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Yang Mingwei: "What Are the New Ideas and New Initiatives of the Communist Party of China?"

2022-11-14 15:53·Xinhua Institute
by Yang Mingwei

General Secretary Xi Jinping stated, "The next five years are crucial for kicking off a good start in the endeavor to build a modern socialist country in all respects, and getting the development in these five years right is integral for achieving the Second Centenary Goal." To this end, the 20th National Party Congress should "focus on defining strategic tasks and major initiatives for the next five years" and "study and propose new ideas and new initiatives to solve problems.”

I. A Two-Stage Strategic Plan

Where is China heading in the new era? This boils down to two points.

One is to manage its own affairs well to build a modern socialist country in all aspects and achieve the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

The other point is to promote human progress, help build a new model of international relations, and promote the building of a human community with a shared future.

The first point is more fundamental as General Secretary Xi Jinping recently said, "The most important thing is that we manage our own affairs well.”

Toward which goal and direction should China manage its own affairs well? A very important perspective on this question is the two-step strategic plan for China's future development.

Made at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), this strategic plan spans from 2020 to the middle of this century and comes in two stages.

In the first stage, from 2020 to 2035, on the basis of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, China will work for another 15 years to basically realize socialist modernization.

The second stage, from 2035 to the middle of this century, on the basis of the basic realization of modernization, China will work for another 15 years to become a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.

The 20th National Congress of the CPC will take a macro view of the two-stage strategic plan to build a great modern socialist country in all respects, with a focus on the strategic tasks and major measures for the next five years.

It is a planning tradition and political advantage of the CPC to make and implement a step-by-step strategic plan for future development, and it is also a valuable experience of the CPC in governing and rejuvenating the country.

From the very beginning of the history of the People's Republic of China, economic and social development was gradually promoted in accordance with one five-year plan and long-range objective after another. In 1953, soon after the founding of the People's Republic of China, it formulated and implemented its First Five-Year Plan. According to this plan, the main task was to focus on industrialization while accelerating socialist economic transformation. Ten years later, in 1964, in the process of studying the Third Five-Year Plan, the Chinese government worked out a two-step strategy: To coincide with the beginning of the Third Five-Year Plan, the first step was to establish an independent and relatively complete industrial system and economic system in 15 years, and the second step was to, in another 15 years, achieve the four modernizations of industry, agriculture, national defense and science and technology by the end of the 20th century.

In the new period of reform and opening up, China further defined the grand goal of building a socialist modern country that is prosperous, strong, democratic and culturally advanced.

In the current new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, China has defined a new two-stage strategy for building a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.

China's development strategy has always been very clear, so have the strategic decisions made by the CPC Central Committee, and the goal of the whole people working together in the direction of a modernized country has been also very consistent.

The two-stage strategic plan has a core concept, socialist modernization, which is also the Chinese path to modernization emphasized by General Secretary Xi Jinping. 

II. What Is the Chinese Path to Modernization?

There is no such a thing as a single authorized model of modernization, nor a universally applicable standard of modernization.

This is something the international community agrees on.

When discussing the differences between U.S. approach to modernization and the Chinese path to modernization in an interview with China's Economic Observer in 2008, Mr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, categorically stated, "A rising power, China is in fact becoming a global power, and represents an alternative path to modernization and development. " 

Former French President Jacques Chirac, in an interview with People's Daily in August 2004, also said, "Since 1978, China has developed its own unique vision for the future modernization of its economy and society, and a development model for the Chinese people that still seems unique today.”

In an interview with a Xinhua reporter on December 16, 2008, Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress Party, also said, "China's approach to modernization has shown the world that this model of modernization has the potential to eradicate poverty, inject dynamism, and unleash social and economic creativity in a relatively short period of time.”

These politicians clearly saw the uniqueness of China's path to modernization.

China's socialist modernization shares the common features of modernization in all countries, but also has Chinese characteristics based on Chinese national conditions. China's path to modernization has at least five basic characteristics.

1.It is designed for a huge population.

2.It is for common prosperity for all.

3.It balances material and cultural-ethical progress.

4.It is about harmony between human beings and nature.

5.It follows a path of peaceful development.

These characteristics suggest that it is not an easy task to materialize China's path to modernization, which has at least the following highlights in its connotation.

First, it is about modernizing a large country with a population of 1.4 billion. Its goal is to modernize a society of 1.4 billion people. Although this is a very difficult task, the CPC remains committed to the value of putting the people first, constantly works to fulfill the people's aspirations for a better life, and leads them down the path to common prosperity. Therefore, the process of realizing China's path to modernization is also dynamic, ultimately leading to common prosperity through sequential and differentiated development.

Second, it seeks coordinated and comprehensive development. China's path to modernization is not about development merely in one sector, but in all sectors; it is about keeping material progress in step with cultural-ethical progress, and emphasizes the coordinated progress in five spheres—material, political, cultural-ethical, social, and ecological advancement.

Third, it focuses on the harmony between human beings and nature. It pays special attention to the relationship between human beings and nature, emphasizing the harmony between them, and seeking sound development that ensures growth, better lives, and a good environment.

Fourth, it advocates inclusive development and respects cultural diversity. China's path to modernization keeps domestic prosperity consistent with global prosperity and maintains the unity between domestic development and global benefit. China has always advocated mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries in the world, and is ready to work with them to build a human community with a shared future.

A clear understanding of the basic features and connotations of China's path to modernization reveals its essential differences from Western approaches to modernization.

It is undeniable that the Western processes of modernization and some of the important resulting achievements did make indelible contributions to human civilization. However, as the world people desire to build a human community with a shared future and pursue cultural diversity, the Western concepts, propositions, paths, and directions of modernization have long since reached a bottleneck or even gone astray.

Some old Western capitalist countries violently plundered their colonies, their approaches to modernization were based on foreign expansion and plunder, and they pursued modernization at the expense of other countries. Western approaches to modernization are capital-centered and materialistic and lead to polarization. All of these are the old paths to modernization. China's path to modernization emphasizes mutual benefit with other countries, cooperation in building a human community with a shared future, and contribution to human peace and development. It also expands new ways for developing countries to modernize and provides a brand new approach for human exploration of a better social system. 

III. The Problem of Imbalanced and Insufficient Development

The five years after the 20th National Congress of the CPC will be a critical period for China to start building a modern socialist country, and good development in these five years is crucial to achieving the Second Centenary Goal.

Of course, it is undeniable that we still have the problem of imbalanced and insufficient development in my sectors, and there are many shortcomings and weaknesses.

In terms of the principal contradiction of Chinese society, the problem of imbalanced and inadequate development is the contradiction between the people's ever-growing needs for a better life and imbalanced and inadequate development. This problem is manifested in the current Chinese economy and society.

1. The problem of imbalance

For example, there is an imbalance between the real economy and the virtual economy. China's real economy still has a structural imbalance between supply and demand, its financial sector is developing too fast, and the problem of difficult and expensive financing for real economy enterprises is prominent.

Regional development is imbalanced. China is a large country with 9.6 million square kilometers of land, and there are huge differences and uneven development between regions. These are the basic national conditions of the country. Even in economically developed regions and within developed provinces, development is also imbalanced.

Development is imbalanced between urban and rural areas. The development gap between urban and rural areas in China is still obvious. And so on.

2. The problem of insufficiency

For example, market competition is insufficient. Market access is also unfairly restricted within certain sectors.

The unleashing of potential is insufficient. China's GDP per capita is still low, and there is still huge room for improvement.

Institutional innovation is insufficient. There are still some institutional constraints under the conditions of the market economy. And so on.

These weaknesses of imbalance and insufficiency determine the direction and priorities of China's future economic and social development, and especially require that China shift to high-quality economic development. Therefore, an important task of the Party's 20th National Congress is to study how to firmly solve the problem of imbalanced and insufficient development in the critical period of the next five years, focus on addressing inadequacies, shoring up areas of weakness, seeing basic needs are met, and promoting strengths, and put forward new ideas and new initiatives to solve these problems.

IV. What Is Common Prosperity?

Leading the people to common prosperity is not only the consistent pursuit of the Chinese Communists, but a major goal set as soon as the People's Republic of China was founded. This goal was noticed by Bishop Ronald Owen Hall, an Englishman and well-known bishop of Hong Kong, in August 1949, on the eve of the founding of the People's Republic. During his sermon in Hong Kong at that time, Hall excitedly claimed, "God has been preparing China for 6,000 years for this glorious moment. I believe that under the governance of the Communist Party, this seed will grow into a great tree.” Facing the uncomprehending stares of those present, Hall further explained, "Christianity ended slavery, but was powerless to stop another evil, namely the concentration of privatized property. And private ownership always leads to poverty, and it was not only the cause of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, but also a factor in the downfall of the Kuomintang; perhaps, God created the Communist Party precisely to destroy this sin.”

The British bishop's understanding of the goal pursued by the CPC was accurate. Common prosperity is what the Chinese Communists have been leading the Chinese people in working tirelessly and continuously to achieve. Since the beginning of the new era, the Party Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, has clearly stated that leading the people to common prosperity is an important goal of socialist modernization and a major mission of the Chinese Communists in the new era.

The pursuit of common prosperity by the Chinese Communists has a long history.

The question of common prosperity is a basic problem to be solved by Marxist theory, and it is a basic vision of Marx and Engels on the situation of socialist and communist societies, as they once envisioned that in these societies, "Production will be aimed at the prosperity of all.”

After the founding of the People's Republic, Chairman Mao Zedong stated that under CPC leadership, China "can become richer and stronger every year, and every year we can see it getting richer and stronger. And this richness is common richness, and this strength is common strength; they are for all.”

Since the early 1980s, in the context of reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping had constantly reminded people, "We keep to the socialist road in order to attain the ultimate goal of common prosperity.”

After socialism with Chinese characteristics entered a new era, the Party Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, put the issue of "making solid progress in promoting common prosperity" high on the agenda, emphasizing that "achieving common prosperity is an essential requirement of socialism with Chinese characteristics and an important mission of the CPC," that "more attention must be paid to the issue of common prosperity," and that “steady progress must be made toward the goal of achieving common prosperity for all.”

Only China can truly lift such a large population out of poverty as a whole. Developed countries in Europe and the United States have not solved this prominent issue. In his first State of the Union address on January 8, 1964, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson declared an "unconditional war on poverty.”At that time, the poverty rate in the United States reached 19 percent. Subsequently, the U.S. government established the Office of Economic Opportunity to manage federal funds for poverty reduction. Since then, although the official U.S. poverty rate has been slowly declining, it has remained above 10 percent and the U.S. has not solved the problem of poverty. The European Union's policy document Europe 2020, released in 2010, proposed to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty from 80 million to 60 million by 2020, but no significant progress has been made toward this goal. 

Bringing the whole Party and the whole country together to lift people out of poverty completely can only be done with strong CPC leadership. In the 40 years before China finished the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects (i.e. between 1980 and 2020), China reduced the number of poor people by an average of nearly 19 million per year, lifting about 800 million people out of poverty in total. In 2021, the Chinese government solemnly announced that China had achieved the goal of“eliminating absolute poverty in rural areas,”securing a historic success in eradicating absolute poverty in China.

To move from poverty eradication to common prosperity has always been an important goal of China's socialist modernization; and making solid progress in common prosperity is a major issue after China has become a moderately prosperous society in all respects. 

In order to promote common prosperity, it is necessary to solve the development problem first, and achieve high-quality development; to build an income distribution system that reflects efficiency and promotes fairness; to have the entities concerned manage their own affairs well and to have all the people obey the law; and to make everyone rich, but never to “rob the rich to help the poor" or to“rob the rich to cause poverty.”

How should China achieve common prosperity? The CPC Central Committee, with General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core, has a general idea.

First, China should remain committed to the people-centered development philosophy and promote common prosperity through high-quality development.

Second, China should properly balance efficiency and fairness and build a basic institutional arrangement that coordinates primary distribution, redistribution, and tertiary distribution.

Third, China should increase the proportion of the middle-income group in the entire population, raise the income of the low-income group, reasonably adjust the income of the high-income group, and prohibit illicit income, so as to form an olive-shaped distribution structure.

Fourth, China should promote social equity and justice, ensure well-rounded development of individuals, and enable the people to make solid progress toward common prosperity.

 Of course, the Party is also very conscious of the fact that achieving common prosperity for all is an extremely difficult task and a long-term and complicated historical process; there are no shortcuts available, and the task must be accomplished through the hard work of all Chinese people. For this reason, General Secretary Xi Jinping has repeatedly reminded all Party members to "move steadily toward the goal of common prosperity for all.”

V. The Chinese Style in China's Development Theory

The thought guiding China's development is undoubtedly Marxism adapted to the Chinese context, especially the latest theories resulting from adapting Marxism to the Chinese context. In China, Marxism must be combined with Chinese reality and fine traditional Chinese culture, thus revealing more "Chinese characteristics, style and ethos.” 

In China's guiding thought and diplomatic philosophy, elements of fine traditional Chinese culture are very obvious, and some foreign politicians also know it well. Former U.S. President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger spoke of it many times. In his book On China, for example, Kissinger said, "China is unique in that no other country enjoys such a long unbroken civilization and is able to carry on the history and tradition of ancient strategies and political tactics in such a continuous manner.” 

In the process of adapting Marxism to Chinese reality, the Chinese Communists have incorporated many elements of China's fine traditional culture, and there are many natural fits and intrinsic integrations between Marxism and Chinese culture.

For example, among China's goals are pursuing a just cause for the common good and a society of great harmony.

In China's guiding principles, there is the essence of the traditional culture of seeking truth from facts.

In the government's relationship with the people, there is the idea of putting the people first and bringing security, prosperity and happiness to them.

In Chinese epistemology, there is the idea of uniting knowledge and action, staying behavior-oriented and promoting action with knowledge.

In Chinese dialectics, there are the ideas that fortune and misfortune are two buckets in the same well, yin and yang coexist, and as a matter of reality extremes in fortune and misfortune would find their own mean.

The development goal of a moderately prosperous society, the principle of combining the rule of law with the rule of virtue, the people-centered development philosophy, and the initiative of building a human community with a shared future all embody some of the essence of ideas in China's fine traditional culture.

Therefore, our guiding thought is first of all Marxist and is Marxism integrated with Chinese reality and adapted to the Chinese context, but also rich in Chinese wisdom and Chinese spirit, with Chinese style and ethos. These ideas are in line with China's reality and can guide China's development and progress.

VI. Chinese Diplomacy Has a Theme

On the basis of managing its own affairs well, how does China handle its international relations? The general idea is to use the major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics to establish a new model of international relations, build a human community with a shared future, carry forward the common values of peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom for all humanity, and lead the trend of human progress.

China's diplomatic philosophy has gained wide approval in the international community. Back in 2017, when President Xi Jinping delivered a speech entitled“Toward a Human Community with a Shared Future" at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, the speech resonated strongly with some 800 heads of international organizations and envoys and dignitaries from different countries on the spot and was responded with more than 30 rounds of applause. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, said in an interview, "The idea of building a human community with a shared future advocated by China is, for me, the only future for humanity on this planet.” 

This comment should be said to be the common feeling of all unbiased people in the international community. Why do they feel this way? Because the major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics has a clear theme: serving national rejuvenation and promoting human progress.

This theme can be summarized as follows: 

First, keeping to the path of peaceful development

China will continue to hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit and uphold its fundamental foreign policy goal of preserving world peace and promoting common development. It will oppose acts that interfere in the internal affairs of others as well as the practice of the strong bullying the weak. It will work toward a new model of international relations based on mutual respect, equity, justice, and win-win cooperation. China will work with all countries of the world to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity, and to build a human community with a shared future.

Second, building global partnerships

China will continue to improve the global network of partnerships and build comprehensive strategic cooperative partnerships on all fronts. It will properly handle differences and frictions on the basis of equality and mutual respect. It will further enhance strategic mutual trust and common interests with neighboring countries in accordance with the concept of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness. China will uphold justice while pursuing shared interests with other countries and develop unity and cooperation with other developing countries. 

Third, pursuing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation 

China will continue to uphold the golden rule of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration on the basis of the current pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative. It will stay committed to the vision of open, green and clean cooperation to pursue high-quality and sustainable advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Fourth, continuing to lead the reform of the global governance system

China will continue to actively engage in the reform and development of the global governance system. It will uphold the international system with the UN at its core, the international order underpinned by international law, and the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core in order to avoid governance vacuums and governance chaos and maintain the health and stability of the global governance system.

Fifth, continuing to safeguard China's national sovereignty, security and development interests

China will take more solid actions and stronger measures to build a solid defense line to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests.

President Xi Jinping once said, "Building a human community with a shared future is an exciting goal, and it requires efforts from generation to generation. China is ready to work with all the other UN member states as well as international organizations and agencies to advance the great cause of building a human community with a shared future.”