Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.20, 2014
From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal | Updated: 2014-Nov-19
■ The statement that the Chinese path is both correct and viable is not a matter of personal opinion. Rather, it is the powerful answer that has been received through practice, and the profound conclusion that has been reached through historical and international comparisons. China, instead of going down the rigid, “closed-door” path of the past or embarking upon the erroneous path of changing its political system, has pioneered the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
■ The path a country takes and the system it employs are closely linked to one another. Without the right system to support it, the success of a path would be impossible. China’s unique system was derived from a process of “washing away the sand to reveal the gold.” Since the advent of modern times, China has tried on “shoes” of all shapes and sizes. At one point, it even sought to copy the system of the West. None of these, however, resulted in success.
■ Values constitute the core element of a development path. For this reason, no interpretation of the Chinese path would be complete without affording consideration to values. The deepest and most enduring strength that a nation and country can have lies in the core values commonly recognized in its society.
■ The Chinese path is the choice and the creation of the people. It has been pioneered by the people through their actions under the leadership of the CPC.
■ No one is more qualified to comment on the merits of a path than those who are following it. The Chinese people are able to directly appreciate the correctness of the Chinese path – a feeling which comes from the constant improvements in their standard of living, the huge changes that have taken place to the face of the country, and their strong optimism for the future. Moreover, they genuinely support this path from the bottom of their hearts.
No two leaves in the world are identical. Similarly, the development paths that different countries follow are not exactly the same. As General Secretary Xi Jinping has noted, a nation and country must know who they are, where they come from, and where they are going; once they are clear on these issues, they must advance towards their goals with unyielding determination. Today, China is marching forwards on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Being deeply rooted in history and broadly based on China’s present realities, this path has emerged from our great endeavors in reform and opening up over more than 30 years; from our constant explorations since the founding of the People’s Republic of China more than 60 years ago; from our profound summary of the Chinese nation’s experiences during more than 170 years of modern history; and from our inheritance of more than 5,000 years of Chinese cultural heritage. This path conforms to China’s realities, is suited to its features and responds to the needs of contemporary development. It is the path that we must follow if we are to create better lives for the people and achieve the Chinese Dream – the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Embarking on the Chinese path
We have pulled away from the crowd and come to the front position in the “international contest”.
The statement that the Chinese path is both correct and viable is not a matter of personal opinion. Rather, it is the powerful answer that has been received through practice, and the profound conclusion that has been reached through historical and international comparisons. If we compare how poor and weak China was at the end of the Opium War, and how poor and backward it was when the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, to how reinvigorated and vibrant it is today, it can be said that history has made a giant leap forward and great advances that few could have imagined, serving as a testament to the Chinese path – the path that the Chinese people have pioneered under the leadership of the Communist Party of China – in the most vivid possible way.
There is no judge better than practice, and nothing more convincing than a comparison. Since the end of World War II, and especially over the last three decades, a discreet contest between the developmental paths and models of different countries has been playing out around the world. In this contest, many countries have made a head start on China, had more abundant resources and enjoyed a more favorable external environment than China. However, after many years of tussling, the outcome of this contest is now becoming evident. Some countries opted to change their banner, only to lead themselves astray and land themselves in a tough predicament; some others opted to copy the systems of other countries, only to discover that these systems were incompatible with their local conditions, producing results very different from the ones intended. Coming in sharp contrast is China, which instead of going down the rigid, “closed-door” path of the past or embarking upon the erroneous path of changing its political system, has pioneered the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
By following this path, China has managed to complete, over a period of several decades, a process of development that took place over the course of several centuries in developed countries, realizing a historic leap from poverty to subsistence and further to moderate prosperity in overall terms. Advancing in great strides, the Chinese nation has caught up with the pace of contemporary development to come in touch with the prospects for its great rejuvenation. Looking at China’s economic development, for example, during the period from 1979 to 2012, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an average rate of 9.8% per year – considerably faster than the world average of 2.8% for the same period; China’s economy grew to become the second largest in the world – raising its share of the global economy from less than 2% to almost 12%; and China went from a state of material deprivation in which commodities were extremely scarce to being the “world’s factory,” moving towards the “center of the world stage.”
Of course, this path has not been an easy one; on the way we have suffered many setbacks, endured many tests, and overcome many risks and challenges. A more recent case is that we have responded to a formidable challenge in the form of the global financial crisis. China’s response to the crisis was nothing short of exceptional: as the first country to mount a successful recovery, China became an important engine driving the global economy out of the slump. Several years ago China’s contribution to world economic growth exceeded 20%; now it is as high as 30%. Some leading politicians and scholars in the world have used “the most important event of our time” to describe the huge changes China has undergone, and have called China’s achievements “unparalleled.” Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger went even further by describing China’s achievements “hard to imagine” and “beyond imagination.”
Since the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as General Secretary has taken over the baton of history, upheld the guiding role of Marxism, committed itself to the Chinese path, and engaged in efforts to broaden this path as the times advance, thereby opening up a new chapter in the development of Chinese socialism.
On the path towards realizing our dream, the CPC Central Committee has balanced domestic considerations with international ones, committed itself to comprehensively deepening reform, and demonstrated the courage to grapple with the toughest of problems and brave the most treacherous of waters. It has resolutely eliminated defects present in various systems and mechanisms, and advanced the modernization of our country’s governance system and governance capacity; it has adapted to a new state of economic growth, maintained a commitment to seeking steady progress while engaging in reform and innovation, and promoted sustained and sound economic growth; it has improved and guaranteed public wellbeing on the basis of China’s realities, and weaved a stronger social safety net; it has upheld the principle that the Party should govern itself according to a strict code of discipline, grappled the issue of conduct by taking vigorous action, and combated corruption with a zero-tolerance attitude; and it has persisted in pursuing the path of peaceful development, devoted major efforts to establishing a new model of international relations based on cooperation and mutual benefit, and won both the sincere support of the people and the widespread recognition of the international community. Through these efforts, the Party and state have opened up new horizons, created a new social atmosphere, and made new achievements, thereby laying down a new historical milestone on the Chinese path.
Decoding the Chinese Path
We have created an institutional civilization that boasts unique features and advantages.
As the miracle of China’s development has received increasingly high levels of attention and China’s international influence has continued to grow, “decoding China” has become a popular topic of discussion among the international community. How has China done it? How has the Communist Party of China done it? Questions such as these have frequently been the subject of much thought.
The path a country takes and the system it employs are closely linked to one another. Without the right system to support it, the success of a path would be impossible. China’s unique system was derived from a process of “washing away the sand to reveal the gold.” Since the advent of modern times, China has tried on “shoes” of all shapes and sizes. At one point, it even sought to copy the system of the West. None of these, however, resulted in success. It was not until the birth of the Communist Party of China that things really began to change. Through their bitter explorations, the Chinese people, led by the Communist Party of China, have discovered the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics; formulated its theoretical framework and established the Chinese socialist system. Compared with other systems, China’s system has shown marked advantages in a number of areas, being demonstrative of an institutional civilization with unique features and advantages.
First, our system is highly rational and effective with regard to decision-making and enforcement. The capacity of a country to make decisions and enforce them constitutes an important criterion for gauging the merits of that country’s system. Nothing can be achieved when decisions are made one minute and then changed the next on a whim. In a recent interview, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that if Afghanistan had the opportunity to choose again, it would certainly choose a Chinese-style path of development. This was because it was highly effective in taking action, resolute in its decision making, and results-oriented. These remarks shed light on one of the most prominent advantages of China’s system. Our system is able to focus on the overall interests of the people and the long-term development of the country. It ensures that decisions can be made rationally and promptly; enforced efficiently and effectively; and that a balance of continuity and innovation can be attained. Each of China’s Five-Year Plans, for instance, is formulated through a process of consultations among all interested parties, with opinions being conveyed upwards and then fed back downwards time and again until a consensus is reached and a decision is made.
The huge capacity of China’s system for action is even more evident in cases where we are able to pool national strength to carry out major undertakings and overcome major adversities. During our response to the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province in 2008, for instance, the entire country rushed into action upon the calls of the CPC Central Committee, and this quickly culminated in a disaster relief effort of monumental proportions. As a result, we were able to mount an effective reconstruction effort within a relatively short period of time.
Second, our system boasts extensive and effective people’s democracy. Our democracy is people’s democracy. Solving problems through consultation, addressing the concerns of the many through the consultation of the many, and finding common ground with regard to the wishes and demands of society as a whole – these are the essential aspects of people’s democracy. China implements a fundamental political system of people’s congresses, and a set of basic political systems which include the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the CPC; the system of regional ethnic autonomy; and the system of community-level self-governance. Our country’s socialist democracy is realized through two key forms: on the one hand, the people exercise their rights by participating in elections and casting their votes; and on the other, people enjoy a multi-level institutionalized consultative democracy on an extensive basis. These forms of democracy are not only supported by complete institutional procedures; they also feature complete participation in practice. They are conducive to ensuring that the Party is able to lead the people in effectively governing the country; that the people are able to engage in day-to-day political activities on a sustained basis; that the people are able to participate in democratic elections, decision-making, management, and supervision in accordance with the law; and that the cooperation and coordination of various social forces can be strengthened.
In contrast, the flaws and limitations of Western-style democracy – which is primarily characterized by the multi-party system and the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers – are becoming increasingly evident. Even some Western scholars have acknowledged that Western-style democracy has experienced a profound crisis in recent years, with the balancing function of democracy becoming an impediment to the exercise of power and contention between rivaling parties holding national interests to ransom. Some countries which blindly “transplanted” Western-style democracy, or which had it “infused” from the outside, have been plagued by repeated changes of government and social turbulence, resulting in the “death of democracy.” There can be no democratic system more reliable or effective than one that is rooted in a country’s soils and preserved by the rich nutrients drawn therefrom.
Therefore, it is important that we stay clear-headed and maintain our political resolve on this issue. We cannot afford to neglect what is basic in favor of what is trivial, or to imitate others at the expense of what makes us unique.
Third, our system allows for the selection and appointment of people whose moral character and competence have been put to the test at various levels of office. Over the course of long-term explorations, we have developed a vibrant mechanism for the selection and appointment of competent people with sound moral character, which allows us to enlist outstanding talents from all walks of life to the various causes of the Party and state. Before assuming posts of leadership, officials at all levels are required to undergo a rigorous process that consists of official evaluation, democratic recommendation, and competitive selection. All officials in leading posts have been tested over time and tempered through the course of their work; they all have gained a broad range of work experience and an outstanding record at low-ranking posts. The tests that leading officials must undergo were vividly depicted in the short animation How Leaders Become Leaders, which took the web by storm. Now, the Chinese “Kung-fu” style practice of selecting and appointing people whose moral character and competence have been tempered on a long-term basis is increasingly receiving recognition from people of insight around the world.
Fourth, our system allows the “invisible hand” of the market and the “visible hand” of the government to work together as one. China practices a socialist market economy whose most distinguishing feature is the joint emphasis on the role of the market and that of the government. In other words, it seeks to make good use of both the “invisible hand” and the “visible hand.” This institutional arrangement not only observes the general rules of the market economy, but also makes up for its deficiencies such as blindness, spontaneity, and hysteresis. In doing so, it effectively links together the role of the market and that of the government. Relying on this system, we have presented the world with stunning performances of our socialist market economy. Some countries, in contrast, have turned to the cure prescribed by neoliberalism, indulging in all-out liberalization, privatization, and marketization in spite of their local realities. As a result, these countries have descended into a developmental trap from which they find it hard to escape. With the broadening of our experience and the deepening of our understanding, our Party has proposed the critically important theory of “enabling the market to play the decisive role in the allocation of resources and the government to exert its role more effectively.” With this, we have scientifically redefined the relationship between the market and the government. This will surely help the constant deepening of China’s economic reform and bring the advantages of the socialist market economy further into play.
In his speech to mark the 60th anniversary of the National People’s Congress, General Secretary Xi introduced an important criterion for judging whether or not the political system of a country is democratic and effective. According to this criterion, the decisive progress that China has made constitutes a convincing performance. Facts have demonstrated that China’s system, with its huge advantages, tenacity, vitality, and potential, has added to and developed the institutional civilization of human society. Some overseas scholars have pointed out that the Western model of development is currently reverting back to its original state as a regional development model. The success of China’s system has ushered in a new era of plurality in which different systems exist side by side and compete with one another. Even Francis Fukuyama, known for his “end of history” theory, suggests that the Chinese model has important advantages not found in the democratic systems of the West, and that a place should be reserved for China in the treasure trove of human thinking.
Tracing the Roots of the Chinese Path
We have brought together the deepest and most enduring aspects of our inner strength.
Chinese culture is the “root” and “soul” of the Chinese nation. It is the rich soil from which the Chinese path has emerged and expanded. This splendid culture, which the Chinese nation has created over the course of more than 5,000 years, is home to a wealth of precious ideas and noble values. It embodies important wisdom that helps us to address the difficulties that humanity faces today. Some examples include the fine ideals of “Datong” (universal harmony) and “Xiaokang” (universal prosperity); the philosophy of national governance crystalized in “The people represent the foundation of a nation, and national stability is only possible when this foundation is solid”; the undying spirit of determination found in “As Nature thrives through self-regeneration, so should a man of noble character ceaselessly strive for self-improvement”; the important notions of “harmony in diversity” and “harmonious coexistence”; and the great sense of inclusiveness expressed in “acting in good faith and cultivating harmony” and pursuing “peace among all countries.” Each of these notions has a deep subconscious influence on the way the Chinese people think and act.
Following the advent of modern times, however, some people have attributed China’s backwardness not only to its inferior technology and system, but also to its inferior culture. Thus, they have lost all faith in Chinese culture, and even called for all-out westernization. However, the Communist Party of China has held high the great banner of Chinese culture, calling for the development of advanced culture. Through the application of scientific theories, it has enriched Chinese culture with advanced thinking. During the long course of China’s revolution, construction, and reform, we have maintained our stance on Chinese culture, carried forward its genes, and promoted its creative transformation and progress. In doing so, we have succeeded in developing a contemporary Chinese culture, which has served as a rich source of nutrition for the creation and advancement of the Chinese path.
Values constitute the core element of a development path. For this reason, no interpretation of the Chinese path would be complete without affording consideration to values. The deepest and most enduring strength that a nation and country can have lies in the core values commonly recognized in its society. The core socialist values that our Party has proposed – namely, prosperity, democracy, civility, and harmony; freedom, equality, justice and rule of law; and patriotism, dedication, integrity, and amicability – constitute a profound answer to the major questions of what kind of country we hope to build, what kind of society we hope to establish, and what kind of citizens we hope to foster. They represent a crystalized expression of the Chinese path from the perspective of ethos and values. Carrying forward the essence of China’s fine traditional culture, this set of core values embodies the fundamental character, developmental requirements, and goals of Chinese socialism. They constitute the greatest common divisor in the values of 1.3 billion Chinese people.
In pursuing the Chinese path against a global backdrop of increasingly frequent clashing, communication, and integration of different ideas and cultures, we have engaged in major efforts to develop our framework of core socialist values and worked actively to foster and practice these values, thereby establishing guiding principles amidst plurality whilst seeking consensus amidst diversity. This has enabled us to effectively integrate ideas and value orientations in our society. In order to uphold and widen the Chinese path, it is essential that we have more confidence in our values. Under no circumstances should we blindly parrot Western values or lose our independent ethos.
Once the grains of sand have been washed away, what remains is gold. The formation and development of the Chinese path not only implies greater material abundance and more refined systems, but also stronger aspirations and a revitalized culture. Most importantly, the Chinese path has allowed us to bring forth a great Chinese spirit, which we have done by inheriting and carrying forward a national spirit with patriotism at its core, and by forging a contemporary spirit with reform and innovation at its core.
On this path, we have survived all manner of major trials, and weathered all kinds of risks and challenges. These experiences have served to infuse the Chinese spirit with new vitality and meaning on a constant basis, inspiring the Chinese people to march ever forward in high spirits. On this path, we have also painted a splendid picture of cultural development and prosperity: traditional forms of culture such as opera, folk arts and music, novels, and poetry have demonstrated new vitality; modern forms of culture such as films, television serials, popular music, and online animations have flourished; creative activities in culture have been constantly strengthened; and people’s cultural and non-material lives have become increasingly diverse and abundant. Thus, it is important to note that only when something has taken shape on the inside can it be expressed on the outside. At present, there is a growing interest in Chinese culture overseas. Confucius Institutes have been established in more than 100 countries; Chinese books, films, television programs, and stories have begun to become popular in some countries as interest in learning Chinese has grown; and the international influence and appeal of Chinese culture has increased considerably. With this, China’s ancient and profound culture is well on its way to renewed splendor.
Judging the Chinese Path
We make it our ultimate criteria to allow all people to participate in and benefit from development.
The Chinese path is the choice and the creation of the people. It has been pioneered by the people through their actions under the leadership of the CPC. We can say for certain that each breakthrough and innovation in our understanding and practice; each new development in reform and opening up; and each important new experience in modernization has without exception come from the endeavors and wisdom of the people. From the 18 farmers in Xiaogang Village, Anhui Province, who entered into a daring agreement to divide farmland and production quota between themselves, to the countless rural laborers who left the fields to go and work in township enterprises, and again to the men and women who have traveled the land and endured all manner of hardships to run their own businesses, the explorations and innovations of millions of people have culminated in a huge motive force driving China’s reform and opening up forwards. It is precisely the respect that the Party has shown for the principal role of the people and for the people’s spirit of creativity that has allowed the vigor of labor, knowledge, technology, managerial expertise, and capital to fully unleash themselves; and all potential sources for the creation of wealth to fully surge forward, injecting the Chinese path with the most resourceful strength.
People’s yearning for a better life is our goal to strive forward. The Chinese people love life and have many dreams. They wish to have better education, more stable jobs, and better living conditions. They want their dignity to be assured, their careers successful, and their value fulfilled. During more than 30 years of reform and opening up, these ordinary dreams have gradually become a reality, and are now in the process of being realized on a higher level. The degree of our commitment to improving the people’s wellbeing and the amount of resources we have devoted have been almost unmatched anywhere in the world. In merely over a decade, we have managed to cover the entire population with a subsistence allowance system, a basic pension system for residents in both urban and rural areas, and a basic medical insurance system, thereby putting in place the kind of basic social safety net that some Western countries spent almost a century building. Following years of efforts, China has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty, a figure that accounts for more than 70% of the global target in poverty reduction.
There is no end to the efforts to ensure public wellbeing, only one new starting point after the next. Since the convening of the Party’s Eighteenth National Congress in 2012, we have introduced a series of polices in close succession in a bid to improve public wellbeing, including the reform of the household registration system, the reform of examination and enrollment systems for school and university students, and the adjustment and improvement of the family planning policies. These initiatives have ensured that all people can benefit more fairly and thoroughly from the fruits of development. In the words of the American scholar Robert Lawrence Kuhn, “never before in human history has the standard of living of so many people improved so fast.”
No one is more qualified to comment on the merits of a path than those who are following it. The Chinese people are able to directly appreciate the correctness of the Chinese path – a feeling which comes from the constant improvements in their standard of living, the huge changes that have taken place to the face of the country, and their strong optimism for the future. Moreover, they genuinely support this path from the bottom of their hearts. According to one vivid observation, most Chinese people have in fact experienced a “wealth revolution” over the past three decades of reform and opening up: the major items of consumption that the average family once purchased were watches, bicycles, and sewing machines; later they were refrigerators, color television sets, and washing machines; and now they are houses, cars, and computers. These changes have been simply enormous.
At present, the Chinese people are largely happy with the overall state of their country and optimistic about its prospects for development in the future. In 2013, more than 350,000 Chinese students returned to China from abroad, almost 30 times the number that returned at the beginning of this century. According to these figures, the number of returning students has grown at an average rate of over 32% per year. This wave of students returning to China bears testament to China’s appeal, and to the confidence that people have in China’s future. As we have the confidence of millions of people, we feel even more justified and assured in our commitment to following the Chinese path.
The path we take is the most fundamental issue, having a bearing on the fortunes of the country and the wellbeing of the people. In the 1990s, when he stood on the Yangpu Bridge and looked out over the new Shanghai, which had been transformed amidst the surge of China’s reform and opening up drive, Deng Xiaoping exclaimed: “What I see today gives me more joy than reading books for a hundred years.” It is imperative that we cherish, uphold, and constantly expand the Chinese path – a path that the Chinese people have successfully pioneered under the leadership of the Party after enduring all manner of hardships and making all manner of sacrifices. We need to continue strengthening our ideological, theoretical, and emotional identification with Chinese socialism, our confidence in our path, theories, and system and our strong strategic resolve, neither allowing ourselves to be intimidated by risks nor led into confusion amidst interference. We have every confidence that the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics will become broader as it goes, and that the Chinese Dream – the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation – will become a reality!
Author: Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee; Member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee; and Head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee.