Xi Jinping as Historian: Marxist, Chinese, Nationalist, Global

“Only by having a correct recognition of history can it be possible for us to open up a better future. … Forgetting history signifies betrayal.”1

In February 2014, a little over a year after Xi Jinping ascended to power as the secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and then the president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the National People’s Congress (NPC) ratified the creation of two new national days: September 3, the date of Japan’s formal surrender at the end of WWII (known in China as the second Sino-Japanese War), would be officially known as Victory Day, and December 13 would commemorate the victims of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre near the start of that war.2 In September, the NPC added September 30 to the calendar as “Martyr’s Day” to commemorate “people who sacrificed their lives for [China’s] national independence and prosperity [and] the welfare of the people, … after the first Opium War [in 1839-1842].”3 Xi Jinping gave keynote speeches at each of these events. Over the previous few years, Xi had also spoken at events commemorating the 2565th birthday of Confucius, the 120th birthday of Mao Zedong, and the 110th birthday of Deng Xiaoping. Before ascending to the position of secretary general, Xi gave annual speeches, in his capacity as president of the CCP Central Party School, which admonished listeners on the importance of history as a guide for communist cadres seeking to improve their abilities to govern and to connect with the Chinese people.4 In his public statements on history, he has shown a persistent eagerness to tie his own rule, the rule of the CCP, and his aspirations for China’s future international role, to China’s past—both its communist and its earlier past.

Xi’s attention to history has received a great deal of international attention, but it is not new.5 As he himself pointed out in a 2011 speech at the Central Party School, all CCP leaders have emphasized the importance of understanding China’s history in order to determine its path forward.6 The anniversaries he commemorated in 2014, with the exception of September 30, have had unofficial recognition for many years. The language he has used to talk about China’s past draws from a rich trove of rhetoric, imagery, and interpretation that has been developed by Chinese leaders since the 1840s. Rather than introducing new ideas, what Xi has done is to integrate multiple strands of Chinese historiography—some old, some quite recent. He has interpreted the significance of Chinese historical events against the backdrop of four meaning-making frameworks: Marxism, Confucianism, nationalism, and globalism. From Marxism, he has emphasized struggle and the justness of China’s cause. From premodern Chinese history, he has argued for China’s uniquely peaceful perspective. From nationalism, he derives an emphasis on unity. And from globalism, he makes claims about the universality of China’s grievances and aspirations.

This article situates Xi Jinping’s frequent use of historical allusions and lessons relative to these four historiographical strands. It concentrates primarily on how these traditions help to focus Xi’s international agenda, although there is also much that can be said about domestic issues. The essay asks: What lessons does Xi draw from the past, and how do these support or shape his national agenda? In short, what kind of historian is he?

Why History Matters to Chinese Leaders: The Imperative to “Rejuvenate the Nation”

Why is a Chinese leader’s use of history an important lens through which to understand him? It is because modern Chinese political legitimacy rests—and has rested since the late 1840s—on how able Chinese leaders and political systems are to respond to a perceived historical imperative to “save” China from a subjugated past and make it strong, powerful, and respected by other nations and by its own people. This imperative has become a touchstone for each leader’s articulation of China’s national aspirations, and a justification for the path that each leader says China should take to achieve those aspirations.

When a Chinese leader comes to power, he inherits a historical narrative of loss and redemption: the loss of imperial China’s power, territory, and international status under a barrage of intrusions, attacks, and subjugations by foreign powers during the “century of humiliation” that stretched from China’s loss to Britain in the first Opium War in 1842 to WWII; and the slow but inexorable climb to redemption under the CCP. In this narrative, modern China was forged out of a crucible of suffering and shame from which its people, and the Chinese nation, emerged battered but ultimately victorious under the Party’s leadership.

The desire to “save” China (jiuguo) from its subjugated state preoccupied Chinese statesmen and scholars from the beginning of the “century of humiliation,” despite significant disagreement on how to achieve this goal, but the many political experiments that followed were ultimately unsuccessful. In the CCP’s narrative, not until the party rose to prominence were China’s leaders able to unite the Chinese people, defeat foreign invaders, regain China’s sovereignty, autonomy, and most of its lost territory, gain China a seat at the international table, and begin to rebuild its ancient wealth and power. In fact, the language of “China’s national rejuvenation” (Zhongguo fuxing), which Xi uses frequently, dates from quite early in the modern period, and is a shorthand for the political and social goals declared by every major political figure since then. Hence, when Xi said in 2011, “Since the beginning of modern times, saving the nation from subjugation and ensuring its survival had become the extremely urgent historic mission of the Chinese nation and people,” he was not being disingenuous; the same language had been used by past figures ranging from late Qing scholars to Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong, and Hu Jintao.7

WWII is a particularly important touchstone in this history, because it is interpreted as the decisive turning point from national decline to national redemption, “the first complete victory won by China in its resistance against foreign aggression in modern times.”8 As Xi Jinping said at events commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the end of the war, Japan’s defeat:
[C]rushed the plot of the Japanese militarists to colonize and enslave China and put an end to China’s national humiliation of suffering successive defeats at the hands of foreign aggressors in modern times. This great triumph re-established China as a major country in the world and won the Chinese people the respect of all peace-loving people around the world. This great triumph opened up bright prospects for the great renewal of the Chinese nation and set our ancient country on a new journey after regaining rebirth.9 (Emphasis added.)

Xi Jinping has inherited the mandate to “rejuvenate China” at a time when China’s eventual redemption, through its return to great power status, seems assured. In his 2014 speech at the first official commemoration of the Nanjing massacre, Xi directly addressed the victims of that event, saying that their sacrifice has now been repaid:

We would like to tell those compatriots … that China today has become a great country with strong capability that can protect the people’s peaceful life. The era in which the Chinese nation was trampled upon at will by other countries and was subject to bullying by other countries is gone forever.10

The success of Xi’s regime will be measured in part by how able he is to consolidate these gains and move China even further toward “national rejuvenation.” The narratives on which he draws to frame this mandate shed light on what he believes China should aspire to and why, what obstacles he sees standing in the way of those aspirations, and what role China’s government and people—and the government and people of other nations—will play in China’s future.

Xi as Marxist Historian: The Moral Righteousness of China’s Rise

Like all his CCP predecessors, Xi must be understood first as a Marxist-Leninist historian. He has been trained to view history as a continuous series of struggles that will eventually end with the forces of progress, under the leadership of a vanguard party, prevailing over those of backwardness. Xi’s Marxist framework allows him to assert that China’s international rise under the CCP is both historically determined and morally just.

In Marxism, history is famously driven by, and progresses through, struggle. In line with this tradition, Xi emphasizes that China’s long fight for national rejuvenation is a historical process that captures, in microcosm, the world-historical struggles of progressiveness versus backwardness. This does not require a great stretch: it is easy to interpret the failings of nineteenth century China as arising from the struggle between reactionary and forward-looking impulses both domestically and internationally. Drawing on long-standing Chinese interpretations, Xi asserts that China, which had long been one of the greatest powers in the world, was in the nineteenth century “swept behind by the tide of rapid global development” due to the “decadence and decline of [its] feudal system.”11 External powers were able to take advantage of China’s internal weakness, causing China to “slip into the dark abyss of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society.”12 Under the many political experiments that preceded the CCP—imperial, republican, warlord rule—, China continued to wallow in its backwardness and subjugation, because these systems perpetuated a class structure that was on the wrong side of history. But, just as Marx predicted, a communist party eventually arose that “undertook the historic mission” of saving China, overcame the reactionary forces of the feudal economy, united the Chinese people against external enemies, and “brought China into a new era in history.”13 By its very nature, implies Xi, the CCP and the country that it leads are on the side of historical progress.

This perspective serves several purposes. It suggests, first, that the moral power of modern China’s success arises because it was so difficult to achieve. Without this struggle, says Xi, the CCP’s victories and a strong and powerful China would be meaningless: “Comrade Mao Zedong also often said that the future is bright but the road is tortuous. This is the historical logic of the development of all causes of justice. Our cause is great because it has continuously achieved success after going through unprecedented difficulties.”14 According to Xi, this narrative ought to give Chinese citizens pride in themselves, trust in the party that led them to these triumphs, and fortitude for the struggles that are still to come. As he pointed out in 2011:

A true Marxist and a true communist seasons their courage, wisdom and strength by experiencing and overcoming various difficulties and dangers. … We should fully grasp not only that the Party has led the people in making great and glorious achievements but that it has displayed great courage, wisdom and strength and kept blazing a new trail to victory while leading the people in dealing with various difficulties and dangers.15

This historical logic allows Xi to assert that right will eventually win out. Hence, proclaimed Xi at a 2015 commemoration of the end of World War II, “Let us bear in mind the great truth of history: Justice will prevail! Peace will prevail! The people will prevail!”16 At another speech that day, he added: “The victory of the Chinese People’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression and of the world anti-fascist war once again prove in an eloquent manner that the historical tide of righteousness overcoming evil cannot be stopped, and that moves against the historical tide are doomed to fail.”17 By extension, if justice is historically determined to prevail, and if China is on the side of justice, then the inescapable outcome is that China will prevail in its world-historical task of national rejuvenation.

The corollary to this narrative of struggle is that someone has to be on the wrong side of history. Since China under the CCP embodies the forces of progress, anyone who attempts to stop that progress is reactionary and doomed eventually to fail. While there were many countries involved in China’s subjugation during the “century of humiliation,” the contemporary Chinese narrative focuses intensely on Japan’s actions: during the first Sino-Japanese war, the so-called “Jiawu War” of 1894-95, which resulted, among other things, in China’s loss of Taiwan; during World War II, which in Chinese parlance is called the “Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-fascist War”; and in the current day. Much of Xi’s very public recounting of Japanese wrongdoings has rested on the assertion that there is an objective historical truth, which most countries have now embraced but Japan’s leaders have ignored and violated: “It’s a pity that a small minority of people still ignore iron-clad history and the fact that tens of millions of people lost their lives.”18 In his speeches commemorating WWII, Xi has used graphic imagery of Chinese suffering at the hands of the Japanese, and over the past few years various levels of government have released a large number of documents intended to prove Japan’s guilt.19 The implication is that countries that deny these objective facts are attempting to deny the logic of history itself; as Xi stated in 2015, “History will gradually fade away, but the enlightenment and lessons of history will always be there whether one will admit that or not.”20

Xi as Chinese Historian: Drawing Inspiration from China’s Glorious Civilization

Xi must also be understood as a Chinese historian, in that he frequently draws on unique aspects of China’s history and civilization—particularly its premodern civilization. This impulse is, to some degree, in tension both with Marxism and with many (though not all) of Xi’s CCP predecessors. The modern Chinese narrative in all its forms departs from that of Marx and Lenin in that its historical arc is j-shaped. For Marx, the past was unequivocally worse than the communist future. But in China the narrative is more ambiguous. On the one hand, CCP interpretations of Chinese history necessarily condemn its features of feudalism and monarchy. On the other, China’s pre-“century of humiliation” past is depicted as a golden age with regard to its international position of power and prestige. Hence, according to Chinese historiography, the right historical path is one that would return China to its position of centrality and power, but on the foundation of a socialist society.

Xi has followed this narrative. In addition, he has extended the innovations of his predecessors Jiang Zemin and, particularly, Hu Jintao in finding significant value in the cultural and intellectual traditions of premodern China. For many modern Chinese thinkers and statesmen, China’s traditions have been considered a source of shame and backwardness. Mao famously rejected any cultural elements of China’s premodern past as feudal and reactionary—an impulse that reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution. In the 1990s, though, the CCP began rehabilitating aspects of this culture. Hu Jintao’s subsequent focus on a “harmonious society” and “harmonious world,” which derived its language from Confucian thinkers, is the most prominent example.21

Xi, building on this model, depicts China’s premodern figures as a source of pride and inspiration. He argues that Chinese traditional culture is an essential element of its national identity: “Fine traditional culture is the fountainhead of a country or nation’s inheritance and development. Losing it will cut off the country or nation’s spiritual lifeline. … [Our] cultural genes are the unique hallmarks that distinguish the Chinese from other nations.”22

This re-emphasis on traditional culture does essential work for today’s CCP. It fosters pride in Chinese civilization and ties that pride to the CCP as its self-identified inheritor. Xi argues, for example, that “the Chinese communists have always been faithful inheritors and upholders of the country’s fine cultural traditions,” and that “modern Chinese people’s thinking and the Chinese government’s strategy of national governance are soaked with the gene of traditional Chinese culture.”23 Hence, the CCP is justified not only because of its ability to bring China into the era of national rejuvenation, not only because it is the global force of justice, but also because it is standard-bearer for the traditional essence of Chineseness.

PRC leaders have further emphasized this link by using traditional language to articulate CCP agendas. A prominent example is Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping’s use of the term xiaokang to describe the economic and social development that they seek to achieve for China.2<4> Xiaokang is usually translated today as a “moderately prosperous society,” but it was also described in Chinese thought—and revived by the famous philosopher Kang Youwei in the 1890s—as a middle stage of historical progress between an “age of disorder” (juluan) and a “great unity” (datong) that characterized a utopian future. In his Confucius birthday speech, Xi was explicit about the utility that this traditional terminology can have for the CCP:

The Chinese people are working hard at fulfilling their ‘twin centennial goals’ [for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP in 2021, and of the PRC in 2049] of which the concept of xiaokang, or a relatively well-off life, an ideal state of society the Chinese nation has been after since ancient times, originated from the Book of Rites/Evolution of the Rites. Using the concept xiaokang in defining a national development goal not only conforms to the reality of the country’s development, but is also conducive to mustering the broadest possible public understanding and support.25 (Emphasis added)

Additionally, Xi’s use of traditional culture allows him to argue that China is uniquely suited to be a leading force for international peace, emphasizing aspects of Chinese thought that center on themes of peace and progress. At the 2014 celebrations for Confucius’ 2565th birthday, for example, Xi explained, “The Chinese nation has always been peace-loving. Our love for peace is also deeply rooted in Confucianism … The love for peace has been embedded firmly in the spiritual world of the Chinese nation, and remains China’s basic concept for handling international relations.”26

Xi as Nationalist Historian: The Search for National Unity

Xi Jinping must also be understood as a nationalist historian, by which I mean he emphasizes the distinctiveness of Chinese national identity and culture, and the inherent unity of the Chinese nation—even in the face of historical class struggle and current-day dissensions and factions. This narrative appears to be directly at odds with aspects of Marxism that emphasize the need for the international proletariat to transcend their national identities in order to join in the common struggle. Xi’s repeated emphasis on national unity, by contrast, allows him to build on the legacy of Sun Yat-sen, the co-founder of the Chinese nationalist party, who famously complained that the Chinese people were “like a sheet of loose sand,” whose individual grains were unable to cohere behind a single national vision. For CCP leaders, the founding of the PRC meant that this era of internal disunity was over. In a 2013 speech Xi referenced Sun directly when he said that this founding “realized a high degree of unity for China and the unprecedented solidarity of all ethnic groups, … [and] thoroughly put an end to the state of a heap of loose sand in Old China.”27 Like Sun, Xi argues that a conscious sense of nationality is essential to China’s rejuvenation. He also claims that this quest for unity is a quintessentially Chinese impulse; as he said in a 2014 meeting with President Obama, “Chinese people have cherished national independence, unity and dignity since ancient times.”28

Xi has pushed the theme of national unity much further than previous claims about the PRC founding would have allowed, e.g., downplaying the struggle between the nationalists (the Kuomintang (KMT)) and the CCP in the 1940s, instead emphasizing their common victory over Japan. In 2013, the government announced that KMT veterans of WWII would be eligible to collect pensions. In 2014, just ahead of the first official national commemoration of Victory Day, the Ministry of Civil Affairs released a list of 300 newly acknowledged martyrs in the war of resistance—one-third of whom were reportedly KMT soldiers, in addition to eight foreigners.29 And in 2015, when the organizers of the 2015 Victory Day parade invited KMT veterans to participate, PLA Major General Qu Rui explained that “KMT troops played an important role in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.”30 Xi is again following in the footsteps of Hu Jintao; Hu gave a surprising speech at the sixtieth anniversary commemorations for the end of WWII, in which he spoke at some length about the importance of the KMT-CCP United Front and even acknowledged that the KMT was “the main force on the frontal battlefields.”31 Still, Xi’s public attempt to include these veterans in mainland commemorations goes a step further.32

Xi as Global Historian: Unifying the World behind China’s Grievances and Dreams

Finally, we must consider Xi as a global historian. Xi has noted that global interconnectedness means that China’s fate and that of the world as a whole are mutually intertwined.33 Perhaps for that reason, he has extended China’s unifying history to an international audience, universalizing China’s struggles and triumphs in an apparent attempt to rally the world behind its future role as a leading, world-historical actor. In his WWII commemorations, for example, Xi has emphasized the unity of the Chinese people with those in other countries:

The greatest strength lies in one-mindedness and in joining of forces. For freedom, justice, peace, and for the people’s security, tranquility, and happiness, on the battlefields of Asia, Europe, Oceania, and various battlefields of the world, the armies, people, and various anti-Fascist forces of the world’s anti-Fascist alliance joined hands to cross into the same trench.34

By eliding any points of difference between China and its wartime allies, Xi implies that all “just” countries shared the same grievances and the same aspirations.

Xi demonstrates his global historiography in several ways. First, Xi depicts China’s suffering and resistance during the war as part of a global struggle against evil—not just a national struggle. In his official speech marking the seventieth anniversary, he said, “The Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist war were a decisive battle between justice and evil, between light and darkness, and between progress and reaction.”35 Hence, Japan’s predations during that war are depicted as crimes that “shocked the world and shocked all people of good conscience.”36 Similarly, in the first official July 7 commemoration, he said, “Anyone who intends to deny, distort or beautify the history of aggression will never be tolerated by the Chinese people or by the people of all other countries.”37 (Emphasis added.)

Second, Xi has argued that China’s historical experiences mean that it has made, and will continue to make, significant contributions to global peace. In recent commemorations, Xi has placed that fight in the context of the broader war, saying for example that “as a main battle ground in the east … the Chinese People’s War … made a major contribution to the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War.”38 By highlighting China’s contributions in the past, he can also point to China’s potential future contributions. In fact, one of the most distinctive elements of Xi’s “China Dream” is not the focus on national rejuvenation, but the assertion that China’s rejuvenation will benefit the entire world—that China’s dream is the world’s dream.39 In late 2013 he asserted, “The Chinese nation has always cherished one dream in modern history, and this dream is the dream of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and making greater contributions to mankind.”40

In so doing, Xi places China as a central actor in global history—a vanguard of world progress. He portrays WWII as the apotheosis and the final chapter of a long, global historical era of colonialism and inequality. Xi asserted in one of his seventieth anniversary speeches that the Allied victory “thoroughly ended the history of world powers that carved up the world through scrambling for colonies, entirely erased the colonial system that had existed for several centuries from the world, and produced a major and profound impact on safeguarding world peace and promoting common development.”41 This representation shows China as a central actor both in its own liberation, and in that of the world as a whole. Xi brings together all four of his historiographies when he says, “The Chinese people will unswervingly maintain the lofty cause of human peace and development and are willing to genuinely forge unity together with the people of various countries, and join hands with them to work toward building a world with lasting peace and common prosperity!”42 Where Marx asserted that workers should unite behind the international Communist Party to bring about world revolution, Xi asserts that all “peace-loving peoples” should unite behind the Chinese nation to bring about global peace.43


Xi Jinping’s use of history is less a departure from his predecessors than the attention accorded to it has implied. He has followed long-standing traditions of using China’s humiliation narrative to justify the CCP’s international aspirations, and he has carried forward Hu Jintao’s reemphasis on China’s traditional culture and even, to some degree, his reopening to the KMT. To be sure, Xi has worked harder than some of his predecessors to ensure that these historical narratives retain a central place in Chinese national identity; his elevation of long-standing commemorations to official national holidays is just one example. He has also re-energized or cemented certain emphases within these narratives; here we may think particularly of the extensive vilification of Japan in recent years, even more than in the past. His globalizing impulse is perhaps the most innovative element of his thinking, but even here we see shades of it in the late Qing period and in Hu Jintao. Xi’s history appears to be essentially a new presentation of ideas that are not new.

What is most interesting about Xi Jinping as a historian is the way that he has integrated diverse and even contradictory strands of historiographical traditions to make a case for China as a peaceful, unifying, and universalist world power—even if others see the historical record differently. Hu Jintao began this integration, but it was little noted. This suggests that the increased attention that Xi’s historiography has received from outside observers may have as much to do with the force of Xi Jinping’s personality—how he delivers his historical message—as what the content of that message is. It may say less about him as a historian than it does about him as a political leader.

*The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of CNA, the United States Navy or the Department of Defense.


1. “Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Zhongguo renmin kangri zhanzheng ji shijie fan faxisi zhanzheng shengli 70 zhounian zhaodaihuishang de jianghua,” Xinhua, September 3, 2015.

2. See “China Ratifies National Days to Commemorate War Victory, Massacre Victims,” Xinhua, February 28, 2014, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/video/2014-02/28/c_133149883.htm.

3. “China Shapes Collective Memory on First Martyrs’ Day,” Xinhua, September 30, 2014, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-09/30/c_133685205.htm; Ian Johnson, “In Creating ‘Martyr’s Day,’ China Promotes a Vision of the Past,” The New York Times, September 29, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/world/asia/in-creating-martyrs-day-china-promotes-a-vision-of-the-past.html.

4. Xi Jinping, “Lingdao ganbu yao dudian lishi—zai Zhongyang Dangxiao 2011 nian qiuji xueqi kaixue dianlishang de jianghua,” Xuexi Shibao, September 6, 2011, 1 and 5; Xi Jinping, “Guanyu xin Zhongguo 60 nian dang de jianshe de jidian sikao– zai Zhongyang Dangxiao 2009 nian qiuji xueqi kaixue dianlishang de jianghua,” Xuexi Shibao, September 28, 2009, 1.

5. For example, “Xi’s History Lessons,” The Economist, August 15-21, 2015, 11. Several authors have written thoughtful pieces for the online journal The Diplomat about Xi’s statements on history; e.g., Shannon Tiezzi, Xie Tao, and Michael Swaine; http://thediplomat.com.

6. Xi Jinping, “Lingdao ganbu yao dudian lishi.”

7. Ibid.

8. Xi Jinping, “Address at the Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War,” Xinhua, September 3, 2015, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015/09/03/c_134583870.htm.

9. Ibid.

10. Xi Jinping, “Zai Nanjing datu sinanzhe guojia gongji yishishang de jianghua,” Xinhua, December 13, 2014.

11. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Mao Zedong tongzhi danchen 120 zhounian zuotanhuishang de jianghua,” Xinhua, December 26, 2013.

12. Ibid.

13. Xi Jinping, “Lingdao ganbu yao dudian lishi.”

14. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Mao Zedong tongzhi danchen 120 zhounian.”

15. Xi Jinping, “Lingdao ganbu yao dudian lishi.”

16. Xi Jinping, “Address at the commemoration of the 70th Anniversary.”

17. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Zhongguo renmin kangri zhanzheng ji shijie fan faxisi zhanzheng shengli 70 zhounian zhaodaihuishang de jianghua.”

18. Liu Sha, “History Denial Intolerable: Xi,” Global Times, July 8 2014, http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/869334.shtml.

19. On graphic language, see for example Xi Jinping, “Zai Nanjing datu sinanzhe.” With regard to the release of documents on Japan in WWII, a 2014 article in the Global Times notes that Hunan Province released footage of the Japanese surrender to China, and that the State Archives Administration released confessions of Japanese war criminals. Liu Sha, “History Denial Intolerable.”

20. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Zhongguo renmin kangri zhanzheng ji shijie fan faxisi zhanzheng shengli.”

21. Daniel K. Gardner, “What Confucius Says is Useful to China’s Rulers,” Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/01/opinion/la-oe-gardner-confucius-20101001.

22. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Kongzi yanzhen 2565 zhounian guoji xueshu yantaolun ji guoji Ruxue lianhehui diwuzhouhui yuan dahui kaimuhuishang de jianghua,” Xinhua, September 24, 2014, http://news.xinhua.net.com/2014-09/24/c_1112612018.htm. Xi said in the same speech that he does not advocate wholesale adoption of these traditions, but rather seeks to root out “obsolete elements,” “make the past serve present needs,” and “adhere to differentiated inheritance.”

23. Ibid; “Xi Jinping Holds Meeting with President Barack Obama,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, November 12, 2014, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/topics_665678/ytjhzzdrsrcldrfzshyjxghd/t1210355.shtml.

24. Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin also referenced the term, but not as frequently as Hu Jintao.

25. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Kongzi yanzhen 2565 zhounian.” In its original usage, xiaokang did not describe an “ideal state,” since it was inferior to the “great peace” that should follow it. xiaokang was, however, considered to be a worthy goal to strive toward in the interim.

26. Ibid.

27. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Mao Zedong tongzhi danchen 120 zhounian.”

28. “Xi Jinping Holds Meeting with President Barack Obama.”

29. Li Jingrong, “China honors martyrs from Sino-Japanese War,” China.org.cn, September 3, 2014, http://www.china.org.cn/china/2014-09/03/content_33413759.htm; Ben Dooley, “Chinese leaders attend first national commemoration of Japan’s WWII surrender,” The Japan Times, September 5, 2014, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/09/05/national/chinese-leaders-attend-first-national-commemoration-of-japans-wwii-surrender/#.Ve7zWdJVikp .

30. Peng Yining, “Weapons, Veterans to Appear in Grand Tian’anmen Parade,” hina Daily USA, June 26, 2015, http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2015-06/26/content_21112635.htm.

31. Hu Jintao, “Speech at a Meeting Marking the 60th Anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-fascist War,” September 3, 2005, http://en.people.cn/200509/03/eng20050903_206351.html; http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/2014-10/01/content_18690138.htm.

32. Given the current state of cross-Strait relations, there is an obvious political impetus for this attempted reconciliation of CCP and KMT history. Even from this perspective, though, Xi’s is still a notable shift from the past in how this historical narrative is constructed.

33. E.g., Xi Jinping noted, “Chinese history is an important part of world history. … The present-day world is an open world, and the development of China today is linked closely with the development of the world.” Xi Jinping, “Lingdao ganbu yao dudian lishi.”

34. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Zhongguo renmin kangri zhanzheng ji shijie fan faxisi zhanzheng shengli.”

35. Xi Jinping, “Address at the Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary.”

36. Xi Jinping, “Zai Nanjing datu sinanzhe.”

37. Liu Sha, “History Denial Intolerable.”

38. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Zhongguo renmin kangri zhanzheng ji shijie fan faxisi zhanzheng shengli.”

39. There are many other elements of Xi’s “China Dream” that are also notable. For an incisive discussion of how the “China Dream” shapes and is shaped by China’s current political and social context, see William A. Callahan, “China Dream—I”, The Asan Forum, December 8, 2014, http://www.theasanforum.org/what-can-the-china-dream-do-in-the-prc/.

40. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Mao Zedong tongzhi danchen 120 zhounian.”

41. Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Zhongguo renmin kangri zhanzheng ji shijie fan faxisi zhanzheng shengli.”

42. Xi Jinping, “Zai Nanjing datu sinanzhe.”

43. E.g., Xi Jinping, “Zai jinian Zhongguo renmin kangri zhanzheng ji shijie fan faxisi zhanzheng shengli”: “China’s development and strengthening will definitely be the development and strengthening of the force of peace in the world.”