Amajor political determination was announced at the 19th National Congress of the CPC: socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. This specifies the new historical juncture in China’s development, endowing the Party’s historic mission, theoretical guideline, goals, and tasks with new currency. It also identifies the temporal context and scientific basis that enable us to fully appreciate the new features of contemporary China’s development and reform, and apply Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in a more purposeful and determined manner.
I. Basic evidence that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era
The CPC was born in response to the trend of the times; its development, growth, and maturation have also been in conformity with the trend of the times. In today’s China, to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, it is essential that we understand the peculiarities of the current era and confront contemporary issues, so that Chinese socialism will continue to show strong vitality while embodying the spirit of the times, reflecting a mastery of the laws of development, and demonstrating creativity. With an accurate grasp of this new historical juncture in China’s development, our Party has made the major political determination that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, a determination with solid temporal, theoretical, and practical underpinnings.
First, this determination is based on the fact that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new stage of development.
Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core has accurately understood major development trends at home and abroad, and acted in line with practical needs and the people’s wishes. With great political courage and a strong sense of responsibility, the Central Committee has set the direction, made overall plans, and braved challenges with a pioneering spirit. On this basis, it has made historic achievements in reform, opening up, and socialist modernization, and propelled historic changes in the undertakings of the Party and the country. The high intensity, wide scope, marked effect, and far-reaching impact of these changes are unprecedented in the history of the CPC, the history of the development of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the history of the development of the Chinese nation. On the basis of the major achievements made in China’s development since the founding of the PRC in 1949, especially those made since reform and opening up, it is clear that China’s development has come to a new historical starting point and that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new stage of development. This new stage of development not only runs in continuity with the nearly 40 years of reform and opening up, but also incorporates many new features of contemporary relevance. For example, it incorporates new breakthroughs in the Party’s theoretical innovations, major innovations in the Party’s methods and principles of governance, major shifts in the principles and models the Party uses to drive development, major changes in the environment and conditions in which China’s development takes place, and higher demands regarding the level and quality of development. In order to correctly understand and fully engage with the new stage of development at which socialism with Chinese characteristics finds itself, we need to make considerations and plans in light of this new historical juncture and temporal context.
Second, this determination is based on the evolution of the principal contradiction in Chinese society.
At the 19th National Congress, it was stated that the principal contradiction in Chinese society, which used to be that between the people’s ever-growing material and cultural needs and backward social production, has evolved into that between the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life and unbalanced and inadequate development. Regarding China’s development, this statement reflects its realities, reveals its major constraining factors, and identifies the fundamental priorities it faces today. After nearly 40 years of reform and opening up, China has ensured the basic needs of over a billion people have been met, has basically made it possible for people to make a decent living, and will soon become a moderately prosperous society. Meanwhile, the people have increasingly broad needs to be met for a better life. Not only have they voiced growing material and cultural needs; they also have increased demands regarding democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security, and the environment. At the same time, China’s overall productive forces have significantly improved and in many areas the country’s production capacity leads the world. At present and into the future, a prominent problem we need to address is that of unbalanced and inadequate development. Unbalanced development refers to developmental imbalances between different regions, sectors of society, and aspects of those sectors, which have restrained China’s overall development; inadequate development refers to the problem that development in some regions, sectors of society, and aspects of those sectors lags behind, and that much work remains to be done with regard to development. These have become major obstacles to meeting the people’s needs for a better life. The evolution of the principal contradiction in Chinese society will undoubtedly exert an extensive and profound influence on China’s overall development. In order to correctly understand and fully engage with the evolution of the principal contradiction in Chinese society, we also need to make considerations and plans in light of this new historical juncture and temporal context.
A flower terrace inspired by the “Chinese Dream” XINHUA
Third, this determination is also based on a reassessment of the Party’s goals.
The period between the 19th and the 20th national congresses is the period in which the timeframes of the “Two Centenary Goals” converge. In this period, not only must we achieve the first centenary goal of becoming a moderately prosperous society; we must also build on this achievement to embark on a new journey toward the second centenary goal of becoming a modern socialist country. This glorious mission and weighty responsibility require further top-level design and meticulous planning. The 19th National Congress conducted a thorough analysis of the international and domestic situations as well as of the conditions in which China’s development is taking place, and outlined specific requirements for securing a decisive victory in becoming a moderately prosperous society, and divided the second centenary goal into two stages. In the first stage from 2020 to 2035, building on the foundation created by the moderately prosperous society, we will work hard for a further 15 years to see that socialist modernization is basically realized; in the second stage from 2035 to the middle of the 21st century, building on having basically achieved modernization, we will work hard for a further 15 years and see that China develops into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful. This is our strategic plan for the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics for the new era. It not only identifies a clearer road map and timetable for realizing the “Two Centenary Goals,” but also indicates that China’s original goal of basically achieving modernization will be reached 15 years ahead of schedule, and that the second centenary goal has been enriched and upgraded to developing China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful. In order to correctly understand and engage with this inspiring and feasible goal and this grand, new blueprint, we also need to make considerations and plans in light of this new historical juncture and temporal context.
Fourth, this determination is based on the new changes in the international environment that China faces.
The world is in a period of major development, transformation, and adjustment, and China’s development is still in an important period of strategic opportunity; the prospects are bright but the challenges are severe. China is at the crucial stage of its transformation from being a large country to becoming a strong one, and this transformation increasingly brings with it the phenomenon whereby success invites detraction. China is confronted with a more complex external environment in which some countries and international forces have become increasingly apprehensive about China, or attempt to contain or coerce it; this is also a major issue that we need to face. China’s development is increasingly integrated, interrelated, and interactive with the outside world, and China is moving closer to center stage. To conclude that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, we have also given full consideration to the new changes in the international situation and our neighboring environment.
Generally speaking, the major political determination that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era is made on the basis of accurately grasping three key changes. First are the major changes in contemporary trends and in the international situation. Second are the profound developments globally, nationally, and within the Party. Last are the new situations, issues, and conflicts that have been, will be, or might be encountered, or that are unpredictable during the period when we work to realize the “Two Centenary Goals.” This determination conforms to the realities of socialism with Chinese characteristics. It is the consequent outcome of China’s social progress since reform and opening up, of the movement of the principal contradiction in Chinese society, and of the historic changes in the undertakings of the Party and the country in the five years following the 18th National Congress; it is also essential for our Party’s efforts to unite all Chinese people and lead them to a bright future.
II. Major implications of Chinese socialism’s entrance into a new era
The major political determination that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era has neither emerged out of thin air, nor is it a simplistic new concept. Rather, it contains rich and profound ideas.
First, this new era will be an era of building on past successes to further advance our cause, and of continuing in a new historical context to strive for the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the fundamental achievement that our Party and people have made through 96 years of struggle, creation, and accumulation. Especially since reform and opening up, our Party has led the people in following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, thus unleashing the creativity of our people, unlocking and developing productive forces, and significantly enhancing the vitality of our society and the international standing of our country. As a result, unprecedented changes have taken place in the very face of the CPC, the country, the people, the military, and the nation, and socialism in China has displayed strong vitality. Deng Xiaoping pointed out in the 1980s, “Only our achievements in economic development can eventually convince those who do not believe in socialism. If we can become comparatively prosperous by the end of this century, they will be partly convinced, and when we have turned China into a moderately developed socialist country by the middle of the next century, they will be completely convinced.” In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the number one task of our Party in governing the country is to unite the people and lead them in achieving the “Two Centenary Goals” with a firm commitment to upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, in a bid to write a new, monumental chapter of Chinese socialism and allow socialism in China to display even stronger vitality.
Second, this new era will be an era of securing a decisive victory in becoming a moderately prosperous society, and of moving on with all-out efforts to develop into a great modern socialist country.
Regarding the realization of the “Two Centenary Goals,” the 19th National Congress set forth clear requirements for progress with regards to the economy, political affairs, culture, society, and the environment. These requirements are forward-looking, targeted, and of strategic importance, with theoretical, political, and reformative implications. Becoming a moderately prosperous society on schedule by 2020 is a solemn promise that our Party has made to our people and to history. There are many difficulties ahead if we are to achieve this goal. The period between now and 2020 will be decisive in becoming a moderately prosperous society; it calls for the concerted and tireless efforts of our whole Party and country. There are also many difficulties ahead if we are to achieve the second centenary goal, which is to fully develop into a great modern socialist country. In world history, of the countries and regions that have already modernized, the majority did so in nearly 300 years following the Industrial Revolution. However, in the space of just one century, China needs to complete a process of modernization that took place over the course of several centuries in developed countries. This is a transition not only of extraordinary speed and scale, but also of extraordinary breadth, depth, and difficulty. Therefore, it is an essential requirement and historic task of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era that we strive to become a moderately prosperous society and a great modern socialist country with resolve and tenacity.
Third, this new era will be an era for the Chinese people of all ethnic groups to work together and work hard to create a better life for themselves and ultimately achieve common prosperity for everyone.
It is the eternal goal of our Party to help the people achieve the better life for which they yearn. The essence of socialism is to liberate and develop productive forces, eradicate exploitation, end polarization, and ultimately realize common prosperity. The 19th National Congress designated the continued efforts to create a better life for the people and the progressive achievement of common prosperity for everyone as the target and ultimate purpose of development. This designation embodies the people-centered philosophy of development, the Party’s fundamental principle of wholeheartedly serving the people, and the requirements intrinsic to socialism with Chinese characteristics. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, a major task of our Party is to pay greater attention to the people’s new, diversified demands for a better life, to social fairness and justice, and to doing more to improve the lives and address the concerns of the people. The focus of such efforts is to see that all our people have a greater sense of fulfillment as they contribute to and gain from development, that they enjoy happier, safer, and healthier lives, and that solid, new progress is made in ensuring common prosperity for everyone.
Fourth, this new era will be an era for all of us, the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation, to strive with one heart to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
National rejuvenation has been the greatest dream of the Chinese people since the Opium War of 1840; it embodies the long-cherished hopes of generations of Chinese people. The founding of the PRC laid solid foundations for national rejuvenation, while the great new revolution of reform and opening up has injected strong vitality into national rejuvenation. Under the leadership of the CPC, China, as the world’s largest developing country, has performed an earth-shaking miracle in the history of human development, with the Chinese nation being infused with new vigor and vitality. Today, due to historic changes that have taken place since the 18th National Congress, we are now closer than ever to realizing the goal of national rejuvenation, as we are more confident and more capable than ever of making this goal a reality. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, by creating a mighty force that enables the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation to realize the Chinese Dream, and through continued efforts to forge ahead, we will surely be able to reach our goal of national rejuvenation, and the Chinese nation will surely become a proud and active member of the community of nations.
Fifth, this new era will be an era that sees China moving closer to the world’s center stage and making greater contributions to humanity.
In today’s world, the dream of the Chinese people is closely connected with the dreams of the peoples of other countries; the Chinese Dream can be realized only in a peaceful international environment and under a stable international order. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, we face profound adjustments in the international landscape and international relations as well as an external environment in which regional conflicts and turmoil frequently take place, and human beings have many common challenges to address. Thus, we must keep in mind both our internal and international imperatives, continue to hold high the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit, and uphold our fundamental foreign policy goal of preserving world peace and promoting common development. We will firmly pursue the goal of building a community with a shared future for humanity, stay on the path of peaceful development, and continue to pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up. We will uphold the greater good while pursuing shared interests, and will foster new thinking on common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security. We will pursue open, innovative, and inclusive development that benefits everyone; boost cross-cultural exchanges characterized by harmony within diversity, inclusiveness, and mutual learning; and cultivate ecosystems based on respect for nature and green development. China will continue its efforts to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order. Historically, China made great contributions to human civilization. In the new era, it is certain that China is capable of making new and greater contributions to world peace and development and to the prosperity and progress of humanity.
III. A new look and new accomplishments required for the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics
Chinese socialism’s entrance into a new era is of tremendous importance in the history of the development of both the PRC and the Chinese nation. It is also of tremendous importance in the history of the development of international socialism and of human society. What it means is that the Chinese nation, which since modern times had endured so much for so long, has achieved a tremendous transformation: it has stood up, become prosperous, and grown strong; it has come to embrace the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation. It also means that scientific socialism is full of vitality in 21st century China, and that the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics is now flying high and proud for all to see. It means that the path, the theory, the system, and the culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics have kept developing, blazing a trail for other developing countries to achieve modernization. It offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence; and it offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing humanity.
Chinese socialism’s entrance into a new era makes many new demands on the work of the Party and the country. All Party members, especially officials at all levels, should improve their moral integrity, capability, and conduct and get more motivated. All Party members should actively engage with this new era by forging ahead with a pioneering spirit, and make new achievements that do justice to the new era, in a continued effort to advance socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The new era requires arming ourselves with new thoughts.
Conforming to Chinese socialism entering into a new era, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context, an important component of the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and a guide to action for all Party members and all the Chinese people as we strive to achieve national rejuvenation. The report to the 19th National Congress and the newly revised CPC Constitution passed at the congress summed up the Central Committee’s new ideas, new thinking, and new strategies for national governance since the 18th National Congress as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” It also defined this thought as a guiding principle that the Party must uphold on a long-term basis. A strategic task has been set to arm the whole Party with Xi Jinping Thought, and a strategic arrangement has been made to launch a campaign under the theme of “staying true to our founding mission” throughout our Party, which are of political, theoretical, and practical significance. With a strong awareness of our political responsibility and historic mission, we need to bear in mind the realities of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, study and act on Xi Jinping Thought, and align our thoughts and actions with the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress. By ensuring that officials take the lead, we will arm the whole Party with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, so that all Party members thoroughly understand the scientific system, theoretical essence, and practical requirements of this thought and fully grasp the Marxist standpoints, viewpoints, and methods embodied in this thought. We will vigorously promote our fine tradition of linking theory and practice, and ensure that our Party is good at learning, at exercising political leadership, at advancing reform and innovation, at promoting sound development, at exercising law-based governance, at engaging with the people, at implementing policy, and at managing risks. On this basis, we will turn the Party’s theory into strength, and ensure that our Party members strive to fulfill the Party’s historic mission in a more determined and purposeful manner.
The new era requires new ideas and measures.
On the one hand, China entering a new era and the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society do not change our assessment of the present stage of socialism in China. The basic dimension of the Chinese context – that our country is still and will long remain in the primary stage of socialism – has not changed. China’s international status as the world’s largest developing country has not changed. Development is still our Party’s top priority in governance. We must be completely clear about this fundamental dimension of our national context, and must base our work on this most important reality – the primary stage of socialism. We must remain fully committed to the Party’s basic line as the source that keeps the Party and the country going and that brings happiness to the people. On the other hand, as the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved, development in the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics differs greatly from the past in terms of its meaning, focus, vision, means, environment, conditions, standard, and requirements. This requires that we improve our efforts to implement the new development philosophy, put forward new ways of thinking, new strategies, and new measures for addressing unbalanced and inadequate development, and strive to achieve better quality, more efficient, fairer, and more sustainable development. Most fundamentally, we need to fully implement the Party’s basic theory, line, and policy for the primary stage of socialism, and continue to make our work more principled, systematic, forward-looking, and creative. In line with the requirements for the new era and on the basis of continuing to promote development through new ideas and measures, we will make more effective efforts to resolve various problems in Chinese society, to ensure all-round progress in various initiatives, and to develop the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The new era requires new improvements in the conduct and image of the Party.
In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the “four tests” (tests that relate to governance, reform and opening up, the market economy, and the external environment) and “four dangers” (a lack of drive, incompetence, disengagement from the people, inaction and corruption) confronting our Party are still complex, intense, grave, and long-term in nature. Ensuring Party self-governance is exercised fully and strictly is a journey to which there is no end. This requires that we thoroughly implement the arrangements of the 19th National Congress, uphold and strengthen overall Party leadership, and strive to make the Party stronger and more competent, so as to build our Party into a vibrant Marxist governing party that is always at the forefront of the times, enjoys the wholehearted support of the people, has the courage to reform itself, and is able to withstand all tests. We need to give top priority to the Party’s political building, exert its leading role in Party building, and apply the requirements of political building in our initiatives to strengthen the Party’s theory, consolidate its organizations, improve its conduct, enforce its discipline, and combat corruption. The requirements of political building should also be applied in our concrete efforts to carry out political activities within the Party in earnest, improve democratic centralism, develop a positive and healthy political culture in the Party, and foster a healthy political atmosphere of integrity within the Party. Party officials need to strengthen their consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and act consistently with the Central Committee policy; closely align themselves with the Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core in terms of political stance, direction, principle, and path; and loyally support and uphold our leadership core through conscious thoughts and actions. On this basis, we will safeguard the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee, thus providing strong political and organizational guarantees for upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era and achieving the “Two Centenary Goals.”
(Originally appeared in People’s Daily, November 9, 2017)
Li Zhanshu is Standing Committee Member of the 19th CPC Central Committee.