[November 16, 2021] In 2012, China formally adopted an idealistic set of 12 “core socialist values” at their 18th National Congress.1 This set of values, not unlike core values I’ve written about here in my blog, attempt to set the stage for how citizens of China see themselves in relation to citizens of other nations and among themselves. The socialist values are valuable in discussing China’s ascent in the modern world.
Many of these values are predictable and unsurprising; integrity, patriotism, civility, dedication, etc. Others seem incongruous to the typical Western understanding of China and its long-established wariness of importing Western political democracy; freedom, justice, equality, democracy, etc.
None of these are new. Since his ascension, President Xi Jinping made the “rule of law” a policy cornerstone and harked back to the second or third century BC. Some see this emphasis on the rule of law, just a tool for communist party control. Others say it is the recognition by the party that governance needs to improve.
Democracy is one surprising addition, but a review of Chinese history reveals that this value is commonly found in their history. However, its use, where citizens elect their government, applies at the local levels of government and in their towns and villages. It does not apply at the national level.
The question we should ask is why Xi would put forth such an effort to popularize these values. Most observers believe it is to win all people’s hearts and minds, both at home and abroad. With the rise of social media, the Chinese see themselves as compared to others worldwide and begin to question the Chinese communist party. Their citizens, like all of us, want to know that their nation is on the right path. It is comforting to hear that China has what everyone else has.
By adopting language pleasant to Western ears, it is clear that Xi meant this to be far more than domestic propaganda. More can be read on Xi’s philosophy here (see link).
- Core Socialist Values:
- National values
- Prosperity (Chinese: 富强; pinyin: fùqiáng)
- Democracy (Chinese: 民主; pinyin: mínzhǔ)
- Civility (Chinese: 文明; pinyin: wénmíng)
- Harmony (Chinese: 和谐; pinyin: héxié)
- Social values
- Freedom (Chinese: 自由; pinyin: zìyóu)
- Equality (Chinese: 平等; pinyin: píngděng)
- Justice (Chinese: 公正; pinyin: gōngzhèng)
- Rule of law (Chinese: 法治; pinyin: fǎzhì)
- Individual values
- Patriotism (Chinese: 爱国; pinyin: àiguó)
- Dedication (Chinese: 敬业; pinyin: jìngyè)
- Integrity (Chinese: 诚信; pinyin: chéngxìn)
- Friendship (Chinese: 友善; pinyin: yǒushàn)
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).