Chinese civilization is unified and inclusive

BY XING GUANCHENG | 06-15-2023
Chinese Social Sciences Today

Miao villagers celebrate the Flower Mountain Festival with song and dance on May 26, 2023, in Pengshui, Chongqing. Photo: CFP

I had the privilege of attending a symposium centered around the progression and preservation of cultural heritage on June 2nd. During this event, I listened to an enlightening speech by General Secretary Xi Jinping and was honored to address the attendees as a representative. The profound depth of General Secretary Xi’s keynote address was truly remarkable. The most striking aspect for me was Xi Jinping’s emphasis on the myriad “fundamental elements” ingrained in our exceptional traditional Chinese culture. Furthermore, he elaborated on the “outstanding characteristics” of Chinese civilization, i.e. consistency, originality, unity, inclusivity and a peaceful nature. In this article, I intend to delve into my interpretation of the distinct “unity” and “inclusiveness” that characterizes Chinese civilization.


First, there has been considerable fusion of the cultures of all ethnic groups that make up the Chinese nation. A key characteristic of Chinese civilization is the unified spiritual homeland shared across all Chinese ethnic groups. Throughout the more than 5,000-year history of Chinese civilization, various ethnic groups in China have formed a harmoniously unified cultural space through interaction, communication, and integration, resulting in the interweaving and unification of all ethnic cultures. The fundamental basis of this unification is the cultural identification with Chinese civilization. The shared spiritual homeland of all Chinese ethnic groups is built upon this cultural identification. Thus, continually enhancing cultural identification is a significant path to integrating the cultures of all ethnic groups within the Chinese nation. General Secretary Xi pointed out that the unity of Chinese civilization determines fundamentally that the various ethnic cultures of the Chinese nation are integrated and rally closely together, even when faced with major setbacks. In the course of history, the Chinese nation and civilization have encountered many significant setbacks. Still, the integration of the Chinese nation did not change, and the shared spiritual homeland of the Chinese nation was not destroyed. This resilience is attributed to the high level of cultural identification inherent in Chinese civilization and its strong patriotic spirit.

Second, Chinese civilization is bound together by a shared belief system. The distinct unity of this civilization is rooted in four key principles: indivisible territory, unalterable national order, inseparable ethnic groups, and uninterrupted civilization. The principle of “indivisible territory” emphasizes the preservation of a common homeland for all Chinese ethnicities, a shared landscape that we all inhabit. Our great nation is a cherished home that has been jointly created by all Chinese ethnicities, representing the invaluable heritage and wealth passed down by our ancestors. Any attempts to divide our territory and sever this common homeland are contrary to the prevailing trend, go against our forebears’ wishes, and must be opposed. 

The term “unalterable national order” refers to the need for maintaining national stability and prosperity. While Chinese history has seen its share of national disorder, political strife, and conflict, a unified and stable state has invariably remained the historical norm. Any actions that seek to destabilize this national order will be met with disapproval from the entire Chinese population.

The concept of “inseparable ethnic groups” emphasizes the importance of maintaining the unity of all our ethnic groups, given our history as a unified multi-ethnic nation. Over the course of our civilization’s history for more than 5,000 years, we have steadily established a fundamental pattern of unity amid diversity. Efforts to undermine ethnic unity will be met with opposition and disapproval from the Chinese population as a whole. The promotion of ethnic unity is a positive development, while the promotion of ethnic division is detrimental to all.

“Uninterrupted civilization” refers to the preservation of the continuity of Chinese civilization. As the only civilization in the world with roots stretching back over 5,000 years, it is vital that our nation’s current and future development aligns with the historical trajectory of Chinese civilization. It cannot embark on a “track-switching” or “course-altering” journey, but must follow its own unique path of civilization. Viewing China through the lens of its remarkable continuity offers an accurate understanding of ancient China, a deep comprehension of modern China, and a clear vision of future China.

Third, national unity has always been central to China’s core interests. General Secretary Xi’s remark on the distinctive unity of Chinese civilization is strategically situated. It elevates the preservation of national unity to the level of a unique characteristic of Chinese civilization. In his report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Xi articulated an exceedingly significant elaboration on the issue of national unity. He stated, “We stand firm in safeguarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will never allow the historical tragedy of national division to repeat itself. Any separatist activity is certain to meet with the resolute opposition of the Chinese people. We have the resolve, the confidence, and the ability to defeat separatist attempts for ‘Taiwan independence’ in any form. We will never allow anyone, any organization, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China!”

Fourth, a robust, unified nation is intimately connected by the destinies of all its peoples. General Secretary Xi’s discourses on the unity of Chinese civilization cogently underscore the paramount importance of a robust and unified nation, which is intimately linked to the “destiny” of all ethnic groups. China’s civilization’s history, spanning over 5,000 years, bears testament to how our diverse ethnic groups have interacted, communicated, and assimilated with one another. Through this process, China has gradually formed a community defined by shared fortunes, triumphs and trials, shared existence—a shared destiny. This is the Chinese national community. A unified China acts as the bedrock for this Chinese national community, and the fate of all ethnic groups is intrinsically tied to China as a cohesive, multi-ethnic nation. Furthermore, a potent, unified nation is best positioned to safeguard the interests of all Chinese ethnicities and optimally fulfill their continuously expanding material and cultural needs.


First, this establishes the historical trajectory of the interaction, communication, and blending among China’s various ethnic groups. Over the extended course of history, China’s ethnic groups have fostered a pattern of “unity in diversity,” which is sustained and facilitated through the continuous interaction, communication, and integration among China’s diverse ethnic groups. Such endeavors are dynamic demonstrations of the inclusivity of Chinese civilization and the fundamental processes through which it achieved unity. To achieve Chinese modernization, it is essential to stimulate and encourage extensive, ongoing interaction, communication, and integration among our country’s ethnic groups. This is a highly effective strategy for advancing the construction of a strong Chinese national community, which in turn strengthens the collective consciousness of the Chinese people and fosters unity among all ethnicities. Viewed from the unique inclusivity of Chinese civilization, the historical trajectory of interaction, communication, and integration among the Chinese nation must adeptly manage the relationship between the Chinese national consciousness and the consciousness of each ethnicity. We should inspire all ethnic groups in our country to prioritize the overarching interests of the Chinese nation at all times, and the consciousness of each ethnicity should contribute to the consciousness of the Chinese national community. Simultaneously, while realizing the overall interests of the Chinese national community, the particular interests of each ethnicity should also be accommodated. By doing this, we can broaden the avenues and pathways for interaction, communication, and integration among ethnicities.

Second, inclusivity plays a crucial role in fostering harmonious coexistence among various religious beliefs in China. Throughout Chinese history, a landscape has emerged in which religious beliefs coexist in harmony. While Taoism is a religion indigenous to China, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity were introduced from abroad. Chinese civilization is characterized by its remarkable cohesion and affinity, as well as its extraordinary inclusivity and openness. Peaceful coexistence among different ethnic groups and diverse beliefs is key to China, which has a population of over 1.4 billion, encompasses 56 ethnic groups, and is home to multiple religions. A harmonious pattern of coexistence among various religious beliefs in China is invaluable for the stability and security of the nation.

Third, inclusivity dictates that Chinese culture should maintain an open-minded approach towards embracing world civilizations. Throughout history, Chinese civilization has consistently engaged with and learned from other cultures, recognizing that such exchanges and mutual learning are vital for a civilization to remain vibrant. In fact, the very formation of Chinese civilization itself is a product of continuous exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations. The ancient Silk Road, which spans from east to west, served as a conduit for exchanges between Chinese civilization and other Eurasian civilizations. Chinese civilization has persistently maintained a state of mutual exchange with other cultures. Additionally, Confucianism, which originated in China, has permeated across the globe and become a significant part of global civilization.

Cultural inheritance and development

Developing border areas, promoting prosperity and stability in these regions, and ensuring border security are key guiding principles of the Party’s governance strategy in border areas. Preserving and advancing cultural heritage also serves as a significant means of enacting the Party’s governing philosophy in these regions.  

The concept of “Chinese uniformity” is an important political and humanistic ideology within the rich traditional Chinese culture. Throughout its history, the Chinese nation has always regarded uniformity as a crucial value to uphold, considering it as the “constant principle of the universe and the common understanding of past and present.” 

In the modern era, “Chinese uniformity” still holds contemporary significance. In the development of border areas, it should be creatively transformed into an important ideological principle for upholding national unity. Viewing it from the perspective of the humanistic ideals of “Chinese uniformity” allows for a deeper understanding of the fundamental truth that unity is a historical trend. Patriotism is a cherished core value in traditional Chinese culture, and ethnic unity is a profound historical culmination, serving as an important characteristic of this culture. Cultural identity is also a distinct historical feature, representing the deepest level of identification within the Chinese national community.

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, General Secretary Xi has emphasized the importance of national unity from a political perspective on multiple occasions. In the report of the 19th National Congress, General Secretary Xi emphasized the need to foster a sense of community for the Chinese nation by promoting unity among all ethnic groups as tightly as pomegranate seeds, adhering to the sinicization of religions in China, actively guiding religion to fit in with socialist society, and guiding people to establish correct views on history, ethnicity, the state, and culture. 

In the report to the 20th National Congress, General Secretary Xi pointed out that “One Country, Two Systems” is a great innovation of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the best institutional arrangement for maintaining long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao SARs after their return, and must be upheld in the long term. 

General Secretary Xi also said, “Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is a shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. It is indispensable for the realization of China’s rejuvenation.” He regards the achievement of “complete reunification” as an extremely important and lofty political mission for the Party and the state. At this symposium, he clearly emphasized the extreme importance of maintaining national unity from the historical height of Chinese civilization in a broad and refined manner. “The Great Unity” of Chinese civilization asserts that national unity will always be at the core of China’s core interests. This important argument has profound historical connotations, deep theoretical perspectives, and significant practical significance.

Xing Guangcheng is a CASS member and the director of the Institute of Chinese Borderland Studies under CASS.

Edited by WENG RONG