Foster and Practice Core Socialist Values from Childhood*
May 30, 2014
Dear students, teachers and friends,
Good morning! We're happy to be here today to attend your Young Pioneers1 event and initiation ceremony for new Young Pioneers. International Children's Day is just around the corner. Here I wish you and children of all ethnic groups in China a happy festival!
Attaching great importance to moral cultivation, Minzu Primary School of Haidian District has organized many activities and achieved good results. Just now I listened to some thought-provoking speeches from you students, teachers and parents. You all talked about the need to strengthen moral education and to guide children to foster and practice core socialist values from childhood. This is great! I have the same idea. And I want to discuss this issue with you.
The cultural progress of a nation and the development of a country require continuous efforts of generations and various driving forces. Among these forces, core values are the deepest and most everlasting. The Chinese nation boasts a long history and splendid culture of over 5,000 years, and our civilization has developed in an unbroken line from ancient to modern times. How could our nation survive and develop over this long course of history? One important reason is that our nation has a moral pursuit and ethos that have been carried on for generations. The written Chinese characters we now use are not basically different from the oracle bone inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600-1046 BC), and the brilliant insights of Lao Zi2, Confucius3, Mencius4, Zhuang Zi5, and other ancient sages have been passed down to us today. Our civilization has developed for several thousand years without interruption. This is a unique achievement in world history.
Today, our nation is set to make further progress. We must take stock of the current conditions and carry on our national spirit and culture, especially our traditional virtues.
The core socialist values we now uphold are prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship. These values embody the thoughts of the ancient sages, the aspirations of public-spirited people, the ideals of the revolutionary martyrs and the expectations of ordinary people. All Chinese people should act conscientiously to foster and practice these values.
I have stressed this issue on several occasions. In February this year, the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee held a special group study session on the topic. I made a speech, in which I raised the requirements for the whole of society in this regard. I also talked about this issue when visiting the students of Peking University on Youth Day, May 4, and when meeting leading officials in Shanghai a few days ago. Today, I want to talk about it to you pupils. Because in order for an idea to be established and developed on a long-term basis, we must start by telling our children about it.
Children are the future of our country and the hope of the Chinese nation. As Liang Qichao said in his "Young China"6: "If the youth are wise, the country will be wise. If the youth prosper, the country will prosper. If the youth are strong, the country will be strong.... If the youth progress, the country will progress." The new replacing the old is an irresistible law; and the future will always be created by today's children. Last year, on International Children's Day, I said that every adult grew up from childhood. The realization of our dream is reliant on us, and, more importantly, on you. Children are sensitive and are ready to accept all beautiful things. "Since antiquity, it is from adolescents that heroes emerge." To create a better future for our nation we need to encourage our children to set great goals and shape their characters, and ensure a sound environment for their growth.
How should children foster and practice the core socialist values? They should do so in a different way from adults, a way which conforms to their ages and traits. Here I want to raise four points: remembering the requirements, following role models, starting from childhood and accepting help.
First, remembering the requirements means that children need to learn by heart the core socialist values, and always keep these values in mind. You pupils are still studying at school and don't have much social experience; so you may not thoroughly understand the meanings of these values. But you will acquire more knowledge and experience as you grow up, and thus gain a better understanding of them, as long as you bear them in mind. In this process, you need to think about the requirements and acquire a better understanding in your studies and life. Through the ages, most people with great achievements have been strict with themselves since childhood.
Second, following role models means that children need to learn from heroes and advanced figures, and to cultivate good characters through study. There are many young heroes in our history and in the revolution, construction and reform drive of our people under the leadership of the Party. You may have heard some of their names from films such as Red Children, Zhang Ga the Soldier Boy, The Feathered Letter, Little Hero Soldier and Young Heroic Sisters of the Mongolian Grassland. Now we have more exemplary children. I know that some students in your school have won the title of "the most beautiful children." Besides, there are many other role models from all professions whose examples we should follow. For example, astronauts, Olympic champions, scientists, model workers, young volunteers, and many other people who are ready to help others or to take on a just cause, and who are honest, trustworthy, filial, or dedicated to their work. The power of role models is infinite. You should take them as examples in pursuing virtues. Confucius said, "When we see men of virtue, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should examine ourselves."7
Third, starting from childhood means that children need to start with themselves, and make every possible effort to cultivate good morality. "A young idler, an old beggar."8 And "a journey of one thousand miles begins with the first step." Everyone's life consists of small matters. Starting with small virtues, you can nurture great virtues. Being young, you may not be able to do as many things for our society as adults do. But you can start from minor things. You can ask yourself every day: Do I love my country? Do I love my school? Do I study hard? Do I care about my classmates? Do I respect my teachers? Do I honor my parents? Do I conform to social morality? Do I admire good people and good deeds? Do I feel angry at bad people and bad things? The more you think, the more you will urge yourself to act; the more you act, the more virtues you will acquire. I heard that some students like to compete with each other in food, clothes or parents' jobs, and some even take pride in having cars to take them to school and then back home. Such competition makes them stray from the correct path. You should never vie with each other in these matters. "A hard life breeds great talents, whereas an easy life is not the way to cultivate great men." "Work hard when young, and you will have a future; time flies, and you should not slacken your efforts."9 However, you can compete with each other as to who is more ambitious, who works harder, who loves work more, who loves physical training more or who is more caring.
Fourth, accepting help means that children need to accept both suggestions and criticisms, and grow up in a good environment where you correct your mistakes and make yourself a better person. No one is flawless. We make progress by overcoming shortcomings and correcting mistakes. As the saying goes, "A jade uncut will not be a useful vessel; a man without learning will not know the way."10 At your age, you children are establishing a world view, an outlook on life and values, and you need help. Don't complain that parents talk too much, that teachers are too strict, or that classmates are overreaching. Think about whether they are right, or if they are doing so for your good. If they are, you should accept their admonitions. You may not do well in all aspects. It doesn't matter. As long as you see where you have fallen down and are willing to improve, you are making progress. Sometimes you may not know where you are going wrong, but your parents, teachers and classmates may point it out. Then you are also making progress if you correct what you have done wrong. Of course, good medicine tastes bitter, and good advice is harsh to the ear. We should be strict with ourselves, and make a habit of modestly accepting criticism and help. A bright future awaits you, as long as you take a correct path from childhood, practice what you learn and do your best.
Families, schools, organizations of the Young Pioneers of China, and our society as a whole should all take the responsibility of promoting core socialist values among children.
The family is the first classroom, and a parent is the child's first teacher. Parents should always set a good example for their children, and guide them with correct actions, ideas and methods. Parents should teach children to appreciate the true, the good and the beautiful, and to keep away from the false, the bad and the ugly in everyday life. Parents should observe children closely for any change in idea or action, and educate and guide them when needed.
Schools should attach greater importance to moral education, and work hard to enhance the school spirit and teachers' professional ethics. Teachers should take into consideration children's personalities and traits, and patiently impart knowledge and cultivate virtues. Schools should ensure that their activities are good for the students' physical and mental health, and will exert a favorable influence on their characters. Schools should also ensure that all students receive sincere care and help, making the seeds of core socialist values take root and grow in their hearts.
The Chinese Young Pioneers need to launch educational campaigns and activities to better serve students in fostering and practicing core socialist values, and unite, educate and guide children through these activities. Meanwhile, our society needs to understand, respect, care about and offer help to children, provide a favorable environment for them, and oppose and prevent violations of their rights and damage to their physical or mental health.
The waves behind drive on those before, and the younger generation will excel the previous one. I believe that children of this generation will have great goals and beautiful dreams, love study, work and our country, and conscientiously foster and practice core socialist values from childhood. I believe you have made yourselves ready to realize the Chinese Dream, guided by your flag of the star and torch11.
* Speech at a discussion held at the Minzu Primary School of Haidian District in Beijing.
1 The Young Pioneers of China is a national organization for children run by the Communist Youth League, an organization of young adults, that is under the CPC. It was named the Youth and Children of China Movement when it was founded on October 13, 1949 by the Communist Youth League, and was given its present name on August 21, 1953.
2 Lao Zi (dates unknown), also known as Li Dan and Li Er, was a philosopher and the founder of philosophical Taoism in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). His ideas include: "The Tao follows Nature," "existence and non-existence give birth to each other," and "governance by doing nothing." It was said that he wrote Lao Zi or Dao De Jing.
3 Confucius (551-479 BC), also known as Kong Qiu and Zhongni, was a philosopher, educator, statesman and the founder of Confucianism in late Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). He created a school of thought with benevolence (ren) as the core. He devoted himself to education and compiled numerous ancient classics. His main ideas and doctrines were recorded in The Analects of Confucius. From the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), Confucianism became the mainstream of traditional Chinese culture for over 2,000 years, and Confucius was respected as a sage by China's feudal rulers.
4 Mencius (c. 372-289 BC), also known as Meng Ke and Ziyu, was a philosopher and educator in mid-Warring States Period (475-221 BC). He believed that "man is an integral part of Nature," put forth a theory that man is born good, and summarized moral rules as four virtues: benevolence, justice, propriety and wisdom. He carried forward and developed the idea of benevolence and the rule of virtue propounded by Confucius, and raised a new idea that "the people are more important than the ruler." He was the most famous Confucian after Confucius, or secondary sage. He wrote The Mencius (Meng Zi).
5 Zhuang Zi (369-286 BC) was a Taoist philosopher of the Warring States Period. He carried forward Lao Zi's thought, and believed that Taoism was the highest principle of the world. His philosophy embodies the goal that "Heaven, Earth and I were produced together, and all things and I are one."
6 "Young China" was an essay written by Liang Qichao (1873-1929), a thinker and scholar, and one of the leaders of the Hundred Days' Reform (or 1898 Reform) in late Qing Dynasty.
7 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu).
8 Collected Yuefu Songs and Ballads (Yue Fu Shi Ji). This is a collection of songs and ballads dating from the remote past to the Five Dynasties period, compiled by Guo Maoqian (1041-1099) of the Song Dynasty.
9 Du Xunhe: For Nephews at School. Du Xunhe (846-904) was a poet of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
10 Three-character Classic (San Zi Jing), a textbook for elementary education in ancient China. It was said to have been written by Wang Yinglin (1223-1296) or Ou Shizi (1234-1324) in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and was supplemented in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Written in triplets of characters for easy memorization, the book focuses on moral education.
11 The flag of the Young Pioneers of China is composed of a five-pointed star and a torch, the former symbolizing the leadership of the CPC and the latter symbolizing brightness. The red flag symbolizes the success of the revolution.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)