Study for a Brighter Future

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China I Updated: 2021-12-13

Study for a Brighter Future* 

March 1, 2013 

Our Party has always worked to ensure that all its members, especially leading officials, acquire further knowledge. This has proved to be useful for developing the cause of the Party and the people. At every major turning point, when faced with new circumstances and tasks, the Party has called upon its members to study harder. Each time, it has brought about big changes and developments for the cause of the Party and the people. At the very beginning of reform and opening up in 1978, the Party Central Committee stressed that achieving the Four Modernizations – modernization of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology – is a great and profound revolution. We will have to move forward in this revolution by continuously solving new problems. Therefore, all Party members must know how to study and keep updating their knowledge. Compared with the past, we have more to study today, not less, because of the new circumstances and tasks confronting us. 

At present, the entire Party must clearly understand and properly handle the new situations and problems arising from the development of the country. This is an important challenge. Some of the problems we face today are old – either problems that we have long failed to solve properly, or old problems with new manifestations, but most of our problems are new. The reason why new and unfamiliar problems keep surfacing is because of the changes in the world, in our country, and in our Party. The best possible way to understand and address the problems, whether they are new or old, long-standing or old ones in new form, is to enhance our capabilities through study. In the process of study, we should not only put what we know into practice, but also acquire new practical problem-solving skills. 

The various goals and tasks set by the 18th Party National Congress, including adapting ourselves to a complex and volatile international situation, safeguarding overall reform, development and stability and doing good work in all areas, impose new demands on Party members' capabilities. Throughout its history of revolution, construction and reform our Party has encountered numerous difficulties, and what has been achieved in our cause has come from painstaking explorations and hard work. There is simply no possibility that we can advance our cause and achieve our goals without ever encountering any impediment. It can be anticipated that various difficulties, risks and challenges will continue to surface on our way forward. The key lies in our ability to resolve, manage and conquer them. 

Generally speaking, in some areas our abilities already meet the demands of the development of the Party and the country, but in others they are inadequate. As the circumstances and challenges we face continue to change, we become less capable of responding to their demands. If we do not improve our professional level at every opportunity, over time we will lose the ability to fulfill the arduous tasks of leadership in reform and opening up, and socialist modernization. 

During the Yan'an period, our Party became aware of its dread of incompetence. The Party Central Committee pointed out clearly that our people suffered a dread. It was not an economic or political dread, but a dread of incompetence. The limited bank of abilities accumulated over the years had been depleted with each passing day, and the coffers were empty. 

Are we faced with the same problem today? My answer is yes. Many people have the aspiration to do their work well and are full of enthusiasm, but they are lacking in the abilities required to achieve this in changing circumstances. In response to new circumstances and problems, they cling to old patterns of thinking and old practices. The problem stems from ignorance of general trends and new approaches, as well as inadequate knowledge and abilities. They rush headlong into their work and act blindly. As a result, although they are conscientious in their work and spare themselves no effort, they either take the wrong approach or act in a way that defeats their purpose, or even "head south while their chariot is pointing north." In such cases, it is often the case that our people have no alternative when the tried and trusted methods fail, or they dare not adopt sterner measures when soft ones prove inadequate. 

In my opinion, this will continue to be the case for a long time to come. Therefore, all members, especially those in positions of leadership at all levels, must have a sense of crisis and constantly improve their professional competence. Only by doing this can we achieve the Two Centenary Goals, and make the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation come true. 

Nobody is born with knowledge. We all have to acquire it through study and practice. In modern times knowledge is becoming outdated at an ever-increasing pace, with a whole range of new knowhow, new information and new states of affairs cascading over us. Academics have noted that up to the 18th century the body of human knowledge doubled within a period of around 90 years. Since the 1990s there has been an exponential acceleration in this process – the body of human knowledge is now estimated to double every three to five years. The amount of knowledge produced by human society over the past 50 years exceeds the aggregate generated over the previous 3,000 years. It is also believed that in the age of the agrarian economy, a few years of study sufficed for one's lifetime, in the age of the industrial economy, one had to study for at least ten years to obtain all the knowledge necessary for one's life, and in this age of the knowledge economy, one has to keep up with the times through life-long study. 

If we fail to improve our knowledge in a wide variety of areas, if we do not take the initiative to learn about science and culture, if we are unwilling to conscientiously update our knowledge and improve our knowledge structure, develop the broadest possible perspective and broaden our horizons, we will not improve our professional competence. As a consequence we will not be able to grasp the initiative and prevail. Ultimately, the future will pass us by. Therefore, all Party members, especially leading officials at all levels, must have a sense of urgency and study more. 

It is precisely from this strategic perspective that the 18th Party National Congress highlighted the important task of building the Party into a learning, service-oriented, and innovative Marxist governing party. Studying should be placed first because it is a prerequisite fund of knowledge with which we will be able to better serve the people and stay innovative. Since we are all leading officials who shoulder duties and responsibilities entrusted to us by the Party and the people, we have to constantly raise our professional level, enrich our knowledge, dedicate ourselves to our work, and improve all aspects of our performance. Whether or not leading officials improve themselves through study is not only a personal matter, but a big issue concerning the development of the cause of the Party and the country. An ancient scholar expressed it thus, "One may or may not study for the purpose of becoming an official, but officials must be learned to fulfill their duties."1

We must study in order to improve our ability to work in a more scientific way, with greater foresight and initiative, and to keep up with the times, follow the law of development, and be innovative in our leadership and policy-making. We must study in order to avoid bewilderment resulting from inadequate knowledge, blindness resulting from insensibility, and chaos resulting from ignorance. We must also study in order to overcome professional deficiencies, the dread of incompetence, and outdated capabilities. Otherwise, we are no better than "the blind man on a blind horse who is in danger of falling into a deep pool at night"2 – an imprudent and inadvisable course of action, however courageous. This could lead us to failure in work, losing our way and falling behind the times. 

The cause of building Chinese socialism is a great and unprecedented undertaking. Therefore, our approach to study should be comprehensive, systematic and exploratory. We should have focus in our study and widen the scope of our knowledge. We should learn both from books and through practice. We should learn from ordinary people, from experts and scholars, and draw upon beneficial experiences of foreign countries as well. We should nourish ourselves with both theoretical and practical knowledge. 

First of all, we should study Marxist theory. This is a special requirement that will help us to work well, and also a necessary requirement that will equip leading officials to excel in leadership. Mao Zedong once stated, "Our Party's fighting capacity will be much greater...if there are one hundred or two hundred comrades with a grasp of Marxism-Leninism which is systematic and not fragmentary, genuine and not hollow."3 

This task still confronts our Party today. We must acquire a true grasp of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thought of the Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development. And we must especially have a good understanding of the Marxist stand, viewpoint and method that permeate all these ideas. This can enable us to remain sharp-eyed and clear-minded and gain a profound understanding of the laws of the development of human society, the laws of building socialism, and the laws of governance by the CPC. This can help us stay firm in our ideals and convictions, adhere to the correct guiding thoughts, and hold to the correct orientation in any complex situation. This can also enable us to lead the people along the correct road and make progress in building Chinese socialism. 

Leading officials must study the Party's guidelines, principles and policies, and the country's laws and regulations. An understanding of these is a basic preparation we must make for our work, and it is also a political attainment we must have. Without this body of knowledge, how can we make policy decisions and solve problems? And we may even end up with mistakes in our work. 

Leading officials at all levels should study the history of both the Party and the country and remain patriotic and dedicated to them. We should study the development of the Party and the country, draw upon their historical experiences, and understand major events and figures in the history of the Party and the country. History is the best textbook, so studying it will teach us to understand the country and the Party, and open the gates to a bright future. 

Leading officials should study economics, politics, history, culture, science and technology, and knowledge of social, military and foreign affairs related to their work. They should become more knowledgeable and more professionally competent. They should learn what they need in their work and study what they do not know, and acquire knowledge that is conducive to good leadership and high performance. In doing so, they will become experts as well as better leaders in their fields. 

Leading officials should also study history and culture, especially traditional Chinese culture, to develop wisdom and become more refined. Traditional Chinese culture is both extensive and profound, and to acquire the essence of various thoughts is beneficial to the formation of a correct worldview, outlook on life and sense of values. 

Our ancient scholars commented that our aspirations should be as follows: in politics, "being the first to worry about the affairs of the state and the last to enjoy oneself"4; as patriots, "not daring to ignore the country's peril no matter how humble one's position"5 and "doing everything possible to save the country in its peril without regard to personal fortune or misfortune"6; on integrity, "never being corrupted by riches and honors, never departing from principle despite poverty or humble origin, and never submitting to force or threat"7; on selfless dedication, "dying with a loyal heart shining in the pages of history"8 and "giving all, till the heart beats its last."9 These maxims reflect the fine traditions and spirit of the Chinese nation, and we should all keep them alive and have them further developed. 

Leading officials should also study literature. They should refine their tastes and develop uplifting interests through appreciation of works of literature and art. Many revolutionaries of the older generation had a profound literary background and were well versed in poetry. 

In short, history helps us understand the failures and successes of the past, and learn lessons from the rise and fall of states. Poetry stimulates us, sends our dreams skywards and makes us witty. Integrity improves our judgment and helps us cultivate a sense of honor and disgrace. We should not only study Chinese history and culture, but also open our eyes to the rest of the world and learn about the histories and cultures of other peoples. We should give preference to what is uplifting in these histories and cultures and reject what is base – obtaining enlightenment and employing it for our own use. 

Leading officials must direct their studies correctly. If they deviate from the guiding principle of Marxism, they will be studying without a clear aim and may go astray. They might easily become confused when the situation becomes complex, and might fall victim to defective thinking. Departing from the correct orientation, they might not only fail to acquire sound knowledge, but also find themselves deceived and misled by tempting fallacies and ideas that are unrealistic, ridiculous or absurd. 

The purpose of study lies in practice. The ultimate goal of leading officials who dedicate greater effort to their studies lies in honing their capability in work and in solving problems. A Chinese saying goes like this, "Empty talk harms the country, while hard work makes it flourish." This demands real efforts in both study and work. We all should bear in mind the historical lessons of Zhao Kuo10 of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), who fought all his battles on paper, or the scholars of the Western and Eastern Jin dynasties (265-420) who became ineffective due to spending too much time in useless debates. 

Reading and application are both ways of learning, and the latter is more important. Leading officials should adopt the Marxist approach by combining theory with practice. In the course of their studies there should always be questions in mind. We should respect the people as our mentors, learn from work, and work on the basis of learning, making use of what we have learned and applying it to real-life situations. Study and practice should always promote each other. We should disdain empty talk and never be a "Krikun." 

A genuine interest in the subject is the best teacher. This concept is reflected in a Chinese saying, "Regarding knowledge, those who are devoted to it learn better than those who are aware of it, and those who enjoy it the most are the best students."11 Leading officials should pursue study as a quest, a hobby, and an element of a healthy lifestyle, which will make them happy and eager to learn. With a keen interest in study we will be enthusiastic volunteers rather than reluctant conscripts, and study will be a lifelong habit instead of a temporary pastime. 

Study and deliberation complement each other, as do study and practice. As another Chinese saying goes, "Reading without thinking makes one muddled; thinking without reading makes one flighty."12 If you have problems in mind and want to find solutions, you should start studying and study conscientiously. You must "learn extensively, inquire earnestly, think profoundly, discriminate clearly and practice sincerely."13 

We should be adept at making time for study. I often hear officials say that they would love to study more, but they "just don't have time because of their busy work schedules." This sounds superficially plausible, but it can never be an excuse for slackening in study. In stressing the need to improve our work, the Party Central Committee has suggested that we spend more time thinking and studying, and cut down on meaningless banquets and formalities. 

These days, there is a general public grievance that some officials do more partying than studying. "Those in the dark are in no position to light the way for others."14 This will have an adverse effect on our work, and will ultimately hinder our overall development. If we bury our heads in our work to the detriment of our studies, we run the risk of mental sclerosis and vulgarization. When engaged in study we should be focused and avoid distractions. Our approach should be persistent, and not that of the dilettante. We must gain a true grasp of what we are studying, rather than reading superficially without understanding. Leading officials must place a high priority on learning and study assiduously. As long as we apply ourselves, even half an hour of reading a day, just a few pages, will add up over time. 

In summary, study makes progress. To a large extent we Chinese Communists have relied on learning for our achievements, and we will surely continue to do so in the future. If our officials, our Party, our country and our people are to make progress, we must be advocates of learning. We must study, study, then study some more, and we must practice, practice, then practice some more. 

* Main part of the speech at the celebration assembly of the 80th anniversary of the Central Party School and the opening ceremony of its 2013 spring semester.


1  Xun Zi

2 Liu Yiqing: New Accounts of Tales of the World (Shi Shuo Xin Yu). Liu Yiqing (403-444) was a man of letters during the Southern Dynasties. New Accounts of Tales of the World is a literary collection of words and stories of scholar-bureaucrats from the late Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) to the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). 

3  Mao Zedong: "The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War," Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Vol. II, Eng. ed., Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1975, p. 209. 

4 Fan Zhongyan: The Yueyang Tower. Fan Zhongyan (989-1052) was a statesman and literary scholar of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). 

5  Lu You: Feelings After Illness

6  Lin Zexu: Farewell to My Family on My Way to Exile. Lin Zexu (1785-1850) was a patriot and statesman of the Qing Dynasty who advocated resistance to Western invasion and a ban on the non-medicinal consumption of opium during the Opium War. 

7 The Mencius (Meng Zi)

8  Wen Tianxiang: Passing Lingdingyang. Wen Tianxiang (1236-1283) was a minister and writer of the Southern Song Dynasty. 

9  Zhuge Liang: Second Petition on Taking the Field (Hou Chu Shi Biao)

10 Zhao Kuo (?-260 BC), a high-ranking military officer of the State of Zhao during the Warring States Period, was an armchair strategist without any real experience of battle. In 260 BC, he fell into a trap set by Bai Qi, a general of the State of Qin, and found his army surrounded by the enemy in Changping. Zhao Kuo failed to break through the encirclement and was killed. More than 400,000 Zhao soldiers were captured and buried alive. 

11 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)

12 The Analects of Confucius (Lun Yu)

13 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 LearningThe Analects of Confucius and The Mencius

14 The Mencius (Meng Zi).

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