Essay

Can the Chinese Communist Party Learn from Chinese Emperors?

Lessons from history for Xi Jinping – Yuhua Wang

In 1912, at the age of 19, Mao Zedong’s high school teacher gave him a book that became his lifelong favorite. He read it during the Long March, in his cave house in Yanan, and during his train rides across China. A copy of the book could always be found on his bedside table so he could read it before sleep. He told people that he had read it seventeen times, and he frequently referred to the book during conversations with Party officials.

The book is Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance, which was edited by Sima Guang, an intellectual and politician in the Northern Song dynasty, and published in 1084. It is a 294-volume, three-million-word chronological narrative of China’s history from 403 BCE to 959 CE. The emperor asked Sima to write this book to examine the lessons learned from previous emperors, so that future emperors could learn from them, avoid their mistakes, and become better rulers.