“We must learn the good points of all countries and all nationalities. Every nationality has its good points, otherwise how could it exist, how could it develop? To recognize that every nationality has its good points is not to deny that it has weaknesses and shortcomings. Strengths and weaknesses, good points and bad, it will have both.”- Mao Tse-Tung

“We have put forward the slogan of learning from other countries. I think that this slogan is correct. There is one kind of national leader who neither dares nor wishes to put forward this slogan. We must have the courage to reject such an upstage attitude.

We must learn the good points of all countries and all nationalities. Every nationality has its good points, otherwise how could it exist, how could it develop? To recognize that every nationality has its good points is not to deny that it has weaknesses and shortcomings. Strengths and weaknesses, good points and bad, it will have both. Our branch secretaries and company and platoon commanders all know- it is written in their little notebooks- that in summarizing experiences there are always two points; one is the strengths, the other the weaknesses. Today’s meeting is no exception to this. We all know that there are two sides to things. Why, then, should we only mention one side, the strengths, and omit the weaknesses? A state of affairs with only one side could not exist. For 10,000 years to come there will always be two sides. Each age has its two sides. The present age has its two sides. Each individual has two sides. In short, there are always two sides, not just one. If we say there is only one side, it means that we only know about one side and we are ignorant of the other.

We propose learning the good things of other countries, not the bad. In the past some of us were unclear about this and also learned the bad things. They were pleased as Punch with what they learned, but meanwhile the people from whom they had learned these useless things had always discarded them. So they came a cropper like Sun Su-k’ung.

Some people never analyse anything. They simply follow the prevailing wind. Today the north wind is blowing, so they join the north wind school. Tomorrow there is a west wind, so they join the west wind school. The day after tomorrow the north wind blows again, so they switch back to the north wind school. They haven’t a single opinion of their own. They are absolutists, going from one extreme to another. We must not be like this, we must not copy things blindly, but we should learn analytically and critically. We should not become one-sided and copy everything which comes from abroad, and introduce it mechanistically.

We use to be sectarian on this question in the past and we have conducted a long struggle against this sectarianism. But sectarianism is still to be found both in the academic world and in the economic world. We should continue our work of criticizing it.

We put the problem in this way: the study of universal truth must be combined with Chinese reality. Our theory is made up of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism combined with the concrete reality of China. We must be able to think independently.

We must openly put forward the slogan of learning from foreign countries, learning all their advanced and superior things, and continuing to learn them forever. We openly acknowledge the weaknesses of our own nation, and the strengths of others.

If we are to learn from foreign countries, we must consciously learn foreign languages, if possible several.

I consider that China has two weaknesses, and at the same time, two strong points.

First, in the past we were a colony and a semi-colony. We suffered the oppression of imperialism. Our industry was not developed and our scientific and technical level was low. Apart from our large territory, rich resources, large population and long history, we were inferior to others in many respects. So we were not prone to be stuck up or conceited. On the contrary, we had been slaves far too long and felt inferior to others in every respect- too much so. We could not hold up our heads in the presence of foreigners. We were like Chia Kuei in the opera The Fa-men Temple. When people asked him to sit down, he said he was used to standing and would not sit. Some real effort is needed on this problem, to raise the self-confidence of our people. We must do as Mencius says: ‘When speaking to the mighty, look on them with contempt.’ We must develop the spirit which we had during the ‘Resist America, Aid Korea’ campaign, of looking with contempt on the imperialists. Our policy is that we should study all the good points of foreign countries, their politics, their economics, their science and technology, and their literature and art.

Second, our revolution came late. Although the 1911 Revolution, which overthrew the emperor, came before the Russian revolution, yet we had no proletarian party and the revolution failed. The victory of the People’s Revolution in 1949 came over thirty years later than the Soviet October Revolution. So it is not our place to be proud. And although our revolution is one step ahead of those of a number of colonial countries, we should resist the temptation to be proud of that.

These two points are weaknesses, but also strong points too. As I have already said, we are very poor and have not much knowledge. We are first ‘poor’ and second ‘blank.’ By ‘poor’ I mean that we have not much industry and our agriculture is not so very advanced either. By ‘blank’ I mean that we are like a sheet of blank paper, since our cultural and scientific level is not high. Those who are poor want change; only they want to have a revolution, want to burst their bonds, and seek to become strong. A blank sheet of paper is good for writing on. I am, of course, speaking in general terms. The laboring people of our country are rich in wisdom, and we also have a pretty good bunch of scientists. I am not saying we have no knowledge at all.

Being first ‘poor’ and second ‘blank’ prevents us from being stuck up. Even if in the future our industry and agriculture develop rapidly, and our scientific and cultural level is greatly raised, we must still preserve our modest and cautious attitude and not be stuck up. We must still learn from others. We must study for 10,000 years. What’s wrong with that?

I have altogether discussed ten points. In sum, we must mobilize all positive factors- direct and indirect factors, direct and indirect positive factors- and strive to build a great socialist state. We must strive further to strengthen and consolidate the socialist camp, to win victory for the international communist movement!”

(Source: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_51.htm)


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