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The Center for Strategic Translation provide statesmen and scholars with the tools needed to interpret the Chinese party-state of today while training a new generation of China specialists with the skills needed to guide our relations with the China of tomorrow.

The Center meets this need through initiatives in translation and education. The Center locates, translates, and annotates documents of historic or strategic value that are currently only available in Chinese. Our introductory essays, glossaries, and commentaries are designed to make these materials accessible and understandable to statesmen and scholars with no special expertise in Chinese politics or the Chinese language.

Complementing the Center’s published translations are the Center’s training seminars. Starting in the summer of 2023 the Center will host a series of seminars to instruct young journalists, graduate students, and government analysts in the open-source analysis of Communist Party policy, introduce them to the distinctive lexicon and history of Party speak, and train them how to draw credible conclusions from conflicting or propagandistic documentary sources.
    
The Center is an initiative of the American Governance Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that studies and promotes the betterment of American public institutions and publishes the quarterly magazine Palladium. The Center is directed by Tanner Greer, a noted essayist, journalist, and researcher with expertise interpreting China in the context of American foreign policy.

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Advancing Towards The Center of The World Stage
Zǒu Jìn Shìjiè Wǔtái Zhōngyāng
走近世界舞台中央

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Chinese officials and diplomats often describe China’s return to national greatness as a process of “advancing towards the center of the world stage.” As with other aspirational aims associated with China’s NATIONAL REJUVENATION, this “advance towards the center of the world stage” is intended to be completed by 2049, the centennial anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Most of the central leadership’s aspirations for 2049 concern domestic affairs: this phrase is one of the rare statements of what a fully rejuvenated China means for the rest of the world. 

The phrase “advancing towards the center of the world stage” was introduced in a 2011 People’s Daily editorial and saw periodic use in the early days of Xi Jinping. Xi elevated the slogan’s importance in his report to the 19th Party Congress. There he tied the claim that “our country advances ever closer to the center of the world stage” [我国日益走近世界舞台中央] to his declaration that the Party had entered a NEW ERA [新时代] in its history. As Mao gave China independence, and Deng made China prosperous, so would Xi Jinping help China “become strong.”  This stronger, more assertive China could then turn its eyes outside of China’s borders to “make greater contributions to mankind” [为人类作出更大贡献]. In Xi’s judgment, growing Chinese influence over the future of the species is an integral part of moving China to the world’s “center stage.” 

Phrases like “advancing towards the center of the world stage” and “making greater contributions to mankind” suggest the global scope of Chinese ambition while obscuring its ultimate object. An official Xinhua commentary on the 19th Congress provides an unusually forthright description of what this advance entails:

China has stood up, grown rich and become strong. It will advance  toward center stage and make greater contributions for mankind. By 2050, two centuries after the Opium Wars, which plunged the "Middle Kingdom" into a period of hurt and shame, China is set to regain its might and re-ascend to the top of the world.
…China's success proves that socialism can prevail and be a path for other developing countries to emulate and achieve modernization. China is now strong enough, willing, and able to contribute more for mankind. The new world order cannot be just dominated by capitalism and the West, and the time will come for a change (Xinhua, "Commentary: Milestone congress points to new era for China, the world," 2017).

Xinhua associates the “advance towards the center of the world stage” with a world order that is no longer capitalist nor Western-led; the less circumspect writing of Chinese academics and public intellectuals use the phrase in a similar fashion. The slogan should thus serve as a reminder that China’s leadership believes that the road to NATIONAL REJUVENATION demands structural changes to the world outside of China’s borders.


See also:   CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY;

Sources

Michael Swaine, “Chinese Views of Foreign Policy in the 19 th Party Congress,” China Leadership Monitor 55 (2018); Dan Tobin, “"How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should Have Ended U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions, ” Hearing on ‘A “China Model?” Beijing’s Promotion of Alternative Global Norms and Standards,’” § U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2020); Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021.

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Center, The
Zhōngyāng
中央

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“The Center” is a literal rendering of zhōngyāng. The phrase is is most commonly used as an abbreviation for the CENTRAL COMMITTEE of the Communist Party of China (中国共产党中央委员会), and official Chinese translations almost always opt for translating it as “The Central Committee.” The term, however, is more ambiguous than most translations into English allow. Cheng Zhenqiu, who directed  the English translation of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, described his dissatisfaction with his own translation with these comments:

Lexically, there are still many issues…for example, the translation of zhōngyāng [中央]….Sometimes zhongyang refers to the Central Standing Committee [中央常委], sometimes it refers to the Central Politburo [中央政治局], and more often it refers to the Central Committee. Abroad some have begun translating it as “the Center”; on this issue there’s room for further research. (Quoted in Holly Snape, China Law Translate, 1 December 2021)

The kaleidoscopic nature of the term is evident in Party regulations governing the Central Committee, which declares that 

The Central Committee, Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) are the brain and central hub of the Party organization. Only the Party Centre has the mandate to make decisions and interpret Party-wide and state-wide important principles and policies  (“Directive on the Operation of the Central Committee,” 2020).

The usefulness of a term whose definition can stretch to describe either the Central Committee, the POLITBURO, or the POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE as contingency requires has been recognized since the days of Mao Zedong, when obedience to The Center was first codified as part of the “FOUR OBEYS'' regulating Party life.  In particular, obfuscating the specific source of new directives means that decisions that may have only been made by a small group of leading cadres are cloaked with the mantle of larger party organs, suggesting a shared consensus or collective decision making process that may not actually exist.

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE;

Sources

Holly Snape, “New Regulations for the Central Committee: Codifying Xi Era Democratic Centralism,” China Law Translate, 1 December 2020; Li Ling, “Appeal of Strategic Ambiguity on Party Centre – Reading the Party Directive on the Operation of the Central Committee,”The China Collection, 18 October 2020.

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Central Committee
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng Zhōngyāng Wěiyuánhuì
中国共产党中央委员会

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The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, until 1927 called the Central Executive Committee (中央执行委员会), is the central administrative and decision-making body of the Chinese party-state. 

In the post-Mao era members of the Central Committee have been elected by the National Congress of the CPC every five years. These elections are a confirmation vote based on a candidate list where the number of candidates slightly exceeds the number of available seats. Usually only 8% to 12% of candidates are not elected to the Central Committee; it is customary for the Committee to include the governors and party secretaries of China’s provinces, the heads of central government bodies, major SOEs, and national party organizations, and high ranking military officers in the PLA among its members. 

The Central Committee has the nominal power to elect the members of the Secretariat, Politburo, and its Standing Committee, but in practice it merely confirms candidates pre-selected by the top leadership.  At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee, called PLENUMS, have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the POLITBURO ahead of time. Documents drafted during Central Committee meetings are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each condenses the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party.

See also: CENTER, THE; PLENUM;

Sources

Lawrence Sullivan, Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party, 2nd ed (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2022); Sebastian Heilman, ed., China’s Political System (Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield, 2017; Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge 2014). .

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Century of National Humiliation
Bǎinián Guóchǐ
百年国耻

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In Chinese historiography, the decades between the conclusion of the First Opium War in 1842 and the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 are described as a “century of national humiliation.” In these decades China lost a series of wars with European powers, ceded control of Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Manchuria, the Amur River Basin, and Outer Mongolia to alien empires, was forced to grant extraterritorial rights to foreigners in China, lost sovereign control of its markets and currency, and was saddled with onerous indemnities. This period of external intervention culminated with the Japanese invasion of 1937, which lead to the death of some 20 million Chinese. The legacy of humiliation haunts Chinese intellectuals today and provides the Communist Party of China with one of its most emotionally powerful legitimizing narratives.

The term “national humiliation” [国耻] dates to the late 19th century and served as a common touchstone for the various nationalist movements that sought to “save the country” [救国] at the beginning of the 20th. The founders of the Communist Party of China began their careers as activists more interested in nationalist uplift than communist utopia. In the disciplined, militarized hierarchy of a Leninist party they saw a vehicle for rescuing their nation. “Only socialism can save China” [只有社会主义才能救中国] they declared, and to this day Party historians and officials argue that Republican era experiments with other political ideologies all failed to unite China or drive out imperialist influence.

This narrative erases the sacrifices made by millions of Chinese not associated with the Communist Party for the sake of China’s future, as well as the success these sacrifices secured. It was under KMT rule that the Japanese were defeated, Western powers gave up their extraterritorial privileges in China, and China was given one of five seats on the UN Security Council. In Communist eyes these feats count for little, as they were all accomplished with the aid of imperialist powers. The early Communist leadership believed that only “cleaning out the house before inviting guests in” [打扫干净屋子再请客]— in other words, driving Westerners completely out of China before readmitting them on Chinese terms—could guarantee the founding of a NEW CHINA free from the taint of imperialist influence. The Communist version of eradicating  national humiliation thus began with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and was confirmed by Chinese success against “American imperialism” in the Korean War.   

By instructing the children of China to chant “never forget national humiliation” (勿忘国耻) the Party legitimizes this founding moment. It also suggests to the Chinese people what nightmares might occur if Party rule falters. The century of humiliation is a narrative of victimhood. It presumes an innocent China thrust into a dangerous world, there victimized by rapacious foreigners eager to feed on any nation too weak to maintain its sovereignty. Foreign opposition to Chinese policy today is easily reframed as a continuation of this antique pattern.  Under this schema China is still a victim of underserved hostility; without the guiding hand of a strong and united Party, these hostile forces will force national humiliation on the Chinese people once again.

See also: GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; NEW CHINA

Sources

Zheng Wang, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012); Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2014); John Garver, China's Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People's Republic of China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); John Fitzgerald, Cadre Country: How China Became The Chinese Communist Party (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2022).

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Community of Common Destiny For All Mankind
Rénlèi Mìngyùn Gòngtóngtǐ
人类命运共同体

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In 2018 Yang Jiechi, then the POLITBURO member responsible for Chinese foreign policy, declared that  “Building a Community of Common Destiny for Mankind is the overall goal of China’s foreign affairs work in the New Era.” (Yang Jiechi, Seeking Truth, 1 Aug 2018). This “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind,” also translated as “Community With a Shared Future for Mankind,” refers to the central leadership’s vision for the future of the international order. Party officials and party-affiliated intellectuals have long expressed frustration with the norms and structures of the post-Cold War order, which they believe are neither conducive to their continued rule nor fully compatible with China’s “ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE.” This slogan signals their determination to  build something better. 

At its core, building a “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” means leveraging globalization and other types of global interdependence to reshape the international order in China’s favor.  Though the slogan is strongly associated with the NEW ERA of Xi Jiping, most of the tenets of the “Community of Common Destiny” predate him. The substance of the CPC’s critique of the existing order, as well as a tentative vision for what might replace it, were laid out by Hu Jintao in a 2003 address at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he declared that the aim of Chinese foreign policy was a “Harmonious World” (和谐世界). Hu argued that this “Harmonious World” would improve on existing arrangements for global governance in five specific arenas: politics, security, economic development, culture, and the environment. On multiple occasions Xi has reiterated the importance of these five categories, whose scope reflects both the scale of Beijing’s ambitions and the depth of its dissatisfaction with the existing order, to his own  “Community of Common Destiny” formulation.  

The thrust of the “Common Destiny” critique goes as follows: the existing international order was created by Western powers for Western powers. The legacy organizations at the core of this order speak for the world but are controlled by the West. The “universal values” enshrined in these institutions  are imperialistic impositions of Western concepts on other civilizations. This is just as true of the political institutions and development models pioneered by the West and now seen as normative in international society. Some of these ideas and institutions are useful advances suitable for all peoples; others are simply relics that would have long disappeared were they not upheld by the illegitimate American HEGEMONISM.

The Community of Common Destiny will have no hegemons (in Chinese the word hegemon describes a state whose predominance depends on coercive power). After the defensive blocs and security treaties that make American hegemony possible crumble, bilateral trade will become the central organizing principle of the new order. China will be the center hub of this global community. New international institutions will be founded; existing ones will be altered. All will give China a central role in global governance. None of these institutions will honor dangerous concepts like “human rights” or “universal values.” In light of Chinese wealth and power, the human community will view liberal institutions as the parochial tradition of a few Western nations, not as the default model for development. At this point, as one Xinhua backgrounder explains, humanity will finally enjoy an “open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity” (Xinhua, “China Keywords: Community With a Shared Future for Mankind," 2018).

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; HEGEMONISM

Sources

Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021); Nadège Rolland, China’s Vision for a New World Order, NBR Special Report (The National Bureau of Asian Research: Seattle, 2020); Nadège Rolland, “Beijing’s Vision for a Reshaped International Order,” China Brief, 26 February 2018; Nadège Rolland, “Eurasian Integration ‘a la Chinese’: Deciphering Beijing’s Vision for the Region as a ‘Community of Common Destiny,’” Asan Forum, June 5, 2017; Liza Tobin, “Xi’s Vision for Transforming Global Governance: A Strategic Challenge for Washington and Its Allies,” Texas National Security Review 2, no. 1 (2018): 154–66.

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Core Interests
Héxīn Lìyì
核心利益

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The term “core interests,” often written as the longer “core interests and major concerns” [核心利益与 重大关切] , is used by Party officials as a shorthand for the set of issues so central to the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE  that the official position on them is not subject to negotiation or compromise. The term entered the Party lexicon in 2003 in a discussion of Taiwanese independence, but subsequent party commentaries have identified these interests as falling into three broad categories: sovereignty, security, and development. 

Each category is paired with a series of corresponding threats. Threats to China’s sovereignty interests originally referred to “splittism” in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, but in the Xi Jinping era the term has expanded to include opposition to Chinese claims in the South China Sea and challenges to state control over Chinese cyberspace. China’s security interests are faced both by the type of threat that can be handled with traditional military deterrence and less traditional threats to China's "political security"—that is, threats to the stability of China's socialist system and legitimacy of the CPC leadership's over it. Defending development interests means safeguarding China’s economic model from outside interference. Originally conceived in terms of securing trade routes and access to key natural resources, the Sino-American trade war of the late 2010s has prompted Party leaders to reframe threats to China’s development in terms of technology controls and tariffs. Diplomats of the Xi era are instructed to take the protection of these interests as the “starting point and end point” [出发点和落脚点] of Chinese diplomacy (Yang Jiechi, “Use Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy for Guidance, Deeply Advance Foreign Work in the New Era,” Seeking Truth, 2 August 2018).

Sources

Michael Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior Part One: On “Core Interests,”” China Leadership Monitor 34, Nov 2010; Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); eng Jinghan, Xiao Yuefan, and Shaun Breslin, “Securing China’s Core Interests: The State of the Debate in China,” International Affairs 91, no. 2 (2015): 245–66.; Elizabeth Economy, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018);

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Great Changes Unseen in a Century
Bǎinián Wèiyǒu De Dà Biànjú
百年未有的大变局

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The phrase “Great Changes Unseen in a Century,” sometimes translated by official party media as “Profound Changes Unseen in a Century,” was first used by Chinese academics following the Great Recession. The phrase is associated with the dangers and opportunities posed by American decline, and has been adopted by THE CENTER as a programmatic assessment of a changing world order. 

“Great Changes” was officially elevated into the party lexicon in 2017, when then-State Councilor Yang Jiechi described it as a guiding tenet of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy was formally adopted by the party in a 2018 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, where Xi informed the collected leadership of the Chinese diplomatic corp and state security apparatus that

China now finds itself in the best period for development it has seen since the advent of the modern era; [simultaneously], the world faces great changes unseen in a century. These two [trends] are interwoven, advancing in lockstep; each stimulates the other. Now, and in the years to come, many advantageous international conditions exist for success in foreign affairs (Xi Jinping, “Break New Ground in China’s Major-Country Diplomacy,” in Governance of China, vol III).

Xi’s comments followed a tradition laid out in innumerable Party documents, speeches, and regulations, which present declarations of  policy, especially foreign policy, as following from an  assessment of the “overall landscape” (全局) “inherent tendencies” (大势), or “the great trends” (大趋势) of the historical moment in which the Party finds itself. “Great changes unseen in a century” is a shorthand for the central leadership’s current assessment of the future trajectory of the international order.

The slogan invokes a slew of great changes that shook global politics one century ago: the collapse of British hegemony and the European imperial system following WWI and the concurrent rise of the United States and the Soviet Union as the predominant powers of world politics. The slogan implies that a similar power transition is now underway, with America playing the role of faltering hegemon, and China the rising  power.  

More substantive discussions of the slogan by Chinese academics and state affiliated scholars trace this power transition to myriad causes: the growing wealth of the developing world, the rise of rightwing populism in Western countries, the debilitating effects that neoliberalism and identity politics have on American power, the resurgence of nationalism across the globe, advances in novel technologies not pioneered by the West, and the proliferation of non-traditional security threats (such as pandemics and terrorist attacks) are all common explanations for the crumbling of the American-led international order. 

Though the phrase was introduced in a rather triumphal tone, the slogan has taken on a darker valence as Sino-American relations have worsened and China has grown more isolated in the international arena. Party propagandists and Chinese academics alike now pair the phrase “great changes unforeseen in a century” with increasingly dire warnings about the unique risks and dangers China faces in the final stage of NATIONAL REJUVENATION. Thus the slogan has come to also signify a warning that China sails into uncharted waters. As Xi Jinping reported in his address to the 20th Congress:

Great changes unseen in a century are accelerating across the world… the once-in-a-century pandemic has had far-reaching effects; a backlash against globalization is rising; and unilateralism and protectionism are mounting… The world has entered a new period of turbulence and change… [where] external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time.
Our country has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising... We must therefore be more mindful of potential dangers, be prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms (Xi Jinping, “Political Report to the 20th Congress,” 2022).

See also: COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION;

Sources

Sheena Chesnut Greitens, "Internal Security & Chinese Strategy," hearing on "The United States' Strategic Competition with China," § Senate Armed Services Committee (2022); Taylor Fravel, Hearing on “US-China Relations at the Chinese Communist Party’s Centennial” § US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2022); Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021).

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Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation
Zhōnghuámínzú Wěidà Fùxīng
中华民族伟大复兴

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General Secretaries of the Communist Party of China have described “national rejuvenation” [民族复兴] as the central mission of their Party since the Thirteenth Party Congress in 1987. Their wording intentionally echoes the language used by Sun Yat-sen and the nationalist revolutionaries who overthrew the Qing Dynasty at the cusp of the modern era.  Those revolutionaries dreamed of restoring a broken nation to its traditional station at the center of human civilization. Though he lives a century after Sun Yat-sen’s death, Xi Jinping rarely gives a speech without endorsing the same aspiration. As Xi describes it, national rejuvenation is a “strategic plan” for “achieving lasting greatness for the Chinese nation” (Xi Jinping, “Political Report to the 20th Congress,” 2022). The formal term for this plan is the "National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation," a term that could be alternatively transalted as the "National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Race."

The work of a Leninist party is inherently goal oriented. Chinese governance depends on a  “high pressure system” [压力型体制] that uses a mix of campaign tactics and career incentives to focus the work of millions of cadres on a shared set of tasks, all of which are nested in a hierarchy of overarching goals. During the Maoist era China’s leadership identified the  “the realization of communism” as the “ultimate aim of the Party,” and proposed “victory in class struggle” as the path for reaching this end (Fundamentals of the Chinese Communist Party, 1976). The CPC of today still endorses the “realization of communism” as the “highest ideal and ultimate aim” of the Party, but argues that “the highest ideal of communism pursued by Chinese Communists can be realized only when socialist society is fully developed and highly advanced,” a historical process that will “take over a century” to achieve (Constitution of the CPC, 2022). In contrast, the “lasting greatness” associated with national rejuvenation can be accomplished on a more feasible timescale. The Party expects to lead the Chinese race to this desired end state by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China. Achieving the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation by this date is the overarching goal of the Chinese party-state.

To attain national rejuvenation, party leadership has argued that China must become a “great and modern socialist state” [社会主义现代化强国]. In Xi Jinping’s NEW ERA this imperative has been broken down into five aspirational end states: prosperity and strength [富强], democracy [民主], advanced culture [文明], social harmony [和谐], and beauty [美丽]. The first category emphasize the Party’s drive to build a country whose COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL POWER is commensurate with a civilization at the leading edge of modernity; the next three identify the desired relationship between the Communist Party and a unified Chinese nation; the last is associated with campaigns to reduce pollution and forge a healthier relationship between industrial development and the natural environment. 

With subcomponents as broad as these, almost any policy promoted by THE CENTER falls under the remit of ‘national rejuvenation.’ The breadth of this mandate is intentional. As communist utopia retreats ever further into the future, Party leadership has bet that reclaiming lost Chinese greatness is the one cause “the entire Party and all the Chinese people [will] strive for”  (Xi Jinping, “Political Report to the 20th Congress,” 2022). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; 

Sources

Jacqueline Newmyer Deal, “China’s Nationalist Heritage,” The National Interest, no. 123 (2013): 44–53; Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2014); Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); Dan Tobin, “How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should Have Ended U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions” (Washington DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 2020).

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Harmonious World
Héxié Shìjiè
和谐世界

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See COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND

Sources

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Hegemonism
Bàquánzhǔyì
霸权主义

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When Chinese intellectuals and Party officials inveigh against “hegemonism” they invoke a term first used more than two millennia ago to refer to a ruling power that maintains its position through violence and subterfuge. The territory of ancient China was divided between a dozen warring kingdoms; for centuries the only respite from turmoil came when leaders of unusual strategic acumen used diplomatic skill and military power to overwhelm their enemies and enforce a general peace. These kings were known as [霸], or “hegemons.” The order of a hegemon rarely lasted past his death. Ancient Chinese thinkers often contrasted the fragile peace produced by the “way of the hegemon,” with the imagined  “way of a true king,” which promised a peaceful order premised not on violence, but moral suasion. When 21st century Chinese proclaim that they  “oppose hegemonism” it is thus a specific style of leadership they reject–a style reminiscent of the illegitimate hegemons of Chinese antiquity.

Deng Xiaoping described the features of modern hegemonism in a blistering 1974 address to the United Nations. There he condemned the Soviet Union and the United States as 

the biggest international exploiters and oppressors of today... They both possess large numbers of nuclear weapons. They carry on a keenly contested arms race, station massive forces abroad and set up military bases everywhere, threatening the independence and security of all nations. They both keep subjecting other countries to their control, subversion, interference or aggression.

Deng maintained that In response to this illegitimate exercise of hegemonic power, Chinese foreign policy would focus on “strengthening the unity of the developing countries, safeguarding their national economic rights and interests, and promoting the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and hegemonism” (Deng Xiaoping, “Speech By Chairman of the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China,” 10 April 1974). Though Chinese diplomats would take a less confrontational stance during the era of REFORM AND OPENING, Deng continued to describe  “opposing hegemonism” as a central plank of Chinese foreign policy for the rest of his life. 

Chinese propagandists are still preoccupied with the ills of American hegemonism. They often pair attacks on American belligerence with a vow that China will “never seek hegemony” [永远不称霸] . When uttering this phrase, Chinese officials and diplomats are not promising to abandon China’s ADVANCE TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE. Rather, they promise that China will rise without adopting the “hegemonic” means America has relied on (such as alliance blocs, nuclear coercion, or an expansive network of global military bases) to maintain its global position. 

 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR MANKIND;

Sources

Li Kwok-Sing, A Glossary of Political Terms of the People’s Republic of China (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1995); John Garver, China's Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People's Republic of China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); Sungmin Kim, Theorizing Confucian Virtue Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019); Yueqing Wang, Qingang Bao, and Guoxing Guan, History of Chinese Philosophy Through Its Key Terms (New York: Springer, 2020).

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Making a Greater Contribution to Mankind
Rénlèi Zuòchū Gèng Dà Gòngxiàn
人类作出更大贡献

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See ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE

Sources

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National Rejuvenation
Mínzú Fùxīng
民族复兴

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See GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION

Sources

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Plenary Session
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

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See PLENUM.

Sources

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Plenum
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

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A plenum, or more formally, a Plenary Session of a Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is a gathering of all full and alternate members of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE  held to review and approve policies proposed by the POLITBURO. In the post-Mao era it is customary for each Central Committee to hold seven plenums in its five year term. These closed door meetings are usually the most important political events of any given year. The topics discussed in the plenary sessions range from revisions to the constitution to realignments of development strategy. Deliberations are secret. The General Secretary delivers a speech to the Central Committee, but this speech is usually not published until long after the plenum has concluded.  

In the post-Mao era the topics addressed in the seven plenums tend to follow a pattern: the first plenum is held to select the Politburo and Standing Committee membership, the second confirms the leadership of important government posts, the third is devoted to economic development and reform, the fourth focuses on initiatives in law or party building, the fifth lays the groundwork for the next FIVE YEAR PLAN, the sixth addresses problems of ideology, culture, or intra-party rules, and the seventh prepares the Central Committee for the upcoming PARTY CONGRESS.

Documents drafted during plenums are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each compacts the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party. At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd and 5th plenums of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee simply makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the Politburo ahead of time. 

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE

Sources

Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); Sebastian Heilman, ed., China’s Political System (Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield, 2017); Jude Blanchette, “Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum Delayed?,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 30 August 2019;

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Red and Expert
Yòu Hóng Yòu Zhuān
又红又专

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The phrase “Red and Expert” began as a slogan in the 1957 “Anti-Rightist Campaign,” which targeted Chinese intellectuals critical of the Communist regime. The slogan communicated the imperative for those with specialized scientific or technical knowledge (“expert”) to be loyal to the Party and the socialist cause (“red”). As Mao wrote at the time:

Red is politics; expert is one's job. To be only expert and not red is to be a white expert. If one pursues politics so that one is only red and not expert, doesn't know one's job and doesn't understand practical matters, then the redness is a false redness and one is an empty-headed politician. While grasping politics, one must be thoroughly familiar with one's job; grasping technique must start with redness. If we are to overtake Britain in 15 years, then we must mold millions upon millions of intellectuals whose loyalty is to the proletariat” (MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, vol II, p. 28). 

Though the slogan implores specialists to be both “red and expert,” the slogan’s meaning has shifted from one era to another, sometimes emphasizing the demand for redness, at other times emphasizing the need for expertise. At the height of the Maoist era, the phrase was regularly used to bludgeon bourgeois intellectuals for their lack of proletarian consciousness, and was used later to celebrate the potential “red” laymen had to develop expertise equal to but distinct from that of the professional scientist or engineer. After the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping resuscitated the slogan to push the Party towards embracing technocratic expertise. As a set of regulations issued by the Central Committee in 1980 explained, the injunction to be red and expert then meant that “a Communist Party member who does not earnestly study expert knowledge and has been a layman for a long time in his own work cannot make a real contribution… His so-called political consciousness and advanced nature are mere empty talk” (“Guiding Principles of Intra-Party Political Life,” 1980). The slogan fell out of use in the late Deng era, and is only occasionally used today. 

Sources

Richard Baum,. “Red and Expert”: The Politico-Ideological Foundations of China’s Great Leap Forward,” Asian Survey 4, no. 9 (1964); Sigrid Schmalzer, “Red and Expert,” in The Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts From Mao to Xi, ed.Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere (Acton, Aus.: ANU and Verso Press, 2019), 215-221.

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White Left
Báizuǒ
白左

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The phrase “white left” first arose in prominence as a piece of Chinese internet slang around 2015. While it has not been adopted as a Party slogan, the phrase, mostly used as a pejorative, has slowly made its way into higher intellectual discourse since its internet debut.

The term  is used to distinguish the post-materialist concerns of Western leftists with the political program of the Chinese left, which frames political conflict through traditional class categories. Like Westerners, Chinese understand their politics in terms of a right-to-left spectrum. But “right” and “left” carry a very different valence in China, where the “left“ is generally associated with nostalgia for Maoism, unapologetic nationalism, disdain for limited government, and a hostility to capitalist enterprise, and the “right” is associated with market reforms, support for civil liberties, and a more cosmopolitan worldview. In a country where most political attitudes can be placed on a sliding scale between Josef Stalin and John Stewart Mill there is no easy home for the “woke''political priorities of the Western  left. While demands for justice for racial, sexual, and ethnic minorities do not resonate with either the Chinese right or the left, they usually provoke the most vitriolic response from Chinese leftists, who see identity politics as a betrayal and perversion of the international left’s traditional concern for the poor of the Earth.

Tied up in this critique of Western leftism as a political program is the stereotyped image of the Western leftist as a social type: in Chinese internet debates the Western leftist is often depicted as pharisaical, shallow, and privileged; she makes showy gestures of solidarity and moralizes on human rights while living a comfortable, urbane life at the top of a system of privilege she has no real intention of overturning. In this sense the ”white” (bái ) in  “white left” (báizuǒ 白左)is not just a reference to the race of most social justice leftists, but also a play on two words that describe character traits that Chinese leftists associate with the social justice movement: “wasted effort/to try in vain” (báizuò 白做) and “idiocy” (báichī, 白痴). To capture the term’s popularity as an insult, the pun-minded translator could thus fairly translate the term as the “useless left” or the “imbecile left.”

Sources

Dylan Levi King, “‘White Left’: The Internet Insult the West Has Gotten Wrong,” Sixth Tone, 10 June 2017; Zhang Chenchen, “The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult,” Open Democracy, 11 May 2017; Jennifer Pan and Yiqing Xu, “China’s Ideological Spectrum. The Journal of Politics,” The Journal of Politics 80, no. 1 (2018), 254–273; Kaiser Kuo, “Kuora: The origin of ‘baizuo’ (白左) — the Chinese libtard, or ‘white left,’ The China Project, 23 April 2018.

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Sources

Minxin Pei, “Rewriting the Rules of the Chinese Party-State: Xi’s Progress in Reinvigorating the CCP,” China Leadership Monitor, No. 59 (June 1, 2019).

Mentioned in
Advancing Towards The Center of The World Stage
Zǒu Jìn Shìjiè Wǔtái Zhōngyāng
走近世界舞台中央

Chinese officials and diplomats often describe China’s return to national greatness as a process of “advancing towards the center of the world stage.” As with other aspirational aims associated with China’s NATIONAL REJUVENATION, this “advance towards the center of the world stage” is intended to be completed by 2049, the centennial anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Most of the central leadership’s aspirations for 2049 concern domestic affairs: this phrase is one of the rare statements of what a fully rejuvenated China means for the rest of the world. 

The phrase “advancing towards the center of the world stage” was introduced in a 2011 People’s Daily editorial and saw periodic use in the early days of Xi Jinping. Xi elevated the slogan’s importance in his report to the 19th Party Congress. There he tied the claim that “our country advances ever closer to the center of the world stage” [我国日益走近世界舞台中央] to his declaration that the Party had entered a NEW ERA [新时代] in its history. As Mao gave China independence, and Deng made China prosperous, so would Xi Jinping help China “become strong.”  This stronger, more assertive China could then turn its eyes outside of China’s borders to “make greater contributions to mankind” [为人类作出更大贡献]. In Xi’s judgment, growing Chinese influence over the future of the species is an integral part of moving China to the world’s “center stage.” 

Phrases like “advancing towards the center of the world stage” and “making greater contributions to mankind” suggest the global scope of Chinese ambition while obscuring its ultimate object. An official Xinhua commentary on the 19th Congress provides an unusually forthright description of what this advance entails:

China has stood up, grown rich and become strong. It will advance  toward center stage and make greater contributions for mankind. By 2050, two centuries after the Opium Wars, which plunged the "Middle Kingdom" into a period of hurt and shame, China is set to regain its might and re-ascend to the top of the world.
…China's success proves that socialism can prevail and be a path for other developing countries to emulate and achieve modernization. China is now strong enough, willing, and able to contribute more for mankind. The new world order cannot be just dominated by capitalism and the West, and the time will come for a change (Xinhua, "Commentary: Milestone congress points to new era for China, the world," 2017).

Xinhua associates the “advance towards the center of the world stage” with a world order that is no longer capitalist nor Western-led; the less circumspect writing of Chinese academics and public intellectuals use the phrase in a similar fashion. The slogan should thus serve as a reminder that China’s leadership believes that the road to NATIONAL REJUVENATION demands structural changes to the world outside of China’s borders.


See also:   CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY;

Sources

Michael Swaine, “Chinese Views of Foreign Policy in the 19 th Party Congress,” China Leadership Monitor 55 (2018); Dan Tobin, “"How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should Have Ended U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions, ” Hearing on ‘A “China Model?” Beijing’s Promotion of Alternative Global Norms and Standards,’” § U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2020); Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021.

Mentioned in
Center, The
Zhōngyāng
中央

“The Center” is a literal rendering of zhōngyāng. The phrase is is most commonly used as an abbreviation for the CENTRAL COMMITTEE of the Communist Party of China (中国共产党中央委员会), and official Chinese translations almost always opt for translating it as “The Central Committee.” The term, however, is more ambiguous than most translations into English allow. Cheng Zhenqiu, who directed  the English translation of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, described his dissatisfaction with his own translation with these comments:

Lexically, there are still many issues…for example, the translation of zhōngyāng [中央]….Sometimes zhongyang refers to the Central Standing Committee [中央常委], sometimes it refers to the Central Politburo [中央政治局], and more often it refers to the Central Committee. Abroad some have begun translating it as “the Center”; on this issue there’s room for further research. (Quoted in Holly Snape, China Law Translate, 1 December 2021)

The kaleidoscopic nature of the term is evident in Party regulations governing the Central Committee, which declares that 

The Central Committee, Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) are the brain and central hub of the Party organization. Only the Party Centre has the mandate to make decisions and interpret Party-wide and state-wide important principles and policies  (“Directive on the Operation of the Central Committee,” 2020).

The usefulness of a term whose definition can stretch to describe either the Central Committee, the POLITBURO, or the POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE as contingency requires has been recognized since the days of Mao Zedong, when obedience to The Center was first codified as part of the “FOUR OBEYS'' regulating Party life.  In particular, obfuscating the specific source of new directives means that decisions that may have only been made by a small group of leading cadres are cloaked with the mantle of larger party organs, suggesting a shared consensus or collective decision making process that may not actually exist.

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE;

Sources

Holly Snape, “New Regulations for the Central Committee: Codifying Xi Era Democratic Centralism,” China Law Translate, 1 December 2020; Li Ling, “Appeal of Strategic Ambiguity on Party Centre – Reading the Party Directive on the Operation of the Central Committee,”The China Collection, 18 October 2020.

Mentioned in
Central Committee
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng Zhōngyāng Wěiyuánhuì
中国共产党中央委员会

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, until 1927 called the Central Executive Committee (中央执行委员会), is the central administrative and decision-making body of the Chinese party-state. 

In the post-Mao era members of the Central Committee have been elected by the National Congress of the CPC every five years. These elections are a confirmation vote based on a candidate list where the number of candidates slightly exceeds the number of available seats. Usually only 8% to 12% of candidates are not elected to the Central Committee; it is customary for the Committee to include the governors and party secretaries of China’s provinces, the heads of central government bodies, major SOEs, and national party organizations, and high ranking military officers in the PLA among its members. 

The Central Committee has the nominal power to elect the members of the Secretariat, Politburo, and its Standing Committee, but in practice it merely confirms candidates pre-selected by the top leadership.  At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee, called PLENUMS, have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the POLITBURO ahead of time. Documents drafted during Central Committee meetings are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each condenses the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party.

See also: CENTER, THE; PLENUM;

Sources

Lawrence Sullivan, Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party, 2nd ed (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2022); Sebastian Heilman, ed., China’s Political System (Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield, 2017; Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge 2014). .

Mentioned in
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Century of National Humiliation
Bǎinián Guóchǐ
百年国耻

In Chinese historiography, the decades between the conclusion of the First Opium War in 1842 and the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 are described as a “century of national humiliation.” In these decades China lost a series of wars with European powers, ceded control of Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Manchuria, the Amur River Basin, and Outer Mongolia to alien empires, was forced to grant extraterritorial rights to foreigners in China, lost sovereign control of its markets and currency, and was saddled with onerous indemnities. This period of external intervention culminated with the Japanese invasion of 1937, which lead to the death of some 20 million Chinese. The legacy of humiliation haunts Chinese intellectuals today and provides the Communist Party of China with one of its most emotionally powerful legitimizing narratives.

The term “national humiliation” [国耻] dates to the late 19th century and served as a common touchstone for the various nationalist movements that sought to “save the country” [救国] at the beginning of the 20th. The founders of the Communist Party of China began their careers as activists more interested in nationalist uplift than communist utopia. In the disciplined, militarized hierarchy of a Leninist party they saw a vehicle for rescuing their nation. “Only socialism can save China” [只有社会主义才能救中国] they declared, and to this day Party historians and officials argue that Republican era experiments with other political ideologies all failed to unite China or drive out imperialist influence.

This narrative erases the sacrifices made by millions of Chinese not associated with the Communist Party for the sake of China’s future, as well as the success these sacrifices secured. It was under KMT rule that the Japanese were defeated, Western powers gave up their extraterritorial privileges in China, and China was given one of five seats on the UN Security Council. In Communist eyes these feats count for little, as they were all accomplished with the aid of imperialist powers. The early Communist leadership believed that only “cleaning out the house before inviting guests in” [打扫干净屋子再请客]— in other words, driving Westerners completely out of China before readmitting them on Chinese terms—could guarantee the founding of a NEW CHINA free from the taint of imperialist influence. The Communist version of eradicating  national humiliation thus began with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and was confirmed by Chinese success against “American imperialism” in the Korean War.   

By instructing the children of China to chant “never forget national humiliation” (勿忘国耻) the Party legitimizes this founding moment. It also suggests to the Chinese people what nightmares might occur if Party rule falters. The century of humiliation is a narrative of victimhood. It presumes an innocent China thrust into a dangerous world, there victimized by rapacious foreigners eager to feed on any nation too weak to maintain its sovereignty. Foreign opposition to Chinese policy today is easily reframed as a continuation of this antique pattern.  Under this schema China is still a victim of underserved hostility; without the guiding hand of a strong and united Party, these hostile forces will force national humiliation on the Chinese people once again.

See also: GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; NEW CHINA

Sources

Zheng Wang, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012); Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2014); John Garver, China's Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People's Republic of China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); John Fitzgerald, Cadre Country: How China Became The Chinese Communist Party (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2022).

Mentioned in
Community of Common Destiny For All Mankind
Rénlèi Mìngyùn Gòngtóngtǐ
人类命运共同体

In 2018 Yang Jiechi, then the POLITBURO member responsible for Chinese foreign policy, declared that  “Building a Community of Common Destiny for Mankind is the overall goal of China’s foreign affairs work in the New Era.” (Yang Jiechi, Seeking Truth, 1 Aug 2018). This “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind,” also translated as “Community With a Shared Future for Mankind,” refers to the central leadership’s vision for the future of the international order. Party officials and party-affiliated intellectuals have long expressed frustration with the norms and structures of the post-Cold War order, which they believe are neither conducive to their continued rule nor fully compatible with China’s “ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE.” This slogan signals their determination to  build something better. 

At its core, building a “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” means leveraging globalization and other types of global interdependence to reshape the international order in China’s favor.  Though the slogan is strongly associated with the NEW ERA of Xi Jiping, most of the tenets of the “Community of Common Destiny” predate him. The substance of the CPC’s critique of the existing order, as well as a tentative vision for what might replace it, were laid out by Hu Jintao in a 2003 address at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he declared that the aim of Chinese foreign policy was a “Harmonious World” (和谐世界). Hu argued that this “Harmonious World” would improve on existing arrangements for global governance in five specific arenas: politics, security, economic development, culture, and the environment. On multiple occasions Xi has reiterated the importance of these five categories, whose scope reflects both the scale of Beijing’s ambitions and the depth of its dissatisfaction with the existing order, to his own  “Community of Common Destiny” formulation.  

The thrust of the “Common Destiny” critique goes as follows: the existing international order was created by Western powers for Western powers. The legacy organizations at the core of this order speak for the world but are controlled by the West. The “universal values” enshrined in these institutions  are imperialistic impositions of Western concepts on other civilizations. This is just as true of the political institutions and development models pioneered by the West and now seen as normative in international society. Some of these ideas and institutions are useful advances suitable for all peoples; others are simply relics that would have long disappeared were they not upheld by the illegitimate American HEGEMONISM.

The Community of Common Destiny will have no hegemons (in Chinese the word hegemon describes a state whose predominance depends on coercive power). After the defensive blocs and security treaties that make American hegemony possible crumble, bilateral trade will become the central organizing principle of the new order. China will be the center hub of this global community. New international institutions will be founded; existing ones will be altered. All will give China a central role in global governance. None of these institutions will honor dangerous concepts like “human rights” or “universal values.” In light of Chinese wealth and power, the human community will view liberal institutions as the parochial tradition of a few Western nations, not as the default model for development. At this point, as one Xinhua backgrounder explains, humanity will finally enjoy an “open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity” (Xinhua, “China Keywords: Community With a Shared Future for Mankind," 2018).

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; HEGEMONISM

Sources

Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021); Nadège Rolland, China’s Vision for a New World Order, NBR Special Report (The National Bureau of Asian Research: Seattle, 2020); Nadège Rolland, “Beijing’s Vision for a Reshaped International Order,” China Brief, 26 February 2018; Nadège Rolland, “Eurasian Integration ‘a la Chinese’: Deciphering Beijing’s Vision for the Region as a ‘Community of Common Destiny,’” Asan Forum, June 5, 2017; Liza Tobin, “Xi’s Vision for Transforming Global Governance: A Strategic Challenge for Washington and Its Allies,” Texas National Security Review 2, no. 1 (2018): 154–66.

Mentioned in
Core Interests
Héxīn Lìyì
核心利益

The term “core interests,” often written as the longer “core interests and major concerns” [核心利益与 重大关切] , is used by Party officials as a shorthand for the set of issues so central to the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE  that the official position on them is not subject to negotiation or compromise. The term entered the Party lexicon in 2003 in a discussion of Taiwanese independence, but subsequent party commentaries have identified these interests as falling into three broad categories: sovereignty, security, and development. 

Each category is paired with a series of corresponding threats. Threats to China’s sovereignty interests originally referred to “splittism” in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, but in the Xi Jinping era the term has expanded to include opposition to Chinese claims in the South China Sea and challenges to state control over Chinese cyberspace. China’s security interests are faced both by the type of threat that can be handled with traditional military deterrence and less traditional threats to China's "political security"—that is, threats to the stability of China's socialist system and legitimacy of the CPC leadership's over it. Defending development interests means safeguarding China’s economic model from outside interference. Originally conceived in terms of securing trade routes and access to key natural resources, the Sino-American trade war of the late 2010s has prompted Party leaders to reframe threats to China’s development in terms of technology controls and tariffs. Diplomats of the Xi era are instructed to take the protection of these interests as the “starting point and end point” [出发点和落脚点] of Chinese diplomacy (Yang Jiechi, “Use Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy for Guidance, Deeply Advance Foreign Work in the New Era,” Seeking Truth, 2 August 2018).

Sources

Michael Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior Part One: On “Core Interests,”” China Leadership Monitor 34, Nov 2010; Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); eng Jinghan, Xiao Yuefan, and Shaun Breslin, “Securing China’s Core Interests: The State of the Debate in China,” International Affairs 91, no. 2 (2015): 245–66.; Elizabeth Economy, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018);

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Great Changes Unseen in a Century
Bǎinián Wèiyǒu De Dà Biànjú
百年未有的大变局

The phrase “Great Changes Unseen in a Century,” sometimes translated by official party media as “Profound Changes Unseen in a Century,” was first used by Chinese academics following the Great Recession. The phrase is associated with the dangers and opportunities posed by American decline, and has been adopted by THE CENTER as a programmatic assessment of a changing world order. 

“Great Changes” was officially elevated into the party lexicon in 2017, when then-State Councilor Yang Jiechi described it as a guiding tenet of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy was formally adopted by the party in a 2018 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, where Xi informed the collected leadership of the Chinese diplomatic corp and state security apparatus that

China now finds itself in the best period for development it has seen since the advent of the modern era; [simultaneously], the world faces great changes unseen in a century. These two [trends] are interwoven, advancing in lockstep; each stimulates the other. Now, and in the years to come, many advantageous international conditions exist for success in foreign affairs (Xi Jinping, “Break New Ground in China’s Major-Country Diplomacy,” in Governance of China, vol III).

Xi’s comments followed a tradition laid out in innumerable Party documents, speeches, and regulations, which present declarations of  policy, especially foreign policy, as following from an  assessment of the “overall landscape” (全局) “inherent tendencies” (大势), or “the great trends” (大趋势) of the historical moment in which the Party finds itself. “Great changes unseen in a century” is a shorthand for the central leadership’s current assessment of the future trajectory of the international order.

The slogan invokes a slew of great changes that shook global politics one century ago: the collapse of British hegemony and the European imperial system following WWI and the concurrent rise of the United States and the Soviet Union as the predominant powers of world politics. The slogan implies that a similar power transition is now underway, with America playing the role of faltering hegemon, and China the rising  power.  

More substantive discussions of the slogan by Chinese academics and state affiliated scholars trace this power transition to myriad causes: the growing wealth of the developing world, the rise of rightwing populism in Western countries, the debilitating effects that neoliberalism and identity politics have on American power, the resurgence of nationalism across the globe, advances in novel technologies not pioneered by the West, and the proliferation of non-traditional security threats (such as pandemics and terrorist attacks) are all common explanations for the crumbling of the American-led international order. 

Though the phrase was introduced in a rather triumphal tone, the slogan has taken on a darker valence as Sino-American relations have worsened and China has grown more isolated in the international arena. Party propagandists and Chinese academics alike now pair the phrase “great changes unforeseen in a century” with increasingly dire warnings about the unique risks and dangers China faces in the final stage of NATIONAL REJUVENATION. Thus the slogan has come to also signify a warning that China sails into uncharted waters. As Xi Jinping reported in his address to the 20th Congress:

Great changes unseen in a century are accelerating across the world… the once-in-a-century pandemic has had far-reaching effects; a backlash against globalization is rising; and unilateralism and protectionism are mounting… The world has entered a new period of turbulence and change… [where] external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time.
Our country has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising... We must therefore be more mindful of potential dangers, be prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms (Xi Jinping, “Political Report to the 20th Congress,” 2022).

See also: COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION;

Sources

Sheena Chesnut Greitens, "Internal Security & Chinese Strategy," hearing on "The United States' Strategic Competition with China," § Senate Armed Services Committee (2022); Taylor Fravel, Hearing on “US-China Relations at the Chinese Communist Party’s Centennial” § US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (2022); Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2021).

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Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation
Zhōnghuámínzú Wěidà Fùxīng
中华民族伟大复兴

General Secretaries of the Communist Party of China have described “national rejuvenation” [民族复兴] as the central mission of their Party since the Thirteenth Party Congress in 1987. Their wording intentionally echoes the language used by Sun Yat-sen and the nationalist revolutionaries who overthrew the Qing Dynasty at the cusp of the modern era.  Those revolutionaries dreamed of restoring a broken nation to its traditional station at the center of human civilization. Though he lives a century after Sun Yat-sen’s death, Xi Jinping rarely gives a speech without endorsing the same aspiration. As Xi describes it, national rejuvenation is a “strategic plan” for “achieving lasting greatness for the Chinese nation” (Xi Jinping, “Political Report to the 20th Congress,” 2022). The formal term for this plan is the "National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation," a term that could be alternatively transalted as the "National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Race."

The work of a Leninist party is inherently goal oriented. Chinese governance depends on a  “high pressure system” [压力型体制] that uses a mix of campaign tactics and career incentives to focus the work of millions of cadres on a shared set of tasks, all of which are nested in a hierarchy of overarching goals. During the Maoist era China’s leadership identified the  “the realization of communism” as the “ultimate aim of the Party,” and proposed “victory in class struggle” as the path for reaching this end (Fundamentals of the Chinese Communist Party, 1976). The CPC of today still endorses the “realization of communism” as the “highest ideal and ultimate aim” of the Party, but argues that “the highest ideal of communism pursued by Chinese Communists can be realized only when socialist society is fully developed and highly advanced,” a historical process that will “take over a century” to achieve (Constitution of the CPC, 2022). In contrast, the “lasting greatness” associated with national rejuvenation can be accomplished on a more feasible timescale. The Party expects to lead the Chinese race to this desired end state by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China. Achieving the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation by this date is the overarching goal of the Chinese party-state.

To attain national rejuvenation, party leadership has argued that China must become a “great and modern socialist state” [社会主义现代化强国]. In Xi Jinping’s NEW ERA this imperative has been broken down into five aspirational end states: prosperity and strength [富强], democracy [民主], advanced culture [文明], social harmony [和谐], and beauty [美丽]. The first category emphasize the Party’s drive to build a country whose COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL POWER is commensurate with a civilization at the leading edge of modernity; the next three identify the desired relationship between the Communist Party and a unified Chinese nation; the last is associated with campaigns to reduce pollution and forge a healthier relationship between industrial development and the natural environment. 

With subcomponents as broad as these, almost any policy promoted by THE CENTER falls under the remit of ‘national rejuvenation.’ The breadth of this mandate is intentional. As communist utopia retreats ever further into the future, Party leadership has bet that reclaiming lost Chinese greatness is the one cause “the entire Party and all the Chinese people [will] strive for”  (Xi Jinping, “Political Report to the 20th Congress,” 2022). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; 

Sources

Jacqueline Newmyer Deal, “China’s Nationalist Heritage,” The National Interest, no. 123 (2013): 44–53; Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century (New York: Random House, 2014); Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); Dan Tobin, “How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should Have Ended U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions” (Washington DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 2020).

Mentioned in
Harmonious World
Héxié Shìjiè
和谐世界

See COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND

Sources

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Hegemonism
Bàquánzhǔyì
霸权主义

When Chinese intellectuals and Party officials inveigh against “hegemonism” they invoke a term first used more than two millennia ago to refer to a ruling power that maintains its position through violence and subterfuge. The territory of ancient China was divided between a dozen warring kingdoms; for centuries the only respite from turmoil came when leaders of unusual strategic acumen used diplomatic skill and military power to overwhelm their enemies and enforce a general peace. These kings were known as [霸], or “hegemons.” The order of a hegemon rarely lasted past his death. Ancient Chinese thinkers often contrasted the fragile peace produced by the “way of the hegemon,” with the imagined  “way of a true king,” which promised a peaceful order premised not on violence, but moral suasion. When 21st century Chinese proclaim that they  “oppose hegemonism” it is thus a specific style of leadership they reject–a style reminiscent of the illegitimate hegemons of Chinese antiquity.

Deng Xiaoping described the features of modern hegemonism in a blistering 1974 address to the United Nations. There he condemned the Soviet Union and the United States as 

the biggest international exploiters and oppressors of today... They both possess large numbers of nuclear weapons. They carry on a keenly contested arms race, station massive forces abroad and set up military bases everywhere, threatening the independence and security of all nations. They both keep subjecting other countries to their control, subversion, interference or aggression.

Deng maintained that In response to this illegitimate exercise of hegemonic power, Chinese foreign policy would focus on “strengthening the unity of the developing countries, safeguarding their national economic rights and interests, and promoting the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and hegemonism” (Deng Xiaoping, “Speech By Chairman of the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China,” 10 April 1974). Though Chinese diplomats would take a less confrontational stance during the era of REFORM AND OPENING, Deng continued to describe  “opposing hegemonism” as a central plank of Chinese foreign policy for the rest of his life. 

Chinese propagandists are still preoccupied with the ills of American hegemonism. They often pair attacks on American belligerence with a vow that China will “never seek hegemony” [永远不称霸] . When uttering this phrase, Chinese officials and diplomats are not promising to abandon China’s ADVANCE TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE. Rather, they promise that China will rise without adopting the “hegemonic” means America has relied on (such as alliance blocs, nuclear coercion, or an expansive network of global military bases) to maintain its global position. 

 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR MANKIND;

Sources

Li Kwok-Sing, A Glossary of Political Terms of the People’s Republic of China (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1995); John Garver, China's Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People's Republic of China (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); Sungmin Kim, Theorizing Confucian Virtue Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019); Yueqing Wang, Qingang Bao, and Guoxing Guan, History of Chinese Philosophy Through Its Key Terms (New York: Springer, 2020).

Mentioned in
Making a Greater Contribution to Mankind
Rénlèi Zuòchū Gèng Dà Gòngxiàn
人类作出更大贡献

See ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE

Sources

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Plenary Session
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

See PLENUM.

Sources

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Plenum
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

A plenum, or more formally, a Plenary Session of a Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is a gathering of all full and alternate members of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE  held to review and approve policies proposed by the POLITBURO. In the post-Mao era it is customary for each Central Committee to hold seven plenums in its five year term. These closed door meetings are usually the most important political events of any given year. The topics discussed in the plenary sessions range from revisions to the constitution to realignments of development strategy. Deliberations are secret. The General Secretary delivers a speech to the Central Committee, but this speech is usually not published until long after the plenum has concluded.  

In the post-Mao era the topics addressed in the seven plenums tend to follow a pattern: the first plenum is held to select the Politburo and Standing Committee membership, the second confirms the leadership of important government posts, the third is devoted to economic development and reform, the fourth focuses on initiatives in law or party building, the fifth lays the groundwork for the next FIVE YEAR PLAN, the sixth addresses problems of ideology, culture, or intra-party rules, and the seventh prepares the Central Committee for the upcoming PARTY CONGRESS.

Documents drafted during plenums are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each compacts the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party. At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd and 5th plenums of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee simply makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the Politburo ahead of time. 

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE

Sources

Timothy Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation (New York: Routledge, 2014); Sebastian Heilman, ed., China’s Political System (Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield, 2017); Jude Blanchette, “Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum Delayed?,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 30 August 2019;

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Red and Expert
Yòu Hóng Yòu Zhuān
又红又专

The phrase “Red and Expert” began as a slogan in the 1957 “Anti-Rightist Campaign,” which targeted Chinese intellectuals critical of the Communist regime. The slogan communicated the imperative for those with specialized scientific or technical knowledge (“expert”) to be loyal to the Party and the socialist cause (“red”). As Mao wrote at the time:

Red is politics; expert is one's job. To be only expert and not red is to be a white expert. If one pursues politics so that one is only red and not expert, doesn't know one's job and doesn't understand practical matters, then the redness is a false redness and one is an empty-headed politician. While grasping politics, one must be thoroughly familiar with one's job; grasping technique must start with redness. If we are to overtake Britain in 15 years, then we must mold millions upon millions of intellectuals whose loyalty is to the proletariat” (MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, vol II, p. 28). 

Though the slogan implores specialists to be both “red and expert,” the slogan’s meaning has shifted from one era to another, sometimes emphasizing the demand for redness, at other times emphasizing the need for expertise. At the height of the Maoist era, the phrase was regularly used to bludgeon bourgeois intellectuals for their lack of proletarian consciousness, and was used later to celebrate the potential “red” laymen had to develop expertise equal to but distinct from that of the professional scientist or engineer. After the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping resuscitated the slogan to push the Party towards embracing technocratic expertise. As a set of regulations issued by the Central Committee in 1980 explained, the injunction to be red and expert then meant that “a Communist Party member who does not earnestly study expert knowledge and has been a layman for a long time in his own work cannot make a real contribution… His so-called political consciousness and advanced nature are mere empty talk” (“Guiding Principles of Intra-Party Political Life,” 1980). The slogan fell out of use in the late Deng era, and is only occasionally used today. 

Sources

Richard Baum,. “Red and Expert”: The Politico-Ideological Foundations of China’s Great Leap Forward,” Asian Survey 4, no. 9 (1964); Sigrid Schmalzer, “Red and Expert,” in The Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts From Mao to Xi, ed.Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere (Acton, Aus.: ANU and Verso Press, 2019), 215-221.

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White Left
Báizuǒ
白左

The phrase “white left” first arose in prominence as a piece of Chinese internet slang around 2015. While it has not been adopted as a Party slogan, the phrase, mostly used as a pejorative, has slowly made its way into higher intellectual discourse since its internet debut.

The term  is used to distinguish the post-materialist concerns of Western leftists with the political program of the Chinese left, which frames political conflict through traditional class categories. Like Westerners, Chinese understand their politics in terms of a right-to-left spectrum. But “right” and “left” carry a very different valence in China, where the “left“ is generally associated with nostalgia for Maoism, unapologetic nationalism, disdain for limited government, and a hostility to capitalist enterprise, and the “right” is associated with market reforms, support for civil liberties, and a more cosmopolitan worldview. In a country where most political attitudes can be placed on a sliding scale between Josef Stalin and John Stewart Mill there is no easy home for the “woke''political priorities of the Western  left. While demands for justice for racial, sexual, and ethnic minorities do not resonate with either the Chinese right or the left, they usually provoke the most vitriolic response from Chinese leftists, who see identity politics as a betrayal and perversion of the international left’s traditional concern for the poor of the Earth.

Tied up in this critique of Western leftism as a political program is the stereotyped image of the Western leftist as a social type: in Chinese internet debates the Western leftist is often depicted as pharisaical, shallow, and privileged; she makes showy gestures of solidarity and moralizes on human rights while living a comfortable, urbane life at the top of a system of privilege she has no real intention of overturning. In this sense the ”white” (bái ) in  “white left” (báizuǒ 白左)is not just a reference to the race of most social justice leftists, but also a play on two words that describe character traits that Chinese leftists associate with the social justice movement: “wasted effort/to try in vain” (báizuò 白做) and “idiocy” (báichī, 白痴). To capture the term’s popularity as an insult, the pun-minded translator could thus fairly translate the term as the “useless left” or the “imbecile left.”

Sources

Dylan Levi King, “‘White Left’: The Internet Insult the West Has Gotten Wrong,” Sixth Tone, 10 June 2017; Zhang Chenchen, “The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult,” Open Democracy, 11 May 2017; Jennifer Pan and Yiqing Xu, “China’s Ideological Spectrum. The Journal of Politics,” The Journal of Politics 80, no. 1 (2018), 254–273; Kaiser Kuo, “Kuora: The origin of ‘baizuo’ (白左) — the Chinese libtard, or ‘white left,’ The China Project, 23 April 2018.

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