Hussein Askary (Belt and Road Institute in Sweden)
A jubilant China, that just achieved the first centennial goal of “building a moderately prosperous society in all respects” (Xiaokang in Chinese) and eradicating extreme poverty by 2021, has set sail towards the future at the end of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held from 16-22 of October 2022. By 2035, the CPC has set the goal of achieving “socialist modernization” and in 2049 it will achieve the final centennial goal of “building a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful”. Unless the world is hit by some apocalyptic event such as the outbreak of a nuclear World War III or a mega asteroid impact annihilating the entire human race, China will undoubtedly reach the goals outlined by the leadership of the CPC. Every nation in the world that is yearning for a long-term vision and partnership with an economic superpower may synchronize their watches with Beijing’s time, not as followers of China, but as true partners for a long-term, strategic, and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Importance of the National Congress
The National Congress of the CPC is the most important event in the life cycles of the CPC. Each cycle lasts for five years during which “Plenums” are held, i.e., plenary sessions where the past and present directions of policy are discussed. The latest session of National Congress, which was the 19th, started in 2017 and ended in October 2022. It consisted of 7 plenums. The First Plenary Session in October 2017 dealt with the top leadership election. The Second, in January 2018, revised the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China to include Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and consolidated the Party leadership. The Third, in February 2018, dealt with major economic issues. The Fourth, held in October 2019, reviewed economic policy and governance system within the CPC and PRC. The Fifth, in October 2020, adopted the 14th Five-Year Plan and the “Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035”. The 6th Plenary session, held on 8-11 November 2021, adopted a “Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of The Party over the Past Century”. The 7th and final Plenum was held before the National People’s Congress in October 2022 to conclude the 19th Congress and usher in the 20th.
One of the important highlights of the 20th National Congress was the reelection of President Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the CPC for a third term, and election of a new Central Committee. This means that he will remain unchallenged as the leader of the CPC and President of the PRC.
Clarifying the concepts
We would like to clarify to the Swedish and Western readers certain concepts that are not discussed at all in Western media and among the established think tanks and research centers. Without understanding these concepts in depth, it is impossible to comprehend how, why, and where China is going. We will use the words of General Secretary Xi to explain them as he did in his Report to the 20th National Congress which he delivered on October 16. His report was titled “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive in Unity to Build a Modern Socialist Country in All Respects”. The title itself needs clarification.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics in the New Era
The expression “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” was first used by the former leader Deng Xiaoping in 1982 to build the basis for adapting Marxist-Leninist socialism to the Chinese context and changes in circumstances both internal and external, in addition to changes in time. China as a poor country was aspiring towards development. Deng was planning to “open up” China to the world after decades of isolation, adapt to market economy, learn from other nations, and absorb technological and scientific progress generated in other parts of the world. This is extremely important to understand in order to avoid thinking that the Chinese leadership contradicts itself when it makes changes in the course of its journey. Following the defeat of the Gang of Four and the end of the “Cultural Revolution” in the second half of the 1970s, the CPC under the leadership of Deng, strived to move away from the rigid and dogmatic implementation of Marxism, and chart a course which can enable it to develop and evolve as the economy and society develop and the world around China changes. Adapting to change without sacrificing principles of socialism has become a key element of the CPC method of thinking and operation.
Xi said in his report to the 20th National Congress: “To uphold and develop Marxism, we must integrate it with China’s specific realities. Taking Marxism as our guide means applying its worldview and methodology to solving problems in China; it does not mean memorizing and reciting its specific conclusions and lines, and still less does it mean treating it as a rigid dogma. We must continue to free our minds, seek truth from facts, move with the times, and take a realistic and pragmatic approach. We must base everything we do on actual conditions and focus on solving real problems arising in our reform, opening up, and socialist modernization endeavors in the new era.”
This term was later developed by President Xi, through his scientific outlook of economy since he became General Secretary in 2012, into what is now known as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era”. This expression was first officially codified in the 19th National Congress of the CPC in 2017 and was incorporated into the Constitution. The “new era” is thus attached to President Xi’s own thought on the development of the economy and society to cope with the incredible changes that have taken place in China and around the world.
Xi’s Though on Economy: High-quality development
For example, in a discussion of the role of science as a driver for the development of any nation, President Xi stated in a speech delivered to the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on October 29, 2015: “Innovative development focuses on the drivers of growth. Our ability to innovate is inadequate. Our science and technology are not fully developed and are unable to create momentum to support economic and social development. This is the Achilles heel for such a big economy as China.” In addition, given a hostile international environment, China had to overcome attempts by certain Western powers to limit its access to critical industrial technologies. Therefore, it became imperative to speed up the investment in technological and scientific innovation.
The shift from low-quality mass production for export to high-quality industrial production was pushed strongly by Xi in the same session. “The 13th Five-Year plan period (2016-2020) provides an important window of opportunity for transforming the economic growth model”, Xi said. He added emphatically: “If we fail to achieve this, and instead implement stimulus policy for short-term economic growth, we will continue to jeopardize future growth.”
Explaining what he means by this in more detail, he stated: “In general, the industrial capacity of our country is huge, but it is partly compromised by ineffective supply. China is a big producer and exporter, but most of our products and technology are low-end while few are hi-tech, high quality, and high added value.”
Later, President Xi in a speech titled “A Deeper Understanding of the New Development Concepts,” which he delivered on January 18, 2016, at a study session of the implementation of the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee described the challenge of the imbalance created by moving from quantity-based to quality-based development. He said: “Coordinated development is the unity of balanced development and imbalanced development. The process from balance to imbalance and then to rebalance is the basic law of development. Balance is relative while imbalance is absolute. Emphasizing coordinated development is not pursuing equalitarianism but giving more importance to equal opportunities and balanced resource allocation.” Xi continued: “Coordinated development is the unity of weakness and potential in development. China is in a stage of transition from a middle-income country to a high-income country. According to international experience, this is a stage of concentrated conflicts of interest, in which imbalanced development and various weaknesses are inevitable. To pursue coordinated development, we should identify and improve our weaknesses, so as to tap development potential and sustain growth momentum.”
To understand what the “new era” implies, the 20th National not only reelected President Xi but also established his political theory as the ideology of the CPC. This was made formal in the “Historical Resolution” adopted in the 6th Plenary session held on 8-11 November of 2021. (See our report on this resolutions)
Goals, economic principles, and strategies
Therefore, the “new era” is characterized by President Xi presenting, as early as 2012, a series of new views on the economic theories of the CPC, adding more scientific definitions to it. The 20th National Congress elucidated these concepts as presented by President Xi in his report to the Congress.
We can summarize them in three main categories: 1. Goals, 2, Economic Principles, and 3. Economic Strategies as follows:
A. The great rejuvenation of the nation:
In the words of President Xi in his Report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC:
“We have advanced reform, opening up, and socialist modernization and have written a new chapter on the miracles of fast economic growth and long-term social stability. China now has more solid material foundations and stronger institutional underpinnings for pursuing development. The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is now on an irreversible historical course.”
The expression “rejuvenation of the Chinese nations” was first coined by President Xi, in a speech he delivered on November 29, 2012, (shortly after assuming the position of General Secretary of the CPC) during a visit to the exhibition “The Road to Rejuvenation.” This is a permanent exhibition located in the National Museum of China in Beijing. It showcases the hardships experienced by the Chinese people during what is called “century of humiliation” which started with the British-Western-imposed Opium Wars in 1840 almost a century before the victory of the CPC in establishing the PRC in 1949. Xi’s speech which is titled “Achieving Rejuvenation Is the Dream of the Chinese People”, described the exhibition to be “about the past, present and future of the Chinese nation, and it is a highly educational and inspiring one”, and not merely about the terrible past. “Having reviewed our historical experience and made painstaking efforts to probe our way forward in the past 30 years and more since the reform and opening-up process was started, we have finally embarked on the right path to achieve the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and made impressive achievements in this pursuit,” Xi said.
The expression “Chinese dream” means this and is synonymous to it. It is not simply about the individual “making it alone”, but a whole nation working together to achieve a national dream. It is neither a romantic nor a nostalgic longing to the Imperial past of China as the “Middle Kingdom” and the center of the universe, as some Western critics claim. The Chinese Dream is the building of “a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by 2049”, and a country that is living in peace and harmony with its neighbors and the nations of the world. Xi said that backwardness made China vulnerable, and that “only development” will make China strong. The individual citizen and her / his immediate family locate their dream within this larger context and the government makes sure that this family is safe, prosperous, developing. The success of the individual citizens is coupled with this higher goal of the nation through their hard and innovative work which will naturally contribute to the bigger dream.
B. Fully Modernized Socialist Nation:
By 2035, China intends to basically realize “socialist modernization” with a significantly increased economic strength, scientific and technological capabilities, and composite national strength, as well as better and happier lives of the people. Much of the modernization process is pivoted on urbanization and developing the rural areas of China. To modernize the economy and enter the era of industrialization, it was imperative to move large numbers of the population from the rural areas to new urban areas as labor force to occupy the newly created industrial zones after the opening up of the economy to foreign investment.
To accommodate the new labor force, it was imperative to build wholly new city clusters and both the physical infrastrcuture (housing, roads, rail, water and sewerage systems, and power generation and distribution systems) and the social infrastructure (schools, hospitals, nursing homes, cultural centers, museums, libraries, etc). Between 1978 and 2020, China witnessed what can be termed the biggest mass-emigration process in world history. In that period, according to the White Paper, the percentage of permanent urban residents in the overall population rose from 10.6 percent to 63.9 percent, and the number of cities grew from 132 to 687, while the number of administrative towns soared from 2,000 to more than 21,000. They include modern and internationalized metropolises, grandiose ancient capital cities, glamorous cultural destinations, and towns with unique features. As urbanization accelerated, tightly-knit city clusters have formed, each covering a large area and inhabited by a large population. They are becoming powerhouses driving economic development, modernization, and the improvement of urban operational efficiency and their residents’ living standards.
C. High standard of living for all citizens: bridging income gaps between rural and urban areas. (See points 2.B and 3.C)
D. A world leader in science, technology, innovation, manufacturing, construction and engineering, space exploration, telecommunications, Artificial Intelligence, and biotech.
President Xi said in the Report to the 20th National Congress: “Building a modern socialist country in all respects is a great and arduous endeavor. Our future is bright, but we still have a long way to go. A new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation is well under way, and a significant shift is taking place in the international balance of power, presenting China with new strategic opportunities in pursuing development”.
China will continue to drive its high-quality development with the goal of becoming a world leader in many scientific and technological sectors. It is already a leader in telecommunications, artificial intelligence, high-speed rail, hydropower and other construction engineering capabilities. It has developed a world class space program in a record time with high ambitions. It is advancing its capabilities in biotechnology and medical sector. It is aiming at becoming a world leader in robotics too. Nuclear power is another field in which China is refining its home-grown fission nuclear power plant models, and is intensively advancing research in fusion power.
E. A culturally advanced nation
President Xi said in his report to the 20th National Congress: “With a history stretching back to antiquity, China’s fine traditional culture is extensive and profound; it is the crystallization of the wisdom of Chinese civilization. Our traditional culture espouses many important principles and concepts, including pursuing common good for all; regarding the people as the foundation of the state; governing by virtue; discarding the outdated in favor of the new; selecting officials on the basis of merit; promoting harmony between humanity and nature; ceaselessly pursuing self-improvement; embracing the world with virtue; acting in good faith and being friendly to others; and fostering neighborliness. These maxims, which have taken shape over centuries of work and life, reflect the Chinese people’s way of viewing the universe, the world, society, and morality and are highly consistent with the values and propositions of scientific socialism.
“We must stay confident in our history and culture, make the past serve the present, and develop the new from the old. We must integrate the essence of Marxism with the best of fine traditional Chinese culture and with the common values that our people intuitively apply in their everyday lives.”
The cultural aspect of China’s rejuvenation is probably one of the most delicate and decisive matters in the undertakings of the CPC. China’s rise is not merely a materialistic issue, otherwise, it would risk falling into the pit of soulless consumerism and decadence. The question of culture is multi-faceted and incorporates even the economic aspects of the society such as the drivers of innovation. In the press conference held in Beijing on November 9, 2020 to present the 14th Five Year Plan (2021- 2025) adopted at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee in October of that year, Xin Xiangyang, Deputy Director of the Academy of Marxism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, stated: “The objective to become a leading innovative country means to become among the top three in the world. Innovation will take a higher share. A culturally strong country implies a “culture industry” of 10% of GDP”.
The Chinese term translated as “culture industry” (wen hua chan ye) refers to cultural productions—written literature, films, music—and cultural services—education in the arts, museums, concert halls, libraries—conceived of as a means to improve people’s quality of life and to elevate their aesthetical sense. The argument is that the culture industry will propel economic growth! “To plan to invest 10% of China’s GDP into upshifting the culture of the general population is nothing less than astounding”, Xin wrote.
In 2018, President Xi Jinping underscored the importance of aesthetic education in his response to a letter from eight senior professors from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. Xi called for more efforts in education to shape, in the country’s youth, “a more beautiful mind,” so that young people would be able to “deliver masterpieces of art to the world.” Implying the importance of the classical principles of traditional Chinese painting and music, Xi urged the senior professors to “abide by the laws of aesthetics and carry forward the Chinese spirit of aesthetic education.”
The rising self-confidence of the Chinese people and the leadership is driven by the miraculous economic development that has taken place in the past four decades. As noted above, this is not an accident or a mechanical development, but a result of carefully calculated measures that have changed in form but remained the same at the core. The leadership of the CPC is reflecting on the fact that unless there is a clear view of what Chinese culture and identity is, the foundations of the society will erode in the midst of the hustle and bustle of modern life.
The historic Resolution adopted at the The sixth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the CPC states: “Since the launch of reform and opening up, The Party has attached equal emphasis to material progress and cultural-ethical progress. As a result, socialist culture has thrived, the national spirit has been lifted, and national solidarity has grown stronger.” But it raises a stern warning saying that at the same time “misguided ideas have often cropped up, such as money worship, hedonism, ultra-individualism, and historical nihilism.”
It emphasizes that “It [Party] has stressed that ideological work shapes the collective mind of a country and forges the soul of a nation, and that confidence in one’s culture, which is a broader, deeper, and more fundamental form of self-confidence, is the most essential, profound, and enduring source of strength for the development of a country and a nation”, adding that “without a thriving culture and firm confidence in it”, the Chinese nation cannot achieve rejuvenation.
While the Resolution does not identify the nature of the classical culture it promotes, with the obvious role of the unnamed Confucian tradition in its center, the Central Committee stressed that “China’s fine traditional culture is a prominent strength of our nation that enables us to gain a firm footing amidst global cultural interaction”. It declares: “For this purpose, we have launched projects to pass on and develop our fine cultural traditions, promoted their creative transformation and development, raised public awareness.”
An important breakthrough in the economic thinking of Xi Jinping and the CPC is related to the known fact that innovation is the key to economic growth. However, innovation cannot be a result of mere “hard work” and through collective efforts but that innovation or “creativity” is a function of the development of the culture and individual especially the aesthetical aspect. Therefore, the revival of Chinese classical culture and even additionally focusing on western classical culture rather than the banal popular culture is a move in the right direction. Thia is not a mere national romantic view of ancestral traditions and identity, but a true method of scientific and aesthetic fostering of the creative powers of the individual and society. Therefore, the restrictions on Chinese children’s computer use habits, for example, or resistance to banal pop-culture among the youth should be viewed in this light. This also opens the way for Western classical culture professionals to cooperate with the massive Chinese “cultural market”. This will also be a very important aspect of people-to-people dialog of civilizations.
2. Economic Principles:
A. CPC leadership of the economy with economic development as the Party’s central mission.
Xi said in his Report to the 20th National Congress: “Development is our Party’s top priority in governing and rejuvenating China, for without solid material and technological foundations, we cannot hope to build a great modern socialist country in all respects. We must fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy on all fronts, continue reforms to develop the socialist market economy, promote high-standard opening up, and accelerate efforts to foster a new pattern of development that is focused on the domestic economy and features positive interplay between domestic and international economic flows.”
The CPC’s Central Committee will continue to exercise the designer and overseer of the overall economic path of the country based on the merits of its achievements in the past decades.
B. People-centered development philosophy. Prosperous, happy and safe population.
People-centered development is the development of the prosperity and productivity of the whole people. It is a measurable and not a rhetorical factor. The philosophy is a key element of Marxism and the “Party’s theories are from the people, for the people, and beneficial to the people,” as President Xi put it.
“—We have implemented a people-centered philosophy of development. We have worked continuously to ensure people’s access to childcare, education, employment, medical services, elderly care, housing, and social assistance, thus bringing about an all-around improvement in people’s lives. China’s life expectancy has reached 78.2 years, its per capita disposable annual income has risen from 16,500 yuan to 35,100 yuan, and more than 13 million urban jobs have been created each year on average over the past 10 years. We have built the largest education, social security, and healthcare systems in the world. These achievements have allowed us to make historic strides in making education universally available, bring 1.04 billion people under the coverage of basic old-age insurance, and ensure basic medical insurance for 95 percent of the population. Timely adjustments have been made to the childbirth policy. More than 42 million housing units in run-down urban areas and more than 24 million dilapidated rural houses have been rebuilt, marking a significant improvement in housing conditions in both urban and rural areas. The number of internet users has reached 1.03 billion. We have ensured a more complete and lasting sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security for our people, and we have made further progress in achieving common prosperity for all.”
C. A new development stage in the new era requires new thinking shifting from high quantity fast growth to high-quality development.
President Xi: “In pursuing economic growth, we must continue to focus on the real economy. We will advance new industrialization and move faster to boost China’s strength in manufacturing, product quality, aerospace, transportation, cyberspace, and digital development. We will carry out industrial foundation reengineering projects and research projects on major technologies and equipment; support enterprises that use special and sophisticated technologies to produce novel and unique products; and move the manufacturing sector toward higher-end, smarter, and greener production.”
This requires the building of a new system of efficient and high-quality services that are integrated with advanced manufacturing and modern agriculture. In addition there will be an acceleration of “Internet of Things” and the building of an efficient and smooth logistics system to help cut distribution costs. “We will accelerate the development of the digital economy, further integrate it with the real economy, and build internationally competitive digital industry clusters. We will build a modern infrastructure system with a better layout and structure, more effective functions, and greater system integration”, President Xi said in his Report.
D. Develop a socialist market economy with markets playing the decisive role in resource allocation and the government playing its role.
This point, i.e. “socialist market economt”, would seem to be a flagrant contradiction in terms, but it is not if we understand the point with “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Adapting socialism to the Chinese context, China’s stage of development, and the changing times in the world, has become the source of success of the Chinese model of development. The minute and delicate balance between the market economy and socialist structure ensures the continued development process and at the same time does not leave the fate of the individual and society in the hands of the market forces. The CPC Central Committee remains on top of the progress of this model through regulation and sometimes curbing the ambitions of the market forces. For example, when financial services providers such as Ali Baba attempted to extend their reach to play the banker and broker beyond their role of facilitating trade and financial transactions, they were slapped on the wrist. In a similar manner, attempts by giant real-estate developers to monopolize the market and create financial bubbles for the sake of pure monetary profit, the government intervened to break down that power which risked that average citizens fall pray to the ambitions of these companies. The real estate crisis of 2020-2021, which was sparked by the liquidity crisis of the giant developer Evergrand, was an important lesson requiring swift government intervention through regulation. President Xi referenced this matter in his Report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC, saying: “Adhering to the principle that housing is for living in and not for speculation, we will move faster to build a housing system featuring multiple suppliers and various channels of support that encourages both housing rentals and purchases”.
Additionaly, President Xi said: “We must unswervingly consolidate and develop the public sector and unswervingly encourage, support, and guide the development of the non-public sector. We will work to see that the market plays the decisive role in resource allocation and that the government better plays its role.”
E. National self-reliance and self-improvement.
In the words of President Xi in his Report to the 20th National Congress:
“We have accelerated efforts to build our self-reliance and strength in science and technology, with nationwide R&D spending rising from 1 trillion yuan to 2.8 trillion yuan, the second highest in the world. Our country is now home to the largest cohort of R&D personnel in the world.
“We have grown stronger in basic research and original innovation, made breakthroughs in some core technologies in key fields, and boosted emerging strategic industries. We have witnessed major successes on multiple fronts, including manned spaceflight, lunar and Martian exploration, deep sea and deep earth probes, supercomputers, satellite navigation, quantum information, nuclear power technology, new energy technology, airliner manufacturing, and biomedicine. China has joined the ranks of the world’s innovators.”
In 2021, China became the absolute world leader in the filing of new patents. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), China’s intellectual property office received 1.59 million patent applications of the total 3.4 million filed worldwide in 2021, which is similar in magnitude to the combined total of the next 12 offices of other nations ranked from second to 13th. China was followed by the offices of the U.S. (591,473), Japan (289,200), the Republic of Korea (237,998) and the European Patent Office (188,778). This means that China alone had filed more new patents than all the 4 following nations in the ranking. In the past decade, according to WIPO, China has filed 389,571 patents in the area of artificial intelligence technology (AI), accounting for 74.7 percent of the global total and ranking the first in the world. The same goes for many other areas such as clean transport vehicle fuel-cell technologies, where China scored 69% of the global new patent applications. In addition, indicating a global pattern of the shift of economic centers of power to the east, Asia in general is advancing rapidly in local patent applications, while the U.S. and Europe are retreating.
However, as President Xi, has repeatedly warned, China is not yet the world champion of innovation. While China has achieved great progress in the past decade, it is still ranking as number 12 in the Global Innovation Index.
3. Economic Strategies:
A. Introducing 3 major concepts of development: I) innovation, II) coordinated development, III) Green development.
Since he assumed the leadership of the CPC in 2012, President Xi made innovation the core of the new economic thinking of the party. On June 9, 2014, in a speech at the General Assembly of the Members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, he made the contrast between being a cheap labor market and being a modern industrial nation, saying: “The old path seems to be a dead end. Where is the new road? It lies in scientific and technological innovation, and in the accelerated transition from factor-driven and investment-driven growth to innovation-driven growth.” He further elaborated that “scientific and technological innovations, like a fulcrum which is said to be able to lever the earth, always create miracles.” Xi emphasized that “the world’s major countries are seeking to make new scientific and technological breakthroughs and gain competitive edges in future economic as well as scientific and technological development.” He warned: “We cannot afford to lag behind in this important race. We must catch up and then try to surpass others.”
This was in 2014.
In 2022, as CChina has already made major breakthroughs in the intervening 8 years, Xi said the following about the future moves in the field of innovation: at “Innovation will remain at the heart of China’s modernization drive. We will improve the system in which the Party Central Committee exercises unified leadership over science and technology work. We will improve the new system for mobilizing resources nationwide to make key technological breakthroughs. We will boost China’s strength in strategic science and technology, better allocate innovation resources, and better define the roles of national research institutes, advanced-level research universities, and leading high-tech enterprises to improve their layout.”
This will not be limited to China per se but include an international effort to attract talents.
President Xi: “We will move faster to build world hubs for talent and innovation, promote better distribution and balanced development of talent across regions, and strive to build up our comparative strengths in global competition for talent. We will speed up efforts to build a contingent of personnel with expertise of strategic importance and cultivate greater numbers of master scholars, science strategists, first-class scientists and innovation teams, young scientists, outstanding engineers, master craftsmen, and highly skilled workers. We will increase international personnel exchanges and make the best use of talent of all types to fully harness their potential.”
II) Coordinated Development
The term refers to a policy of integration of regional economic advantages and clusters of industrial zones. At the same time, it endeavors to bridge the gap to weaker regions of the country where economic development is lagging. There are regions of intense industrial and technological strength that enhance each other’s advantages creating a cluster or a belt of dense economic activity such as the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Yangtze Economic Belt, and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. At the same time, efforts are made to connect these regions to areas of weaker economic growth to revitalize them. “We will make further progress in the large-scale development of the western region, achieve new breakthroughs in the full revitalization of the Northeast, accelerate the rise of the central region, and encourage the eastern region to modernize more quickly,” Said Xi in his report to the 20th National Congress. He added that the CPC “will support old revolutionary base areas and areas with large ethnic minority populations in speeding up development. We will promote development in border areas to boost local economies, raise local living standards, and ensure local stability.”
III) Green development
The Chinese people cherish and respect nature since ancient times, and the harmonic relationship between humanity and nature is an essential part of Chinese philosophy, art and traditions. However, the balance between achieving the Chinese Dream of prosperity for all the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens (and probably more in the future) and contributing to global development is a very delicate matter while maintain a clean and beautiful environment is a major challenge.
President Xi: “Nature provides the basic conditions for human survival and development. Respecting, adapting to, and protecting nature is essential for building China into a modern socialist country in all respects. We must uphold and act on the principle that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, and we must remember to maintain harmony between humanity and nature when planning our development.”
The CPC launched the Beautiful China Initiative, which is roadmap through which China will fulfill the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. President Xi Jinping proposed a this roadmap and a timetable for the BCI at the 2019 National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection. It is important that there is no mixing of the Chinese concept of Eco-civilization and the rampant and sometimes extreme environmentalist ideology of the west. In the Chinese view, there is no contradiction between industrial development and improved eco-systems, if there is a “a holistic and systematic approach” to the conservation and improvement of mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, grasslands, and deserts, simultaneously as industrial processes are constantly improved in efficiency to new environmental standards.
The BRIX authored a comprehensive review of China’s plans for “Green transition” announced in 2021 to showcase how these two elements of environmental improvement and conservation go parallel to economic and industrial progress.
B. Dual Circulation: Expanding domestic demand and encouraging greater consumption starting with the domestic market as the main source of growth, and with external trade promoting each other, i.e. producing higher-quality goods exports and higher quality goods imports. In other words, China will be both the biggest factory of the world and the biggest market in the world.
President Xi on internal market: “We will work to expand domestic demand and better leverage the fundamental role of consumption in stimulating economic growth and the key role of investment in improving the supply structure.. We will leverage the strengths of China’s enormous market, attract global resources and production factors with our strong domestic economy, and amplify the interplay between domestic and international markets and resources. This will position us to improve the level and quality of trade and investment cooperation.”
President Xi: on external factor: “We have pursued a more proactive strategy of opening up. We have worked to build a globally-oriented network of high-standard free trade areas and accelerated the development of pilot free trade zones and the Hainan Free Trade Port. As a collaborative endeavor, the Belt and Road Initiative has been welcomed by the international community both as a public good and a cooperation platform.”
This is a key part of the new policy of further opening up. This includes encouraging foreign investment into the Chinese domestic market creative an attractive environment for foreign investors through new relaxed regulations and laws.
This policy hinges to a great deal on the Belt and Road Initiative as the main vehicle for China’s outward orientation to open new markets and enhance global development. This point will be further elucidated in part two of this series.
C. Rural vitalization to achieve common prosperity, which implies bringing up standards of living in rural areas closer to the urban areas. China managed to pull 800 million people out of poverty, not through Robin Hood methods of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, but by lifting everyone through comprehensive economic development schemes. However, China and the CPC still face many challenges.
President Xi: “There are still wide gaps in development and income distribution between urban and rural areas and between regions. Our people face many difficulties in areas such as employment, education, medical services, childcare, elderly care, and housing.. The most challenging and arduous tasks we face in building a modern socialist China in all respects remain in our rural areas.”
The modernization of the rural areas of China became imperative not only to avoid social problems,
but to increase the contribution of the rural areas to the nations’ economy. Therefore, the reform of the agricultural sector took a center stage combined with large-scale development of the rural infrastructure and connecting the rural and urban infrastructures to create a smooth flow of resources and labor to and from these two nodal points. Significant advancements were made in agricultural modernization with the wider application of machinery, digital and green technologies as well as functional and community-shared farming. This has reduced the need for manual labor and helped raise rural productivity sharply. Grain production capacity has steadily increased, to the extent that China has now achieved basic self-sufficiency in grain supply, which ensures the country’s food security.
As for the infrastructure, modern rural roads that are properly built, managed, and maintained, with well-operated passenger and freight services, made big contributions to increasing the living standard and productivity. By 2020, all the villages, towns, and townships where conditions permit were accessible by surfaced roads and served by buses. Some 80 percent of administrative villages have agriculture-related information service stations. As part of the poverty elimination programs, industries were set up in the rural areas and skills were developed through training programs. CPC and government officials were dispatched to ensure that these programs are followed and are effective. The physical accessibility to these areas also made it possible for human resources, capital, and products to move smoothly back and forth from the urban centers to the rural areas with investments being made by the locals themselves.
The strategy also includes the following elements that have been already covered in one way or another in the body of this article.
D. Enhancing Indigenous innovation, especially for bottleneck and sensitive technologies such as semiconductors to insulate China from foreign pressure and supply chain disruptions.
E. Risk reduction through supply side structural reform, especially food security, energy security, supply chain security, information security, and price stability,
F. Promoting green technology and becoming the world leader in this field.
G. Focus on Information Technology, AI, and e-commerce.
H. Creating A unified national market to enhance productivity and efficiency.
The reason why we go to such a great extent in detailing all these elements of the current Chinese development philosophy, goals, and strategy, is to make sure that the public, policy makers, academia and business sector have a clear understanding of what the soon-to-be the world’s greatest economic and industrial power. To be able to forecast where China is heading in the near and farther future, including the fate of the Belt and Road Initiative, we need a deeper and unbiased review of the process of decision making and the thought process behind it. Even if you are a rival of China, you need to know how, why, and where it is moving. We are missing a huge treasure of information and knowledge due to the negative coverage presented in short clips in Western mass-media and in stereotypical reports by think tanks concerning the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its most important political arm the Communist Party of China (CPC). The negative coverage leads, among other things, to preventing the public, researchers, and policy makers from having a good look inside the mind of the leadership of China, especially President Xi Jinping. The original information and material are amply available everywhere, but very few people outside China reach out to read and discuss it to know what is being discussed and decided inside the corridors of power in China.
PART TWO: In part two in our series we will discuss the implications of the decisions of the 20th National Congress of the CPC for China’s role in the world and global governance. What is a “Community of a Shared Future for Mankind”? The Role of the BRI in this community. Are new members of the CPC Politburo an indicator of the direction of policy?
International webinar: “The Outcome and Implications of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China”