Thursday, 5 August, 2021

Marxist View of State: Consciousness of Chinese Nation Community

Delegates representing China's ethnic minority groups smile before entering the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2018, to attend the annual session of the National People's Congress. [Photo credit: File Photo: IC]

By Wu Chuke and Zong Wei

General Secretary of Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping put forward the idea of “firmly establishing the consciousness of the Chinese nation community” in the Second Xinjiang Work Forum of the Central Committee in 2014, then continued to emphasize that we should “actively cultivate the consciousness of the Chinese nation community” at the Ethnicity Work Conference of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and put forward “casting the consciousness of the Chinese nation community firmly” as the party’s theoretical innovation policy in the report of the 19th National Congress. Obviously, this is not a temporary policy, but a major policy. It is not a general original theoretical point of view, but a fundamental reinterpretation of the history of the Chinese nation and a reconstruction of the contemporary development track and trend of the Chinese nation. Chinese President and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping’s idea of “building a strong sense of the Chinese nation community” is of great significance to the development of our Chinese nation.

Creative Development of Marxist Concept of State

Marx’s view of country is always higher than that of nation. When talking about British colonial rule over India, Marx pointed out: “Indeed, the social revolution caused by Britain in Hindustan was driven by extremely despicable interests, and the way of seeking these interests was also stupid. But that’s not the problem. The question is, if there is no fundamental revolution in the social situation in Asia, can mankind realize its mission? If not, then, no matter how many crimes Britain committed, it caused this revolution as an unconscious tool of history.” Marx’s concrete viewpoint in the age of full maturity clearly shows that he always regards whether he represents the advanced civilization of mankind as the criterion of judgment, not the fate of a certain nation. Marx and Engels said: “Modern industrial labor and modern capital oppression are the same in Britain or France, in the United States or Germany, which makes the proletarians lose any nationality.” Therefore, “the proletariat must first gain political rule, rise to the national class, and organize itself into a nation, so it is still a nation, although it is not the kind of meaning understood by the bourgeoisie at all”. Therefore, by understanding General Secretary Xi Jinping’s idea of “building a strong sense of the Chinese nation community” from Marx’s view on nation, we can find the scientific connotation and great guiding significance of this great original theory, that is, to raise the Chinese nation into a “national class” and organize it into a great nation in a socialist country with Chinese characteristics.

Different from British colonial India, the history of forming the Chinese nation’s community consciousness started from the Qin Dynasty, the first unified feudal dynasty in Chinese history in 221 BC, while the key period of history was laid by the establishment of Han Dynasty by Liu Yuan, a native of South Xiongnu in 304 AD, and the establishment of Hu Dynasty by neighboring ethnic minorities in the post-Wei, Jin and Southern and Northern Dynasties,. The development of ancient Chinese history provided a stage for shaping the Chinese nation’s community consciousness. By the “second round unification” of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the Chinese nation had undergone earth-shaking changes, just as General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that “it is a civilization formed by continuous exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations”.

China’s feudal system is quite different from western feudalism called by Marx. Just as the hereditary power of feudal lords exceeds that of kingship in Europe, the overlapping of dynasties does not mean the loss of hereditary power of feudal lords. Kings often compromise or even beg for taxation, which is “feudalism” in the true sense. China’s “feudal” system tends to be autocratic at the beginning, because the feudal system is based on a developed “surname ethical society”, and the fundamental basis for forming a developed “surname ethical society” is the emergence of settled agriculture and irrigation, that is to say, the advanced and stable mode of production is the material prerequisite for forming an autocratic and centralized feudal society. This means that the feudal rulers have huge family power, and because of the in-laws and clan relations, the power of the feudal ruling group is easier to concentrate. “Autocracy” is based on feudalism, compared with the typical feudal system, it is a great progress, Imperial power can directly break the obstacles of feudal aristocratic forces to the unification of the country, thus mobilizing national power, strengthening national consciousness, organizing national army and defending territory. It can be affirmed that China’s “great unification” pattern for thousands of years has cultivated the “natural” national consciousness and patriotic spirit of all ethnic groups in China.


The main factor that determines national identity and the tendency of national identity is not the individual, but the nation and country where each individual lives. National attribute and national identity are passive choices for all people at first, and you are born with the innate race, nationality and national identity, especially the racial attribute with institutional characteristics, which cannot be changed by one. In this sense, national attributes are stable relative to individuals, but for an adult, national identity can be changed under certain conditions. Therefore, national identity is the political category of national attributes, so people belonging to different nationalities can and can choose to live in the same country. This shows that national identity and country’s identity are not at the same level, but they are not necessarily contradictory. However, the inability to choose national attributes sometimes strengthens national identity and thus achieves the desire to organize a single nation-state. Especially, there is particularity between national identity and national identity among cross-border nations who have the main nation-state but live in other countries.

A Scientific Summary of the Historical Development Track Of the Chinese Nation

CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out: “Chinese civilization has experienced more than 5,000 years of historical changes, but it has always come down in one continuous line, accumulating the deepest spiritual pursuit of the Chinese nation, representing the unique spiritual identity of the Chinese nation, and providing rich nourishment for the endless development and growth of the Chinese nation. Chinese civilization is a civilization produced on the land of China and a civilization formed by continuous exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations.” Therefore, when we think about the Chinese national community consciousness, we must first overcome the tendency of replacing the composition of “several huaxia” in history with the present “Han nationality consciousness”. This is the significance of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s re-understanding of the Chinese national community, and it is also a fundamental change from the birth to the vigorous growth of the Chinese nation.

It is precisely because the Central Plains culture at that time did not have a clear bearing object for a single ethnic group, and other ethnic groups gradually tended to identify with “Hanzu culture” instead of Han nationality. After the Yuan Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty, the community consciousness of all ethnic groups in China with the Chinese nation as the main body was achieved.

The nation itself is a dynamic development process. Since the birth of the nation, how many peoples have died and how many peoples have flourished! The dynamic development history of the Chinese nation is in the formation period of the third stage, that is, the historical critical period when the Chinese nation’s community consciousness reaches the “convergence”. Therefore, we should learn from all aspects of social life, understand and implement General Secretary Xi Jinping’s great theory of “building a strong sense of the Chinese nation community”.

Scientifically Prove that the Origin of Han Civilization Is Diversified

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out: “Every civilization continues the spiritual blood of a country and nation. It needs to be passed down from generation to generation, guarded from generation to generation, and needs to keep pace with the times and be brave in innovation.” In the past, the concept of “Hua Xia” was interpreted by many people as the Central Plains. The “Shang and Zhou” of the Central Plains was regarded as the core origin of the Chinese civilization. In fact, it includes the Liangzhu Culture, Sanxingdui Culture, Hongshan Culture and many other archaeological proofs that the origin of the Han culture civilization. It is formed from “Nanban (south), Beidi (north), Xirong (west), and Dongyi (east)”. Therefore, Han culture is the result of the aggregation of various cultures in the land of China. The Han civilization represented by Han culture is not a concept of the same level as the Han nation. Naturally, Han Culture cannot be regarded as unique to the Han nationality. General Secretary Xi Jinping further pointed out: “How to understand the people’s role in history is a major issue in the view of social history. Contrary to historical idealism and heroic historical view, historical materialism and mass historical view completely solved this important problem for the first time, and put forward that people are the creators of history. We should seek wisdom and absorb nutrition from different civilizations, provide people with spiritual support and spiritual comfort, and work together to solve various challenges facing mankind.”

The diversity of the cultural origin of the Han nationality has fundamentally solved the historical “barrier” of the Chinese nation's community consciousness, which proves that the Chinese nation’s community consciousness has been achieved since the beginning of Chinese civilization, and other ethnic minorities living in the land of China are even more duty-bound. In 304 AD, Liu Yuan, a descendant of the Southern Xiongnu, established “Han”, and his clan Liu Yao changed its national name to Zhao, which was called Han Zhao or Qian Zhao in history. This was the first Central Plains-style regime established by the “Hu nationality”. By 589 AD, when the Sui Dynasty destroyed Chen State in the Southern Dynasty, more than 20 national regimes appeared before and after, which opened the first era of “various Hu nations” in Chinese history. Because these regimes are mostly based in the traditional Central Plains area north of the Yellow River, they “occupied” the so-called “Chinese”, so they are called “Five Hu Flourish Huaxia” in historical records. Five hu generally refers to Xiongnu, Jie, Bian, Xianbei and Qiang. In fact, there are more than five kinds of “Zhu Hu”, and “Five Hu” is a general name.

In fact, war is a normal way of communication between ancient nations.There is no war in the history of nation-state in the world. It is through war that communication and understanding among different nations become inevitable. The advanced overcomes the backward, the strong overcomes the weak, and gradually establishes a unified nation-state. The history of the Chinese nation’s sense of community is written in the mutual battles,Therefore, from “sinofication” to “Hu Assimilation” and from “Hu Assimilation” to “sinofication” is an interactive process, an alternating growth of strength and wisdom, and finally a “Chineseization” process of communication and integration. During this period, Hu Assimilation, barbarian and Chinese were carried out simultaneously, and gradually formed a new “China” world different from the Qin and Han Dynasties; With the emergence of the above phenomenon, the non-Han ethnic groups who migrated from other countries to northern China surpassed the concept of “Yi Di” which has been imposed on themselves and began to claim that they are “China”. At the same time, the idea that the dynasty established by these nationalities should be regarded as the Central Plains dynasty or orthodox dynasty began to appear.

Take Language of Chinese, Which Is Common to All Ethnic Groups, as the Practical Basis

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out: “It is to treat different civilizations, not only to appreciate the exquisite objects they produce, but also to appreciate the humanistic spirit contained therein. You can’t just be satisfied with their artistic expression of people’s lives in the past, but you should also make the spirit contained in it alive.” As a matter of fact, the meaning of the concept of “nationality” in Chinese is clear, and there is no misunderstanding of the cognitive object in the actual use. The history of ethnic integration in China for thousands of years is the history of ethnic development formed by different ethnic groups living together and building the same country. The difference between “Hua and Yi” is essentially different from the difference between western races.

As mentioned earlier, if the origin of Chinese culture is pluralistic, then the Chinese language system is not exclusive to Han nationality, but a “national symbol” shared by the whole Chinese nation. The perceptual knowledge of a nation’s culture is first obtained through the unique imprint of the nation, which is the “national symbol”, and the most basic formal feature is the language system. For those nations who have no words but only language, the phenomenon that the Chinese character system records their national history just proves that they belong to the Chinese culture system.

Then, as the common language of the People’s Republic of China today, the Chinese language system is of course the national common language that all Chinese citizens must master. The Constitution stipulates that you have the freedom to use your own language, and the Constitution also stipulates that every citizen must master and use the national common language, which is stipulated in almost all countries in the world, because the national common language is a necessary condition to ensure the unity and integrity of the country and the smooth implementation of government decrees. If we link mastering and using Chinese language with “sinofication”, firstly, we do not understand the historical necessity of the Chinese national community consciousness; secondly, we do not understand the provisions of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Common Languages and Characters; thirdly, we equate or oppose the “nation symbols” of the Chinese national community with those of our own nation. This is not allowed by the Constitution of any country.

In a word, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s idea of “building a strong sense of the Chinese nation community” is a creative development of the Marxist concept of state, a reinterpretation of the birth and development history of the Chinese nation, and a solid foundation for the future development of the People’s Republic of China.

(Wu Chuke is a professor at School of Ethnology and Sociology, Minzu University of China. Zong Wei is a Ph.D candidate at School of Ethnology and Sociology, Minzu University of China, P. R. China)