A Nation Must Have a Soul

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China III Updated: 2021-12-30

A Nation Must Have a Soul* 

March 4, 2019 

The year 2018 was an extraordinary one for China. On the path to realize the Two Centenary Goals, we pressed forward with full confidence; we endured hardships and achieved self-fulfillment; we invested efforts and reaped harvests. The CPC Central Committee united and led the Party and the Chinese people in seeking progress while maintaining stability. As a result, China's economic growth has been within a reasonable range, the country has maintained overall social stability, and the Chinese people have attained an increasingly strong sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security. This is a prelude to the implementation of the guiding principles of the 19th CPC National Congress held in 2017. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up in 2018, and will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC in 2019. Both are important occasions, not only for this era but even in terms of the entire Chinese history of thousands of years. As we summarize the accomplishments and experience gained from reform and opening up, and drive reform in all areas to a deeper level, the Party and the Chinese people become more resolved in and confident of their ability to advance reform and opening up. These achievements have been hard-won, under the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and through the concerted efforts of all our people and the wisdom of all CPPCC members, including all those present today.

The CPC Central Committee has always valued literature, art, philosophy and social sciences. I presided over the Seminar on Literature and Art in October 2014 and the Seminar on Philosophy and Social Sciences in May 2016, and addressed both seminars. In recent years, our literary, art and social science circles have strengthened their commitment to the Four Consciousnesses, the Four-sphere Confidence and the Two Upholds, and have taken on the mission of upholding socialism, rallying public support, fostering a new generation with sound values and ethics, developing Chinese culture, and building a positive image of China. In literary and artistic creation, they take on the responsibility for identifying the root problems and addressing them thoroughly, keeping to the right political direction by carrying on fine traditions and facilitating innovation. They have consolidated the guiding role of Marxism and reinforced their people-centered approach. The quality of literary and artistic works is improving. Philosophy and social sciences with Chinese features are thriving and generating remarkable results. A nation must have a soul that captures our fine traditions. As cerebral undertakings, literature, art, philosophy and social sciences are creations of the soul; they are indispensable and must never go astray.

The CPPCC members in the literary, art and social science circles have done tremendous work in deliberating on how to foster and practice the core socialist values, how to strengthen confidence in the culture of Chinese socialism and better present China to the world, how to promote progress in socialist literature and art, how to improve the public cultural service system, and how to ensure a clean and decent cyberspace. In 2018, they offered proposals on how to promote the ethos of model workers and high standards of craftsmanship, how to protect and utilize resources for tourism in former revolutionary sites, and how to develop the cultural and creative industries. They have played an important role in facilitating rational decision-making and effective governance.

On the whole, for several years the literary, art, and social science circles have successfully identified their goals, followed the right path, improved their conduct, created new positive trends, produced fine works, and trained capable professionals. Their undertakings are thriving as a result of these changes.

Our work in literature, art, philosophy and social sciences, weighing high in the overall work of the Party and the country, plays a significant role in upholding and developing the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. At the National Conference on Public Communication held in 2018, I set my expectations of our work in these fields under the current situation. Here, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts.

First, we should keep pace with the times. As an ancient Chinese poet said, "Prose and poetry are composed to reflect the times and reality."1 We should keep pace with and speak for our times. In 2018, we held a grand celebration for the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up, and commended 100 pioneers of reform. Among them were many writers, artists and social scientists, including Li Guyi, Li Xuejian, Shi Guangnan, Jiang Zilong, Xie Jin, Lu Yao, Fan Jinshi, Li Yining, Lin Yifu, Wang Jiafu, Hu Fuming, Xu Chongde, Du Runsheng, and Zheng Derong. They are all outstanding representatives in their fields, keeping up with and serving the needs of the times.

The new era of Chinese socialism calls for outstanding writers, artists and theorists and offers extensive space for literary and artistic creation and academic innovation. I hope we will increase confidence in our culture, keep up with the pulse of the times, and listen to the voices of the times. Our mission is to record the new era, create the new era, and extol the best of the new era. We should brave challenges and seek inspiration for innovative themes from contemporary Chinese creations. We should reflect the historic changes in our era and depict the spirit of our age. We should record the progress of this era, tell its stories, and manifest its virtues.

Second, we should adopt a people-centered approach. The people are the creators of history. All achievements come from the people, and all glories belong to the people. Looking into the future, we must rely closely on the people to overcome the challenges that confront us on our road ahead, and realize the blueprint for national development drawn up at the 19th CPC National Congress. "The roc soars not merely because of the lightness of one of its feathers; the steed gallops not merely because of the strength of one of its legs."2 If China wants to fly high and run fast, it must rely on the strength of its nearly 1.4 billion people.

In producing literary and artistic works and conducting research in philosophy and social sciences, we must know who we are creating and speaking for. This is a fundamental issue. The people are the source of inspiration for literary and artistic creations. Only through a people-centered approach can we draw inexhaustible inspiration. Our writers and artists should look beyond their own lives and go deeper into the lives of ordinary people to tell stories about them, listen to their voices, and celebrate their merits. People working in the philosophy and social science circles should look beyond their ivory tower and conduct extensive field research to see how people live and think, then address their doubts and concerns in a way that echoes their inner world. Philosophy, social sciences, literature, and art must respond to reality and analyze social problems. Before prescribing the right solutions for our country, we must first have an idea of its health and then identify the ailments and their causes. How can we treat the ailments without a sound diagnosis?

Third, we should create fine works for the people. Great writers and scholars do not put on airs, but produce great works. Mentioning Lao Zi, Confucius, and Mencius, we recall Dao De Jing, The Analects of Confucius, and The Mencius.3 Referring to Tao Yuanming, Li Bai, and Du Fu,4 we think of their well-known poems and prose. Speaking of Plato, William Shakespeare, and Adam Smith, we remember The Republic, Hamlet, and The Wealth of Nations. If writers and scholars do not focus on creating fine works, but take shortcuts and seek instant benefits, they cannot grow into masters. As I mentioned at the Seminar on Literature and Art in 2014, it is fine works that count. All ostentatious activities are superficial and will soon be gone with the wind.

All cultural creations and academic research, to be valuable and meaningful, should reflect and respond to reality, address practical problems, and tackle real issues. I hope that based on China's actual conditions, you can create works that reflect our country's progress and our people's enriched lives, and demonstrate the spirit, values and strength of the Chinese nation. Originality is a characteristic shared by all fine works. Our literary and artistic creations should highlight the Chinese context and the current era. Writers and artists should increase the ethical, cultural and artistic value of their works by integrating new concepts with new approaches, and new contents with new forms. Our research in philosophy and social sciences should be grounded on the practice of Chinese socialism, and produce original theories and perspectives to build a system of disciplines, an academic system and a discourse system with Chinese characteristics. At the National Conference on Public Communication, I emphasized the need to generate the will to get down to the grassroots, and to improve the ability to observe clearly, think profoundly and write powerfully. This requirement is also the prerequisite and foundation for creating fine works. I hope CPPCC members from the literary, art and social science circles will take the lead and set a good example. In addition to releasing individual talent, we also need to gather source materials and conduct in-depth and detailed research. Success lies in the details. As screenplays and novels draw on emotive and genuine details, we need to dig deeper into real life to obtain them.

Fourth, we should build social norms by promoting virtue. According to Zuo's Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals5 , "The highest attainment is to exemplify virtue; the second highest is to perform great deeds; the third highest is to put forth noble ideas." People working in the literary, art, philosophy and social science circles have the responsibility to inspire minds, refine character, and warm hearts. You also shoulder the mission to cultivate morality and consolidate the foundations of our society through your works. As well-known public figures, you are expected to set an example for society with your lofty aspirations, sound morals and noble sentiment.

To promote virtue, we should first establish moral integrity. It requires those working in the literary, art, philosophy and social science circles to be firm in their beliefs and ideals, be responsible, aim high, and have a deep love for the country. The artistic and academic quests of individuals should be integrated into the country's future and the people's wellbeing. Accordingly, writers, artists and scholars should make their due contribution to the country and the people. They should observe professional ethics, improve professional proficiency, and be hardworking and diligent. They should practice the core socialist values and develop a strong sense of responsibility. They should reject sycophancy in favor of self-respect, and vulgarity in favor of refinement. Writers, artists and scholars with a good work ethic should demonstrate dedication and perseverance in the pursuit of their professional aspirations, and achieve their goals through assiduous and painstaking efforts.

The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC. Over the past 70 years, China has witnessed profound changes and achieved a tremendous transformation. The Chinese nation has stood up, become better off and grown in strength. In the history of both China and the wider world, it deserves to be written into a heroic epic. I hope you can produce fine works to reflect the hard work of our Party and our people, to explore the immanent causes of change in our country, to explain the strengths in the path, theory, system and culture of Chinese socialism behind our achievements, and to better interpret China's practices with Chinese theories, so as to stimulate the Party and the people to forge ahead.

As I said at the New Year gathering of the CPPCC National Committee at the end of 2018, the people's support is our top political priority and public consensus is our driving force for progress. To achieve the Two Centenary Goals and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, we need to pool the wisdom and strength of all Chinese people, build broad consensus, and promote unity. We should be fully aware of the role of the CPPCC, which is to focus on the central tasks of the Party and the country and fulfill its duties. The CPPCC must enhance its function of democratic scrutiny, and gather all the positive energy for national rejuvenation. I hope all of you as CPPCC members will improve your competencies and capabilities, take the lead in every aspect of your work, honor your commitment, and fulfill your mission.

* Speech at a joint panel discussion of CPPCC National Committee members from the literary, art and social science circles during the Second Session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee.


1 Bai Juyi: "A Letter to Yuan Zhen" (Yu Yuan Jiu Shu). Bai Juyi (772-846) was a poet of the Tang Dynasty.

2 Wang Fu: Comments of a Recluse (Qian Fu Lun). Wang Fu (c. 85-c. 163) was a philosopher and political commentator of the Eastern Han Dynasty. 

3 Dao De Jing, also known as Lao Zi, is an important philosophical work from ancient China. It is reputed to have been written by Lao Zi during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). 

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 Mencius (Meng Zi) is one of the Confucian classics compiled by Mencius and his disciples. The book is a collection of anecdotes and conversations of Mencius during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). 

4 Tao Yuanming (365-427) was a poet of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Li Bai (701-762) and Du Fu (712-770) were poets of the Tang Dynasty. 

5 Zuo's Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals (Zuo Zhuan), one of the Chinese Confucian classics, is believed to have been written by Zuoqiu Ming. Zuoqiu Ming (556-451 BC) was a historian in the State of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period.

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