Commentary: Xi’s remarks a scientific judgement based on Chinese context

“As socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What China now faces is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life,” General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed in his report to the 19th National Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC).

Previously the principal contradiction was described as one between “the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social production”.

But Xi underlined at the same time that the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society does not change the 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,” he pointed out, adding that China’s international status as the world’s largest developing country has not changed.

Both the new description on principal contradiction and unchanged basic dimension mean that the socialism with Chinese characteristics has been endowed with new features in the new era.

Xi’s scientific judgment based on China’s current national conditions reflects the holistic horizon the CPC Central Committee holds in understanding the realities of the development of Chinese society and dealing with profound and complex changes. It also indicates the CPC’s sense of responsibility as well as its cool-headed and down-to-earth working style.

The evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society represents a historical shift that affects the whole landscape, and such changes mainly cover ten aspects.

The changes mean a shift from an underdeveloped country into a moderately developed one, a continuous improvement of the development capability and level of all the people, a fall in proportion of the impoverished in the total population and eradication of poverty, as well as the non-stop improvement of people’s livelihood to meet people’s basic needs, build a moderately prosperous society, and finally achieve prosperity for everyone.

It also involves a transition from a traditional agricultural country into one that has realized industrialization, informatization, urbanization and modernization, and a shift from one that relies on manual labor with agricultural population in the majority into the world’s largest industrial power where non-agricultural population takes the majority and modern agriculture and service sectors take the dominance.

In addition, such evolution also includes a gradually narrowed disparity in regional development, the transformation from a country with underdeveloped science and education where the illiterate and half-illiterate take a great proportion to an education and science power, as well as a bridged ecological gap between human and nature.

The shift also means closing gap between China and the developed countries to lay a more solid foundation to achieve the Two Centenary Goals, i.e. to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society by 2020, and to build a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful.

However, the basic dimension of the Chinese context in the primary stage of socialism has not changed, with some acute problems caused by unbalanced and inadequate development awaiting solutions. Though earth-shaking changes have taken place in China, it does not mean the country has stepped out of the primary stage of socialism.

China has prominently improved its social productivity and is even leading the world in many fields, but its unbalanced and inadequate development in social services, technological innovation, cultural productivity, and ecological productivity still constrains its path to meet the ever-growing needs for a better life of the 1.3 billion Chinese.

In light of the facts, the socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era means that the country should further shake off development constraints, and keep emancipating and developing social productivity, so as to finally realize socialist modernization.

Over the past five years since the 18th CPC National Congress, China’s international status has risen as never before, and China is moving closer to the world’s center stage. But it should be recognized that China’s international status as the world’s largest developing country has not changed.

As the second largest economy in the world, China still ranks around the 90th place in terms of per capita gross domestic product. China’s human development index ranked 90th place among 188 countries and regions.

In addition, there is still a big disparity between the productivities of China and the US. Its economy is still restrained by hardware including huge population, less resource per capita and fragile ecology. Besides, the country is also headache with new big challenges such as aging population, sub-replacement fertility, and insufficient energy supply.

Given such background, China has to not only accelerate its speed to catch up with the developed countries, but also forge a better mode of modernization featuring higher stages, stronger innovation, and more environmental- friendliness.

In general, the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society, as well as the unchanged basic dimension of the Chinese context and China’s international status, are the foundation where China can grow from a major nation into a great country.

As principal contradiction facing Chinese society evolves, China will transit to a stage of high-quality and innovation-driven development to meet the diversified needs of the people and promote modernization in all aspects.

Rightly as it still stays at the primary stage of socialism, the country is able to bring huge opportunities to the world and improve its comprehensive strength and international influence.

Remaining as world’s largest developing country, China must strengthen solidarity and cooperation with other developing countries, promote balanced and equitable development between the South and the North in the global context, and widen the path to modernization for other developing countries.

China’s further development relies on the development of the developing and the least developed countries, and China can only secure more prosperity and affluence after its developing partners achieve that goal.


By Hu Angang, Wang Hongchuan

(The authors are director and assistant research fellow of the Institute for Contemporary China Studies, Tsinghua University)


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