Jin Fenglin: Creating a New Model of Chinese Civilization beyond the Western Civilizational Hierarchy

2023-04-10 14:54:59 | Author:Jin Fenglin | Source:Marxism & Reality, No.5, 2022

Creating a New Model of Chinese Civilization

beyond the Western Civilizational Hierarchy[1]


Jin Fenglin

Professor and doctoral supervisor of the Philosophy Department and

chief expert of the Theoretical Innovation Project of the Central Party School

(Chinese Academy of Governance)



In today’s society, where humanity faces profound changes of a kind unseen in a century, if the Communist Party of China (CPC) wants to keep pace with the times and lead the Chinese nation to create a new model of civilization, it must, in light of the historical trend of the overall evolution of civilization and the era of rapid changes in human society, conduct an all-around and in-depth theoretical review and intellectual reckoning of the theoretical and practical logic of the Western civilization hierarchy, and make a deep, multifaceted analysis of its inner problems and historical limitations perspective. Then, with the Marxist theory of civilization development as the guide, the CPC must achieve the creative transformation and innovative development of the best of traditional Chinese civilization, especially promote win-win cooperation in the contemporary world economy, multipolar co-governance in global politics, continuous innovation in international law, and the interaction and integration of different civilizations, in order to eventually find a Chinese solution to counteract, oppose, and transcend the Western civilizational hierarchy, thus laying a solid foundation for creating a new path of Chinese modernization and a new model of civilization. This will lay a solid theoretical and practical foundation for creating a new Chinese path to modernization and a new model of civilization.


Civilizational hierarchy, mutual learning between civilizations, new model of Chinese civilization

Civilization is not only an advanced way of life unique to human beings, but also the sum of all the material, institutional and cultural-ethical wealth created by human beings in the course of history. Xi Jinping stated at a ceremony marking the centenary of the CPC that, “As we have upheld and developed socialism with Chinese characteristics and driven coordinated progress in material, political, cultural-ethical, social, and ecological terms, we have pioneered a new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization, and created a new model of civilization.”[2] Based on the historical trend of the evolution of civilization and the overall development of human society of our time, this major assertion is a Chinese declaration of the new model of civilization. To deeply grasp the essential connotation of this declaration, we must understand the new model of civilization created by the Chinese nation in an open system of exchange and mutual learning between civilizations, because each civilization is rooted in its own soil of existence, coalesces the extraordinary wisdom and cultural-ethical pursuit of a country or nation, and has its own unique value of existence. Although human beings are different in color and language, there is no difference in their civilization. Only by deepening our understanding of the differences between our own civilization and other civilizations can we continue to promote the exchanges, dialogue and harmony between civilizations. To accomplish this task, it is necessary to conduct an all-around and in-depth theoretical review and intellectual reckoning of the theoretical and practical logic of the Western civilization hierarchy since modern times, and to find the Chinese solution to counteract, oppose, and transcend the Western civilization hierarchy. Only in this way can we make a correct evaluation of the unique features and universal value of the new model of Chinese civilization, and thus firmly establish the Chinese nation’s confidence in China’s path, theories, system, and culture.

I. The Logic of the Western Civilizational Hierarchy

In order to fully understand the logic of the Western civilizational hierarchy, we must not only understand the peripheral knowledge of human geography, political and economic conditions, and historical and cultural traditions on which Western civilization is based, but also grasp its inner theoretical essence through its landmark historical events, cultural symbols, and classic works.[3] In a fundamental sense, the core logic of the Western civilizational hierarchy contains the following elements.

1. The theory of God’s divine mission.

Christian civilization, which was born on the basis of the ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek civilization, emphasizes the dichotomy between spirit and flesh, and therefore presupposes the existence of God, who is the truest, best, most beautiful, and most holy and who created all things and is above its believers. Influenced by this civilization, the Western powers all attribute their fundamental motivation for becoming powerful by means of overseas colonization, war plunder, and industrial revolution to the divine mission given by God. Although rationalism and secularism gradually won their ideological dominance after the rise of the modern bourgeoisie, and famous philosophers like Hegel began to replace the mystery of God’s creation with the movement of the absolute spirit to argue for the supremacy of Western civilization, the fundamental point expressed in his The Philosophy of History still attributes the glory of European civilization to the mission of God’s chosen people. The United States, which rose rapidly after World War II, is filled with a sense of mission, and has a domineering face. The contemporary American conservative master Russell Kirk, who has studied history of three thousand years, concluded that the foundation of the American order is found in the prophetic era of the Old Testament, and regarded the landing of the Mayflower in North America from England as the same as Moses leading the Jews out of Egyptian slavery and arriving at Jerusalem, a land of milk and honey flowing. He argued that every evolution of Western history has played a foundational role in the creation of the American order. The faith and ethics of Jerusalem, the reason and glory of Athens, the virtue and power of Rome, the law and market of London — all these trickles of Western history are finally integrated into the great order of the United States of America.[4] Xxx

2. The supremacy of logical reason.

The Hebrew religious civilization is said to have served as the sacred spiritual pillar for the Western civilizational hierarchy, and the ancient Greek theory of the supremacy of logical reason provides an important methodological support for it. As we all know, as one of the main characteristics that distinguish human beings from animals, the ability of reason includes logical reason, practical reason, historical reason and many other elements. The ancient Greek logical reason was based on mathematics and attached great importance to concepts, judgments and reasoning in understanding the world. In the Middle Ages, this logical reason was combined with Christian fideism and became the basic methodology for arguing for the existence of God. In modern times, the rationalist thinking with logical reason at its core became an important marker of Western civilization.[5] Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Hegel’s Science of Logic, and other works have elevated human rationality to an unparalleled level, causing all human affairs to be judged by rational courts, and even elevating logic reason to the fundamental essence of why human beings are human, using it to classify human qualities from low to high, i.e., barbarians, obscurantists, and civilized people, and then distinguishing black, yellow, and white people etc. In addition to promoting the rapid development of science and technology in Europe and the United States, the prevalence of rationalism fragmented the whole rationality, and the instrumental reason derived from logical reason gradually occupied a dominant position in Western rationalism. For example, Max Weber argued in his The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism that only the economic rationalism of Protestantism could nurture the modern capitalist system; in contrast, Chinese religion, which lacked the gene of logical reason, therefore could not produce modern industrial civilization and could only exist in dependence on Western civilization.

3. The stage theory of civilization development.

Before the modern era, human beings were separated by natural conditions such as the seas, mountains and deserts, and were basically in a discrete state. In order to adapt to their own living environment, each nation created different forms of interaction, institutional patterns and cultural patterns, shaping a variety of civilization types around the world. There is no superiority or inferiority between the various types of civilizations. However, with the birth of Christianity, Europeans straightened out the circular view of time in ancient Greece and Rome into the linear view of “past-present-future” and gradually developed the Christian idea of historical progress. Guided by this idea, modern Europeans transformed the differences of human cultures distributed in different spaces of the earth into the historical differences of civilizations in the same chronological order, thus forming a discourse system of civilizational hierarchy.[6] Taking the ancient slavery, medieval feudalism and modern capitalist system experienced by Europe as the only benchmark to measure the progress of all civilizations, the modern capitalist civilization possessed by Europe is defined as the highest stage of civilization. Fernand Braudel’s long-period Kondrativ cycle research on the development of capitalism greatly strengthened the geographical characteristics of the differences between the forms of human society, and highlighted the historical supremacy and universality of value of European and American capitalist forms in the differences between human civilizations.[7] Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-system theory further describes modern world history as a history of central-marginal penetration.[8] On the contrary, other types of human civilization only have regional special value. Only by accepting the baptism of the universal civilization in Europe and America can they step into the threshold of so-called “modernity” in the western sense. Fukuyama’s “the end of history” is the modern upgraded version of the theory of the Western civilizational hierarchy.

4. The theory of nation-state supremacy.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, along with the rapid development of the market economy in cities, the new industrial and commercial bourgeoisie rose rapidly, the supreme authority of the pope was gradually diluted, the dominance of the princes and nobles was no longer there, and each nation began to find its own political way out in the intertwined sectarian struggle. After 30 years of fierce warfare, the Peace of Westphalia was signed by the warring parties in 1648, redrawing the borders of the European nations in the form of international law. The modern nation-state was born when the various nations began to establish national armies, set up checkpoints, and send emissaries to each other, forming the so-called international relations between nations. The state became a union of many nationalities organized under the constitution and laws, and governed by a so-called “democratic system.” Among them, “people’s democracy” and “liberal democracy” are particularly prominent. The former appeared in the form of “the whole” and was strongly influenced by the centralist ideas of Rousseau’s theory of popular sovereignty, while the latter appeared in the form of “the individual” and was strongly influenced by Locke and Montesquieu’s theories of checks and balances. The conflicting interests of different social classes within the people began to be implemented by various political parties, and through the logical progression from the sacred state, the nation-state to the party-state, the modern reshaping of the legitimacy of the nation-state system was finally completed. The “supremacy of national interests” became the common international political standard followed by all Western European countries. To meet the need to maintain the survival of nation-states, countries started the killing mode of national wars in modern times. In the fragmented geography of Europe, the war between the various nation-states continued until the outbreak of the two world wars in the 20th century.

5. The theory of the superiority of maritime civilization.

Before modern times, human beings had formed a variety of civilizations such as hunting civilization, nomadic civilization, and agricultural civilizations. Various civilizations had their own strengths in the process of adapting to their own living environment. However, after the beginning of the European Age of Discovery, maritime trade become an important cornerstone of modern society, and Europeans began to rewrite world history from the perspective of the sea. For example, Hegel believed that the sea was the birthplace of freedom and wisdom and the cradle of open-mindedness, technological innovation and institutional revolution, and only those peoples who were good at controlling the sea and ports were worthy of economic, political, military, social and cultural power, and only those countries that controlled the sea could go to the top of the empire, the maritime civilization stood at the top of civilization, and the spirit of piracy and the law of the jungle were also placed at the center of the human spiritual ladder.[9] In his The Geographical Pivot of History, Harold Mackinder argued strongly for the superiority of British maritime civilization.[10] The American naval strategist Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power Upon History is a comprehensive argument for the importance of maritime civilization in human geopolitics, highlighting the natural superiority of the United States in developing maritime civilization.[11]

II. The Practical Path of the Theory

of the Western Civilizational Hierarchy

It is easy to see that the Theory of the Western civilizational hierarchy has an extremely meticulous theoretical logic, containing ideological sanctity, institutional design of modernity, economic and technological sophistication and other complex content. This gave rise to the so-called civilizational hierarchy theory of Western senior civilization deconstructing, melting and guiding the lower civilization. Through what path is this theory applied in practice?

1. The widespread global economic plundering.

The vast majority of modern Western economists have attributed the economic motives for the rise of Western civilization to the development of science and technology, the emergence of a market economy, and the innovation of the corporate system. For example, Douglas North, a famous institutional economist, attributed the fundamental cause of the rise of Western civilization to institutional determinism. He said, “Efficient economic organization is a key factor in growth, and the reason for the rise of the Western world lies in the development of an efficient economic organization. Efficient organization requires the creation of institutionalized facilities and the establishment of property ownership, leading the individual economy to a social activity in which the individual rate of return constantly approaches the social rate of return.”[12]There is no doubt that there is a valid side to this theory’s explanation of the superiority of Western civilization. But the vast majority of scholars more often attribute the root cause of the economic rise of modern Western Europe to the brutal economic plundering of Africa, America, Asia and other colonies. For from the mid-18th to the early 19th century, European countries such as Spain, Britain, France, and Germany established a large number of commercial empires abroad that grew in size, scope, and level of colonization. The infamous British East India Company, for example, treated India as the home base of the British establishment in the East, and Indian taxpayers fed the British, allowing their financial, trade, and technological clout to make long inroads into Asian countries. It was India’s heavy tax burden for Britain and its constant tribute to it that enabled Britain to expand its domestic public expenditure 36 times from 1792 to 1815, greatly improving and upgrading Britain’s food, health, education, science and technology, and infrastructure, thus laying a solid material foundation for Britain’s subsequent industrial revolution and its leading position in the world in industrial goods and establishing its central position in global capital accumulation.[13] The rise of the United States after independence, on the other hand, was inextricably linked to the long prevalence of a new model of slavery. By digging deeper into the history of the modern American slave trade, the famous American historian Baptiste proved with solid historical facts that the new slavery system in the early modern period played a fundamental role in the rise of the U.S. Before 1800, the commercial trade in the northern colonies of the U.S. relied heavily on selling the cotton and tobacco products of the southern planters to Europe for profits, and the United States achieved continued national expansion and an increasingly powerful market economy through the brutal institution of slavery.[14] After the end of the American Civil War, the abolitionist movement flourished, and the white elites who dominated American society began to develop another theory of how they really achieved their “first bucket of gold,” consciously downplaying the bloody history of the massacre of indigenous Indians and the enslavement of blacks in the early days of the United States, and highlighting the decisive role of the American market economy, democratic system, and scientific and technological innovation system in its historical development. However, the “double helix gene” of racial discrimination and wealth disparity, which was embedded in the dark bloodline of the American system at the beginning, will always manifest itself at the right time, such as the anti-racism movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. The same is true with the “Black Lives Matter” campaign during the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020.

2. The continued advance of international military conquest.

Marx pointed out in Capital that the bourgeoisie must continuously promote expanded reproduction in order to obtain greater economic profits. It is this continuous expanded reproduction in the European system that led to intense political and military struggles between countries. From the beginning of the world market opened by modern civilization in Europe and the United States, the robber logic of the capitalist powers relying on military conquest to achieve expansion and perpetuate their own life has never been interrupted. In particular, the emergence of Darwinism in modern society further strengthened the invisible dominance of the law of the jungle in national competition.

First, there were wars between the nation states within Europe, including, for example, the Anglo-Dutch War in 1652, the Anglo-Dutch War against the French Alliance in 1689, the Russian-Swiss War in 1700, the Anglo-French War in 1756–1763, and the Bavarian War of Succession in 1778–1779.[15]

Second, the wars between European countries and colonies continued. From the 17th century, along with the increase in the composite power of European countries, European powers started the process of conquering the world, such as the many wars between Britain and India and China, and the wars between France and the African colonies. It was through numerous wars with colonial and semi-colonial countries that a few European powers, accounting for 18% of the world’s population, occupied 37% of the world’s land.[16] And Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism is a profound revelation of the fundamental motive of imperialism to wage military wars from the perspective of capitalist monopoly economy, combined with the contemporary development trend of financial oligarchy.

3. Improvement in the international legal regulation.

The final results of the military wars waged by modern European countries had to be confirmed by various international treaties, and for this reason the European countries developed international law in the modern sense, modeled on the “law of nations” of ancient Rome, as a means to realize the division of spheres of influence and complete their overall regulation of global affairs. Following geographic discoveries and the opening of new routes, international treaties were signed between European countries over the ownership of the “unclaimed wastelands” in Africa, South America and North America. Later, in order to compete with the Indians for land ownership, the Europeans invented the “labor theory of value,” which stated that only land that had changed its shape through labor could become the private property of the laborers, thus depriving the Indians, who only lived by hunting, of their land ownership. In turn, the European countries set up “concessions” in the so-called “semi-civilized countries” to ensure the extraterritoriality of the suzerain state over the semi-colonial countries through sovereign exceptionism. Especially before and after the two World Wars, a large number of international treaties were enacted by European and American countries, which greatly enriched and improved the content of international law and promoted the development of various international organizations, including the establishment of the United Nations and the formation of the European Community. The legal bullying carried out by the United States today through various “judicial traps” and “long-arm jurisdiction” measures is also in line with the international legal tradition started by European and American countries.

4. The forceful inculcation of Western values.

Economic plundering, military conquest and legal regulation can make people “superficially convinced,” but they cannot make them “sincerely convinced.” For this reason, the European and American theoretical circles have been constantly and thoroughly sorting out their core values, the main contents of which include: economic privatization and liberalization; political deregulation and democratization; and social liberalization of will and atomization. In order to instill the abovementioned economic, political and social core values, in addition to forcibly integrating developing countries into the European and American capitalist system by means of coercion and violence, inducements and exchanges, forcing the “foreign countries” to fully integrate with them, the European and American countries work to effectively disseminate the mainstream Western value system through various theoretical infiltration and intellectual indoctrination, and turn fallacies into myths by means of religious beliefs, mass media, cultural exchanges, foundation funding, global charity.

The CIA defines “foreign propaganda” as “the systematic use of propaganda and other non-combat activities by a country to disseminate ideas and information in order to influence the views, attitudes, emotions, and behavior of people in other countries in favor of their own goals.[17] It is with the help of the abovementioned means that the European and American countries constantly mislead the governance model of developing countries, and make the elites of developing countries unable to recognize the huge contrast between the initial conditions for building modernization in their own countries and those in the developed countries of Europe and America, and eventually fall into an uncontrollable political chaos. At this time, the powerful and noble class in Europe and America can reap the wealth of developing countries with confidence and boldness.[18]

III. Use the Theoretical Logic of the New Chinese Civilization

to Counteract the Theory of the Western Civilizational Hierarchy

The reason for our in-depth analysis of the theoretical and practical logic of the Western civilizational hierarchy is to gain a deeper insight into its inherent problems and historical limitations, and to conduct an in-depth and detailed intellectual reckoning of it. On the basis of this, we shall, with Marxist theory as our guide, and through the creative transformation and innovative development of the best of traditional Chinese culture, find a powerful theoretical weapon to counteract, oppose, and transcend the Western civilizational hierarchy, and propose a theory of civilizational exchanges and dialogue that can be widely accepted by all peoples in the world.

1. Use the Chinese theory of the unity of heaven and humans to counteract the Western theory of God’s mission.

The Chinese cosmology is completely different from the super-absolutist worldview of Christianity, which is a dichotomy of spirit and flesh. The Chinese cosmology usually observes the universe, society and life in an interconnected way of thinking, focusing on the interdependence and close connection among heaven, earth, humans and deities, believing that the small universe of the human body is an inseparable and inexhaustible whole, and the large universe of heaven and earth is also an organic and fluid whole.[19] It is this dynamic process cosmology that unifies nature, society, and human thinking as one that helped the Chinese nation forge a national spirit of improving ourselves, develop a generosity of spirit of embracing higher virtues and ethics, and cultivate a philosophy that peace is precious.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the spread of financial crisis, terrorism, ecological degradation, and the spread of epidemic diseases accelerated the process of globalization of major risks facing humanity. Since modern times, the Western international political system based on Christian civilization, with individual rights as the starting point and the nation-state as the institutional structure, has been unable to solve these problems, or even to respond effectively. If we can develop the Chinese cosmology of “the unity of heaven and humans” into a theory of the historical laws of nature, society and national development that humans follow, and then realize the harmony between the human body and the human heart, between the individual and society, and between human beings and nature, so that the supreme deities believed in by all peoples in the world can shift from warring with each other to dancing with together, and then use this materialistic dialectical holism and historicism methodology, which is above all religions, to deal with the various conflicts of civilizations in the world today and resolve the various ethical paradoxes faced by human beings in the era of globalization, it is obviously a correct choice that transcends the Western theory of God’s divine mission.

2. Improve the Western logical rationalism with Chinese historical rationalism.

The 5,000-year history of the Chinese nation has led to the formation of a complete historical revision system, the creation of a rich historical canon, and the emergence of many historians. It is this extreme richness of historical resources that has created the spirit of historical rationalism in the Chinese nation. To be more specific, the Chinese nation is good at exploring the development of things from the origin and roots of civilization. It emphasizes the need to learn from various major events in history. It realizes the continuity of Chinese civilization based on success and failure in history and critical inheritance of history. The Chinese nation discovers the inherent and constant objective law of things in the alternating changes of history. It discovers the universal and fundamental connection between human beings and the world from the limited historical way of human existence, and combines this historical rationality with moral rationality. The Chinese nation highlights the noble value of fairness and justice with the help of the historical changes of the old and new systems. It manifests the moral glory of human beings in punishing evil and promoting good through the great popularization of history, and achieves the noble beauty of human beings based on the harmony between nature and humans.

Of course, we should also be soberly aware that although Chinese civilization has not developed the kind of extremely complex logical rationality advocated by Kant and Hegel, it has a wealth of logical ideas. We should strive to derive logical rationality from historical rationality, and draw on the spirit of Western logical rationalism. It is of particular note that we should effectively apply the best ideas of the Western formal logic, dialectical logic, and mathematical logic. We should transcend the Western logical rational supremacy with holistic historical rationality. We should strive to reach the state of “middle ground” where all feelings are in order, all things are appropriate, and there is no bias based on emotion, with reason as a guide, with reasonableness at the goal. In this way, we can effectively overcome the major drawback that instrumental rationality and value rationality are separated from each other as a result of the supremacy of logical rationality, and create the ideal future of a new type of human rationalism.

3. Oppose the Western theory of the highest stage of civilization with the theory of the multiplicity and co-progression of world civilizations.

Any kind of civilization is a way of life gradually formed by individuals and groups in a specific natural, cultural and ecological environment, which constitutes a unique cultural temperament that distinguishes a nation from other nations. In essence, each civilization has its own merits, and no civilization is better than other civilizations. The success of a civilization lies in whether it is compatible with its living environment, whether it meets the basic conditions of the country, whether it is supported by its people, and whether it can make its own contribution to the progress of civilization. Without the existence of diverse civilizations, there is no civilizational universality to speak of. The coexistence of diverse and heterogeneous civilizations is conducive to people’s observation and thinking from different perspectives, and different civilizations competing to lead can greatly enhance the infinite potential of human beings to cope with various changes in the living environment.

The Western civilizational hierarchy theory is undoubtedly a typical civilizational hegemonic rhetoric. If all civilizations are homogenized into Western civilization, it will undoubtedly be a great disaster for civilization. We must see that the theory of the Western civilizational hierarchy is based on the diachronicity of civilizational development, while the theory of civilization pluralism is rooted in the synchronicity of civilizations. The so-called division of the slavery, feudalist and capitalist systems has both diachronic chronological differences in time and synchronic differences in space and region. Of course, emphasizing the synchronicity of world civilizations and their common temporal characteristics does not deny the existence of common values among civilizations that transcend temporal and spatial differences, but the problem is that the generation of such common values must be the product of long-term equal exchanges and mutual learning, not the result of imposing one’s civilization on others bullying tactics. The reason why Marx attached great importance to the study of the “Asian mode of production” in his later years, and conceived the idea that Eastern societies could leap over the Caudine Forks of capitalism to a higher social form is to highlight the reality of the world in which multiple civilizations are both diachronic and synchronic. Marx profoundly revealed that the path of human beings toward modern civilization will be characterized by a body with many aspects.[20]

4. Transcend the Western theory of nation-state supremacy with the Chinese theory of civilizational community.

Unlike the modern nation-state formed in the West in the fierce competition between religious and royal power, China, before being forced to become a “nation-state” in the modern sense of the Western term, has always been supported by the concept of “world system” with the Middle Kingdom civilization as the core of its identity in the world. Before it was forced to become a “nation-state” in the modern Western sense, China’s identity in the world was always supported by the concept of the “world system,” which was the core of the Middle Kingdom civilization, and the state and civilization were one and the same.[21] China has assimilated its neighboring peoples into this huge civilizational unity mainly through the Chinese culture’s value of harmony within diversity, and the term “Chinese nation” in no way refers only to the Han people; it is a civilizational community composed of many ethnic groups. For example, in the history of Chinese civilization, there has never been a tragic conflict between different religions. There has always been a complementarity of Confucianism and Taoism, a combination of Confucianism and Buddhism, a mutual penetration of Confucianism and Buddhism, and a mutual understanding of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. In this sense, the word “China” is not only a geographical and spatial concept, but also refers to the Chinese nation that makes good use of the idea of “moderation” to conduct itself and deal with international relations. It is precisely because there was no fierce struggle between religious and royal power in Chinese history, as there was in the West, that the confrontation between the state and society in Chinese political life was less frequent. The essence of Chinese politics is that the state is endowed with great authority and legitimacy, and political authority dominates, regulates, and unifies everything, while the supremacy of the monarch’s power determines the incomparable importance of his social responsibilities, including firmly establishing the transcendent ideal of ruling as mandated by heaven; constantly implementing practical policies and measures to meet the people’s needs; and gradually improving the ability to cultivate oneself, regulating one’s family well, governing the state properly, and bringing peace to all under heaven. Only in this way can we consolidate the foundation of political legitimacy of winning public support with morality, convincing the people with virtue, and ruling the country based on the love and protection of the people. Such a high standard of virtue for officials has made the selection of officials at all levels of government, from ancient times to the present, highly dependent on “political meritocracy” emphasized by Daniel A. Bell,[22] thus distinguishing it from the electoral democracy that has become widespread in Western countries in modern times.

In the process of revolution, development, reform and opening up, in addition to carefully learning from the successful experience of ancient Chinese governance, and highlighting the importance of officials’ virtues by appointing officials with both political integrity and professional competence, the CPC has also absorbed the reasonable elements of Western democracy, such as attaching importance to grassroots public opinion and constructing quantitative assessment mechanisms, to keep the selection of officials abreast with the times. The CPC does not believe in the multiparty competition system, electoral democracy, and separation of powers that have been developed in Western countries according to their own traditions, but works to modernize China’s system and capacity for governance, taking into account the history and specific reality of the country.

5. Integrate the Western hegemonic theory of maritime civilization with the Chinese theory of the integration of triple civilizations.

In modern times, the Western powers have all regarded themselves as countries with maritime civilization and despised land civilization to the extreme, while China is regarded as the living fossil of land civilization. For a long time, some Chinese people have also identified themselves as typical representatives of land civilization and looked up to the so-called “maritime civilization” of the West with a complex mentality. However, along with the deepening of the study of global history, it has gradually become a general consensus in both domestic and international academic circles to reconceptualize traditional China and the history of East Asia with China at its core, and to consider the encounter between East Asia and the West as the historical background for the examination of China’s modernization process. It has been found that the history of Chinese civilization, which is axial in nature, was firstly based on the agricultural civilization of the Central Plains, and then with the collision and intermingling of the agricultural civilization of the Central Plains and the nomadic civilization of the North as the main line, it finally absorbed of the nomadic civilization of the North and integrated it into the huge Central Plains civilization to form a unique type of Chinese civilization,[23] and the Hu Huanyong Line, which has been widely influential in the international geography, is a typical representative. However, beyond this main line, there has been a secondary line of interaction between the agricultural civilization of the Central Plains and the maritime civilization of East and Southeast Asia, which reached a high level of prosperity before the Qing Dynasty. According to Kenneth Pomeranz, Steven Topik, and others, Guangzhou and Quanzhou were the natural ports of trade between China’s mainland and East and Southeast Asia until the Qing Dynasty, and the inhabitants of the southeastern coast worked with Muslims in the Middle East and Hindus in the South Asian subcontinent to create a huge and complex commercial network throughout Southeast Asia. As early as around 1600, Manila’s Chinatown was as large as those in New York and Philadelphia in the 1870s.[24] Until 1723, when Emperor Kangxi implemented a closed-door policy due to the “etiquette dispute” with the Holy See, the exchange between the agricultural civilization of the Central Plains and the maritime civilization of Southeast Asia played an extremely important historical role in the history of Chinese civilization as a subsidiary line, and Zheng He’s voyage to the West in the Ming Dynasty was a typical example of China’s highly developed blue civilization in terms of shipbuilding, navigation technology, and maritime trade. Zheng With the founding of the People’s Republic of China, especially since the reform and opening up in the 1980s, the coastal economy of southeastern China has achieved rapid growth, and the secondary line consisting of the exchange between the agricultural civilization of the ancient Central Plains and the maritime civilization of Southeast Asia has gradually risen to become the main line of the development of contemporary Chinese civilization, while the interchange between the agricultural civilization of the Central Plains and the nomadic civilization of the northwest, which was once the main line, has been relegated to a secondary line. At the time of China’s peaceful rise, when we examine the qualities of our own civilization again, we will find that the Chinese nation is not only the important birthplace of land civilization in the eastern end of Asia and Europe and nomadic civilization in the central and western part of Asia and Europe, but also borders with the Pacific Ocean, the most extensive on earth. Along with contemporary China’s march toward becoming a maritime power, our vision of maritime civilization will expand from historical East Asia and Southeast Asia to North and South America in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the entire world, and we will eventually become the outstanding representative of maritime civilization in the New Era.

IV. Transcend the Theory of the Western Civilizational Hierarchy

with the Practical Logic of the New Chinese Civilization

We cannot see the brightness of the future world by clinging to the old thinking, nor can find the new continents of tomorrow by holding on to the map of the old world. Only through global innovative thinking and profound structural adjustment of the contemporary world landscape can we get rid of the negative influence of the theory of the Western civilizational hierarchy and lead civilization onto a new path of development. To counteract, oppose and transcend the theory of the Western civilizational hierarchy, we need to gradually find a precise path to a new model of civilization in the practice of exchanges with other countries in the world.

1. Win-win cooperation in the world economy.

In modern times, humanity has experienced three globalization movements, the first being the globalization movement represented by European powers between 1750 and 1950, whose main feature was the forcible plundering of other countries’ wealth by means of colonies or semi-colonies. The second globalization movement was the rise of national independence movements after World War II, when the traditional colonial methods of the European powers declined and the victorious powers, such as the United States, began to redistribute world wealth through international trade, financial investment and people-to-people exchanges. The third is the new wave of globalization that started at the turn of the century, mainly by means of technology, finance, the internet and other new modern technology, which has led to a new round of trade boom, investment facilitation and personnel flow, making global supply chains, industrial chains and value chains more interdependent.

The profound changes in the world economy inevitably require countries to increase their self-innovation and openness to the outside world, actively participate in the international industrial division of labor, explore their own economic growth potential through continuous technological innovation, and shorten the iteration cycle of new materials, new products and new business models. The Chinese people have always advocated that large countries should uphold justice while pursuing shared interests when dealing with small countries, putting justice above shared interests. The development of China from a poor and weak country to the world’s second largest economy in modern times has been based on the international economic ethics of trust, justice and morality, and this long historical lineage has profoundly influenced the basic ethical rules for dealing with domestic and foreign economic interests in contemporary China. Along with the world entering a new era of connectivity among countries, interconnection of everything and intelligent interaction, in recent years China has continued to build a global network of mutually beneficial cooperation by strengthening the Belt and Road Initiative and promoting policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity. Since the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, more than 100 countries and international organizations have responded positively, and a large number of projects have been launched, providing a better integration of Belt and Road countries into global supply chains, industrial chains and value chains through the flow of goods, capital, technology and personnel, thereby playing an important role as a Eurasian Land Bridge in helping Belt and Road countries in releasing growth dynamics, achieving market coordination, tightening cooperative ties, promoting the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment.[25]

2. Multipolar co-governance of global politics.

The theory of the civilizational hierarchy of Europe and the United States has been implemented mainly through continuous military conquest, the theory of exchanges and mutual learning of Chinese civilization has been implemented more by peaceful development. Over the past more than 40 years of reform and opening up, China has gradually become stronger through the hard work of its own people. However, Western countries do not believe that China will take the path of peaceful development. They have always focused on the supreme interests of nation-states, taking the realist “balance of power theory” as their guiding thought and emphasizing that international politics is rooted in the principle of survival of the fittest. The prevalence of the Thucydides Trap theory in recent years is a typical example. Especially after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has raised the banner of “peace under the U.S.” On the one hand, it has shouted slogans of human rights, freedom, equality, rule of law and other so-called “universal values”; on the other hand, it has ignored the resolutions of the United Nations and taken unilateral actions at will to overturn various “authoritarian regimes” that are not in line with its objectives.

China’s peaceful rise does not agree with the European theory of balance of power, nor does it buy peace under the United States. It opposes the barbaric practice of settling disputes between nation-states by force at every turn, and seeks to build a multipolar global governance model that transcends nation-states and is guided by the concept of building a human community with a shared future. In order to effectively solve the ecological imbalance and disease transmission problems faced by humanity, a new international order will be formed in the future, in which major powers and various regional alliances coexist.

3. Continuous innovation of international law.

China has always maintained that the relations and interests of all countries in the world can only be coordinated by the systems and rules established by international law, and that each country must adhere to the international law principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration in the handling of international affairs. It was only after the two world wars that humanity learned from the bitter experience that it established the framework of global governance with the United Nations as the main body. Today, as the world embraces a new type of globalization, the only way to promote changes in global governance is to make this traditional governance system more equal, open, transparent and inclusive on the basis of globally accepted international law. In particular, we should enhance the representation and voice of developing countries in international affairs, and when we encounter major differences, we resolve them together through a consultative and democratic approach with mutual understanding, accommodation and equal treatment. In addition, we must see that all countries and nations, no matter what values they uphold, should lead all other countries and nations to the path of common prosperity if they truly want to benefit all humanity.

4. Interaction and integration of different civilizations.

In today’s world, along with the continuous promotion of economic, political and legal globalization, a development pattern of countries becoming more interconnected has been formed. This requires countries to continuously remove the negative influence of the theory of the civilizational hierarchy and go beyond the theory of the clash of civilizations, abandon the unnecessary arguments under the theory of ideological antagonism, mutually respect the development paths and models independently chosen by each country, and let the diversity of civilizations become the inexhaustible driving force of human cultural development. In terms of national mentality, we must abandon all kinds of civilizational discrimination, deeply promote the transformation of human beings from a discrete pre-modern civilization to a modern civilization in a synchronized space and time, and strive to create a new pattern for the development of all civilizations. In terms of civilizational integration, respect for and tolerance of “other cultures” is an important indicator of a nation or country’s cultural confidence. Only through serious and frank exchanges and dialogues to fully understand each other’s value concerns can we realize the convergence of different civilizational perspectives by seeking common ground while reserving differences. From the perspective of the driving force of cultural innovation, the culture of any nation-state needs to maintain its own cultural uniqueness through uphold fundamental principles, but also needs to demonstrate its vigor of the times through breaking new ground, and only through continuous innovation can it win the historical opportunity to participate in the intermingling of different civilizations and shoulder its noble mission for the development of global civilization.[26]

To sum up, since modern times, the entire humanity has been enveloped under the aura of European and American civilization, and a theory of the civilizational hierarchy based on Europe and America has gradually formed. In the second half of the 20th century, along with the rise of new civilizational powers, the situation of Western civilization as the only dominant entity was completely broken, and the civilizational development pattern of the world powers competing with their strengths has become a historical trend. Although there is still a long way to go for the new model of civilization created by the Chinese nation, it has gradually become brighter. As long as we can overcome the various shortcomings of modern Western civilization, the new model of Chinese civilization will definitely be able to stand proud and independent in the midst of the overlapping international peaks, and radiate a thousand rays of light.

     [1] * First published in the fifth issue of Marxism & Reality in 2022.

 [2] Xi Jinping, Speech at a Ceremony Marking the Centenary of the Communist Party of China, Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2021, p. 18.

[3] See Jin Fenglin et al., Ancestral Halls and Churches: a Comparative Study of Traditional Core Values in China and the West, Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2018, p. 66.

[4] Russell Kirk, The Roots of American Order.

[5] See Liu Jiahe, “The Structure of Reason: Comparing the Fundamental Similarities and Differences between Chinese and Western Thinking,” Journal of Beijing Normal University,, 2020, no. 3.

[6] See Liu He (ed.), The World Order and the Civilizational Hierarchy, Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing Company, 2014, p. 5

[7] Fernand Braudel, The Perspective of the World: Civilization & Capitalism, 15th–18th Century, vol. III, University of California Press.

[8] Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, I, University of California Press.

[9] G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History.

[10] Harold Mackinder, The Geographical Pivot of History.

[11] Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History.

[12] Douglass North, The Rise of the Western World, Cambridge University Press, 1973.

[13] Giovanni Arrighi and Takeshi Hamashita (ed.), The Resurgence of East Asia: 500, 150 and 50 Year Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2003.

[14] Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.

[15] See Chen Lemin and Zhou Hong, History of the Expansion of European Civilization, Shanghai: Oriental Publishing Center, 1999, p. 93.

[16] Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order.

[17] Wang Shaoguang, “Infiltration: The CIA’s Superior Propaganda,” Dushu, 2002, no. 5.

[18] See Tian Wenlin, “Western Mainstream Thought and Political Change in Non-Western Countries,” Journal of Renmin University of China, 2021, no. 1.

[19] Roger T. Ames, Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary, State University of New York Press.

[20] See Luo Rongqu, A New Theory of Modernization: The Chinese Path to Modernization, East China Normal University Press, 2018, p. 58.

[21] Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order.

[22] Daniel A. Bell, The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, Princeton University Press.

[23] See Zhao Tingyang, A Possible World of the All-under-Heaven System: The world order in the past and for the future, The Contemporaneity of the World,” CITIC Publishing Group, 2016 edition, p. 135.

[24] Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik. The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present, Routledge.

[25] See Jin Fenglin, “Sharing Benefits in the Human Community with a Shared Future,” Guangming Daily, January 4, 2021.

[26] Ibid.

translate from Marxism & Reality, No.5, 2022