The Chinese Road in the Light of Historical Continuity

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 38, No. 2, 2017


The Chinese Road in the Light of Historical Continuity



Xu Yong


The Chinese road has deep historical roots. Its most striking feature is that it is marked by historical continuity rather than rupture, and the main force behind this continuity is its intrinsic dynamism and vitality. Unlike the paradigm of Eurocentrism or “Discovering History in China,” the comparative analytical paradigm discovers China through long-term comparisons with corresponding countries in the same time and space in an effort to find positive elements in the history of the Chinese road and to refute the long prevalent theory of Chinese stagnation. Seen over the course of world history, the impetus for the creation of the world’s most brilliant agrarian civilization was endogenous. This impetus was not a momentary “explosive force” but a sustainable institutional drive whose main constituents were the independent farming household, endogenous government capacity and adaptive national governance. In addition to the main theme of “permanent change,” Chinese development had a secondary theme of “cyclical change” which cannot be ignored. The roots of Chinese development are buried deep in the genes of this agrarian nation in the form of sticky institutions, bureaucratic inertia, arbitrary power, etc. Historical continuity provided a foundation for China’s creative revolution and development in modern times, ultimately laying down a socialist development road with Chinese characteristics, although this remains an unfinished relay process.


Keywords: Chinese road, historical continuity, institutionalization, agrarian civilization