Why Did the Chinese Regime Recently Emphasize the Study of Archaeology?

October 6, 2020 Updated: November 17, 2020


At a time when China is in desperate need of solutions to many internal and external challenges, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) top leaders were summoned on Sept. 28. What was on the itinerary? A “study session” on archaeology for the Party’s elite in the Politburo.

Archaeology suddenly is entitled with political significance.

Presiding over the study, Party leader Xi Jinping said: “Today, China is undergoing extensive and profound social changes,” “our practical innovations must be based on the laws of historical development,” and “we must attach great importance to archaeology,” according to state media reports.

Why is the Party looking to ancient history now?

When the CCP first took over China, it claimed that the so-called “three mountains” were overthrown: feudalism, bureaucratic capitalism, and imperialism. In the Chinese regime’s textbooks, China’s five thousand years of civilization is mocked as “feudal dregs.”

But, in 1972, then-Party leader Mao Zedong turned to the “imperialist” United States for support. After Mao’s death, the desperate successor Deng Xiaoping further comprehensively embraced the “imperialist” United States and Europe with the reform-and-opening-up. The Party’s powerful elite has represented China’s bureaucratic capitalism. Now, has studying the “feudalism” of China’s ancient societies become the final resort of the Politburo while it is at the brink of collapse?

Chen Xingcan, director of the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was the lecturer at the study session, according to media. But the reports did not mention what the archaeological expert actually said and mainly described Xi’s speech.

Xi said that archeological work is “a work of great socio-political significance” and “profoundly affects the present and the future.”

The Party belittled and persecuted those with feudalistic ideas during different political campaigns, but why is it suddenly saying that feudalism has profound political significance for the present? What does Xi really want to say? Is Xi trying to become an emperor right now, to resolve the current crisis in the Party?

The Legality of the CCP’s Rule

As the ancient Chinese proclaimed, the emperor is appointed by the mandate of heaven. This concept is most intolerable to the Party, which is atheistic. Meanwhile, the legitimacy of the CCP’s rule has been a subject its leaders are most afraid of addressing. How will “emperor Xi” persuade Chinese people—who have been brainwashed by the Party’s atheistic propaganda for decades—to believe in the monarchy of the past?

Xi also said at the study session: “For a long time, the Chinese civilization and other civilizations in the world have benefited from each other’s strengths, exchanged ideas, and contributed to the world a profound ideological system, as well as rich scientific, technological, cultural, and artistic achievements.”

Indeed, the Middle Kingdom had a long history of interacting with the world. But, the CCP is once again preparing to close off the country. For thousands of years, liberal society in China had given rise to intellectuals and the most splendid inventions. But today’s CCP has imprisoned everyone and their creativity. Its so-called development has turned out to be relying on stealing technology.

Does the CCP Really Value Archaeology?

Looking back at the CCP’s 71 years of ruling, archaeology has never been respected. The old Beijing 71 years ago has long been demolished. How many cultural relics were destroyed by the Cultural Revolution, and how many historical facts has the CCP tampered with?

The so-called archaeological study in China today is more about ruining ancient tombs. There’s no respect for history. Fortunately, most of the cultural relics in the Forbidden City were taken away by the Kuomintang to Taiwan, after it lost the civil war with the CCP.

Chinese leader Xi also said at the study session: “The Chinese nation has formed a great national spirit and excellent traditional culture. This is the cultural gene of the Chinese nation that continues to thrive and prosper.”

But the cultural gene of the Chinese nation is completely incompatible with the “red gene” of the CCP. If Chinese traditional culture is to be passed down, the CCP’s “red gene” should be eliminated, and the CCP regime should withdraw from the stage of history. Today, China has indeed reached a key historical point.

Xi is aware of this for sure. But he is still trying to hold onto the Chinese Communist Party. Sure enough, he also said: “To show the broad and profound Chinese civilization to the international community … [we should] continuously deepen the knowledge and understanding of today’s China and create a good atmosphere of international public opinion.”

The Party leaders are trying to manipulate the concept of China’s five thousand years of history in service of the Party and themselves—and again trying to deceive the world with its propaganda.

However, the Chinese people are not buying into these false stories any longer. The Party’s attempt to co-opt the study of archaeology just shows how desperate it is to legitimize its rule.

Zhong Yuan is a researcher focused on China’s political system, the country’s democratization process, human rights situation, and Chinese citizens’ livelihood. He began writing commentaries for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times in 2020.