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Dreaming of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation


Since the 18th Party Congress in 2012, there has been a steady stream of articles in the Chinese press discussing the “Chinese Dream” It is a dream of national rejuvenation, of China taking its rightful place in the world. There is no definition of national rejuvenation: nobody knows what it will look like. According to the Chinese leadership, the future models must be found from domestic soil and tradition. Traditionally, China was seen as a civilization at the center of All-Under-Heaven, a non-hegemonic power which relied to force only in order to protect itself against outside aggression. There are two upcoming centennials that serve as major milestones along the way to the rejuvenation, namely the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party in 2021, and the establishment of the People’s Republic in 2049. The celebrations then will reveal if China follows this ancient tradition of benevolence, peacefulness and wisdom.

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  1. See the seminal works of, inter alia, Pye (1968), Fairbank (1969, ed.).

  2. The quotation is from Shijing, “Xiaoya”: 2 (as numbered in the Chinese Text Project website,

  3. There seems to be uncertainty about when exactly Deng coined this phrase and precisely what formulation he used (see Xing and Zhang 2006).

  4. The earliest origin of the phrase seems to be unknown, but arguably it can be linked to stories about the shrewd strategist Liu Bei, who was one of the warlords contesting for supremacy after the Han dynasty, or King Goujian from the Warring States era, who is known for the methodical way in which he revenged the humiliations he had been subjected to (Xing and Zhang 2006, p. 16).

  5. In Xinhua’s translation, the phrase is: “I will mount a long wind some day and break the heavy waves” ( 2012). This seems to be partially based on an alternate version of the phrase, cheng feng po lang, (), meaning “mounting the winds and breaking the waves”, uttered by general Zong Que, who lived almost three centuries before Li Bo. Both versions are used interchangeably in some dictionaries.

  6. 2012: .

  7. The phrase used by Liu, shang wu () originates in a Han Dynasty commentary of the Classic of Poetry where it is said that the music of the idealized Zhou Dynasty “extolled martial values”.

  8. Yan (2011a, p. 78) quotes Ray S. Cline’s Power Equation from 1994, which states that comprehensive power is the product of soft and hard power. This means that if either is zero, the product will be zero. In Yan (2011a, p. 102), the author presents a more refined formula of his own.


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Correspondence to Jyrki Kallio.

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Kallio, J. Dreaming of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation. Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci. 8, 521–532 (2015).

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  • China
  • The Chinese dream
  • International relations
  • Soft power
  • Confucianism
  • Xi Jinping