Young People Should Practice the Core Socialist Values

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China I Updated: 2021-12-09

Young People Should Practice the Core Socialist Values* 

May 4, 2014 

Dear students, teachers and friends, 

Today, as we celebrate China's Youth Day1 I'm glad to be here with you, honoring the 95th anniversary of the May 4th Movement2. First of all, I'd like to extend, on behalf of the Party Central Committee, my festival greetings to the teachers, staff and students at Peking University and young people of all ethnic groups across the country. Also, I want to express my deepest respects to those who work in the fields of education and youth work throughout the country! 

This is my fifth visit to Peking University since I started to serve on the Party Central Committee, and each time I am here I find something new that impresses me. My feelings soar whenever I walk on this campus full of vigor and vitality, and I can't help but sigh: The current generation of college students is just adorable, trustworthy and reliable, and you are bound to have a bright future. 

The May 4th Movement gave founding to the May 4th spirit of patriotism, progress, democracy and science, kicking off the New Democratic Revolution in China, promoting the dissemination of Marxism in the country and laying the groundwork for the founding of the CPC. 

Since the May 4th Movement, under the leadership of the Party, generations of highly motivated young men and women have written inspiring chapters in the struggles to save the country and rejuvenate the Chinese nation, with the motto "Devoting my youth to creating a family of youth, a country of youth, a nation of youth, a mankind of youth, a planet of youth and a universe of youth."3

Peking University was the base of the New Culture Movement4 as well as a cradle of the May 4th Movement, witnessing this glorious period in modern history. For a long time, teachers and students here have shared a common destiny with the country and the people, and advanced with the times and society, making remarkable contributions to our country's revolution, construction and reform in all respects. 

The Two Centenary Goals were put forward at the 18th CPC National Congress. As I have said before, we have never been so close as now to reaching the goal of the great renewal of the Chinese nation, and we are more confident and more capable than ever of fulfiling this goal. 

Nevertheless, "A thing is yet to be done until it is done,"5 as an old saying goes. The closer we approach the goal the more we should redouble our efforts. We can afford no slackening. More importantly, we should encourage more young people to join the great cause of making the dream come true. 

The river of time flows nonstop day and night, and things change as the seasons change. Every generation of young people is offered the opportunities of the era for drawing a picture of life and creating history. Young people, the most sensitive weatherglass of an era, are entrusted with the responsibilities of the times and share the glory of their days. 

Today, we are here to honor the May 4th Movement. The best way for us to have the May 4th spirit display widely is to join the team of builders, pioneers and dedicators, and together with the people of all ethnic groups shoulder our historic responsibilities with firm beliefs, high morality, a wealth of knowledge and competent skills. 

Students and teachers,

University is a place not just for academic studies but for seeking truth. Today, I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you my insights into the core socialist values. 

I was inspired by the spirit of the May 4th Movement, which embodies the values the Chinese people and nation have pursued in modern history. Today, we should still adhere to and carry out these core values, highlighted by patriotism, progress, democracy and science. Young people, as well as everyone else in the country, should uphold and carry out these core values. 

Looking at human history and social development, we find that the most lasting and profound power for a nation and country is the core values acknowledged by all. Core values carry the spiritual aspiration of a nation and country, and represent the standard for judging right and wrong. 

An ancient proverb goes, "The way to great learning is to manifest bright virtue and to treat the people as one's own family, thereby arriving at supreme goodness."6 Core values are in fact individual virtues, as well as public, social and national virtues. A country cannot prosper without virtues, nor can anyone succeed without virtues. Without shared core values, a nation and country will be at a loss to know what is right and what is wrong, and its people will have no code of conduct to follow, the result being that the nation and country can never progress. It has commonly occurred in our history, and still happens across the globe. 

China is a big country with 1.3 billion people and 56 ethnic groups. Upon the recognition of the values with the "greatest common denominator" by the people of all ethnic groups, they work with one heart and one mind to strive in unity. This concerns our nation's future and destiny, as well as our people's happiness and well-being. 

Every era has its spirit, and likewise its values. In ancient China our ancestors developed core values highlighted by "propriety, righteousness, honesty and a sense of shame – the four anchors of our moral foundation, and a question of life and death for the country."7 This was our ancestors' understanding of their core values. 

What are the core values for our people and country today? This is both a theoretical and a practical question. We should eventually agree upon this after sorting out opinions and understandings from all walks of life. The core socialist values that we should cultivate and practice are prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship. 

The values of prosperity, democracy, civility and harmony are for the country; those of freedom, equality, justice and the rule of law for the society; and those of patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship for citizens. They explain what sort of country and society we are striving for, and what kind of citizens we are cultivating. 

Since ancient times the Chinese people have developed their country through studying the nature of things to acquire knowledge, correcting thoughts with sincerity, cultivating the moral self, managing the family, governing the state and safeguarding peace under Heaven. As we see it today, the principles of "studying the nature of things, correcting thoughts with sincerity and cultivating the moral self" are for individuals; the principle of "managing the family" is for the society; and those of "governing the state and safeguarding peace under Heaven" are for the country. 

What we put forward for the core socialist values is a combination of requirements for the country, society and citizens, which represent the nature of socialism, carry forward the fine traditional Chinese culture, draw on the best of world civilization and reflect the spirit of the times. 

Prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship are all ideas that inherit the essence of the outstanding traditional Chinese culture, embody the ideals and faith formed by modern Chinese people through unremitting and painstaking efforts, and reflect the wishes and vision of every Chinese citizen. 

We should foster the core socialist values throughout society. The people should join hands and work persistently to make China richer and stronger, more democratic, more harmonious and more beautiful, so that our country can be confident enough to stand proudly among all other nations. 

Since the Opium War of the 1840s the Chinese people have long cherished a dream of realizing a great national rejuvenation and building China into a strong, democratic and harmonious modern socialist country – the highest and most fundamental interests of the nation. And that's what our 1.3 billion people are striving for. 

China used to be a world economic power. However, it missed its chance in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and the consequent dramatic changes, and thus was left behind and suffered humiliation under foreign invasion. Things got worse especially after the Opium War, when the nation was plagued by poverty and weakness, allowing others to trample upon and manipulate us. We must not let this tragic history repeat itself. 

The construction of a strong, democratic and harmonious modern socialist country is our goal and responsibility – for the nation, for our forefathers and for our future generations. Therefore, we should maintain our willpower, intensify our faith, and walk unswervingly along the road towards our destination. 

China has stood up. It will never again tolerate being bullied by any nation. Yet it will never follow in the footsteps of the big powers, which seek hegemony once they grow strong. Our country is following a path of peaceful development. 

Why are we so confident? Because we have developed and become stronger. China has won worldwide respect with its century-long efforts. Its prestige keeps rising, and its influence keeps expanding. Today's China forms a sharp contrast to China in the 19th century when the country was humiliated, its sovereignty was infringed upon, and its people were bullied by foreigners. 

Chinese civilization has formed a unique value system over several millennia. The brilliant traditional Chinese culture is the essence of the nation and has deep roots in the Chinese people's mentality, influencing their way of thinking and behavior unconsciously. 

Today, we advocate and carry forward the core socialist values through absorbing the rich nourishment of Chinese culture, so as to invigorate its vitality and broaden its influence. 

Here are some quotations from ancient classics that I'd like to share with you today: 

"The people are the foundation of a state,"8
"The harmony of Nature and man,"9
"Harmony without uniformity,"10
"As Heaven changes through movement, a gentleman makes unremitting efforts to perfect himself,"11
"When the Great Way prevailed, a public spirit ruled all under Heaven,"12
"Everyone is responsible for his country's rise or fall,"13
"Govern the country with virtue and educate the people with culture,"
"A gentleman has a good knowledge of righteousness,"14
"A gentleman is broad-minded,"15
"A gentleman takes morality as his bedrock,"16
"Be true in word and resolute in deed,"17
"If a man does not keep his word, what is he good for?"18
"A man of high moral quality will never feel lonely,"19
"The benevolent man loves others,"20
"Do things for the good of others,"21
"Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you,"22
"Care for each other and help one another,"23
"Respect others' elders as one respects one's own, and care for others' children as one cares for one's own,"24
"Help the poor and assist those in difficulty,"
"Care less about quantity and more about quality."25

These thoughts and ideas all displayed and still demonstrate distinctive national features, and have the indelible values of the times. We have updated them in keeping abreast of the times, while carrying them forward in an unbroken line. 

As Chinese, we should always keep our own unique inner-world spirit, uphold values that we practice every day without noticing. The core socialist values we advocate today represent the inheritance and upgrading of outstanding traditional Chinese culture. 

Values appear and develop in the process of human beings getting to know and shape nature and society. Core values vary in different nations and countries due to different natural conditions and courses of development. The core values of a nation and country are closely related to its history and culture, as well as to what its people are striving for and to the present issues it needs to resolve. 

There are no two leaves exactly alike on earth. A nation, or people of a country, must know who they are, where they came from and where they are heading. Keep on going when you have made your choice. 

On December 26 last year, I said at the meeting commemorating the 120th birthday of Mao Zedong: 

Boasting a vast land of 9.6 million sq km, a rich cultural heritage and a strong bond among the 1.3 billion Chinese people, we are resolved to go our own way. We have a big stage to display our advantages on, a long and rich history to draw benefit from, and a powerful impetus to push us ahead. We Chinese people – every single one of us – should draw confidence from this. 

We should modestly learn from the best of other civilizations, but never forget our own origin. We must not blindly copy the development models of other countries nor accept their dictation. 

What I mean here is that we should enhance our confidence in the path we have chosen, in the theories we have devised and in the system we have established to reach our goal of development and make the Chinese Dream come true. "In the face of all blows, not bending low, it still stands fast. Whether from east, west, south or north the wind doth blast."26 Our confidence is supported by our core values. 

Why am I talking about the core socialist values with you young people? Because your value orientation will decide the values of the whole of society in the years to come. Besides, young people are at the time of life when they form and establish their values. It is therefore very important to offer some guidance. That reminds me of something that happens in our daily life. When we button up our coat, we may inadvertently put the first button in the wrong button hole, and that will result in all the other buttons being put in the wrong holes. That's why we say that young people should "button right" in the early days of their life. "A deep well is dug starting with a shallow pit."27 Every young person should learn about the core socialist values starting right now, take them as his basic rules and disseminate them throughout society. 

When young people adopt the core socialist values they should emphasize the following points: 

First, work diligently to acquire true knowledge. Knowledge is an important cornerstone for the cultivation of the core values. The great philosophers of ancient Greece believed that knowledge was a virtue. Our ancestors also asserted, "One cannot enhance one's ability and wisdom if one does not work hard; neither can one succeed without ambition."28 

A person enjoys only once the youthful days at college, so you should cherish them. To acquire knowledge, one has to study diligently, intensively and persistently. Lu Xun29 once said, "Who said I'm a genius? I spent all my time working when others were sipping coffee."30 In college days, "Young we were, schoolmates, at life's full flowering."31 One can totally throw oneself into seeking knowledge without any distractions, learning from teachers, exchanging views with classmates and rummaging through piles of books. So there is no reason not to study hard. Work hard, acquire more knowledge and turn what you have learned into your own views and ideas. I hope that you will not only concentrate on book knowledge but also care about the people, the country and the world, and assume your responsibility for society. 

Second, cultivate morality and virtue, and pay attention to them in practice. "Virtue is the root."32 Mr Cai Yuanpei33 believed, "He who is strong physically and talented but has no virtue will end up on the side of vice."34 Virtues are fundamental for both individuals and society. What is most important is to cultivate morality. This explains why we select those who are both talented and morally cultivated for our work, with morality as priority. One can be placed in the right position only if one recognizes virtue, follows social ethics and restricts personal desires. 

When talking about cultivating morality, one needs to have high ambitions as well as pragmatic plans. To devote oneself to one's country and serve one's people, this is the great virtue with which one is able to accomplish the great cause. In the meantime, one needs to start to do small things well and be self-disciplined even in small matters. "Learning from fine things that may appear and correcting any mistakes that may occur,"35 one needs to cultivate public and personal virtues, learn to work, to be thrifty, to be grateful, to help others, to be modest, to be tolerant, to examine oneself and to exercise self-restraint.

Third, learn to tell right from wrong and make correct decisions. As our ancestors believed, "Reading without thinking makes one muddled; thinking without reading makes one flighty."36 Knowing what is right or wrong, what is the correct direction and what is the proper way to follow, one is bound to reap the reward of one's work. 

Facing a complex and fast-changing world, an information era with the surge of various schools of thought, a multifaceted society of genuine and false ideas, and the pressure associated with one's academic pursuit, relationships and employment, you may feel somewhat confused, hesitant or frustrated. This is a normal experience everybody will go through. The key is to learn to think about and analyze situations before making decisions in order to arrive at correct decisions. You should be sturdy, confident and self-reliant. You must form a correct world outlook, view of life and values, then you will see – crystal-clear – the true nature of society and have a better understanding of your life's experience, and be able to tell what is right and what is wrong, what is primary and what is secondary, what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, and what is beautiful and what is ugly before making judgments and decisions. As a Tang verse goes, "Gold glitters only after countless washings and sievings."37

Fourth, be honest and sincere; do solid work and be an upright person. The correct way needs to be pursued in practice, while morality requires no empty talk. One should be more pragmatic. Knowledge and action should go hand in hand, and the core values should be turned into moral pursuits as well as a drive to make people engage in conscious action. The Book of Rites38 says, "Learn extensively, inquire earnestly, think profoundly, discriminate clearly and practice sincerely."39

Some people believe that "sages are mediocre people who work hard, while mediocre people are sages who refuse to work hard." With more opportunities, young people should make their steps steady, lay a solid foundation and make unremitting efforts. It is no good for study or running a business if one works intermittently, or chops and changes. "Difficult things are done starting from easy ones; a great undertaking begins with minor work."40 

No matter what you opt to do, success always favors hard workers. Young people should take a difficult environment as a challenge or test. "Little strokes fell great oaks." Success awaits those who work doggedly and unyieldingly, and those who are never daunted by repeated setbacks. 

The cultivation of the core values can't be done overnight. It requires efforts from the easy to the difficult, from close-up to faraway until it becomes a faith and idea that we follow conscientiously. When things are smooth, you may be confident; when there are frustrations, you may have doubts and waver. In all circumstances we should always uphold the core socialist values which have been formed and developed here in our country, make contributions to the great cause in the modern era and fulfill our lifetime expectations. 

Students and teachers, 

The Party Central Committee has decided to build world-class colleges and universities – a strategic policy that we should follow without hesitation. To make them world-class, they must feature Chinese characteristics. It won't do to copy others mechanically, because we always believe that "the more national the more international." 

In this world there is only one Harvard University, University of Oxford, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Cambridge; likewise, there is only one Peking University, Tsinghua University, Zhejiang University, Fudan University and Nanjing University in China. We should draw on the world's best experience in running institutions of higher learning, follow the rules of education, and establish more excellent colleges and universities on Chinese soil. 

Lu Xun asserted, "Peking University is always innovative and plays a pioneering role in reforming movements, leading China along an upward path towards a better future."41 

The decision on advancing the reform in an all-round way was made at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, defining the demands for the further reform of higher education in China. What we must do now is to turn this blueprint into reality. 

Institutions of higher learning should take the lead in educational reform throughout the country, centering on the fundamental tasks of building virtues and morality, and moving faster in establishing an educational system and mechanism that is full of vigor and vitality, efficient, more open and favoring educational development in a balanced and coordinated way. I do hope that Peking University can realize its long-cherished dream as soon as possible of advancing into the ranks of world-class universities through painstaking efforts, reform and innovation. 

Teachers are entrusted with the noblest mission in this world. Mr Mei Yiqi42 opined that the key to the success of a university lies in having a lot of highly accomplished gurus rather than imposing buildings.43 What he meant by "highly-accomplished gurus," as I see it, are people most knowledgeable in their academic fields and who are also virtuous. Always bearing in mind their responsibilities, teachers should be ready to serve as human ladders, inspiring the souls of the students whom they are teaching with the help of their personal charisma and scholarly attainments. 

Party committees and governments at all levels should pay closer attention to colleges and universities, show more concern for the students and erect a platform for them to dream upon and make their dreams come true. We should accelerate the reform in an all-round way, create a fair and just social environment, promote social mobility and inspire the vigor and creativity of young people. We should improve the system of employment and business startups so as to assist graduates at the beginning of their life-long careers. Leading officials at all levels should keep in communication with the students, make friends with them and listen to what they have to say. 

Today, the majority of college students are around the age of 20; and they will be under the age of 30 by 2020, when we complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. They will be around 60 by the mid-21st century, when we basically realize our country's modernization. That is to say, you will participate in the cause of reaching the Two Centenary Goals along with myriads of other young people. 

I believe that life is meaningless for anyone without faith, without dreams, without concerted endeavors and without contributions. I hope that you can create your own wonderful life while making the Chinese Dream come true since you have never been given a platform as spacious as this or as promising as this. 

I believe that young Chinese people today are more than capable of undertaking the historic mission entrusted to them by the Party and the people, and will go on to write a brilliant chapter worthy of our times in their efforts to take advantage of their youthful vigor, explore life and contribute to society! 

* Speech at the seminar with teachers and students of Peking University. 


1  The year 1939 saw the nomination of China's Youth Day on May 4th by the Northwestern Youth Association of National Salvation in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region to carry forward and foster the glorious revolutionary tradition of the Chinese young people since the May 4th Movement in 1919. In December 1949 the Government Administration Council – the predecessor of China's State Council – of the Central People's Government officially named it China's Youth Day. 

2  The May 4th Movement, which started in Beijing on May 4, 1919, was a patriotic movement of the Chinese people against imperialism and feudalism. Soon after the end of World War I, victorious nations, including Britain, the United States, France, Japan, and Italy held the Paris Peace Conference, awarding Germany's rights in Shandong Province to Japan. China was one of the victorious nations, but the Chinese Beiyang (Warlord) Government was about to sign the treaty. On the afternoon of May 4, 1919, over 3,000 students of Peking University and other schools protested against the treaty and the compromise of the Beiyang Government, provoking a quick response throughout the country. By June 3 the movement turned out to be a patriotic movement against imperialism and feudalism, with participants from the working class, urban petite-bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie. It also sparked off the New Culture Movement against feudal Chinese culture. Bolstered by the founding of the journal Youth (later known as New Youth) in 1915, the New Culture Movement called for Mr Science and Mr Democracy by replacing old moral standards and old literature with the new. The May 4th Movement marked the end of the Old Democratic Revolution and the start of the New Democratic Revolution in China, thereby opening a brand-new chapter of revolution in Chinese history. 

3  Li Dazhao: Youth. Li Dazhao (1889-1927) was a pioneer in acquiring and disseminating Marxism and one of the founders of the CPC. 

4  See note 2. 

5  Strategies of the States (Zhan Guo Ce), a collection of stories of political strategists of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). 

6 The Great Learning (Da Xue)

7  Guan Zi

8 The Book of History (Shang Shu)

9  An ancient Chinese philosophical viewpoint, from the Idea of God's Will of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC), which believed that Heaven and Man were closely related. 

10 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)

11 The Book of Changes (Yi Jing), also known as the I Ching, one of the Confucian classics. The book was used as a work for the divination of natural and social changes through the calculation of the Eight Trigrams representing Heaven, Earth, Thunder, Wind, Water, Fire, Mountain and Lake, believing that the interactions of the yin and yang give birth to everything in the universe and advocating simple yet dialectical viewpoints, such as "Changes derive from the mutual acceleration of the hard and soft." 

12 The Book of Rites (Li Ji)

13 Gu Yanwu: Records of Daily Knowledge (Ri Zhi Lu). Gu Yanwu (1613-1682) was a thinker and historian in the late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

14 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)

15 Ibid

16 Ibid

17 Ibid

18 Ibid

19 Ibid

20 The Mencius (Meng Zi), one of the Confucian classics compiled by Mencius and his disciples. The book is a collection of anecdotes and conversations of the Confucian thinker and philosopher Mencius during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). It is one of the "Four Classics of Confucianism," the other three being The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean and The Analects of Confucius

21 Ibid

22 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)

23 The Mencius (Meng Zi)

24 Ibid

25 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu) is one of the Confucian classics. Written by the disciples of Confucius, it records the words and deeds of Confucius, and also comprises dialogues between Confucius and his disciples. The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)The Great Learning (Da Xue)The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong) and The Mencius (Meng Zi) are collectively known as the "Four Classics of Confucianism." 

26 Zheng Xie: Bamboos amid Rocks. Zheng Xie (1693-1765), also known as Zheng Banqiao, was a calligrapher and writer in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). 

27 Liu Zhou: Liu Zi. Liu Zhou (514-565) was a man of letters of the State of Northern Qi during the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589). 

28 Zhuge Liang: Advice to My Son. Zhuge Liang (181-234), also known as Kong Ming, was a legendary prime minister and statesman of the Shu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280). 

29 Lu Xun (1881-1936) was a litterateur, thinker and revolutionary as well as one of the founders of modern Chinese literature. 

30 "Postscripts of Selected Works of Lu Xun," Selected Works of Lu Xun, Vol. 20, Chinese ed., People's Literature Publishing House, Beijing, 1973, p. 663. 

31 Mao Zedong: "Changsha," Mao Zedong Poems, Eng. ed., Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1998, p. 5. 

32 The Great Learning (Da Xue)

33 Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940) was a democratic revolutionary, educator and scientist. He served as president of Peking University from 1916 to 1927. 

34 Cai Yuanpei: "Speech at the Patriotic Girls School," Complete Works of Cai Yuanpei, Vol. 3, Chinese ed., Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, 1984, p. 8. 

35 The Book of Changes (Yi Jing)

36 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)

37 Liu Yuxi: Nine Poems (Jiu Shou). Liu Yuxi (772-842) was a man of letters and philosopher of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). 

38 The Book of Rites (Li Ji), one of the Confucian classics, is an important work for the study of ancient China's social forms, laws and regulations, and traditional Confucian canon, covering the realms of society, politics, moral principles, philosophy and religion. 

39 The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong), one of the Confucian classics, used to be a part of The Book of Rites. Published as an independent book during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it became one of the "Four Classics of Confucianism," the other three being The Great Learning, The Analects of Confucius and The Mencius

40 Lao Zi or Dao De Jing. This is an important philosophical work from ancient China, which proposed the thought of the "Tao" and advocated the ideas of "governing by doing nothing" and "going along with Nature." 

41 Lu Xun: "Peking University in My Eyes," Complete Works of Lu Xun, Vol. 3, Chinese ed., People's Literature Publishing House, Beijing, 1973, p. 155. 

42 Mei Yiqi (1889-1962) served as the president of Tsinghua University from 1931 to 1948. 

43 This is an idea for running schools initiated by Mei Yiqi in his inaugural speech on accepting the presidency of Tsinghua University on December 2, 1931.

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