An essential part of the Chinese identity is the well-rooted conviction that China represents a political and cultural unicum founded on an ancient tradition and on the awareness of a deep continuity with the past, the admiration for a mythical golden age, and the cult of the ances-tors. Just how vital the roots of the various traditions of ancient thought still are today is dem-onstrated by the history of the last few centuries and the new relationship with the West. To understand recent events, then, requires a good knowledge of China’s historical and philoso-phical background. Without it, political and ideological positions nurtured on a sort of prag-matism that is well informed by traditional principles risk being viewed as contradictory and inconsistent. This paper presents one of the founding concepts of Chinese identity, that of “centrality”, and its relevance to the history of ancient Chinese political thought from the per-spective of its current importance.
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