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No. 42, 2017
Ideas to Share With the World
China's development path and the CPC's wisdom and strength
By Li Zhihui, Wang Aihua & Tian Zijun | NO. 42 OCTOBER 19, 2017

Members of a facial recognition startup in Shaanxi Province pose for camera at their office (XINHUA)

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is expected to set a blueprint for the country to march toward modernization under the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics. A recent series of reports by Xinhua News Agency elaborate on China's development path, the CPC's governance theories and practices, and the Party's ruling capacity building efforts. The following is an edited version of the first report of the series:

Since its 12th National Congress in 1982, the CPC has always stressed "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Under this banner, China has become the world's second largest economy and is stepping ever closer to becoming a moderately prosperous society in all respects in the next three years.

As the world's largest developing country, socialist China's rise in a playing field dominated by capitalist states has brought fresh ideas for addressing challenges facing humanity in at least 10 respects.

Foreign business people attend an exposition of products from Central and East European countries in Cangzhou, Hebei Province, on September 9 , 2017 (XINHUA)

People-centered

This is by no means an abstract concept or political slogan, as its impact is evident in the ongoing poverty alleviation effort.

China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty in the past 30 years. In the coming three years, another 40 million will be added to the list, meaning 20 people lifted out of poverty each minute.

The central authorities have said that not a single family living in poverty is to be left behind on the path to combating poverty.

Meeting people's needs, ranging from those in education, employment, social security, medical services, housing and environment to those in intellectual and cultural life, is the top priority of the government.

At a meeting toward the end of 2016, the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs studied issues such as clean heating and garbage sorting. For policymakers, these are the most pressing issues facing the people.

A Beijing resident takes part in election of deputies to district-level people's congresses on November 15, 2016 (XINHUA)

A strong ruling party

Late American political scientist Samuel Huntington said countries with no political parties, or many weak parties, were the least stable.

The 96-year-old CPC is determined to build the strongest ruling party in the world to keep the country stable and guide its reform and opening up.

The CPC has evolved from a small group of around 50 members to a party with 89 million members, a number that easily rivals the population of any country in Western Europe. The Party has 4.5 million grassroots organizations.

He Yiting, Vice President of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said the CPC's strength was in its ability to "lead politically, gather popular support, organize and mobilize the people, and reform and innovate itself."

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that Chinese people's satisfaction with the government is much higher than in most other countries under different political systems. According to the center's 2016 survey, 87 percent of Chinese people were optimistic about the country's economic development, which was the highest in the list of 16 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.

The Party is tasked with leading China to rejuvenation. It has put forward a clear roadmap for a four-pronged "comprehensive strategy" to build a moderately prosperous society, deepen reform, advance the rule of law and strengthen Party governance.

The CPC is committed to building an incorruptible political party. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Party has investigated more than 280 senior officials including Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou, Sun Zhengcai and Ling Jihua.

Pooling resources

Unlike in Western democracies, the Chinese Government is highly efficient in pooling resources to deal with major problems such as relieving natural disasters, preventing financial crisis, supporting the development of ethnic minorities and fighting pollution.

China has achieved breakthroughs in areas such as quantum studies, artificial intelligence, super computers and aircraft development. Infrastructure is advancing rapidly, with the length of operational lines for trains that can travel at a speed of 300 km per hour or even higher reaching 9,600 km, higher than the figures in other countries combined.

As John Naisbitt, an American author on future studies, put it, the Chinese political system can help maintain stability and continuity of policies while stimulating vitality for development.

Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club, an independent business network, said no other country could have both long-term development plans and short-term goals like China does.

China's leadership keeps its eye on the country's sustainable future, formulating ambitious long-term plans such as its two centenary goals [that are, by 2020 China's GDP and per-capita income should double from 2010 levels, and the building of a moderately prosperous society should be complete; by the middle of this century, China should become a modern socialist country that is "prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious"], the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (Belt and Road) Initiative, and building the Xiongan New Area to advance the development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. Once the leadership makes a blueprint, it sees it through.

Effective democracy

The essence of democracy is to answer to the people.

In some countries, checks on power become deadlocks, and money can be used to tamper with elections. The political process soon becomes dormant after the voting. This type of democracy may be "pretty," but it hardly leads to good governance. Rather, it is likely to cause surprise and unwanted events.

Chinese democracy has a higher level of quality and efficiency, as can be seen in practice.

Serving the people and pursuing the people's interests is an essential mission of the people's congress system—the fundamental political system of the country. The country is giving more seats in the National People's Congress, the supreme organ of state power, to workers, farmers, professionals and women to represent more grassroots voices.

Consultation is a virtue of Chinese democracy. For instance, the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), a critical component of building a moderately prosperous society, was produced after rounds of top-down and bottom-up consultation, covering all aspects of society. More than 32 percent of the 2,500 items of feedback collected nationwide were adopted, a feat that could only be accomplished by the Chinese democratic model of decision making.

The contemporary Chinese state inherited a long political tradition of selecting and appointing talent, establishing a merit-based "selection plus election" system with a special focus on public opinion. The items for assessment include, but are not limited to, economic development, job creation, social security and environmental protection. Competition is fierce, and only the most capable cadres are promoted.

Ability to reform

The problems facing China are unique but not without the universality that transcends borders.

Reform is the engine of China's economic miracle. Over the past decades, China has been one of the most successful countries in piloting reforms, while the new round of reforms in China, launched at the end of 2013 after a key meeting of the CPC, will add more momentum to the Chinese dream.

From ordinary families used to living paycheck to paycheck to Alibaba founder Jack Ma, whose business venture has created tens of thousands of jobs, most Chinese people have benefited from reform. More than 280 million farmers have moved from rural areas to cities and joined the workforce in the digital age. China's large scale value-added tax reform affects nearly 16 million businesses and 10 million individual taxpayers.

Yan Xuetong, Dean of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University, believes that the main reason the outside world considers China to have great economic development momentum lies in its confidence in China's ability to adapt to new realities.

In the past five years, China has deepened supply-side structural reform in a new set of trying economic conditions, sometimes called the "new normal." People are starting to cash in on the benefits of various reforms in such areas as intellectual property, the birth policy, household registration, health services and university admission.

China's reform and innovation have no limits and offer viable ideas for global governance. The country's concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development became a set of keywords at the G20 Summit held in the city of Hangzhou last year and have been incorporated into the international discourse for global governance.

Innovative market economy

Still in the primary stage of socialism, China has adopted a basic economic system with public ownership playing a dominant role and diverse forms of ownership developing side by side.

This allows the vitality of the public sector, especially state-owned enterprises, to be strengthened while encouraging, supporting and guiding the development of the private sector. China gives the market a decisive role in allocating resources, and the government can play a better role in the efficiency of macro-policy implementation.

Known as "walking with both legs," this reflects a fine Chinese tradition of holistic and dialectical thinking.

"The parochial understanding the Western world has for the relationship between market and state does not apply to China, where the two sides enjoy a symbiotic relationship instead of being constantly at odds with each other," said Professor Shi Zhengfu, with the Center of New Political Economy at Fudan University.

Under such arrangements, China's socialist market economy has had an excellent performance, creating economic miracles. The country saw 16,000 newly registered enterprises every day on average in the first half of this year. Consumption contributed 63.4 percent of economic growth in the same period. E-commerce, Alipay and shared bikes, which mainly involve private enterprises, stand with high-speed rail, which is manufactured and operated by state-owned enterprises, as new driving forces in China's economy.

This vitality has made the nation a "talent magnet." About 430,000 Chinese students studying overseas returned to work in China last year. Si Kang, a young entrepreneur from Zhejiang Province, founded a startup back home after obtaining his degree in France. Now, his company has notched up more than 10 patents.

"This is the opportunity of our lifetime; we must not let it slip away easily," he said.

Maintaining stability

Social stability, along with development, is an absolute principle. Security is a crucial part of people's livelihoods and creates an environment for development.

Despite its ethnic diversity, large territory and the unbalanced development between different regions, the world's most populous country has maintained social stability, mainly thanks to its ability to maintain balance between reform, development and stability.

Facing changes in social relations and interests during reform, China has solved problems directly concerning the people's interests while guiding the public to deal with different interests and express their demands appropriately.

The Chinese Government sees employment as the "stabilizer of society." More than 13.1 million new urban jobs were created last year. Incomes are rising, and the income gap narrowing. China has established the world's largest social security network.

Officials are increasingly resorting to the law in coordinating interest groups and resolving conflicts. In recent years, China has enhanced management of the cyberspace to ensure security and development in the field amid efforts to maintain social stability.

A growing number of people have recognized China as one of the world's safest and most stable countries. China has provided a safe and stable living environment for about one fifth of the world's population, and this is a significant contribution to humankind.

Win-win & sharing

For countries that want to prosper in this increasingly open and globalized world, turning inward is not the way to go.

Today, many localities in China are turning into "cities of migrants," which more foreigners are investing and living in. Chinese people welcome them.

As a beneficiary of and contributor to globalization, China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative to connect dozens of countries in Asia, Europe and Africa against a backdrop of rising anti-globalization rhetoric.

China proposed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which attracted 57 founding members including the United Kingdom and Germany. The bank has approved $3 billion of financing for 28 projects.

There are more China-Europe freight trains. Economic corridors between China and neighboring countries are benefiting people. The China-Australia free trade agreement has yielded quicker than expected results.

China has opened a brand-new space for a "community of shared future," a concept even incorporated into UN resolutions.

Following its own path

The bitter experience of the past has taught China about the dangers of blindly copying the Western model, both politically and economically. Unfortunately, such a tragedy is being repeated in other countries.

To solve its problems, the only way forward for China is to find its own path.

Chen Ping, a professor at the National School of Development at Peking University, said the 2008 financial crisis dealt a heavy blow to Western powers as social conflict intensified and global economic volatility ensued.

"However, China is doing surprisingly well. It has not only avoided an economic hard landing, but also increased the competitiveness of its state-owned enterprises and government regulatory capability," he said. "The fact that China is doing well has shaken the very foundation of Western economics and politics."

For Li Shimo, a venture capitalist based in Shanghai, China's success has shown there is more than one model in the world that can produce good governance.

"China's example is not that it provides an alternative, but that it shows alternatives exist," Li said.

Cultural roots

It is impossible for a nation to thrive if it abandons its culture and betrays its past.

Chinese civilization has existed uninterrupted for 5,000 years, and now the CPC has been put in charge of renewing Chinese culture and developing an advanced culture.

A series of policies have been issued to enhance the cultural confidence of the country. In the country's primary and secondary schools, Chinese language textbooks have been revised to focus more on traditional culture, including more ancient articles and poems.

China respects cultural diversity and is keen to learn, import and absorb whatever cultural fruits it can, including those developed by capitalist countries.

Such a sense of cultural confidence and inclusiveness is integral to Chinese civilization. It also provides the spiritual dynamics for the realization of national rejuvenation.

For Martin Jacques, a senior research fellow at Cambridge University, the West remains far too ignorant about China, often resorting to cliché.

"We cannot understand the rise of China using Western concepts," Jacques said. "'Think China' should be the guide to the way we think about our future."

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

Comments to zanjifang@bjreview.com

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