On July 5, 2021, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media outlet Guancha's "China's Great Ideology and Politics" program aired a lecture by Chinese scholar Fan Yongpeng, deputy director of the China Institute at Fudan University and a specialist on comparative international political systems. The lecture focused on understanding the relationships between the CCP and Chinese political traditions as a way to combat divisions within China.
According to Fan, ethnic, social, and other "splits" within China have "now become a severe challenge" to China's "national and social security." Fan stated that in order to overcome and combat these "splits" it is important to understand four concepts – a) public (公), b) equality (平), c) people (民), and d) unity (合) – that are interpreted differently in the West than they are in China under the CCP.
The concept of "unity," Fan said, is being challenged by the West: "Where did this culture of 'unity' come from? It also came from our long history... [However,] today, some people in our academic and cultural circles are particularly keen to criticize the great unification and the uniformity of China. I think this view is clearly untenable because uniformity and diversity are not opposites. Their thoughts are influenced by Western concepts of identity politics, gender politics, interest groups, and pluralism. They try to do the same in China. But let's examine today's Western society. What kind of state of affairs has it turned into? It should serve as a wake-up call to us."
Fan also stated that following the CCP is the only way and that this can lead Chinese culture "back to the top of world civilization."
Below are excerpts of Fan Yongpeng's speech:
Fan Yongpeng (Source: Guancha.cn)
The Concept Of 'Public' (公)
"Hello, everyone. I am Fan Yongpeng. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Today I am going to talk to you about the relationship between the Party and Chinese political traditions. There are many aspects of it worth elaborating, but today I want to focus on four words: 'public (公), equality (平), people (民) and unity (合).'
"The first word is 'public.' Our Chinese Communist Party pays attention to the word 'public.' So in the early days of the Party, Li Dazhao [CCP cofounder and Mao Zedong's mentor] and Mao Zedong both liked to talk about the great unity or harmony of the world. And Party General Secretary Xi Jinping also says that the world is for the public. Today we often talk about building the Party for the public and exercising governance for the people, about being fair and selfless, and about serving the people – all of which emphasize the word 'public.'
"I have been to some countries. I have noticed that in places where we Chinese live together, we often see plaques. What is written [on them]? 'The world is for the public.' And they are usually the exact copies of the handwritten calligraphy by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. It appears that these four Chinese characters have been engraved in the genes of the Chinese nation. Regardless of where you immigrate to, you settle down there with the ideal of being for the 'public.' The word 'public' 公 reflects a very unique concept in Chinese political traditions. With my limited understanding of the histories of various nations in the world, it seems that I have indeed seen a foreign word in other major civilizations that corresponds exactly to the Chinese word 公 'public'.
"For instance, we are all familiar with the word 'public' in English. We can translate it into several terms in Chinese: 'common,' 'communal,' 'communality,' etc. It contains several meanings in the English context, such as 'general,' 'relating to population or a community as a whole,' 'open,' 'relating to a [public] square,' 'relating to the service of a community or nation, especially as a government,' etc.
"But it should be noted that the meaning of 'general' is not necessarily the same as the meaning of 'public,' because different general groups of people have their own private interests. The word 'open' does not necessarily mean 'public.' For example, the deals of power for money or money for power in the U.S. or Western politics can be legal and open, but they are also for private interests. Political activities conducted in public squares are not necessarily for the 'public.' Politics in squares often give rise to political parties, political factions, and many other factors. Political parties in the West openly represent a portion of the population, in order to engage in political games for power and interests. Therefore, these too do not fit into the Chinese word 'public' 公 that we Chinese define and interpret.
"Governments are not necessarily for the 'public' 公. [The concept in English] is widely divergent from the concept held by our Chinese, and this is not easy for us to understand. For example, in modern America and Europe, countries, cities, governments, churches, and even courts were once private entities and private legal persons in history. In feudal countries in medieval Europe, these depended almost exclusively on this private relationship of power among lords, vassals, and serfs to maintain a loose political organization. The basic principle of European feudalism was the contracts between private individuals.
"Then let's look at today again. Actually, the governments in most countries in today's world have evolved from private companies. We rarely talk about this point. For instance, historically, in many Latin American countries, African countries, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and many others, the trading companies established locally by Western colonists laid the foundation for their systems and countries. Later on, these colonies became independent and gradually evolved into countries. So in those cultures that are based on historical private rights, their understandings of the word 'public' 公 are obviously very different from ours.
"Of course, the concept of 'public' 公 did not originally exist in China. For example, we had a similar history of feudal and private power in the early days. After a series of reforms during the period of the Warring States, Qin finally unified the states, and created the first state system with a certain degree of universal commonality. In one of Chairman Mao Zedong's poems, there is a line saying, 'A hundred generations all follow the politics and laws of the Qin Dynasty.' I think this is talking about the model of a state with such a commonality established by Qin. Certainly, all feudal dynasties could not deviate from the dictatorships formed by landlords, scholar-bureaucrats, and the bureaucratic class. This did not [happen] until the CCP established a truly public state for the first time.
"We ensure the realization of the will of the working people through the leadership of the Party and through the construction of a system for the new China. We have continued exploring in practice and fulfilling the goal of the people being the masters of the country, and we have initially realized the dream of 'the world is for the public.' From the fight against last year's COVID-19 pandemic to the alleviation of poverty and the overall moderately prosperous society to a community with a shared destiny for mankind – it is difficult for us to truly understand all of these without the word 'public' 公."
The Concept Of 'Equality' (平)
"The second word is 'equality,' which mainly refers to being equal. Many people customarily believe that equality is a modern Western concept. For instance, the American Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal. The French Revolution also called for liberty, equality, and fraternity. But, in fact, the popular and prevailing information and historical views in our society are sometimes misleading. I think one of the biggest characteristics of Western civilization is precisely its inequality.
"For example, first of all, it had a long history of widescale slavery, which was a typical feature of European civilization.
"Secondly, long-term divisions and wars led to inequality among various ethnic groups, including the longtime rejection and persecution of some restricted groups within the ethnic groups. And this still exists today.
"The third point is that Western religions have given rise to very grave inequality. Religions have elements of equality, but also bring about religious wars, sectarian conflicts, and persecution of paganism. They have caused countless [eras of] bloodshed and conflicts in history.
"The fourth point is that all inequalities in European civilization were overwhelmed by the inequality in classes and property ownerships in the West after it entered the capitalist society. Marxism was created to resist class oppression, to eliminate all inequalities and to achieve the liberation of all mankind. This concept of equality echoed the concept in our Chinese political traditions. This was why Marxism was quickly accepted when it was introduced into China, and why the revolution led by the CCP was able to win the support of the Chinese people.
"Chinese civilization is the civilization that most emphasizes equality in the world. Fang Xiaoru, a great Confucian scholar in the Ming Dynasty, once said that political order was born out of human dissatisfaction with inequality. So what is the role of politics? It is about remedying inequality and making it possible for everyone to enjoy equality. So, as early as the pre-Qin period, our ancestors experienced a great flare-up of equal thoughts. For example, Confucius criticized the aristocracy for the 'hereditary system of nobles.' Legalism imagined that 'all is judged by laws.' The natural way of heaven talked about by the Taoists was to 'take from what has in excess to make good what is deficient.' Mohism paid attention to 'loving all equally.' The [Chinese philosophy of] Agriculturalism advocated 'monarch and ministers cultivating fields together,' etc. Although their motives and viewpoints were different and their ideas of equality varied, they all promoted the evolution of the concept of equality.
"Of course, ideals are much too beautiful, and we cannot over-glorify history. There were also too many hierarchies and inequalities in Chinese history. All must be viewed comparatively. I think the concept of equality in Chinese history was way ahead of that of all other civilizations in the world. For example, no systematic slavery existed in the dynasties located in the Central Plains for 2,000 years. This was a huge advantage. Of course, there were also different forms and degrees of relations of personal bondage in different historical periods. For instance, there were slaves and maidservants in the Han Dynasty, and family soldiers in the Tang Dynasty. In all the dynasties, there were some so-called untouchables, those of a lower social status than common people. Until the Qing Dynasty, we still had the outcasts in Shaoxing Prefecture, servants of low social status in Huizhou Prefecture, and boat people in Guangdong. They were a rare phenomenon, and their natures were totally different from slavery.
"During the rule of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty, all of these categories of people of low social status were abolished. Compared with other civilizations of the same period, we were clearly ahead in the equalization of human identities. In addition, the inequality of land and gender, as well as serfdom in some ethnic areas, were all eventually eliminated by the People's Democratic Revolution led by our Communist Party.
"It is particularly worth mentioning that not only do the Chinese pay attention to equality amongst themselves, but also advocate equality externally. This kind of thought also resonates highly with Marxism. The CCP has always consistently adhered to an international outlook of equality, and viewed international affairs based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and today's community with a shared destiny for mankind. In addition, the ultimate goal of achieving communism is actually the pursuit of people's liberation. So it is all about the pursuit of equality among people and equality among all nations."
The Concept Of People (民)
"Then the third word is 'people.' Here I would say that the word 'people' has three main meanings. The first is 'people-oriented,' the second is 'people's livelihood,' and third is 'people's affairs.'
"First of all, let's look at 'people-oriented.' China has a political tradition of pursuing the concept of 'people-oriented.' The American Chinese historian Mr. He Bingdi believes that the unique geographical conditions of the Wei River Basin in Shaanxi Province gave birth to a unique settlement civilization. This long-term lifestyle of settlement allowed people to develop close relationships among generations. So gradually people became the core of the civilization, giving rise to the concept of humanism. In comparison with China, we can think about how many civilizations in the world from ancient times to the present were based on gods, capitals, or aristocratic lineage. The concept of 'people-oriented' also has different meanings. For example, people are the foundation of the country. Our ancestors said that people were more noble than rulers. This was the same as 'people are the most important, kings are the least important.' There were also rulers who wanted to love the people. Countries exist to provide order and welfare for the people, just as the our ancestors advocated the concepts of compassion for the people and appeasing the people.
"Of course, there was a shortcoming with this people-oriented tradition in China: It did not incorporate the issue of how people could become rulers, especially the procedural issues. New China is a leap forward based on this traditional concept of 'people-oriented.' The Communist Party directly controls the state power by representing the workers, peasants, and the people of the whole country. We must operate based not only on the concept of 'people-oriented' in essence, but must also pursue the concept of 'people as masters' in terms of procedures and results.
"The second [point] is people's livelihood. We deduce from the logic of the concept of 'people-oriented' that the country naturally needs to look out for people's livelihood, because you have such an obligation. It is a view of a country with family ethics, different from most civilizations in the world. The American scholar Bingel once said that the responsibilities for people's livelihood undertaken by ancient Chinese governments were missing in most other ancient societies. From Mencius' talk about 'creating properties for people' to Sun Yat-sen's 'principles of people's livelihood,' we can see that China had a rudimentary concept of socialism for more than 2,000 years. Therefore, when Marxism was brought into China, it easily resonated with the Chinese people, because the ideal of communism was a scientific expression of the ideals held by the Chinese for thousands of years.
"The third [point] is people's affairs or civil affairs. How do we understand this? China has a very strong tradition of a civil state. All countries, in their early days, were formed by relying on military power. But military power was a double-edged sword, and could be turned around to destroy countries and to oppress the people. To this day, quite a few countries in the world shield themselves behind their constitutional procedures, while their military forces control and wield considerable powers. China was the first civilization in the world to achieve the civil state; the rule of civilian control was especially established since the period of the Northern Song Dynasty. Of course, such a system also had drawbacks, which led to our weak military in some later periods.
"Then, the CCP learned from historical experience and lessons, while at the same time assimilating the achievements of the Soviet-Russian revolution. Through the Sanwan Reorganization and the Gutian Conference, the principle of the Party commanding the guns was established. This allowed the Party to firmly control and exercise absolute leadership over the army, which became the soldiers of people. At the same time, the army grew into a force that could win battles and wars through organizational and political construction. This is the highest level of a military system in human history."
The Concept Of Unity (合)
"The fourth word is 'unity,' which refers to 'united,' 'union,' or 'cooperation.' Many regions in the world today talk about 'regional cooperation,' such as the European Union, ASEAN, and many other organizations for regional cooperation. Many contemporary countries were [formed by the] merging of different entities that bonded together. For example, America is called the United States and Britain is called the United Kingdom. Germany, India, and other countries were [the product of] the merging of smaller states. It can be said that the modern world of countries today is the product of a trend of unity in history. But today, we have realized that this trend of 'unity' is being challenged. Class, race, religion, gender, language and values can all become sources of disputes and even conflicts. This is the ticking timebomb which may trigger world turmoil.
"Let's take a look at the past few years during which some external forces have been deliberately trying to export the element of 'split' to China. It has now become a severe challenge to our national and social security. What is the CCP's magic weapon for responding to these challenges? [It is] the united front, which is about adhering to the unity of consistency and diversity, seeking the greatest common denominator and drawing the largest concentric circles.
"Where did this culture of 'unity' come from? It also came from our long history. Hundreds of small kingdoms once existed on the land of China. Through continuous alliances, unifications, and conquests, and after 2,000 years of integration, a pluralistic and unified Chinese nation was formed. It was a very difficult process. In our history, without prudence and caution the diversity of geography, culture, and ethnicity would create long-term divisions and separations. Fortunately, we waded through the dangers and challenges and achieved this long-term unification and unity.
"Today, some people in our academic and cultural circles are particularly keen to criticize the great unification and the uniformity of China. I think this view is clearly untenable, because uniformity and diversity are not opposites. Their thoughts are influenced by Western concepts of identity politics, gender politics, interest groups and pluralism. They try to do the same in China. But let's examine today's Western society. What kind of state of affairs is it turned into? It should serve as a wake-up call to us. In an era in which decent people are out and despicable politicians in power, the CCP continues to make its ideals loud and clear, taking on its political mission and insisting on following the direction of unity. I think the Chinese nation is fortunate to have the Party."
The CCP 'Brought New Life To Chinese Culture'
"In fact, ever since our Party was founded, we have been facing the problem of how to deal with the relationship between China's reality and Chinese traditions. For example, in its early years, the Party engaged in fierce anti-tradition [activity] and dogmatism. It launched the campaign of breaking the old thoughts, old customs, old habits and old traditions during the Cultural Revolution. It also went through the prosperity of traditional culture after the reform and opening up to the outside world. Since the 18th National Congress, the Party has actively and systematically absorbed the essence of traditional culture and has creatively developed socialist culture with Chinese characteristics. It has also put forward a series of propositions with distinctive Chinese characteristics in both internal affairs and foreign affairs.
"Looking back on history, we can see that the success of the Party's cause would never be achieved without Chinese traditions. If we break away from Chinese traditions and reality, we will have problems. At the same time, the Party is the inheritor of the Chinese traditions with a critical eye, and the Party brings new life to the Chinese culture. Only the CCP can lead Chinese culture back to the top of world civilization....."
 User.guancha.cn/main/content?id=544537, July 5, 2021.