Great Economic Success Testifies to China’s Political Success

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 16:17
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    During an important address marking the 30th anniversary of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee, General Secretary Hu Jintao emphasized that “the decision to carry out reform and opening up policy has been instrumental to the destiny of contemporary China. The only way that we can develop socialism with Chinese characteristics and rejuvenate the Chinese nation is through reform and opening up. Socialism is the only thing that can save China, while reform and opening up is the only thing that can promote the development of China, socialism and Marxism. As a policy that is welcomed by both the people and the Party, reform and opening up falls in line with the trend of our times. The path that we have followed is correct, and the achievements that we have made are undeniable. To cease or turn away from our policy of reform and opening up would be to lead us into a blind alley.” This represents a strong verdict that the CPC has come to following the enormous success of China’s historic reform and opening up drive. 

    As an important component of China’s overall reform, political reform has moved forward along with the progression of China’s economic and social reforms. The question is not whether the political system should be reformed or whether reforms have been carried out, but how such reforms should be carried out and in what direction they should go. As we approach the issue of political reform, it is fundamentally important that we dedicate ourselves to the right political direction and implement reform in an active yet prudent fashion.

    I. China’s reforms are all-embracing

    China’s reform is a comprehensive undertaking that covers economic, political, cultural and social spheres. Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China’s reform and opening up drive, said that “when we first raised the question of reform, we had in mind, among other things, the reform of the political structure.” “The reform of the political structure and the reform of the economic structure are interdependent and should be coordinated.” “The success of all our other reforms depends on the success of the political reform.” Jiang Zemin stated that “Our reforms are comprehensive reforms. Under the premise that socialism is adhered to as the basic system, our reforms are aimed at consciously adjusting relations of production and all aspects and links of the superstructure in order to suit the developmental level of productive forces in the primary stage of socialism and the historical requirements for realizing modernization.” Speaking during a question and answer session following a speech at Yale University in 2006, General Secretary Hu Jintao emphasized that “China has actually carried out comprehensive reforms covering its economic, political and cultural systems since 1978. This is a conclusion that anyone who has an understanding of China will reach. China has made important achievements in the reform of both its economic and political systems. The fact that China’s economy has sustained rapid development over the past two decades is enough to show that China’s political system is basically suited to the requirements of its economic development.”

    Economic and political reforms have served to complement each other during China’s drive for comprehensive reform. During this process, neither has “lagged” behind. As a political decision, the policy of reform and opening up has allowed us to free ourselves from the constraints of the old system, which seriously hindered our economic development, and put China on a new path of building modernization with concentrated efforts. Since then, we have engaged in a series of profound reforms that have been as much political as economic, such as the abolition of People’s Communes, the implementation of the household contract responsibility system, the reform of the ownership structure in which public ownership basically ruled the country and the state-owned economy was absolutely predominant, the establishment of a basic economic system in which the public sector plays the dominant role and public and non-public sectors develop side by side, the separation of the government administration from enterprise operation, and the establishment of a modern corporate structure. China’s political reforms are founded on the principle that the people are the masters of their country. The goal of reforms is to enhance the vitality of the Party and the state, and to rally the enthusiasm of the people. On this basis, constant efforts have been made to improve the democratic system, expand the scope of democracy, and diversify the forms in which democracy is embodied. With this, socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics has succeeded in demonstrating a series of definitive characteristics and unique superiorities. China has built the framework of a unique political system with Chinese characteristics, which comprises the system of people’s congresses, 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 autonomy. This framework has been developed and improved on a constant basis throughout the course of practice. China has also formed a series of democratic mechanisms that play an effective role in the running of the country, including democratic centralism in the politics of the Party and the state, collective leadership by leaders at all levels, the mass line and the democratic style of the Party and the government, and the close links between the Party and the people. This mechanism has been continuously strengthened and improved in practice. Following the establishment of rule by law as a fundamental principle of national governance and the subsequent formation of a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics, the notion of respect for and safeguarding human rights is becoming deeply rooted in society and the Chinese people are enjoying increasingly extensive freedoms and rights. All of these things are solid facts that are clear for anyone to see.

    Staff members at a community polling station in Chengxing Residential Quarter, East Nanjing Road Sub-district, Shanghai count votes in an election to select cadres to a local resident committee. At the beginning of 2011, Wu Bangguo, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, declared that China has succeeded in forming a socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics. Marking the end of a historical transition, China has filled the void that used to exist in its legal system, and the development of all the country’s undertakings has been brought within the framework of law. This is an affirmation of China’s commitment to rule by law as a fundamental principle and the development of China as a socialist country ruled by law. / Photo by Xinhua

    In the 30 years and more that have passed since the beginning of the reform and opening up drive, China has achieved much more than just rapid economic growth, social vibrancy and political stability. It has overcome a series of major natural disasters of epic proportion, conquered the onset of epidemic diseases, calmly coped with a series of emergencies that have threatened to undermine its sovereignty and security, and successfully beat back wave after wave of political and economic turmoil that have threatened it internationally. The Chinese nation has been left proud and elated by a string of achievements in recent years, such as the return of Hong Kong and Macao to Chinese sovereignty, the successful launch of lunar orbiter Chang’e and the Shenzhou space flights, the great success of the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo, and China’s effective responses to the Sichuan Earthquake and the international financial crisis. These achievements have, without exception, emerged under China’s existing political system. Moreover, a number of superiorities that define China from other countries, such as the ability to enact effective macro regulation based on the market, the capacity to focus national efforts on major undertakings, the ability to mobilize the people on a nationwide basis, and a mode of mutual aid in which the people rally behind those in need, would be totally unimaginable without the support of the political system.

    Politics is a focused reflection of the foundation on which it is based—economics. Politics is also capable of exerting a huge influence on economics. Therefore, it would be a misjudgment, not to mention illogical, to attribute China’s achievements over the past 30 years and more to economic reforms alone, for this would be to neglect the reforms that have been made in politics and other spheres. On the contrary, China’s great economic success actually serves as the biggest testament to its political success. This is the only logical conclusion.

    II. China’s problems are inherent in development

    After more than 30 years since the reform and opening up drive began, China has entered a new stage of development. As a characteristic of this new phase, new traits are beginning to become evident in China’s economic and social development. On the one hand, China has joined the ranks of the world’s largest economies; it has boosted its national strength exponentially, improved the living quality of its people, and pushed forward the historic transformation of the country. On the other hand, the problems that China is facing are becoming increasingly prominent, such as a widening income gap, disparities in urban, rural and regional development, imbalances in economic and social development, increased pressure to conserve resources and protect the environment, waning public morality, and rife corruption in some respects. China also faces public dissatisfaction over soaring property prices, high medical expenses and difficulty in securing employment.

    But how should we view these problems? Some have pointed the blame at reform itself, saying that reforms have gone wrong and deviated off course. Others maintain that slow progress in pushing forward reforms, particularly political reforms, is to blame for the emergence of these problems. In fact, none of these views are even remotely correct. 

    We must base our assessment on the facts. China’s development is taking place under the backdrop of pre-established historical conditions and a specific internal and external environment. These factors are not of our choosing, nor can they be surmounted. China is characterized by its huge population, weak economic foundations, unbalanced development, and underdeveloped productive forces. These things, as the constituents of China’s fundamental national conditions, dictate the necessity of employing a basic economic system in which the public sector plays the dominant role and public and non-public sectors develop side by side, as this will serve to emancipate and develop productive forces. However, diversity in economic sectors brings about increased diversity in forms of distribution, the layout of interests, living styles and ideological views, which in turn exert a profound and complex influence on all aspects of society. The increasing trend of globalization, coupled with adjustments in the structure of the world economy, has presented China with an indispensable opportunity for development. However, these opportunities will not be there forever. As time is of the essence, we do not have the luxury of being able to plan our development in advance. The inevitable consequence is that we tend to emphasize economic development as we fight to seize opportunities and accelerate our development, and often neglect social development, the conservation of resources, and environmental protection. The creation of a market economy under the socialist system was a pioneering undertaking led by the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people. It has endowed China with a level of economic and social vitality that has never been seen before. However, market forces primarily address the issue of economic efficiency, and are by no means effective in the resolution of all problems. Many of the problems that have emerged in China are, to a certain degree, the result of deficiencies in the market, and are also associated with China’s lack of experience in navigating the development of a market economy under socialist conditions. Any country which seeks to develop must open up its doors to the outside world. Closure only serves to suppress the vitality that gives birth to prosperity. However, the world economic system, as it is at present, is dominated by capitalism. As China seeks to open up, absorb foreign capital and develop international trade, it will inevitably be subjected to the negative effects that ensue as a result of this irrational world economic order.

    Broadening our horizons allows us to see the bigger picture. Many countries underwent a period in which conflicts and problems surged during the course of their development. These problems came to prominence when the economy reached a certain phase of its development. China is facing the same problems now that developed countries did as they underwent industrialization, urbanization, marketization and internationalization. This is a phenomenon that is also being seen in some emerging countries at the present. In the space of just decades, China has made a transition that took developed Western countries more than 200 years to complete. Similarly, problems that emerged gradually during the development of Western countries have occurred in China almost all at once. This is an inevitable product of rapid development and drastic change. Therefore, it would be fair to say that China is facing a task of unprecedented enormity as it seeks to push forward reform, development and modernization. The problems that it will encounter as it maintains reform, development and stability will be totally unprecedented in scale and complexity, while the difficulties and the dangers that await it on the road ahead will be unlike anything ever seen before.

    When viewed in the context of these historical conditions and the internal and external environment in which China is seeking to develop, China’s achievements look all the more impressive. China has maintained an unwavering commitment to its policy of reform and opening up over the past three decades and more. In addition to showing the courage and the commitment to engage in bold new things, it has also shown prudence in looking at the big picture, identifying priorities, tackling easier problems before difficult ones, and progressing forwards on a step by step basis. It has made efforts to evaluate the experiences that have been gained during the course of reform. Successful practices are adhered to, unsuccessful practices are given up in favor of better alternatives, and rapid action is taken to identify solutions to new problems. Anyone free of prejudice would immediately acknowledge the success that China has achieved in promoting development and coping with challenges, and would admit that its performance has gone unmatched amongst its peers. But what is the key to this success? To a major extent, this success would not have been possible without China’s unique socialist political system and the sound interactions that have taken place between China’s political and economic reforms. 

    III. Difficult issues must be resolved through pragmatic reform and development

    Continued reform and development is the best solution to problems that emerge during the course of development. As proposed by the CPC Central Committee with Hu Jintao as the General Secretary, the Scientific Outlook on Development was formulated on the basis of China’s fundamental conditions, in consideration of China’s previous practices, and in reference to the experiences of other countries. Geared to new requirements for the development of China, the Scientific Outlook on Development represents a major strategic approach and a guiding principle that must be followed if we are to solve the difficult issues that emerge during development, transform our pattern of development, and realize both the sound and rapid development of the country.

    It is essential that we promote reforms and development in a pragmatic and steadfast manner if we are to succeed in fully applying the Scientific Outlook on Development. Over recent years, China’s efforts to push forward reforms in various sectors have never ceased. From an economic perspective, China has continued to deepen reforms in a number of important sectors and key aspects such as finance, taxation, banking, pricing, market access and tenure in collective forests. Politically speaking, a number of reforms have been pushed forward. For example, the Election Law has been amended so that both urban and rural areas adopt the same ratio of deputies to the represented population in elections of deputies to people’s congresses. Progress has also been made in the reform of the cadre and personnel system, anti-corruption regulations, and in reforms aimed at consolidating government ministries and commissions. Culturally speaking, an unprecedented drive to reform the cultural system has injected cultural undertakings and cultural industries with a level of vigor never before seen. In regard to social services, urban and rural reforms are now being conducted in coordination with one another, and fresh progress has been made in the improvement of the social safety net and in the reform of education and health care. However, despite this, some people have blindly refused to acknowledge the genuine progress that these reforms have brought about. They stubbornly alleged that reforms have stood still and lagged behind. Of course, the only thing that this indicates is that the reforms China has made are not what these people want. It goes to show that their idea of reform is completely different from the reforms that China has been carrying out.

    Unlike members of the public who have voiced some dissatisfaction over certain issues in which they have immediate interest, the people who have criticized China’s reforms for standing still and lagging behind are actually advocating the duplication of the Western political model in China. According to their argument, all knotty issues will be solved at once if China introduces Western democracy.

    However, in reality, Western-style reforms in some developing countries have not always been met with economic development, political stability and social progress. Instead, these countries have been thrown into the chaos of multi-party politics, political unrest, social divides and even national turmoil. In the midst of such political chaos, corruption has gone unchecked, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened, the national economy has been left unattended to and the welfare of the people has been neglected. There is no shortage of examples of the countries where this has happened, and some are not even that far from us. All of these things bear testament to the fact that China is taking the right approach. As we are challenged by the problems that lie on the path ahead, we cannot resort to the policy of closure as we did in the past, nor can we abandon our principles and embark down an ill-fated path of trying to mimic the West. This is the conclusion that China has arrived at through the course of reform.

    In light of the new situation that China is set to face during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period, the Fifth Plenary Session of the Seventeenth CPC Central Committee made comprehensive plans for economic and social development over the coming five years. These initiatives, which revolve around the concept of scientific development, are primarily aimed at accelerating the transformation of China’s pattern of economic development. As stated during the meeting, reform is a powerful engine that will drive on the accelerated transformation of China’s pattern of economic development. Therefore, comprehensive reforms must be approached with greater resolve and courage. Economic reforms should be deepened in a major effort, the political structure should be reformed in an active yet prudent manner, and the cultural and social structures must be reformed at an increased pace. These things will allow the superstructure to become more adaptable to the developments and changes that occur in the economic foundation, which will be highly conducive to scientific development. The Proposal of the CPC Central Committee for Formulating the Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, which was passed at the Fifth Plenary Session, has proposed a series of reform measures aimed at tackling major difficulties and resolving prominent issues and problems. As we implement these reforms, we should place a greater emphasis on top-level design and planning on a comprehensive basis. We should specify reform priorities, identify the key tasks therein, rally greater enthusiasm for reform, respect the initiative of the public, approach our work pragmatically, and seek to make steady progress. With the implementation of these reforms and the gradual realization of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, we are confident that the issues which have been troubling China and causing public dissatisfaction will be resolved gradually or mitigated. With this, China is sure to usher in even better prospects for development.

    IV. Political reforms must be approached actively, prudently and in the right direction

    We should be aware that the deepening of economic, cultural and social reforms cannot be done successfully without the support and backing of political reforms. For instance, the absence of political reforms would actually pose an obstacle to certain economic reforms and hinder their success. Therefore, political reform must be pursued actively. However, we must also be aware that political reforms have a major bearing on social harmony and the long term peace and stability of the country. Each and every reform will exert a deep influence on a vast range of issues and huge numbers of people, so it is essential that we refrain from approaching the reforms rashly and impetuously. Instead, it is essential that we proceed on the basis of the actual situation that we face and with a steady grasp. In order to maintain the correct political direction and push forward political reform in an active yet prudent manner, we must ensure that reforms fall in line with three things.

    First, reforms should fall in line with China’s fundamental system of socialism. China is a socialist country under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. The firm leadership of the Party represents China’s greatest political superiority, while socialism with Chinese characteristics is a proven road to common prosperity and national strength. Political reforms should serve to strengthen and improve the leadership of the Party, and should never be allowed to undermine or remove its leadership. Political reforms must be conducive to the improvement and development of the socialist system, and should never result in the abandonment or replacement of socialism as our fundamental system. China’s reforms are an attempt to give enhanced emphasis to the superiorities of the socialist system. They are an attempt to create a path of political development that fits in with the realities of China, bears unique characteristics, and exhibits its own superiorities. Without the Communist Party of China and socialism, China would be thrown into turmoil and chaos. It would be reduced to a slave of the West—divided, weak and lame. The achievements of China’s revolution, development and reform would be lost forever. Whilst it is true that we should draw from the achievements of mankind’s political civilization and take reference from favorable aspects in the political development of Western countries, the fact remains that China will never sacrifice its own interests by attempting to copy Western political models.

    Second, reforms should fall in line with China’s level of economic and social development. Factors contributing to a country’s level of political development include its history, cultural traditions and the level of its economic and social development. Although China’s socialist system has unparalleled superiorities compared to the capitalist model of the West, China is much less developed from an economic and social perspective than Western countries are. This dictates that China’s efforts to develop socialist democracy, including political reform, will inevitably be a drawn-out historical process. As this is something that cannot be done at once, we should avoid being overly-eager and refrain from shouting out empty slogans. Instead, political reforms must be based on the economic and social realities that we face in the present stage of our development. We must show great resolve and pragmatism in pushing political reforms forward gradually in step with economic, social and civil development and as public awareness of the socialist democratic legal system increases. Scholars of Western democracy have pointed out that democracy comes in differing levels of quality. They believe that democracy has been unable to adapt to local conditions and operate effectively in some countries, which is primarily due to significant differences in history, culture and the degree of economic and social development. Characterized by maladministration, corruption and chaos, scholars have dubbed this kind of democracy “inferior democracy.” Far from a blessing, this kind of democracy is enough to ruin a country and throw its people into turmoil. This is the fundamental reason why the efforts of the West to export democracy have been met with one failure after another.  

    Third, reforms should fall in line with the ever increasing political enthusiasm of the people. The people are the masters of their country. They are the main participants of reform. Therefore, in essence, the reform and opening up drive is a direct undertaking of millions of people. The entire point of political reform is to better ensure that the people are able to act as the masters of their own country, and thereby safeguard and realize the fundamental interests of the majority of the people. In deepening political reforms, we need to continuously improve our democratic system, enrich the forms of our democracy and expand the scope of democracy as the political enthusiasm of the people continues to increase. We must implement democratic elections, democratic policy making, democratic management and democratic supervision in accordance with the law in order to protect the people’s right to know, participate, express opinions and supervise. This will ensure that reforms have a strong level of public support. At the same time, we must also adhere to the principle that all powers of the state belong to the people and that the people are the masters of the country. With a goal of vitalizing the Party, invigorating the state, and rallying the enthusiasm of the people, we should seek to promote a greater level of orderly public participation in politics at all levels and in all fields, and seek to mobilize and organize public involvement in the management of national, social, economic and cultural affairs in accordance with the law.

    The Fifth Plenary Session of the Seventeenth CPC Central Committee stressed that the leadership of the CPC is fundamental to the success of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan. We must give full play to the core leadership of the CPC, enhance its capacity to govern, increase its level of progressiveness, and constantly improve its ability to navigate economic and social development. We must closely integrate the leadership of the Party, the position of the people as masters of the country, and the rule of law. We must develop socialist democratic politics, accelerate the development of a socialist country ruled by law, and bolster the broadest patriotic united front. This will lead to the formation of a strong impetus that will drive forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. These are the things that China must adhere to as it shows greater determination and courage in pushing forward reforms in all respects, including political reforms.

(Originally appeared in Red Flag Manuscript, No.22, 2010)

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