In China's Destiny & Chinese Economic Theory, Chiang Kai-Shek wrote that:

The two most important ways to understand and utilize man's nature are: First, to preserve the inherited ethics of the nation and restore its traditional wisdom and ability; second, to master the advanced science of the West and introduce the newest Western technical skills.

Chiang's statement aligns very well with China's present-day strategies.

Today, Confucius is back in favor.

Source: Confucius’ Impact on Modern China

China’s leading companies tend to excel at “applications of existing technology, rather than original research

Source: Unplugging America: Is China Ready to Reduce Reliance on Foreign Technology?

I wonder why Chiang didn't mention technological self-reliance?

  • This question is about the present, its historical quote notwithstanding. Thus it's about a Social Science other than history, perhaps economics, and explicitly off topic. Jun 20, 2021 at 10:57
  • @PieterGeerkens It's about Chiang's statement.
    – Lzn
    Jun 20, 2021 at 13:31
  • @MCW Great, I have updated my question. Please check. Thanks for your suggestions.
    – Lzn
    Jun 20, 2021 at 13:38
  • "Chiang" (Kai Shek) is a historical figure. That makes the question "history" even though the "present" is included in the question. Voted to reopen. @MCW, there are four reopen votes, so you can be a "fifth" vote and not a moderator vote
    – Tom Au
    Jun 22, 2021 at 2:14

3 Answers 3


The Chiang Kai-Shek quote is basic 中学为体,西学为用 stuff (Chinese culture as the basis of society, Western science for technological applications) that can be traced back to the Chinese self-strengthening movement of the second half of the 19th century.

As to why Chiang did not mention that China might be on the same footing as or maybe even more advanced than the west technologically one day: I guess this has to do with the situation in the Republic of China years. Those years (from the 1911 revolution to the publication of Chiang's book in 1943 and beyond) were marked by too much internal and external conflict to seriously try to catch up with the west technologically.

Of course the ROC (on Taiwan) would later show that catching up technologically with the west was possible after all, as would South Korea. Japan had already managed to do so before Chiang even wrote his book, and mainland China did so in the decades after Chiang's death.

Re. Confucius, he is of course one of the most famous ancient Chinese philosophers. But he is also one who particularly emphasizes obedience, so it is not really surprising that an authoritarian like Xi should make use of him. In fact I believe Confucius was never really out of favour except for a few years during the cultural revolution


The first answer addresses the issue of China not being in the situation to catch up technologically. I would add that Chiang Kai Shek relied more on his alliance with the United States to try to modernize his army.

The USA provided air forces with pilots, hardware for ground forces and partly advisors and training. The "partly" is caused by WW2, during which the USA fast had to train their own army before the Chinese one.


There is a Chinese saying, "Zhong xue wei ti, xi xue wei yong" (also cited by Jan). It means "Chinese learning for the spirit, western learning for use."

"Technology" was largely suspect in pre modern China. It was considered "useful" but relegated to the "foreigners," who would, presumably come bearing gifts to the "central kingdom" (which is what Zhongguo means). "Proper" Chinese people should, instead, concentrate on developing philosophy, virtue and morality. (Chiang largely felt this way because he represented a "hybrid" between ancient and modern China). That's why technological development was a "second" priority. And "self reliance" in technology was even lower down on the list because the presumption was that it could always be imported.

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