Xi Jinping, General Secretary of China’s Communist Party, is not only the head of government and military—he also presents himself as China’s cultural connoisseur-in-chief. He has made the definition and defense of Chinese culture a hallmark of his leadership. Xi is operating within a Maoist and ancient Chinese tradition whereby leaders establish their legitimacy, in part, by extolling the virtues and achievements of Chinese civilization.

Xi draws direct connections between China’s inherent traits and its foreign policy, most famously in his claim that “invading others and seeking global hegemony is not in the genes of the Chinese people” (中华民族的血液中没有侵略他人,称霸世界的基因). His cultural and ideological campaigns have been carried out in tandem with China’s shift from a patient foreign policy (韬光养晦) to the aggressive strategies (奋发有为) unfolding in the East and South China Seas.

Xi’s call for the “Great Rejuvenation of Chinese Culture” is part of his program to “comprehensively deepen reform” (全面深化改革), which emphasizes “socialist core values” (社会主义核心价值观), “traditional Chinese culture” (中国传统文化), and “cultural soft power” (文化软实力). According to Xi, culture is one of five ways (五位一体) to enhance the legitimacy and status of the Party domestically and increase the appeal of Chinese values globally. His “cultural renaissance” (文化复兴) shapes the work of Chinese journalists, academics, intellectuals, artists, and diplomats.

President Xi Jinping’s cultural policies have important implications for U.S.-China relations. The United States and China are not merely strategic competitors; they are engaged in an ideological contest as well. Each wants other nations to espouse values similar to its own in order to shape global standards and institutions and to reduce obstacles to their strategic ambitions.

In order to help Americans better understand the cultural strategies of China’s leadership and their implications for bilateral relations and world order, The Kissinger Institute on China and the United States has created Mapping China’s Cultural Genome, a curated collection of Chinese-language materials and English-language analyses pertaining to Chinese culture, values, and soft power under the leadership of Xi Jinping.

The site comprises:

  • Xi’s speeches and statements on Chinese culture and values
  • Chinese-language materials on Xi’s efforts to build soft power
  • English-language synopses of scholarly and media analysis