China News Agency, Changchun, June 29th: Why did the unified China last for a thousand years?

——Interview with Professor Zhou Guanghui of Jilin University

  China News Agency reporter Guo Jia

  Since the Qin Dynasty, China has achieved effective governance of super-large countries, and it can still be rebuilt after being broken, becoming a miracle in the history of world politics.

Where does such unique national resilience come from?

China News Agency's "East and West Questions" recently exclusively interviewed Zhou Guanghui, a professor at Jilin University, to interpret this.

 The following is a summary of the interview transcript:

  China News Service reporter: Why did most of the great empires in world history collapse?

  Zhou Guanghui: In the history of the world, it is not uncommon for a great empire to rule over a vast land and people.

During the same period of the rise and fall of the unified dynasties in ancient China, there were unified empires such as the Roman Empire and the Charlemagne Empire in the Western world, and the Arab Empire and the Ottoman Empire also appeared in the Middle East.

  But under the conditions of transportation, communication and organizational technology in the agricultural era, the super-large physical space brings communication and control problems.

If only relying on the central government to issue orders, the national decision-making and administrative costs are very high.

In addition, excessively long administrative control chains can lead to serious principal-agent problems.

Therefore, although many ancient states tried to form a centralized institutional structure at the beginning of their establishment, in the historical development, in order to maintain effective governance, military, personnel and financial power had to be devolved to local places, thus forming in fact a political and administrative system of indirect rule.

For example, the regional governors of the Persian Empire had autonomy in military, administrative management and foreign exchanges.

However, this decentralization also objectively caused the weakness of the ancient empire in the construction of centralized power and bureaucratic system, paving the way for the collapse of the empire.

  China News Service reporter: How does the evolution of the unified system create China's unique national resilience?

  Zhou Guanghui: Under the tension structure of the unified system and large-scale governance, the so-called national resilience is the characteristic of the ancient Chinese state to maintain its unified state form for a long time.

In the era of agricultural civilization, the natural tendency of the unified system is to disintegrate.

Compared with most large pre-modern states, ancient China's Great Unification Dynasty is unique, and has existed for a long time in history as a state with strong centralization and bureaucracy.

  First, the Qin Dynasty promoted the formation of the unity of writing.

"Shutongwen" provided the initial conditions for the unified country to form a cultural community with historical continuity, and also provided the possibility for ancient China to form a cross-regional cultural and intellectual elite.

In contrast, even if its glory lasted as long as the Roman Empire, once the written and spoken Latin became disconnected and the spoken language evolved locally, it could not be rebuilt after it fell apart.

In 2019, "Hunan Longshan Liye Qin Jian Culture Exhibition" was held at the National Museum of China.

Photo by Pan Xulin issued by China News Agency

  Second, ancient China formed and long maintained a cultural narrative centered on "unification".

The "subjective narrative" based on Confucianism takes "determination in one" as the answer to "the world is evil against determination", and advocates "long-term rule by one, chaos by two", and realizes reproduction through education and so on.

This narrative has a profound effect on the destiny of nations through its impact on people.

Even if dynasties change, the new dynasty tends to build a typical Chinese unified state, even if the regimes established by ethnic minorities are no exception.

In January 2021, visitors visited the "High Mountains and Waters - Themed Cultural Relics Exhibition of the Eight Great Masters of the Tang and Song Dynasties" at the Liaoning Provincial Museum.

China News Agency issued Jin Kun photo

  In the end, the scholar-bureaucrat had the triple roles of the squire, the official and the intellectual elite.

Since Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty implemented the national policy of "removing a hundred schools of thought and commending the Six Classics" and established the Taixue, knowledge and power have formed an institutionalized connection channel.

Especially after the imperial examination system was implemented in the Sui Dynasty, scholars who were known for their knowledge continued to enter the bureaucratic system, which provided human resources for the improvement of the bureaucratic system.

In the West, it was not until the development of the university system in the 15th century that the construction of its bureaucratic system had human support, so it was relatively "late blooming".

In addition, the scholar-official class was deeply influenced by the "main narrative" centered on the Great Unification, and was a firm supporter of the Great Unification state. In the turbulent and divided years, they made public opinion and organizational preparations for the reconstruction of Great Unification.

 China News Service reporter: From the perspective of civilization development, what are the similarities and differences in the roles of Christian civilization, Islamic civilization and Chinese civilization in promoting the formation of national resilience?

  Zhou Guanghui: Christian civilization and Islamic civilization have distinct institutional religious colors, while Chinese civilization includes Buddhism, Taoism and other religious schools, but it is still a secular civilization dominated by Confucianism.

Confucianism formed a systematic justification for the legitimacy of the ancient unified state, and had the most far-reaching impact on the state form in ancient China.

In contrast, the legalization systems that feudal kingdoms in Western Europe and the Middle East relied on came from transcendental monotheisms such as Christianity and Islam.

The Sinologist Fairbank pointed out, "At a time when most imperial rulers in the world mainly relied on religious authority, Confucianism provided a rational and ethical basis for the current regime to exercise its authority. This is a great political invention. ."

The "2021 Confucian Classics Cross-language Reading Conference Annual Ceremony" was held in Jinan, Shandong.

Chinese culture lovers from 47 countries recite Confucian classics together.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Lu Yan

  As civilizations with strong religious overtones, both Christian civilization and Islamic civilization have what the historian Toynbee called a "uniform church", while the secular nature of Chinese civilization determines that there is no such thing as imperial power in the country. There is no church with a high degree of organization.

Therefore, there was no religious war in Chinese history.

The historical sociologist Eisenstadt concludes: "There is no organized church in China. The monastery of the Tang Dynasty is most similar to the centralized church system, but it still has nothing in common with the Catholic Church in Europe. There is no Chinese Religion has become a fully organized autonomous unit.” Therefore, the development of Christian civilization and Islamic civilization is not entirely dependent on a certain state form, but rather relies more on churches and believers, while the long-term continuation of Chinese civilization is mainly manifested as a The long-term continuation of a particular state form is also reflected in the observed national resilience.

China News Service reporter: What important historical legacy has the grand unification system that has lasted for thousands of years left on contemporary China?

  Zhou Guanghui: The unified state form from the Qin and Han Dynasties to the late Qing Dynasty is the most enduring and important state form in Chinese history, and it is also the historical starting point of China's modern state construction.

The form of a unified state has profoundly shaped the territorial space, ethnic structure, values, and governance model of contemporary China, providing a rich historical heritage for contemporary China's state governance.

This makes the political and social governance measures in contemporary China both universal for modernization and unique in the development of its own civilization, such as the unique education politics of ancient unified China.

On March 30, 2021, at the Children's Theater of Experimental Primary School in Rugao Economic and Technological Development Zone, Jiangsu, teachers and students recited "Derun Spring Breeze and Education".

Photo by Xu Hui issued by China News Agency

  Indoctrination is a means of governance that combines morality, culture and education.

Since there was no "uniform church" that dominated the spiritual world in ancient unified China, the state assumed the responsibility of disseminating mainstream culture and shaping cultural communities.

Through indoctrination, the ideology, way of life and social customs advocated by the Great Unified Dynasty were manifested and promoted.

In maintaining the stability of the ancient unified China, education played a vital role.

The civilizational traditions of different countries will have a profound impact on the choice and process of their modernization paths. The historical legacy of China’s education politics for thousands of years also provides us with a reference perspective for observing and understanding contemporary China’s governance practices.

For example, in school education, it is clearly required to take "cultivating morality and cultivating people" as the fundamental task of education.

  Some useful contents and methods adopted in the political education of ancient China are worth learning from. Compared with the education of the past, the education and propaganda of contemporary China should be oriented towards modernization and internationalization, reflecting the value of modernity.

During the critical period of China's modernization, development and transformation, the edification tradition will still play an active role in rallying people's morale and maintaining national stability and development.

(End) (Professor Zhou Guanghui's doctoral student Zhao Dehao also contributed to this article)

Interviewee Profile:

Photo courtesy of the interviewee

  Zhou Guanghui, Doctor of Laws, Professor of the School of Administration of Jilin University and the Research Center of Social Justice and Government Governance and the Collaborative Innovation Center of National Governance of Jilin University, Director of the Academic Committee of the Department of Social Sciences of Jilin University, Researcher of the National Governance Research Institute of Peking University, and Higher Education Politics of the Ministry of Education Vice-chairman of the Academic Teaching Steering Committee.

In 2008, he was named a national-level teaching teacher. In 2011, he was selected into the “Changjiang Scholars Distinguished Professor” program of the Ministry of Education. In 2014, he was selected as a leading talent in philosophy and social sciences under the National Ten Thousand Talents Program. His main research fields are political theory and contemporary Chinese politics.

   Zhao Dehao, Doctor of Laws, was selected into the comprehensive training program of Jilin University in 2016, and was selected into the "Asian Campus" program in 2018, and went to Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea for exchange study.

He is mainly concerned with national construction and the development and evolution of the ancient Chinese state, and has published many academic papers.