Home OPINIONS China’s uninterrupted cultural continuity steering nation’s rise

China’s uninterrupted cultural continuity steering nation’s rise

China Media Group recently released a Television series titled “Classics of Chinese Thought”. The production features thinkers and expert interviews on the understanding of China’s civilization journey.

The programme highlights the importance of cultural continuity for China’s development, as well as how the continuity of this civilization has contributed to the progress and development of Chinese society. Those featured speak of how this unique way of life provides a foundation for, perhaps, one of the most unprecedented developments in recent history.

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The Chinese civilization is widely recognized as one of the oldest continuously existing civilizations that has also maintained a rich tapestry of tradition, philosophy, art, literature, and science.

The classic introduces the world to the five prominent features of continuity, innovativeness, unity, inclusiveness, and peacefulness and how, altogether, they form its profound values and systems.

From the five areas, the overriding theme is that of a nation and people eager to maintain a distinct identity and rise along with others, yet not seeking to obtain benefit at the expense of others.

Understanding this civilization is, therefore, the very first step in understanding China. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly argued that it would be impossible to understand China, both past and present if one does not understand China through the continuity of its long history.

Some have linked China’s extraordinary rise to her uninterrupted cultural continuity, and it’s easy to see why. The role this continuity has played over time, as highlighted in the programme, is the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom, leading to the evolution of Chinese culture and society into what it is today.

By embracing its cultural heritage, President Xi says China has been able to “maintain a deep connection with its roots, fostering a sense of cultural identity and making one of the greatest leap forward,”


Central to the development and shaping of Chinese civilization is Confucianism. This idea was founded by the ancient Chinese philosopher, thinker, and teacher famous as Confucius. We learn that his ideas focused on creating a harmonious and just society through moral cultivation, ethical conduct, and social harmony.

Confucianism has had a profound influence on almost every aspect of Chinese society, including culture, education, politics, and ethics.

Professor Kong Xinfeng of Minzu University of China in Shandong province, considered the birthplace of Confucius and Confucian culture, says Confucius had a major role in passing on the Chinese civilization. He describes Confucius as the greatest teacher of the Chinese people.

“Today our thinking and our behavior, are deeply influenced by the teachings of Confucius,” he said

He cites teachings on “governing by virtue and ceaselessly pursuing self-improvement” as having had a major influence on the Chinese. He believes that the continuity of Chinese civilization has helped China to forge a new path or model towards modernization instead of copying from other countries.

Perhaps profound is the golden rule of Confucianism which states; “Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.”


National unity is at the heart of China’s core interests. A strong and unified country is the pillar upon which the well-being of all Chinese people depends. Renowned political scientist Professor Zhang Weiwei says China attaches great importance to unity and holds the view that Chinese civilization has not only persisted uninterrupted but also maintained a high degree of unity.

Despite its vast geographical size, diverse ethnic groups, and complex historical developments, China has maintained a remarkable sense of unity and cohesion.

In China, different ethnic groups continue to live in peace with each other, drawing on each other’s strengths. Minority groups such as Zhuang, Hui, Manchu, Uighur, Tibetan, and others have been assimilated into Han Chinese culture, contributing to the cultural unity of Chinese civilization.


Xiang Shuchen, a scholar at the China National Archives of Publications and Culture makes an important affirmation. “You have to have diversity for things to flourish and to grow, but if you just have uniformity, things cannot possibly be sustained,” she says explaining the inclusive nature of Chinese civilization

She continues to say: “A single colour cannot possibly be beautiful to look at, a single taste cannot possibly be delicious, and a single thing cannot possibly be judged or evaluated”

“For over 1000 years of the Silk Road, many different things were exchanged, not only commodities but different cultures and beliefs, thanks to the inclusive environment in China,” she explains

Throughout its long history, Chinese civilization has, consequently, demonstrated a remarkable capacity for inclusiveness, accommodating various ethnicities, languages, religions, and cultural practices within its cultural and political framework.

Chinese civilization also has a long history of religious pluralism and tolerance, accommodating various religious traditions such as Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous folk religions. These religious traditions have coexisted and interacted with each other, often influencing and enriching one another’s beliefs and practices.


China’s history of peace advocacy is well known. Professor Bai Tongdong from Fudan University underscores the place of China in making a case for a world that values peace, emphasizing that harmony, stability, and non-aggression define China.

Indeed, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly described China as “a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order”.  This peacefulness is seen in that China is opposed to interference in the internal affairs of other countries or imposition of its own values and political system on others, choosing cooperation instead of confrontation.

Bai Tongdong Expert in Traditional Chinese Political Philosophy at Fudan University highlights the Confucian virtue of righteousness which emphasizes moral values and peaceful virtues rather than military virtues.

“We need to do something for all human beings. We don’t want to have wars, or mass starvation, or genocide or all other things, that’s a human duty, and that’s a truly shared value,” he says

Confucian teachings further emphasize the importance of ethical behavior, social order, and mutual respect, promoting harmonious relationships and the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and negotiation rather than force, and this is deeply entrenched in China.


The series also introduces the motivation behind innovations that we see today in China, with a focus on, Guangzhou, considered the city of innovation.

Chinese civilization has a long history of innovation and technological advancement, with numerous contributions that have had a significant impact on global progress. Chinese ingenuity has led to ground-breaking inventions and discoveries across various fields, including technology, science, agriculture, medicine, and engineering.

Mr Yu Pun Hoi from Peking University says the Chinese always treasure the importance of innovation and change. He quotes a classic poetry from the Tang Dynasty making a case for “continuous improvement and newness.”

Improving China’s innovation and competitiveness for rapid growth is now hinged on heavy investments in science, technology, and innovation boosting its status as an economic superpower.

China’s large passenger airliner C919 has been unveiled and since its inaugural commercial flight from Shanghai to Beijing in May 2023, the airliner has garnered significant global attention, providing a promising alternative to the longstanding duopoly of Airbus and Boeing in the passenger jet market. In addition to the C919, China is building cruise ships, manufacturing New Energy Vehicles, and making missions into space, among other things.  This is the Chinese innovative character of keeping pace with the time.

Chinese civilization and the country’s modernization efforts as well as its commitment to self-renewal are therefore tied together. President Xi Jinping has emphasized the importance of inheritance and respect for the diversity of civilizations, advocating for the Global Civilization Initiative.

This initiative, GCI, aims to promote respect for the diversity of civilizations, the common values of humanity, the importance of inheritance and innovation of civilizations, and the robust international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. It provides an avenue to build a stronger Chinese nation, as well as contribute to the progress of humanity and harmony for the entire world.

Eric Biegon is a Multimedia Journalist at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

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