In his speech at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping left the West perplexed. Not only because of the difficulty of foreign vehicles in translating some of the statements, but also because of the large amount of historical and literary quotes.
At the height of his speech, the current party leader declared in a resolute and strident tone that the Chinese people will never allow foreign powers to intimidate, oppress and enslave them.
Then, he added, raising his voice, “Anyone who deludes himself into intimidating China will see blood flow from his broken head as he crashes into the Great Wall of steel built of flesh and blood. blood of 1.4 billion Chinese. The graphic discomfort of these images is not easy to understand. All we have are historical clues that Xi routinely hides in his statements.
“Blood Flowing From His Broken Head” is a figure that refers to a chapter of the great Chinese novel “Journey to the West”, written in the middle of the 16th century. In the episode in question, the character of Sun Wukong, better known as the Monkey King, plays a call for the life of the Buddhist monks to an evil Taoist leader who arrested them and forced them into slave labor. In the request, Wukong says the monks were dear relatives, but the evil Taoist agrees to release only one of them, a decision he doesn’t like.
In a heroic stampede, Wukong frees the tyrant’s 500 monks by taking his golden magic staff and hitting him, resulting in “blood flowing from his broken head.” The language is strong, but the context is that of the absence of oppression. The image that follows is even more bloodthirsty, with a broken neck and brain juice gushing out. Let’s say that Xi was able to measure the amount of quotation he was supposed to bring to the speech.
More details have gone unnoticed to a Western listener. Like, for example, the allusion made to the myth of creation according to the Chinese. Xi likens the creation of the Chinese Communist Party to the feat of “dividing the heavens from the earth,” an action the god Pangu performed to generate a new era of creation.
Equally alien to our limited knowledge of classical Chinese literature is the historical link to the promise that its leaders offer today a “Xiaokang Shehui” (moderately prosperous society), a social state prior to the utopian community that Confucians dreamed of in the 6th century. century BC , present in the “Book of Rites”. To seek in the history of China, the myths of its people and the classics of its ancient intellectuals for the basis of the legend as the fulfillment of a dream of Chinese civilization – and its peak – is something that the leader of the Chinese Communist Party does it all the time.
It is therefore crucial to see the speech as a point of convergence of the great millennial aspirations of the Chinese people: the dream of keeping the territory unified and the desire to see themselves safe from foreign interference in their own country. The first great unification of the territory of China took place in the year 221 BC, with the establishment of the Qin Dynasty. Qin Shihuang, the Yellow Emperor, accomplished the great feat, but he still had another problem on his hands: invading foreign peoples.
It was precisely to deal with the question of territorial invasion that he pushed for the creation of the Great Wall, trying to prevent the advance of peoples who did not belong to the Unified Empire and who presented the risk of invasion and war. Famous for his relentless military decisions, Qin Shihuang is considered one of the great rulers of the ancient world for simultaneously addressing these two issues that, to a greater or lesser degree, every Chinese emperor faced.
After his death and the end of the Qin Dynasty, the Great Wall lasted for hundreds of years, fulfilling its duty to bar foreigners from the north from entering the Middle Empire and asserting itself as a symbol of the Chinese resistance against barbarian peoples.
As Mao Tse-tung fought fiercely for his rise to power in the Chinese Communist Party, he knew his historic position linked him to the legendary Qin Shihuang.
The two biggest headaches the Yellow Emperor faced also straddled the horizon that separated Mao from absolute power: territory carved out by Chinese warlords and their factions and the presence of foreigners. In this context, China was fragmented and divided into half a colony of imperialist powers and half enslaved by its own feudal lords.
Mao, in fact, historically corresponded to the great leading ancestor. In the late 1940s, he again delivered a unified China (almost) free from foreign invasion. It was at the end of this decade that he chose, with other members of the party, “The March of the Volunteers” as the hymn of the People’s Republic of China, which would be proclaimed and premiered on October 1, 1949.
At the time, Mao and other leaders at the top of the legend joined in choosing the song. The reason would be the conviction that China, even unified, would still have a strong resistance from the imperialist enemies, who would hate it as much as the progress of the nation, and that, for this reason, the Chinese would need to live in a eternal vigilance. . “The March of the Volunteers” brings to its first lines the same historical symbol that has been continuously applauded by the Chinese throughout history:
“Stand up, all those who do not accept to be enslaved! Let’s use our flesh and blood to build our new Great Wall! The Chinese people have reached the most dangerous moment, when each of us is forced to utter our last cry. Get up! Get up!”
Realizing that the physical construction of the Great Wall would no longer be enough to keep foreign peoples away from Chinese territory, Mao and the party leaders were convinced that the spirit of the great architectural emblem should be kept alive. It was he, after all, who linked the modern country to its millennial history and legitimized the political choices legend would make to keep China free from the great Western empires. No more blocks stacked on top of each other, but the resolute will of the Chinese to keep the anti-imperialist spirit alive.
Thus, unifying the territory and expelling foreigners have become the great objectives achieved by Mao, enthroning him eternally at the heart of the Chinese nation which, not blind to the errors of its tyrannical policy of ideological cleanliness, undoubtedly still holds it at the highest level. . historical esteem.
Then we come to Xi Jinping. His speech took place at the same place where Mao stood to be acclaimed. On his shoulders, and imprinted in his speech, Xi carries within him the will to legitimize his leadership in the face of the historical scene of the “great Chinese civilization”.
In his speech, the “Great Wall of Steel Built with the Flesh and Blood of 1.4 Billion Chinese” symbolizes how far the Chinese are willing to go to keep foreigners away from internal affairs like control. of Hong Kong and the annexation of Taiwan.
Relying on the ghosts of the past, Xi does not stand alone in front of the crowds of Chinese who look at him anxiously, but claims for himself a place at the table of the great ancient rulers and thus, in front of the nation, traces the chronology of historical events. legitimacy of its leadership and its role within the party.
The past recognizing the present.