Xi speaks to the National Congress of the Party
The New Era of modern Chinese socialism
I write my column, “Knowledge, ideology, and real socialism in our times,” with the intention of increasing and deepening the understanding of the peoples of the West of the actual manifestations of socialism that have emerged in practice during the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the global South, or in the Third World plus China. This intellectual work has a political hope, namely, that committed and gifted leaders in the nations of the West will emerge, who would be capable of calling their peoples to socialism on the basis of an advanced understanding of socialism in practice; and who would be able to call for foreign policies that adapt to the new global reality being forged today by real socialism.
My belief is that the key to understanding is personal encounter, which involves above all listening and taking seriously the insights of the other. Encounter includes criticizing the defects of the other, but it is a criticism that unfolds in the context of listening.
In the development of the socialism of the Third World plus China, we see that one of the characteristics is the emergence of exceptional leaders that possess an advanced understanding of structures of domination and superexploitation, of the structural transformations necessary for the emancipation of the people, and of the art of politics. And they possess a deep commitment to the people and the nation. These exceptional leaders include Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende, Hugo Chávez, and Evo Morales. In the case of China, three exceptional leaders have emerged: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Xi Jinping.
I maintain that the process of encounter with Third World socialist movements ought to include study of the speeches and writings of these exceptional leaders. With this in mind, my commentary today is dedicated to Xi Jinping’s October 16 address to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Xi and the Communist Party of China see the evolution of Chinese socialism since 1949 in three stages. First, the transitions to socialism, led by Mao Zedong, from 1949 to 1978, which established the sovereignty of China and the structures of people’s democracy and took the first steps toward more equal distribution and the modernization of the nation. Second, the era of the Reform and Opening from 1978 to 2012, led by Deng Xiaoping, which gave priority to increasing the productivity of the economy by expanding private enterprises, domestic and foreign, and by increasing international trade, thus establishing China as a major world power. Third, the era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, led by Xi Jinping, which has rectified the social problems and economic imbalances that resulted from the rapid economic expansion of 1978 to 2012. (See “The Continuity of the Chinese Socialist Project: How do real revolutions today understand themselves?” October 5, 2021; “Mao: The foundation of China today,” June 14, 2022; “Xi Jinping: The deepening of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” June 17, 2022).
In his October 18 address to the Party National Congress, Xi celebrated the fact that the Party and the people are holding high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and building China into a modern socialist nation, on the basis of the principles of the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. He described the situation that the Party confronted ten years ago. Great achievements had been attained in the modernization of the economy, but a number of prominent problems had emerged, some of them building for years, that demanded urgent action. These included imbalances in economic development; the emergence of misguided patterns of thinking, including money worship, hedonism, egocentricity, and historical nihilism; wavering of political conviction within the Party; pointless formalities and bureaucratism in the government; the uncovering of shocking cases of corruption; and pronounced environmental pollution. In the context of this situation, the Party at its 18th National Congress made resolute decisions and took firm steps, which led to the formulation of the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, which gave priority to addressing these issues. A new development philosophy was put forth, fostering a new pattern of development of high-quality.
Ten years of progress in the New Era
In these last ten years, Xi reported, great advances have been made with respect to alleviating poverty; expanding the percentage of the GDP in the world economy; building the transportation, water, energy, and information infrastructure; ensuring food and energy security; expanding the manufacturing sector and foreign currency reserves, such that both are now the largest in the world; and expanding research and development in science and technology. In addition, China has advanced in developing a global network of trading partners that comprise more than 140 countries in all regions of the world, including the Belt and Road Initiative, which is highly regarded by the international community. In its foreign policy, China has advocated true multilateralism and has taken an unwavering stand against unilateralism and hegemonism.
These last ten years, Xi noted, have been characterized by people-centered development, ensuring people’s access to childcare, education, employment, medical services, elderly care, housing, and social assistance. China’s average life expectancy is now 78.2 years. Education is universally available, and basic medical insurance covers 95% of the population. Improvements have been made in urban and rural housing.
Xi also pointed out that in the last ten years a holistic and systemic approach to conservation and environmental protection has been undertaken, including the protection of ecosystems in mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, grasslands, and deserts.
Since 2018, Xi noted, the Party has sought to rectify pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance. It has opposed privilege-seeking mindsets and practices; and it has taken strong action to address misconduct and corruption.
Nonetheless, Xi observed, work remains to be done in all of these areas. Wide gaps in income and development between rural and urban areas and among regions of the country remain. The people continue to face difficulties with respect to employment, education, medical services, childcare, elderly care, and housing. Ecological conservation and environmental protection remain a formidable task.
On the importance and meaning of Marxism
In addition, in the last ten years, the Party has advanced in the theoretical frontier with an entirely new perspective, deepening understanding of the laws underlying governance by a communist party, the development of socialism, and the evolution of human society. These innovations have been captured in the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and the main elements have been summarized in the 10 affirmations, the 14 commitments, and the 13 areas of achievement that were articulated at the 19th National Congress and the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Party Central Committee.
To continue to progress, Xi maintains, China has to continue to uphold and develop Marxism, and to integrate Marxism with China’s traditional culture, which is extensive and profound, embodying the wisdom of Chinese civilization. Traditional Chinese culture espouses many important principles and concepts, including seeking the common good; regarding the people as the foundation of the state; governing with virtue; selecting officials on the basis of merit; appreciating the harmony between humanity and nature; ceaselessly pursuing self-improvement; acting in good faith with others; and fostering neighborliness.
One of the central attributes of Marxism, Xi maintains, is people-centeredness. Theories that are detached from the people are feeble and ineffective. And Marxism should uphold fundamental principles, including respect for science in the spirit of seeking the truth. In addition, Marxism must have a problem-oriented approach, seeking to finding solutions to problems. Moreover, Marxism has a global vision.
Marxism educates the people, Xi maintains, with respect to core socialist values. It promotes revolutionary culture along with traditional Chinese culture. It consolidates a common intellectual foundation for the Party and the entire Chinese people, on this basis of which they strive in unity to attain their goals.
The Chinese form of modernization and development
Building upon its efforts and practices since 1949 and especially since 1978, China seeks, Xi maintains, to attain a socialist modernization which provides for the common prosperity of all. A form of modernization that is material and spiritual, inasmuch as socialism is neither material want nor cultural impoverishment. It is a modernization based on harmony between humanity and nature.
Moreover, in pursuing modernization, China does not seek the road of war, colonization, and plunder, which has been the path taken by some countries. Development of that kind was attained at the expense of others. China is dedicated to a development of cooperation, mutual benefit, and peace.
China pursues today a high-quality development, Xi maintains. That is, China seeks a positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows that foster the balanced development of the Chinese economy. To this end, China is seeking to improve both the public and non-public sectors, which are the pillars of China’s socialist economic system. China will continue and seek to improve its system of macroeconomic governance, giving full play to the guidance and direction provided by the national development plans.
China will take stronger action, Xi declared, against monopolies and unfair competition. It will break local protectionism and administrative monopolies, through law-based regulation.
China will continue to focus on the real economy, Xi further declared. It will promote advances in new industrialization. It will seek to boost China’s strength in manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, cyberspace, and digital development. It will improve its capacities in strategic emerging industries, such as next-generation information technology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, new energy, new materials, high-end equipment, and green industry. China is committed to scientific and technological innovation as central to its drive for modernization.
China will continue to give priority to the development of rural areas, which is the most difficult and demanding task in building modern socialism, Xi maintains. New rural collectives will be developed, with new types of agribusinesses and commercial agricultural services, building upon achievements in recent years in alleviating rural poverty.
China will continue to give priority to education. The most basic aim of education, Xi maintains, is to foster virtue. China will educate a new generation of young people with sound moral grounding, intellectual ability, physical vigor, aesthetic sensibility, and work skills.
China will continue to follow the principle of distribution according to work. “We will ensure more pay for more work and encourage people to achieve prosperity through hard work.” At the same time, the social security system provides a safety net for all in need.
Xi affirmed the intention of the Party to continue to develop and improve its system of people’s democracy, which he characterized as “the lifeblood of socialism.” The Party will continue to support the people’s congresses and their standing committees, ensuring that they carry out their functions in accordance with the law. It will continue to support the process of consultation with respect to policy and legislative matters, and it will continue to develop the CPC-led system of multiparty cooperation. I have previously described these structures and processes of the Chinese political system. (See “Political Structures in Socialist China: A people’s alternative to Western representative democracy,” October 8, 2021; and “China: Democracy That Works: A less conflictive, more consensual system of people’s democracy,” December 21, 2021.
China will continue to draw upon core socialist values to forge inner strength among the people. It will continue with the civic morality campaign and its focus on traditional Chinese virtues, stronger family ties, and raising the intellectual and moral standards of minors. China will continue to promote integrity and credibility in society. China will remain firmly rooted in Chinese culture.
Xi Jinping expressed the necessity for the Party of maintaining its commitment to the people in order to continue to win the support of the people.
“This country is its people; the people are the country. As the Communist Party of China has led the people in fighting to establish and develop the People’s Republic, it has really been fighting for their support. Bringing benefit to the people is the fundamental principle of governance. Working for the people’s wellbeing is an essential part of the Party’s commitment to serving the public good and exercising governance for the people. We must ensure and improve the people’s wellbeing in the course of pursuing development and encourage everyone to work hard together to meet the people’s aspirations for a better life.
“We must strive to realize, safeguard, and advance the fundamental interests of all our people. To this end, we must do everything within our capacity to resolve the most practical problems that are of the greatest and most direct concern to the people. We will stay engaged with our people and their communities, adopt more measures that deliver real benefits to the people and win their approval, and work hard to resolve the pressing difficulties and problems that concern them most.”
Xi maintained that a green and low-carbon economy is crucial to high-quality development. China will continue its efforts to control air and water pollution and to protect the environment and its ecosystems. However, all advances must be based in China’s energy and resource endowment, and they must be implemented in a well-planned and phased manner, so that the new is built before discarding the old.
I should note that this balanced approached to environmental protection, balancing environmental protection measures with the energy and productive needs of the society and its actual resources, is also practiced in Cuba. In contrast, the ecology proposals in the West are sometimes idealist, not taking into account such practical considerations; and sometimes such idealist proposals are adopted by politicians seeking votes.
China will continue, Xi maintained, with its policy of One Country, Two Systems, with respect to Hong Kong and Macau. They are special administrative regions with a high degree of autonomy, ensuring that their capitalist system and way of life remain unchanged. China seeks to resolve the Taiwan question in order to realize China’s longstanding goal of complete reunification. The Party maintains that the Taiwan question must be resolved by Chinese on both sides of Taiwan Strait, who are bound together by ties of blood. The Party seeks the peaceful reunification of China.
China and the emerging new international economic order
Xi maintains that the worldwide tendencies toward cooperation are expressing themselves as never before. They are unstoppable, and they will eventually lead to a bright future for humanity. China rejects the hegemonic and bullying tactics used by the powerful to intimidate the weak, which constitutes an unprecedented challenge for human society.
China’s foreign policy upholds the principles of peace and common development. Accordingly, China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, be they big or small countries, strong or weak, and rich or poor. China “respects the development paths and social systems independently chosen by all the world’s peoples.” China stands firmly against all forms of hegemonism and interference in the internal affairs of countries, and it opposes the implementation of unilateral sanctions. China seeks mutually beneficial relations with other countries, on the basis of complete equality and mutual respect. China “is committed to narrowing the North-South gap and supporting and assisting other developing countries in accelerating development.” China affirms the international system with the United Nations at the core, and it supports the basic international norms that are based on the purpose and principles of the UN Charter.
Cooperation for mutual benefit, Xi maintains, is the way to ensure sustained prosperity and guaranteed security. For this reason, China has put forth proposals for the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative. Xi calls upon the world to support these initiatives. (See “Xi Jinping proposes Global Development Initiative: The President of China seeks win-win cooperation,” October 19, 2021; and “China’s Xi Jinping has a better plan: But the Western media cannot see it, let alone report it,” April 26, 2022).
We see in Xi’s address important dimensions of socialism. The Party, it should be recalled, is not the highest authority in the nation, which is the National People’s Congress, elected directly and indirectly by the people. But the Party enjoys high prestige, so its recommendations generally go forward (but not always), with some modification, in the National People’s Congress. In his address, Xi reconfirms the commitment of the Party to China’s political system of people’s democracy, an alternative to the structures of representative democracies in the West; an alternative that the Western press, in its ethnocentric ignorance, characterizes as authoritarian. It is a question of an executive branch elected by a National People’s Congress that is elected directly and indirectly by the people.
And we see Xi’s commitment to the basic structures of the socialist economy that have evolved especially since 1978, in which both public and private property are the foundation, both operating under the regulation of the democratically elected executive branch of the government, in accordance with its national development plan.
We also see Xi commitment to continue with the policies of the new era, such as attending to rural-urban and regional inequalities, attacking corruption, and promoting environmental protection.
We in the West have no objective reason to be opposed to the continued expansion in economic power or the growing prestige of China in the world, because China is not and has never been an imperialist power. China’s ascent in the world-economy brings with it a proposal, implemented in practice, for a different type of world-system based on cooperation among nations on the basis of mutual respect for the sovereign equality of all nations.
We in the West are opposed to the ascent of China because of an ideology that seeks to preserve the neocolonial structures that give economic advantage to the Western powers. This is an outdated ideology, because the neocolonial world-system is no longer sustainable, inasmuch as it has reached and overextended the geographical and ecological limits of the earth; and it is rejected by the emerging nations and neocolonized peoples of the earth, who are seeking to construct in theory and practice an alternative and more sustainable world-system. The Western nations still have large economies, in spite of their unattended contradictions, so they could play a leading role in the building of an alternative world-system based on cooperation among nations.
When the Western powers are prepared to cooperate with China, China is ready to cooperate with them.
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