Who first proposed “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation?”
Xi Jinping's favorite term can be traced back to Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, etc.
One of the buzzwords about China in the past decade has been 中华民族伟大复兴 most often translated as “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has invoked the term numerous times, ever since the same month he took over the CPC’s top job in 2012.
On November 29, 2012, during a visit to an exhibition titled 复兴之路 The Road to Rejuvenation in Beijing, Xi Jinping said
I think the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream of the Chinese nation since modern times. This dream has gathered the long-cherished wishes of several generations of Chinese people, embodies the overall interests of the Chinese nation and the Chinese people, and is the common aspiration of every Chinese. History told us everyone’s destiny is closely linked with the destiny of the Country and the Nation. Only when the Country and the Nation do well, the people can do well. Realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is a glorious and arduous cause and requires one generation of Chinese after another to jointly work for it. Cheap talk does no good and only hard work helps make the country prosperous. Our generation of CPC must build on past successes to further advance our cause, build our Party well, unite all Chinese people to build our country well, and develop our nation well. We must continue to march bravely toward the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
I do not dispute that “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” has been particularly emphasized in the past ten years but there is a misunderstanding that it is a novel concept invented by Xi and signals an unprecedentedly bellicose worldview.
I also do not dispute China’s foreign policy has grown more assertive, as Bejing apparently figures that’s in the Chinese interests. Still, I think there is some value in clarifying “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” wasn’t invented in 2012
What does China’s President Xi Jinping want? Four years before Donald Trump became president, Xi became the leader of China and announced an epic vision to, in effect, “make China great again”—calling for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
The following is largely based on a speech given by Shi Zhongquan 石仲泉, former 中共中央党史研究室副主任 deputy director of the CPC History Research Center. Shi traced the origin of the term to Sun Yat-sen at the end of the 19th century
Sun Yat-sen first proposed the concept of 振兴中华 “the revitalization of China.” In November 1894, He founded the first anti-Qing revolutionary organization 兴中会 Revive China Society, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and proposed in the 《兴中会章程》 Constitution of Revive China Society that “the establishment of this society is dedicated to the revitalization of China and the maintenance of the national system.”
At the time of the founding of the Communist Party of China(CPC), Li Dazhao, one of the main founders, first proposed the concept of 中华民族之复活 the Rebirth of the Chinese nation. It was written on April 18, 1917, in 《大亚细亚主义》The Great Asianism: "When talking about the Great Asianism, the reconstruction of the Chinese nation and the rebirth of the Chinese nation are the most crucial points."
In December 1935, as Japan invaded China, Mao Zedong gave a report at a CPC Activists' Conference in Wayaobu, northern Shaanxi, calling on the people of China: "Our Chinese nation has the spirit to fight the enemy to the death and 光复旧物的决心the determination to restore the old things based on self-reliance, and has the ability to stand up among the nations... We will fight for the independence and liberation of the great Chinese nation to the last drop of blood!"
Mao Zedong wrote a New Year's message for Xinhua News Agency on December 30, 1948, titled 将革命进行到底 Carry Out the Revolution Till Its Victory.
He said a new China must be established, "so that 使中华民族来一个大翻身 the Chinese nation can make a great turnaround."
He said, "... in this way, the Chinese nation can make a great turnaround, turning from a semi-colonial country into a truly independent country, and the Chinese people can achieve a great liberation, overthrowing the feudal oppression and bureaucratic capital (China's monopoly capital) oppression, and thus create a unified, democratic, and peaceful situation, create the prerequisites for transforming from an agricultural country into an industrial country, and create the possibility for the transition from a society where people exploit people towards a socialist society."
After the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee, Deng Xiaoping, as the chief architect of reform and opening up, and modernization, did not explicitly use the term "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation", but he proposed the concept of 振兴中华民族 "revitalize the Chinese nation."
He said on April 7, 1990, according to the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Volume Three: "Since the founding of the People's Republic of China forty years ago, a good foundation has been laid. After the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee, we have been focused on the four modernizations, aimed at revitalizing the Chinese nation."
The term "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" first appeared in the public speeches or articles of the top leader of CPC in《江泽民在庆祝中国共产党成立80周年大会上的讲话》Jiang Zemin's Speech at the Celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the Founding of CPC on July 1, 2001.
Jiang said "From the mid-20th century to the mid-21st century, all the struggles of the Chinese people are for the realization of national prosperity, people's well-being, and the great rejuvenation of the nation. This historic undertaking, which CPC has led the people of the whole country to strive for fifty years, has achieved tremendous progress, and another fifty years of struggle will surely be completed... The grand cause of socialist modernization needs your construction, and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be realized in your hands."
In 2002, Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress repeatedly mentioned "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.":
"Over the past 13 years, with clearly defined objectives, we worked with one heart and one mind and scored historic achievements.... The hard work of our Party and people and their great achievements have attracted worldwide attention and will surely go down as a glorious page in the annals of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
Since the very day of the founding of CPC, “it has been the vanguard of the Chinese working class and also of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, shouldering the grand mission of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
During the new-democratic revolution, “our Party united and led the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in fulfilling the historic task of winning national independence and people's liberation, thus laying the groundwork for our great national rejuvenation.”
After the founding of New China, “our Party creatively completed...the greatest and most profound social transformation ever in China's history, and embarked on a socialist road and the historical journey to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Since the Third Plenary Session of its 11th Central Committee, “our Party has found the correct road to socialism with Chinese characteristics, injecting new and greater vitality into our drive for national rejuvenation. Splendid prospects present themselves before the great cause of rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Building a well-off society in an all-round way will "bring about the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
On July 1, 2011, at the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, Hu Jintao, then General Secretary, mentioned "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" three times.
"Today, a vibrant socialist China stands firmly in the East of the world, and 1.3 billion Chinese people are marching confidently towards the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation under the guidance of the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics."
Over the past 90 years, our Party has united and led the people in writing a magnificent epic on this ancient land of China that has shocked the world, which "fundamentally changed the fate and destiny of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, irreversibly ended China's miserable fate of domestic strife and foreign aggression, poverty and weakness suffered since the advent of modern times, and irreversibly launched the historical march of the Chinese nation towards continuous development, growth, and great rejuvenation, so that China, with more than 5,000 years of civilization history, has taken on a completely new look, and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has shown an unprecedented bright prospect."
"中国特色社会主义理论体系 The theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the correct theory to guide the Party and the people to follow the socialist road with Chinese characteristics and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
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