Theoretical Characteristics of China’s New Development Principles

By: Liu QibaoFrom:English Edition of Qiushi Journal January-March 2017|Vol.9,No.1,Issue No.30 | Updated: 2017-Feb-27 16:20
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In 2012, the Communist Party of China convened its 18th National Congress. Since then, the CPC Central Committee headed by General Secretary Xi Jinping has taken China’s national governance into new territory by relying on innovation in theory to guide innovation in practice. Reflecting deeply on the past experiences of China and other countries, and in view of major trends of development both domestically and internationally, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, convened in 2015, proposed the new principles of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development. Geared not only to China’s national conditions, but also to the needs of the times, these principles of development represent a major breakthrough in both theory and practice that will have far-reaching implications for the future. 

Politically speaking, these new principles of development embody the CPC’s profound understanding of the underlying patterns of economic and social development. Pointing out a clear direction and path of development, they constitute important guidelines that China must uphold on a long-term basis. Theoretically speaking, these new principles of development present new answers to a series of major questions concerning China’s development. Not only have they significantly enhanced the CPC’s existing theories of development, but they have also enriched and further developed Marxist theories on development. Practically speaking, these new principles of development respond to new expectations of the CPC and government as raised by the evolution of practice and the times. As a profound shift in thinking that will have a bearing on all aspects of China’s development, they constitute an action guide that will help us to overcome difficulties, gather momentum, and foster advantages in development. Internationally speaking, these new principles of development accurately pinpoint the key issues in world development at present. Displaying notable Chinese features, they contribute Chinese wisdom and a Chinese solution to world development.   

China’s new principles of development are broad in scope and profound in meaning. Forming a fully-systematic, highly logical, and scientific framework, they are underpinned by the standpoint, viewpoints, and methods of Marxism, and illuminated by the wisdom of dialectical and historical materialism, embodying salient theoretical proprieties and character.

A systematic set of principles: China’s new development principles constitute a closely inter-connected, highly-cohesive, and mutually-supportive whole. 

The principles of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development were not proposed at random, but were carefully selected and refined from a number of factors affecting development at present. This has resulted in a systematic framework of principles comprising the five most important and decisive factors of development. As an overall outline and logical framework to guide development, these five principles each have their own specific focus while supporting the other four. Together, they form an overall schematic for China’s future development, integrating seamlessly into the CPC’s basic line for the primary stage of socialism; into the “Five-Pronged” overall plan and the “Four Comprehensives” strategy; into the endeavor to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics; and into China’s “Two Centenary Goals” and its push to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. 

China’s new principles of development constitute an organic whole that cannot be separated. Looking at how each of these principles relates to development, it is evident that none can be omitted. Innovation is the primary driving force behind development; coordination is an inherent requirement of sustained, healthy development; greenness is a prerequisite of sustainable development and an important embodiment of the better life that people desire; opening up is vital for China’s prosperity and development; and sharing is the essence of socialism with Chinese characteristics. In terms of content, while innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development each have their own clear orientation, they also link to the other four in a mutually-reinforcing, mutually-complementary fashion. Logically speaking, these five principles, each with their own attributes, come together to form a closely-knit whole. In terms of effectiveness, these principles have not merely upgraded our traditional concept of development, but have pushed the boundaries of modern development in all directions, presenting us with a more unified, inclusive, and sustainable concept of development. And on the operational level, these principles are designed to be implemented, advanced, and put to effect in an integrated, unified fashion. No one of these principles can be emphasized over, or in place of, any of the others. With a firm grasp of the systematic nature of these principles, we need to foster a comprehensive, systematic, and scientific way of thinking, develop holistic working techniques, enhance overall coordination, and constantly broaden our horizons of development.        

A dialectic set of principles: China’s new development principles represent a paradigm for the application of the Marxist worldview and methodology. 

China’s new development principles represent a major theoretical outcome of our efforts to perceive, analyze, and resolve development problems through the application of materialist dialectics. Following more than 60 years of efforts since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and particularly during more than 30 years of reform and opening up, China has successfully completed the “first half” of its modernization drive, and has now reached a new plane of development. However, it should be noted that in spite of this success, China has encountered more post-development problems than originally anticipated. The contradictions and difficulties it faces are increasingly overlapping, and uncertainty is becoming more pronounced. Not only must China resolve old problems that have built up over the long-term, but it also needs to respond to new ones that emerge in the process of development. Not only must it bolster the internal driving forces of development, but it also needs to raise its level of economic openness. Not only must it improve its economic system, but it also needs to coordinate its political, cultural, social, and environmental systems. Not only must it increase the efficiency of development, but it also needs to promote social equity and justice. It is not difficult to appreciate the sheer difficulty and enormity of navigating China through such a complex array of problems. But China’s new principles of development, through their innovative application of Marxist materialist dialectics, have cleared away the mist on the path ahead, pointing to a correct course for China, like navigating a great ship to break the waves and sail into the distance. 

Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivers a speech at a grand ceremony to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the victory of the Long March, held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 21, 2016.  PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER JU PENG

Representing an integration of materialism and dialectics, China’s new principles of development highlight the scientific attitude and great wisdom with which the CPC navigates complex situations and handles complex problems. First, these principles not only actively adapt to and guide the new normal of development, but also take the global economy into account and borrow from the experiences of other countries. Universal in some respects and unique in others, they are rooted in China but demonstrate global perspective. Second, these principles not only lay out a strategic plan according to the “Five-Pronged” overall plan, but also manage to identify key points and focus on weak areas and shortcomings, thus achieving a balance between overall planning and specific priorities. Third, these principles not only constitute a major strategy formulated in line with the wider developmental trends of the CPC and the country, but also present clear thinking and practical measures for responding to highly pronounced problems. In this sense they represent the middle ground between strategy and operability. In summary, China’s new principles of development display the character of materialist dialectics, providing a sound methodology to guide our country’s economic and socialist development. With a firm grasp of the dialectic nature of these principles, we need to seize the spirit of materialist dialectics embodied therein, and apply dialectic thinking to coordinating development and guiding innovation.   

A people-centered set of principles: China’s new development principles adhere to a notion of development that puts the people first. 

Development is reliant on the people, for the people, and shared by the people. This is the fundamental purpose of China’s development, and the fundamental value to which a Marxist political party aspires. Given that China is a socialist country led by a communist party, it is to be expected that we regard realizing, safeguarding, and developing the fundamental interests of the largest possible majority of people as the essential purpose of development. With the ultimate goal of making life better for the people, China’s new principles of development uphold the notion that development is for the people, reliant on the people, and that its fruits should be shared by the people. The more developed our economy becomes, the stronger our commitment must be to allowing all people to participate in, devote themselves to, and share the fruits of development, so that development can become fairer and more universal, and the people can enjoy a greater sense of gain and happiness. As history has repeatedly shown, development that does not revolve around the people contravenes the laws of social development and cannot be sustained. A major reason why Western capitalist countries have struggled to emerge from their economic slump in recent years is that they have been unable to address the problem of capital always seeking to maximize its profits. Their governments have introduced a series of policies aimed at helping the economy, but their biggest beneficiaries have been the capitalists, and not the middle class and lower classes who have been hardest hit by the crisis. A series of events, from “Occupy Wall Street” and “Democracy Spring” in the US to “Nuit debout” in France, profoundly reflect this state of deadlock. 

China’s new development principles adhere to a notion of development that puts the people first. Highlighting the core role of the people in social and economic activities, and maintaining a tight focus on the fundamental goals, drivers, and measures of development, they further answer two important questions from the perspective of historical materialism: Whom is China developing for? And whom does it rely on to develop? With innovative development, we emphasize that talent is the key resource underpinning development, and that an important purpose of innovation is to provide people with better products and services. With coordinated development, we stress the need to make up for the lagging development of rural and western parts of the country, allowing people in these areas to enjoy policies for general welfare and a greater degree of fairness. With green development, we emphasize that the purpose of harmonious coexistence between humankind and nature is to provide people with more amiable environments in which to live and develop. With open development, we essentially want people to be able to secure greater development opportunities from the outside world and benefit more from development. And with shared development, we lay emphasis on allowing achievements of reform and development to be shared by all people, whilst at the same time infusing development with greater drive and making it more saliently people-centric. We can say that the supremacy of the people is not only a value that underscores our new principles of development, but also a fundamental prerequisite for their implementation. With a firm grasp of the people-centered nature of these principles, we need to treat the process of their implementation as a process of improving people’s wellbeing and promoting social equity and justice. We need to wage a bitter fight against poverty, and make major efforts to address striking problems such as an overly large income gap, a shortage of public services, and lagging social safety nets, thus allowing the people to enjoy a better quality of life.

A practical set of principles: China’s new development principles represent a program of action that is clearly geared to practice.

Principles represent a summarization of patterns observed in practice. As such, it is essential that they have a clear practical orientation. Principles that lack practical orientation are nothing but an illusion; while they may look attractive on the surface, there is ultimately no way of making them materialize. With a focus on the endeavors in which we are currently engaged, and in keeping with the logic of reform, opening up, and socialist modernization, China’s new principles of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development summarize our understanding of objective patterns in economic and social development, providing us with a basis on which to promote constant new advances in practice. At present, while the trend of China’s economic and social development remains sound on the whole, we are still facing problems and risks in development. China’s new principles of development reflect a deep understanding of the new features of China’s economic development, namely, a changing pace of growth, the improvement of the economic structure, and the shifting of growth drivers. Accommodating the task of maintaining a medium-high rate of economic growth and lifting our industries towards the middle and higher-end of the value chain, they clearly lay out priorities and key measures for future development, which will undoubtedly guide us as we work to gather strength and confront challenges in a new period.

A major feature of our new principles of development is that they reflect an awareness of problems and are oriented towards the resolution of problems, seeking to make breakthroughs in key areas of economic and social development where problems exist. These principles take direct aim at pronounced problems in our country’s development, prescribing sound solutions to key concerns and difficulties in reform and development. Innovative development aims to address the issue of growth drivers. It will do this by drawing on innovation to reshape the mechanisms of development, thus guiding China’s development forward. Coordinated development aims to address the issue of imbalanced development. It will do this by drawing on coordination to solve problems, thus promoting China’s continued and healthy development. Green development aims to address the issue of coexistence between humankind and nature. It will do this by drawing on green approaches to protect natural environments, thus bringing about sustainable development. Open development aims to address the issue of internal and external coordination in development. It will do this by drawing on opening up to expand the boundaries of development, thus creating a more optimal developmental layout. Shared development aims to address the issue of social equity and justice. It will do this by drawing on sharing to distribute the fruits of development, thus giving development much stronger support. We might say that it is precisely this strong awareness of problems that gives China’s new principles of development their theoretical rigor and capacity to explain actual problems so convincingly. It is this awareness that has enabled them to become China’s answer to the issues in social development it is currently facing. With a firm grasp of the practical nature of these principles, we must remain committed to putting practice first, relying on practice to extend these principles, as practice was used to establish them, and then using these principles to guide practice. We must integrate these new principles of development into all aspects of the causes of the CPC and country, using them to promote new leaps forward in practice, secure new advantages, and create new miracles of development. 

A guiding set of principles: China’s new development principles constitute theoretical guidelines that govern the fundamental, long-term direction of the country’s development. 

Principles of development guide and pave the way for development in practice. The more complex the situation and arduous the task, the more we require scientific principles of development to lay out a course forward. Though peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit are unstoppable trends in the world today, it remains true that potential uncertainty, dangers, and crises lurk as different models and paths of development compete fiercely. In China’s case, while the global situation remains favorable on the whole, difficulties and risks are nevertheless on the increase. China is still in the midst of a period of strategic opportunity, but the implications of this period have changed profoundly, meaning that our task of ensuring reform, development, and stability is much more testing than ever before. Our new principles of development approach the contemporary world and China from a broad perspective. By analyzing and identifying the major trends and needs of development, they lay out an entire set of strategies covering development drivers, frameworks, relations, guarantees, and goals. Pointing out a scientific path for the realization of higher quality development, they give us a theoretical guideline with which we will overcome difficulties, navigate a historic transformation, and write an even more impressive chapter of China’s story. 

As General Secretary Xi Jinping has stressed, advancing China’s economic and social development in line with these principles constitutes both the main requirement and trend of our country’s development at present or in the period ahead. This requirement and trend highlights the role of our new development principles as a strategic guideline, indicating that they will govern the fundamental, long-term direction of the country’s development. By 2020, we aim to have accomplished our first centenary goal – to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. In this regard, our new principles of development have provided us with a clear guideline to follow. Attaining moderate prosperity across the board represents a crucial step in China’s modernization push. The attainment of our second centenary goal – to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation – will be a more arduous and protracted task. The advancement of the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics represents a series of protracted struggles through uncharted territory. Such a grand cause must be guided with great wisdom and strategy. Representing new productive forces and a new direction of development, China’s new principles of development are a strategic plan focusing on the long-term development of the Chinese nation, and a banner that will guide our country’s development, opening the door to a better future. With a firm grasp of the guiding nature of our new development principles, we must firmly establish these principles and practice them conscientiously, regard them as a guideline for promoting reform, development, and stability, and work constantly to write a new chapter in the cause of Chinese socialism.  

Liu Qibao is Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, and Director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee. 

(Originally appeared in People’s Daily, August 17, 2016)