countries. China’s wisdom of ‘principled avoidance of conflict’ will quietly change the world, in the course of which China will truly display a sort of cultural self-confidence and political maturity. For this reason, in distinction to the search for world hegemony that followed the rise of Germany, the USSR, and the United States, China has in fact upheld a kind of ‘Chinese exceptionalism’ throughout its rise. This exceptionalism neatly underscores the difference between Chinese and Western culture which is that while Western culture consistently attempts to arrive at the resolution of any antagonism in favor of one of the original positions, Chinese culture consistently seeks to find the unity within the antagonism, which results in a pluralism based on ideas of harmony. For this reason, the ambition of the ‘Chinese solution’ is precisely to absorb all positive elements from throughout the world from its basis in Chinese civilisation and tradition, and thereafter to promote the modern transformation of Chinese civilisation and tradition, ultimately creating a new order for human civilisation that both transcends and absorbs Western civilisation.

From this perspective, both the Nineteenth century German and the 20th century Soviet challenges to the Western development path were ultimately divergences from within Western civilisation. All of these are ‘end of history’ developmental models based on the Christian tradition. Only the ‘Chinese solution’ that we are currently building is a new developmental path truly constructed on the basis of the history and tradition of Chinese civilisation. If we say that from the beginning of the modern era through the Deng Xiaoping era, the main mission of China’s modernisation was to learn from and digest the achievements of Western capitalist modernity and socialist modernisation, then the ‘Chinese solution’ to modernisation engineered in the Xi Jinping era clearly seeks to transform this study and absorption into the rebirth of traditional civilisation, and hence create a developmental path to modernity different from that of Western civilisation. This means not only the end to the global political landscape of Western civilisation’s domination since the age of great discoveries, but also means breaking the global dominance of Western civilisation in the past 500 years in the cultural sense, and hence ushering in a new era in human civilisation. In the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress, this new era is described as follows: ‘We should respect the diversity of civilisations. In handling relations among civilisations, let us replace estrangement with exchange, clashes with mutual learning, and superiority with coexistence’. This clearly begins from the standpoint of Chinese civilisation, negates the two Western post-Cold War civilisational development paths of ‘the end of history’ and the ‘clash of civilisations’, and paints a new portrait of the development of the civilisation of mankind.

Master and Slave: the origins of Western philosophical subjectivity[21]

The report to the Nineteenth Congress takes as its chronological axis the 5000 years of the history of the civilisation of the Chinese people, and as its spatial axis the challenge of Western civilisation to Chinese civilisation since the Opium War, and narrates the ‘glorious epic’ acted out by generation after generation of Chinese people on this great historical stage. The history of this chronological and spatial context formed the starting point for the development of modern Chinese history.

The Chinese classical cultural tradition constituted a universal tianxia order throughout the East Asian world, and hence built an ancient system of international law, alongside those of the Islamic world and the Western world: the tribute system. The tianxia order and the tribute system made up a universal system of diversity within unity, capable of absorbing different peoples, cultures and religious beliefs, which enabled the Chinese people to maintain a high level of cultural independence and agency. But following the Western-led effort to accomplish the transformation to modernity and the imposition of capitalist modernity, non-Western countries, faced with unfeeling Western capitalism and the naked violence of colonialism, were either destroyed, colonised, or forced to abandon their own country’s cultural traditions and completely accept Western cultural beliefs and lifestyles, in the process becoming dependent on the West. This was the modern fate delivered to China at gunpoint by the West since 1840: either accept ‘the extinction of the nation and the people’, or, like Japan, take the path of complete Westernisation and become a coloniser and enslave other countries. On the basis of a systematic criticism of the capitalist development path, Marx proposed the ideals of communism and the socialist development path, and in so doing thoroughly upheld the principle of equality for all oppressed peoples and nations. This socialist development path first achieved initial success in Russia, which displaced the process of modernisation from a Western-centered capitalist phase to an Asian-centered socialist phase (the Soviet Union and China). Hence, it was the victory of the October Revolution and the transmission of Marxism into China that opened up a different path to modernity for the Chinese people.

From a superficial perspective, Western capitalism and Soviet socialism, as two different development paths to modernity, were two institutional models and development strategies chosen by the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the two classes leading the modernisation process. However, behind this in fact were two choices of existential values: the choice between untrammelled theft and peaceful coexistence, the choice between dependence on the West and independence and sovereignty. For the Chinese people, this is a basic choice between two personalities, national characters and spiritual lifestyles, a choice between being part of the Way and being someone’s tool.[22] It’s like when two people fight. Some people, when they lose, give up completely. They grovel in defeat and become submissive, like a little brother or a hired thug. Other people, even if they lose, refuse to admit it but instead fight back and eventually defeat their opponent. The former has an easy life but lacks dignity; the latter knows that to protect his dignity he will have to follow a difficult and painful path. In Western philosophy, these two personalities constitute the philosophical difference between master and slave.

Chinese traditional philosophical thought worshipped the idea of harmony expressed in the saying ‘the unity of heaven and man’ 天人合一. For this reason, Chinese people cannot completely understand the Western style of thinking that has produced subject and object, master and slave. In the modern era, what came in with the Western boats and cannons was precisely this so-called ‘philosophy of mastery’. In the past, we understood this philosophy of mastery as modern science that destroyed religious superstition and established the central importance of man, and that produced the opposition between subject and object that followed the objectification of the world through a scientific epistemology. For this reason, the modern Western philosophy of mastery is also seen as the philosophy of epistemology. This philosophy has an intimate link to Western political life.

The sprouts of the Western philosophy of mastery are found in ancient Greek philosophy. The idea that ‘man is the measure of all things’ defined his ruling position. But the ‘man’ in this picture must be situated in the concrete life of the Greek city-state. Political life in ancient Greece was built on the foundation of a master-slave relationship institutionalised in the slave system. Slaves were only ‘talking tools’, and hence were not ‘men’ but instead ‘things’. Only city-dwelling slave-owners could be free people and become citizens of the city-state and on that basis become ‘men’ in the philosophical sense. For this reason, in Western thought, master, free man, citizen, person and subject in fact all pointed to the same idea.

Following the Western age of discovery and the brutal territorial wars that accompanied the process of the construction of modern nation-state, Western philosophy argued that only independent people, only those who were willing to fight to the death for their own existence, possessed ‘the master personality’ and had the wherewithal to be a ‘master’, and only the rights possessed by this master could rise to the level of ‘sovereignty’. Hobbes, Hegel and Nietzsche, and Marx all understood the struggle for master status as the driving force behind historical development and progress. But only those sovereign persons who have recognised one another in the struggle can become equal subjects in international law and enter the club of international society. This was the beginning of the Westphalian system. From that point forward, regardless of whether it was the Congress of Vienna or the Paris Peace Conference, the Yalta Conference of the G8 Summit, all were products of this philosophy of mastery. Order was the result of the subject dominating the object, internal order was the result of class domination, and international order the result of the domination of power.

On the day that Marxism entered China it brought with it a new notion of the philosophy of mastery. This was the idea that the working class and the laboring masses were agents in a historical mission. Whether China was ultimately to follow a path to modernity dependent on the West, or instead seek out a path to modernity that conformed to China’s situation and that was independent and autonomous, this question, in philosophical terms, was whether China could ultimately be the master of its own fate and live in the forest of the world’s peoples with that posture. Politically, however, the question became whether the agency of the Chinese revolution was dependent on Western ideas of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, or instead if China would seek independent liberation at the hands of the working class and the laboring masses. After the founding of the CCP, the Marxist philosophy of mastery would be intimately linked to the historical construction of the Chinese people as political agent. This basically dispensed with the Chinese capitalist elite which since late Qing times had displayed a dependent nature manifested in weakness and compromise in the face of the West, and with an uncompromising, independent posture of a master, the working class and the laboring masses appeared on the world political stage, challenging the Western path to modernity and the world order this modernity had shaped.

The report to the Nineteenth Party Congress renders the following evaluation of the birth of the CCP: ‘The Chinese people have had in the Party a pillar for their pursuit of national independence and liberation, of a stronger and more prosperous country, and of their own happiness; and the mindset of the Chinese people has changed, from passivity to agency’. The idea of a ‘pillar’ 主心骨 comes from the Chinese traditional philosophy of the Learning of the Heart, which emphasises that the heart is the master of the body while the Way is the master of the heart. The term ‘spirit’ 精神 comes from the Western philosophy of mastery, which emphasises the command of spirit and thought over the body and material forces. That the Chinese people had a ‘pillar’ in their struggle, and that the spirit of the Chinese people has changed from passive to active means that the Chinese people have finally completely made the transition to a master’s personality, and have begun to firmly grasp their own historical fate.

The Spirit of Struggle: from the philosophy of subjectivity to the theory of contradiction

Faced with the global competitive landscape shaped by natural selection and the survival of the fittest, if the Chinese wanted to appear as masters, they had to have the courage to ‘unsheathe their swords’ 亮剑 to confront each nation and engage in a life or death struggle.[23] This ‘daring to unsheathe one’s sword’ was what the report to the Nineteenth National Congress refers to repeatedly as the ‘spirit of struggle’. In the face of changes in the world system unseen in a thousand years, if the Chinese people want to realise the great revival of the Chinese nation and change the Western model of modernisation through which the West has dominated the world, providing late-developing countries with the ‘China solution’ to modernisation, they must engage in uncompromising struggle.

In drafting the report to the Eighteenth Congress, Xi Jinping stressed that the following sentence should be included: ‘The development of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is a long and arduous historical task, and we must prepare to engage in great struggles with many historical particularities’. The reason that the five years between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Congresses have been seen as ‘an extraordinary five years’ is because, during these five years, faced with a complex and changing situation domestically and internationally, the Party has led the entire nation and people in its spirit of struggle to ‘break through difficulties and forge ahead’, achieving ‘historical accomplishments’. One of the strongest points of the report to the Nineteenth Conference is that ‘struggle’ became one of its key terms, appearing twenty-three times. The report correctly points out that ‘realising our great dream demands a great struggle’. This spirit of struggle is undoubtedly an expression of the master personality. The report to the Nineteenth Conference even used a literary expression to compare two phenomena in the flow of history: ‘The wheels of history roll on; the tides of the times are vast and mighty. History looks kindly on those with resolve, with drive and ambition, and with courage; it won’t wait for the hesitant, the apathetic, or those who shy from a challenge.’ The former is the master who achieves victory through struggle, while the later lacks the courage to struggle, and will necessarily suffer the fate of a slave. The description and comparison of the two encourage the members of the CCP not to forget their original intention, and to fight for the great revival of the Chinese nation with the spirit and character of a master who struggles.

The ‘spirit of struggle’ of the CCP undoubtedly comes from the idea of class struggle in historical materialism. Struggle is the spirit and character that the people and laboring masses must possess if they are to act as masters of history and it was precisely the masses that bequeathed to the CCP its great capacity to act. The CCP does not represent globe-trotting capitalists or detached intellectuals but is consistently grounded in the great land of China, representing the Chinese people who are living and thriving in this great land, and particularly the basic laboring masses that make up the majority of the population. Although the CCP emphasises the guiding role of political leadership, the reason that a leader can become a leader is that he consistently relies on the Party organization and allows the Party organisation to be grounded in the masses in a relationship of ‘flesh and blood’ 血肉联系, so that people have evolved into a genuinely consolidated people instead of remaining a ‘loose sheet of sand’, [in Sun Yat-sen’s words]. By way of contrast, leaders who run roughshod over Party organisation or Party organisations who are out of touch with the masses wind up producing dictators and corruption. In the report to the Nineteenth Conference, the key word ‘people’ appears 201 times, the notion that the Party and the people have established a ‘flesh and blood relationship’ appears three times, the most throughout the history of such reports.

For this reason, the CCP is consistently grounded in this great native land, and its political nature, at base, is its indigenous, national nature, its authentic Chinese nature, rather than in the Party’s class nature. The fighting character of the CCP traces its origins not only to the spirit of mastery in Marxism, but even more to the Chinese cultural spirit, as reflected in sayings like ‘all are responsible for the rise and fall of the universe’ 天下兴亡,匹夫有责, and ‘the superior man tirelessly perfects himself’ 君子自强不息. The CCP’s willingness to struggle and its talent for struggle have been bequeathed to it by the spiritual heritage of five thousand years of the history of Chinese civilisation and by the fighting spirit of the more than one billion Chinese people from throughout the country. The report to the Nineteenth Congress particularly emphasises that ‘our Party will remain the vanguard of the times, the backbone of the nation, and a Marxist governing Party’. And it is precisely this spirit of struggle that allows the Chinese people to display their spirit of ‘if you can improve yourself in a day, then do so each day’ 苟日新,日日新.

In the report to the Nineteenth Congress, the words ‘new’ and ‘renew’ were widely used in expressions like ‘new era’, ‘new situation’, ‘new ideas’, and ‘new undertakings’. The expression ‘to renew’ alone was used fifty-three times. The concept of ‘new’ illustrates the ever-changing state of the entire world in its contradictory movements. This is precisely the essence of Chinese traditional philosophy. The Book of Changes, one of China’s ‘Five Classics’, took change as the starting point for understanding the whole world. The world is driven by contradictory movements to produce developments and changes which in turn drive struggle and innovation. Marxism and Chinese traditional culture have a high degree of internal consistency on this point, which precisely constitutes the deep philosophical roots of the Sinification of Marxism. Therefore, it is easy for the Chinese to shift from the ideal of the ‘renewal’ in morality and spirit emphasised by traditional culture to the ‘renewal’ of science, technology and material power that Marxism emphasises. ‘Science and technology are the first means of production’. ‘Only development is hard truth’. These express the enduring political beliefs of the CCP, and what the CCP wants is to represent the ‘advanced productive forces’, and to strive to be in the front lines of the revolutions in science and technology, finally leading humanity’s scientific and technological development into the future.

In fact, the mutual absorption of Marxism and Chinese culture began with the process of the first Sinification of Marxism. Mao Zedong gave class struggle and the dialectics behind it a Chinese remake, which led to the mutual interpenetration of Marxism and Chinese traditional culture as can be seen in the ideas he expressed in ‘On Contradiction’ and ‘On Practice’. The basis of the CCP’s philosophy of struggle is grounded not only in the philosophy of mastery, but also in the theory of contradictions according to which any antagonism in the world can be unified in practice. In the world-view of the theory of contradiction, ‘conflict’ does not have a necessarily absolute position and whether or not to engage in struggle, or what kind of struggle to engage in, is in the final analysis decided by a practice-based judgement of the contradiction and its nature, and by the greater contradictions and the lesser contradictions, by correctly grasping the greater and lesser aspects of the contradiction. In this sense, we can say that the theory of practice is higher than the theory of contradiction, because contradiction can only be judged from the perspective of practice. It was precisely on the basis of this theory of practice that Mao Zedong put forth his ‘theory of two contradictions’, pointing out the difference between the contradictions between the enemy and us, and contradictions among the people. In the case of contradictions among the people, struggle is not the most important thing; persuasion and education are the most important tools.

For this reason, in CCP theory, the accent is not on contradiction and struggle, but rather on how to grasp the nature of the contradiction from the perspective of practice. Whether it could begin from practice, and by seeking truth from facts, correctly analyse and judge the political and social contradictions of each period, and on that basis propose correct measures and policies, became the test of the political wisdom of the CCP. The reason that measures and policies are perceived as the lifeblood of the Party is that they determine if the Party has the wisdom to assess correctly the principal contradictions among the many complicated contradictions in actual social life, if it can clearly recognise the important aspect of the contradictions and hence truly grasp the pulse of the movement of history. Since the founding of New China, every CCP National Congress has issued a political judgement of the principal contradictions that the Party faced in its political life, and the success or failure of Party undertakings has been largely decided by whether they were able to render a scientifically correct judgement of social and political contradictions from the perspective of practice, and if they could then propose proper policies and measures. The reason that, in the period following the establishment of New China, Chinese socialism suffered setbacks and even declined into the tragedy of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ was to a great degree because the Party Center strayed from the judgement of the principal social contradictions issued by the 8th National Congress and instead took class contradictions to be the principal social contradiction. And the reason that Reform and Opening succeeded was because the Party Center restored the principle of seeking truth from facts and recalibrated its judgement of the principal contradictions, thereby establishing its basic direction and policies around economic construction as the central consideration.

Since the launching of the policy of Reform and Opening, the negation of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ has naturally entailed a conflict between the philosophy of contradiction and the spirit of struggle. Trying to adopt the Western model gave rise to a new political discourse led by economics and legal studies, characterised by advocacy of government neutrality and depoliticisation. This discourse gradually erased from memory China’s history and practice, weakened the agency of Chinese politics, and increasingly became a new dogmatism that turned its back on the theory of contradiction and the theory of practice, forgetting the obvious truth that ‘only the foot knows if the shoe fits’ 鞋子合不合适只有脚知道. One might say that over the past thirty years, Chinese academics and thinkers have gradually forgotten the theory of contradiction, the theory of struggle and the theory of practice. While Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought appear as nouns in mainstream discourse, in practice they do not function as philosophical methods by which we understand, grasp, and solve problems, which has led to Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought becoming empty expressions without vivid meaning in practice. They are no longer philosophical tools for understanding problems, no longer have any internal connection with the construction of the people’s political life, and thus cannot truly penetrate people’s minds. As a principled political Party, if the CCP loses the philosophical analytical tools and methods provided by Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought, it will lose the theoretical magic weapon 理论法宝 [24] pointing out the future direction of development and will necessarily lose the values supporting confidence in ideals and the theoretical weapon to consolidate the people’s hearts, thus opening the door to a politics of convenience. Once this happens, the market economy’s principles of profit and exchange will penetrate the inner realms of the Party, and various forces will ’stalk’ ‘围猎’ government officials and form interest groups to seek political power. They will even attempt to seize the highest power of the Party and state and change the nature of the Party. China will face the danger of repeating the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

After taking up the post of General Secretary, Xi Jinping posed a question that caused deep reflection on the part of the entire Party: when the Communist Party of the Soviet Union dissolved, why was there no real man among the twenty thousand members to protest the event? At first glance, this seems to have started with Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’, but the deep roots go back to Khrushchev’s revisionism and his criticism of Stalin. Whether in engaging in ‘peaceful competition’ with the United States or in transforming the Communist Party into the ‘Party of the whole people’, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union completely lost the philosophical weapon of Marxism, which led the Party not only to lose the ideals and beliefs of communism, but more importantly to lose as well political confidence, the ability to struggle and the courage to survive. The loss of a philosophical weapon necessarily leads to the loss of the spirit of struggle, and the loss of ideals and beliefs necessarily leads to the loss of the spirit of mastery.

From this perspective, the reason that China has been able to avoid following in the footsteps of the Soviet Union is precisely because from the very beginning Mao Zedong severely criticised Khrushchev’s revisionist line and pushed China to thoroughly abandon the Soviet model. This criticism of the Soviet model led China to begin an independent search for the path to socialist modernity, and even if later on we fell for a time into the extremes of the ‘Three Red Banners’ [i.e., the Great Leap Forward] and the ‘Great Cultural Revolution’, nonetheless the revolutionary spirit of struggle to seek out an independent, autonomous path of development, and the exalted ideal of realising communism, in a political sense galvanised a new generation of Chinese elites. Not only did they temper their courageous struggles and innovative spirit in the context of the revolutionary movement, but also in the course of the rustification movement cultivated a deep sense of empathy from having lived among and shared the hardships of the people, ultimately producing a generation of political elites grounded in the great land of China. This generation has become the guiding force propelling China into the new era.

For this reason, after becoming General Secretary, Xi Jinping ‘planted his flag’ on the core issue of ‘Party leadership’, earnestly raising the great banners of Marxist theory and Communist ideals and beliefs, and resolutely taking the road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. This means that the Chinese Communist Party has once again grasped the philosophical weapon of dialectical materialism, understanding the world through the worldview and methodology of the theory of contradiction and the theory of practice. Once again having done this, the fighting character will necessarily return yet again to the construction of the political thought of the CCP, becoming the political soul of the CCP. In other words, the nature of the struggle of the CCP derives from a philosophical consciousness of Marxism-Leninism. The philosophy of struggle in the philosophy of mastery and the philosophy of contradiction and practice are organically integrated. That there are contradictions means that conflict and struggle exist, and that struggle must engage real problems in practice, which in turn resolves the existing contradiction and propels practice forward. For this reason, the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress correctly points out that ‘the Chinese Communist Party is a great political Party that dares to struggle and dares to win’, and that ‘to realise a great dream, we must engage in great struggle’. The roots of struggle lie in the necessary truth that contradictions propel society forward: ‘It is in the movement of contradictions that a society advances; where there is contradiction there is struggle. If our Party is to unite and lead the people to effectively respond to major challenges, withstand major risks, overcome major obstacles, and address major conflicts, it must undertake a great struggle with many new contemporary features. All thinking and behavior in the vein of pleasure-seeking, inaction and sloth, and problem-avoidance are unacceptable.’

It was precisely on the philosophical foundation of the theory of contradiction and the theory of practice that the report to the Nineteenth Party Congress for the first time identifies the principal contradiction in Chinese society as ‘the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life’. As early as 1956, the report to the Eighth National Congress correctly indicated that the principle contradiction was that between the people’s ever-growing material and cultural needs and the backwardness of the productive forces. After the ‘Cultural Revolution’, the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee returned to the analysis and judgement of the principle social contradiction rendered by the report to the Eighth National Congress. We can say that after more than seventy years of effort, China has accomplished the historical great leap from the Mao Zedong era, to the Deng Xiaoping era, to the Xi Jinping era. New social contradictions propel China into a new era, and a new era obviously needs a new thought to solve the problems it confronts. For this reason, when Xi Jinping once again proposes the theory of contradiction and the philosophy of struggle, he is absolutely not suggesting some simplistic return to the Mao Zedong era. Instead he has taken the Chinese socialism created by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping to a higher historical stage. This undoubtedly is what constitutes the historical origin of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.

The Sinification of Marxism: The new Party-state system and the construction of core values

The grand blueprint of the Xi Jinping era unfolds through history. In the narrative tradition in which classics and history are undivided, a philosophical thought system is contained in the historical narrative. Like Mao Zedong Thought, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is not solely the thought of Xi Jinping, but is rather the crystallisation of the wisdom of the entire Party. It is yet another renewal, effected on the basis of the inheritance of Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Important Thought of the ‘Three Represents’ and Scientific Developmentalism.[25] It is not only the product of the integration of Marxism with the practice of contemporary China, but even more the product of the merging of Marxism with Chinese traditional culture.

The process of the Sinification of Marxism has always been the process of merging Marxism with Chinese traditional culture, a process that began in the Mao Zedong era. If there are differences between Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the new Xi Jinping era and Mao Zedong Thought or Deng Xiaoping Theory, this is first because the primary social contradictions encountered are not the same, and the questions to be resolved in terms of thought and theory are also different. In the first Sinification of Marxism, what was to be resolved was how to carry out a proletarian revolution in a half-feudal, half-colonial society, which is why Mao Zedong Thought is basically a set of theories concerning revolution and nation-building. The second Sinification of Marxism sought to resolve the question of how to shake off the influence of the Soviet model and seek out a path toward the construction of socialist modernisation grounded in Chinese realities, which became the ‘Four Modernisations’, which solved the primary contradictions facing Chinese society. The search for this path was begun by Mao Zedong, and finally completed under Deng Xiaoping, and constituted the theory of ‘building socialism with Chinese characteristics’. It was primarily a theory of economic construction. Subsequently, given the changes in the primary contradictions faced by Chinese society, Xi Jinping sought to further modernise the superstructure, on the foundation of modernisation of the economic base launched by Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping (the ‘Four Modernisations’), which took the form of Xi Jinping’s national governance system and the modernisation of governance capacity. We can see this as the third Sinification of Marxism. The report to the Nineteenth Congress summarizes the basic content and strategy of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as the ‘eight make clears’ and the ‘fourteen ensures’,[26] but its core thought lies in determining how the Party can lead the country, thoroughly establishing the rule of law, advancing the national governance system and the modernisation of governance capacity, ensuring that the institutions of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics become all the more mature and definitive. For this reason, the modernisation of national governance cannot be simply understood as a ‘fifth modernisation’ accomplished on the basis of the ‘Four Modernizations’,[27] but instead should be understood as the construction of the appropriate superstructure to accompany the base of the market economy of socialism with Chinese characteristics accomplished by the ‘Four Modernisations’.

Beginning in 1949, New China, in accordance with the basic principles of Marxism, emulated the Soviet model, and began to construct the national regime of the people’s democratic dictatorship, including the leadership of the Party, the political consultative system, the people’s congresses, and so on. Because the Russian revolution depended on the success of the cities, in the former Soviet regime, the Party leadership strongly relied on a heavily top-down system of control. China’s revolution was different in that it took the path of the villages surrounding the cities, and for this reason our Party was directly grounded in society and was relatively independent of the state structure. After the establishment of New China, the process of the search for a Chinese path to modernity consistently faced the question of how to manage the relationship between the Party and the state. For a time during the Cultural Revolution there appeared the chaotic notion of destroying the state, ‘replacing the government with the Party’. In the early period of Reform and Opening, faced with the Cultural Revolution abuses of ‘no division between Party and government’, ‘replacing the government with the Party’ and ‘rule by man [rather than law]’, Deng Xiaoping advocated the rule of law, and also proposed to reform the Party-state leadership system on the basis of a division of labor between Party and state. The report to the Thirteenth National Party Congress (1987) took this a step further, proposing a reformist thinking, based on the division between Party and state, producing a political system with democratic politics. The political firestorms in the late 1980s prompted Deng Xiaoping to rethink the system and organs of Party leadership of the state, in which he initiated the notion of a thorough-going strengthening of Party leadership, not only weakening the Central Committee Advisory committees, but also returning anew to the ‘three in one’ leadership system created by Mao Zedong, including leadership of the Party, of the state and of the military.[28] At this point Party and state began to move toward integration.

Following the introduction of the rule of law, a latent tension appeared between it and Party leadership. Some people argued that strengthening the rule of law meant strengthening the absolute authority of the state system in constitutional and legal terms, and hence advocated the so-called ‘realisation of the People’s Congress as the highest power’, bringing out ‘judicial independence’ and the judicialisation of the Constitution. They further proposed a debate on the so-called question of ‘Party domination’ versus ‘legal domination’, implicitly calling into question the Party’s leadership of the state. In addition, the development of the rule of law led to calls for the protection of human rights, and some movements with political demands used the formal development of ‘human rights’ and ‘rule of law’ and the notion that the ‘rule of law’ would lead to ‘democracy’ to put forth a new strategy leading to ‘political democratisation’. We might say that the market economy base of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, constructed since the institution of Reform and Opening, has become disconnected from the superstructure of the state-led Party in some areas. The system of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era must resolve this problem, by constructing a superstructure that matches the market economy of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. It was in the precise context of this problem, a solution for which long had been sought without success in either theory or practice, that Xi Jinping, at the Third Plenum of the Eighteenth Party Congress, proposed the theory of the modernization of the state governance system and governance capacity. And as a companion piece to the report of Third Plenum of the Eighteenth CCP Central Committee, the report of the Fourth Plenum of the Eighteenth CCP Central Committee further proposed the theory of building a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics, in which it was correctly noted that ‘Party leadership is the most basic feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, and the most basic guarantee of socialist rule of law’. On this basis, the report to the Nineteenth National Congress further emphasizes that ‘The Party leads everything: Party, government, army, people, and scholars’. ‘The Party is the most exalted force of political leadership’.

One might say that the core of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the new system for comprehensive Party leadership of the state on the theoretical and institutional level that it proposes. This new Party-state system is undoubtedly an important organisational part of the ‘Chinese solution’, different both from the liberal democratic systems of Western capitalism, and from the old Party-state system of the Soviet model, and has become a new system that fits the economic base of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. This new system must necessarily signify the organic blending of Party leadership as emphasized by Marxism and the political tradition of traditional Chinese culture. For example, the Fourth Plenum of the Eighteenth Central Committee clearly called for the ‘integration of the rule of law and the rule of virtue’ 依法治国和以德治国相结合, and incorporated the Party rules and discipline system that had been legislated in the Party constitution into the state legal system, so that Party rules and state law became a modern version of the relationship between ritual and law in the Confucian system. The establishment of a state supervisory system is undoubtedly an important organisational aspect of the modernisation of Chinese traditional political culture. The Nineteenth CCP Congress proclaimed that the Central Committee would establish a ‘Leadership Small Group on Governing the Country According to the Rule of Law’, not only to further improve the new system of the Party leading the country, but also to absorb the beneficial elements of the Western legal tradition on the basis of the Chinese legal system, seeking to establish a new Chinese legal system.

The state superstructure includes not only the political and legal system, but also culture and ideology. All governmental systems need the support of corresponding core values, thus becoming a political education system in which politics and culture are mutually reinforcing. The Western capitalist system is supported by the core values of liberalism, which upholds the liberal democratic system, thus constituting the core of Western civilisation. The core values supporting the new party-state system must necessarily be the core values of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Since Reform and Opening, the market economy and social divisions have given rise to many different value systems, and it would appear that China has entered an era of pluralistic values. The report of the Eighteenth Party Congress listed, one after the other, the core values of Chinese traditional culture, the core values of the socialism of the Mao Zedong era, and the core values of Western liberalism, brought in through reform and opening, producing a sprawling value system. In the absence of coherent core values, values pluralism can lead not only to political confusion, but can also bring about a conflict between values and social interests. The report of the Nineteenth Congress does not repeat the formula for core values employed by the Eighteenth, meaning that the construction of core values that are more coherent and better able to represent Socialism with Chinese Characteristics will become an important mission in the wake of the Nineteenth Congress.[29] This task undoubtedly is the most important in the third Sinification of Marxism.

In fact, since the Eighteenth Congress, the Party Center, with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core, has already begun the process of merging Marxism with Chinese traditional culture. An example would be the above discussion of merging Marxism’s communist beliefs with the ‘Learning of the Heart’ from China’s tradition, merging the Western philosophy of subjectivity with the traditional Chinese ideal of the ‘superior man’ who seeks constant self-improvement, merging Western dialectics with the theory of contradictions and the theory of practice, such vitality finally changing and renewing Chinese traditional philosophy and thought. This means that the core values of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics must be the blending of the core values of Marxism as represented by communism and the core values defined by China’s traditional Confucian culture. Only in this way can we bring forth core values in accord with the spirit and character of the Chinese people and with the objective needs of modern society.

From this perspective, the great revival of the Chinese nation is not only an economic and political revival. It is also the revival of a new tradition of political education supported by a political system and by core values, that will result in the great revival of Chinese civilisation. If we say that Chinese civilisation, when confronted with the challenge of Buddhism, engineered a great revival through the efforts of Song-Ming Neo Confucians, which then spread Chinese civilisation from China proper throughout East Asia, then we should also say that when confronted in more recent times with the challenge of the modern West—Protestantism and liberalism—the Chinese nation is today again undergoing a great revival. The present great revival surely means that Chinese civilisation is spreading and extending itself into even more parts of the world. This undoubtedly constitutes the greatest historical mission of the Chinese people in the Xi Jinping era.

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Translator’s Notes

[1]强世功, ‘哲学与历史—从党的十九大报告解读”习近平时代”’, 开放时代, 2018年第1期。

[2] Jiang’s Beijing University web site is available at http://www.law.pku.edu.cn/sz/zzjs/hl/1910.htm

[3] Published by Singapore: Springer. In all about a half-dozen articles by Jiang have been translated and published in English scholarly journals.

[4] Gan Yang 甘阳, Unify the three traditions 通三统 , (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 2007).

[5] See ‘Ma Ya interviews Wang Shaoguang: Chinese governing principles and traditional moral thought’ 玛雅专访王绍光:中国的治国理念与政道思维传统, originally available on the Utopia website at http://www.wyzxwk.com/Article/sichao/2014/05/320592.html.

[6] Chen Ming 陈明, Zhao Guangming 赵广明, Liu Haibo 刘海波, Tang Wenming 唐文明 , ‘Transcend left and right, unify the three traditions, renew the party-state—A Confucian reading of the China Dream 超左右、通三统、新党国——中国梦的儒家解读, transcription of a round-table held on 17 March 2015, available online at http://www.rujiazg.com/article/id/4939/.

[7]See Xu Jilin 许纪霖’,The New Tianxia: Rebuilding China’s Internal and External Order’ 新天下主义与中国的内外秩序, in Xu Jilin and Liu Qing 刘擎, eds., The New Tianxia 新天下主义(Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 2014): 3-25.

[8] Gao Quanxi 高全喜, ‘The Political Maturity of Chinese Liberalism’ 中国自由主义的政治成熟 available online at http://www.aisixiang.com/data/56518.html.

[9] See Chang Chun-ch’iao [Zhang Chunqiao], On Exercising the All-Round Dictatorship over the Bourgeoisie (Peking : Foreign Languages Press, 1975).

[10] See for example Taisu Zhang, ‘China’s Coming Ideological Wars’, Foreign Policy, 1 March 2016, online edition, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/01/chinas-coming-ideological-wars-new-left-confucius-mao-xi/ .

[11] Xi Jinping’s work report delivered to the Nineteenth Party Congress in November 2017 can be found at: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/special/2017-11/03/c_136725942.htm (accessed, Feb. 15, 2018). I have followed the official translation when Jiang sites Xi’s report.

[12] The canonical expression of this ‘practice-theory-practice’ is found in the 1943 Central Committee resolution that appears as ‘Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership’ in Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, available online at https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-3/mswv3_13.htm.

[13] Jiang cites two well-known Confucian sayings, the first being the opening line of The Analects of Confucius and the second widely associated with the great sixteenth century Neo-Confucian philosopher, Wang Yangming (1472-1529).

[14] Jiang is here referring to a series of scholarly debates with clear political implications that have occurred in recent decades.

[15] Jiang is here offering a gloss of part two of Xi Jinping’s report on the historical mission of the Party in which each of the three stages of the revolution is introduced by the phrase ‘Our Party was deeply aware ….’

[16] This authoritative assessment appears in the 1981 Central Committee resolution, ‘On Some Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the Nation’. It still defines the parameters of orthodox Party historiography today. See http://en.people.cn/dengxp/vol2/text/b1420.html.

[17] The ‘California school’ of China scholarship is associated with the work of Bin Wong (UCLA) and Kenneth Pomeranz (University of Chicago), among others, and has emphasised premodern China’s role in the world economy. See Edward Q. Wang, ed., ‘The ‘California School’ in China’ for details and translations of Chinese responses, Chinese Studies in History, 45:1 (2011).

[18] The concept of the Thucydides trap was coined by the American political scientist Graham Tillett Allison and refers to a situation when a rising power causes fear in an established power that escalates toward war.

[19] Theorists of geopolitics and sea power. Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947) was an English geographer considered one of the founders of geopolitics. Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840 –1914) was a United States naval officer and historian, who held that national power derived from sea power.

[20] Jiang’s references here are to Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man and Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, both of which have had immense impacts in the Chinese intellectual world.

[21] Jiang uses the term 主体性, which in formal philosophical analysis means ‘subjectivity’ in the sense of autonomous action. However, since this English term can also mean ‘not objective’, 主体性 has been translated variously as ‘agency’ and ‘mastery’ in the text below, as best conveys Jiang’s meaning in context.

[22] Jiang’s phrasing invokes the well-known adage from Confucius: ‘The noble man is not a utensil’ (Analects: 2.12).

[23] ‘Dare to grasp, control and unsheathe the sword’ 敢抓敢管敢于亮剑 was a key slogan of Xi Jinping’s in 2013. ‘Unsheathe the sword’ was the name of a hit TV series based on a 2001 novel (of the same name) by Du Liang 都梁. For more on the Party’s use of this expression, see Gloria Davies, ‘Destiny’s Mixed Metaphors’ in Geremie Barmé, Jeremy Goldkorn and Linda Jaivin, eds. China Story Yearbook 2014: Shared Destiny (ANU Press).

[24] Jiang here invokes Mao’s 1938 announcement of the ‘three magic weapons of the Chinese revolution’ (the army, Party building and the united front) by using Mao’s term for these, 法宝 (originally a Buddhist term for sacred scripture). 法宝 has been widely used by Party leaders since Mao to refer to the Party’s key policies and programs.

[25] This ‘crystallisation’ of the collective leadership is the orthodox Party assessment of Mao Zedong Thought given in the 1981 ‘Historical Resolution’, see note 16, above.

[26] The eight ‘make clear’ 明确 refer to a process for building a system with Chinese characteristics, and the fourteen ‘ensuring’ or « upholding » 坚持, are guidelines upholding the definition and basic policy of the new era respectively. See Jean Christopher Mittelstaedt, http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/chinas_new_era_with_xi_jinping_characteristics7243.

[27] This is an oblique reference to the 1979 Democracy Wall advocate, Wei Jingsheng, who claimed democracy was the “Fifth Modernisation.”

[28] This is Jiang’s, and Xi Jinping’s, sanitized version of the contentious history of the 1980s in which China’s leaders around General Secretaries Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang struggled to implement these liberalizations in the face of stiff resistance from Party elders, culminating in the huge demonstrations of spring 1989 in Tiananmen and in several cities across China and then the fateful military crackdown of June 4th. The consolidation by top Party elder, Deng Xiaoping, ultimately produced the re-integration of Party and state that Jiang notes here.

[29] These core socialist values include: the national values of prosperity, democracy, civility; the social values of freedom, equality, justice and the rule of law; and the individual values of patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship.

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