The last five years have indeed been ‘truly momentous and extraordinary’ ones in China’s history and development – and the next five look likely to be even more so.
The following article by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Keith Bennett provides a brief summary of Xi Jinping’s highly significant and substantial report, which was delivered at the opening of the CPC’s 20th national congress on 16 October 2022.
Entitled ‘Hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and strive in unity to build a modern socialist country in all respects’, Comrade Xi Jinping’s report to the 20th national congress of the Communist Party of China is a political document of great significance, summing up the work of a 96-million strong party over the last period and outlining its course ahead.
Comrade Xi begins by noting that the congress, “takes place at a critical time as the entire party and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups embark on a new journey to build China into a modern socialist country in all respects and advance toward the second centenary goal”, which is that of building a fully modernised socialist country. In this course, it is imperative that the party “never forget our original aspiration and founding mission”, and “always stay modest, prudent, and hard-working”.
Calling the five years since the last congress, “truly momentous and extraordinary”, he noted that the party had led the Chinese people in “effectively responding to grave, intricate international developments and a series of immense risks and challenges”. It had promoted high-quality development, whole-process people’s democracy, improved public wellbeing as a matter of priority, put the people and their lives above all else, and launched an all-out people’s war to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Moreover, it had dealt with “drastic changes in the international landscape, especially external attempts to blackmail, contain, blockade, and exert maximum pressure on China”, by showing a “fighting spirit” and a “firm determination to never yield to coercive power.”
Over the last five years, the party had led the people “in solving a great number of problems that had long gone unsolved, securing many accomplishments that hold major future significance, and achieving impressive advances in the cause of the party and the country”.
Looking back at the situation ten years previously, Xi Jinping noted the “great achievements”, “notable advances”, “solid foundations”, “favourable conditions” and “key underpinnings” for continued progress, but then went on to give this critical assessment:
At the same time, however, he said: “a number of prominent issues and problems – some of which had been building for years and others which were just emerging – demanded urgent action.
“Inside the party, there were many issues with respect to upholding the party’s leadership, including a lack of clear understanding and effective action as well as a slide toward weak, hollow, and watered-down party leadership in practice. Some party members and officials were wavering in their political conviction. Despite repeated warnings, pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance persisted in some localities and departments. Privilege-seeking mindsets and practices posed a serious problem, and some deeply shocking cases of corruption had been uncovered.
“China’s economy was beset by acute structural and institutional problems. Development was imbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable, and the traditional development model could no longer keep us moving forward …
“Some people lacked confidence in the socialist political system with Chinese characteristics, and, all too often, we saw laws being ignored or not being strictly enforced.
“Misguided patterns of thinking such as money worship, hedonism, egocentricity, and historical nihilism were common, and online discourse was rife with disorder. All this had a grave impact on people’s thinking and the public opinion environment.
“The systems for safeguarding national security were inadequate, and our capacity for responding to various major risks was insufficient. Many shortcomings were affecting the modernisation of national defence and the military …
“These were just some of the problems we faced. Back then, many people, both in and outside of our party, were worried about the future of the party and the country.
“Faced with this situation, ‘We rolled up our sleeves and got down to work’.”
Xi Jinping has said more than once that the Communist Party of China is a great party not because it doesn’t make mistakes, but because of the way it deals with them and corrects them. In once again adhering to this standpoint at the party congress in such a rigorous fashion, Xi Jinping and the CPC are adhering to the Leninist standpoint, set out by the Russian revolutionary leader as follows:
“A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfils in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification – that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses.” (“Left-wing” Communism – An Infantile Disorder, 1920)
“The fighting party of the advanced class need not fear mistakes. What it should fear is persistence in a mistake, refusal to admit and correct a mistake out of a false sense of shame.” (From a publicist’s diary – The mistakes of our party, September 1917)
Xi Jinping then went on to outline some of the key achievements of the last decade, including:
- Strengthening party leadership in all respects, citing it as the “defining feature” and “greatest strength” of socialism with Chinese characteristics. As a result, “our Marxist party of 96 million members enjoys greater unity and solidarity than ever”.
- Identifying the principal contradiction facing Chinese society as “that between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life”, and making it clear that closing this gap should be the key focus.
- Achieving moderate prosperity, thus winning “the largest battle against poverty in human history”.
- Implementing a “people-centred philosophy of development”, which has seen average life expectancy reach 78.2 years, more than 13 million urban jobs created each year on average over the last ten years, and the building of the largest education, social security, and healthcare systems in the world.
- A holistic and systematic approach in promoting green, circular, and low-carbon development had brought bluer skies, greener mountains, and cleaner waters.
- In diplomacy, China has taken “a clear-cut stance against hegemonism and power politics in all their forms”.
- In party self-governance: “We have hammered away at the task of rectifying pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance; opposed privilege-seeking mindsets and practices; and taken strong action to address misconduct and corruption that occur at people’s doorsteps. Thanks to these efforts, unhealthy tendencies that had long gone unchecked have been reversed, and deep-seated problems that had plagued us for years have been remedied … Driven by a strong sense of mission, we have resolved to ‘offend a few thousand rather than fail 1.4 billion’ and to clear our party of all its ills … All this has helped remove serious hidden dangers in the party, the country, and the military and ensured that the power granted to us by the party and the people is always exercised in the interests of the people … We have ensured that the party will never change its nature, its conviction, or its character.”
Xi Jinping laid particular stress on the fact that “Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology upon which our party and our country are founded and thrive … We owe the success of our party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to the fact that Marxism works, particularly when it is adapted to the Chinese context and the needs of our times …
“Only by applying dialectical and historical materialism can we provide correct answers to the major questions presented by the times and discovered through practice, and can we ensure that Marxism always retains its vigour and vitality.”
He went on to outline the party’s people-centred approach, describing it as an “essential attribute of Marxism”: “Theories that are detached from the people will be feeble and ineffective, and theories that cannot deliver for the people will be stale and lifeless.”
And stressing the need to maintain a global vision, Xi said that the CPC must, “respond to the general concerns of people of all countries”.
Setting out what the report described as the party’s “missions and tasks” in the “new journey of the new era”, Xi Jinping declared that, “from this day forward, the central task” was to lead the people towards the second centenary goal of “building China into a great modern socialist in all respects”. This was, he explained:
- The modernisation of a huge population.
- The modernisation of common prosperity for all.
- The modernisation of material and cultural-ethical advancement.
- The modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature.
- The modernisation of peaceful development.
“In pursuing modernisation, China will not tread the old path of war, colonisation, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and bloodstained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries. We will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress.”
Xi Jinping also outlined the party’s “two-step strategic plan” to basically realise socialist modernisation by 2035 and then build “China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful from 2035 through the middle of this century”.
It will, of course, not be plain sailing. Besides deep-seated problems at home, “that cannot be avoided or bypassed”, “external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time”. The party has to be “ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms”.
Summarising some of the major principles that the Communist party must adhere to in this period, Xi Jinping laid stress on:
- Upholding and strengthening the party’s overall leadership. “Our party always remains the pillar that the Chinese people can lean on in times of difficulty.”
- Following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. “We must not return to the isolation and rigidity of the past or veer off course by changing our nature or abandoning our system.”
- Applying a people-centred development philosophy. “We must do a better job of seeing that the gains of modernisation benefit all our people fairly.”
- Carrying forward a fighting spirit. “We cannot be swayed by fallacies, deterred by intimidation, or cowed by pressure.” “Today we are closer, more confident, and more capable than ever of reaching the goal of rejuvenating the Chinese nation. At the same time, we must be prepared to work even harder to get there.”
After outlining plans to modernise the industrial system, Xi Jinping went on to note: “The most challenging and arduous tasks we face in building a modern socialist China in all respects remain in our rural areas. We will continue to put agricultural and rural development first,” including reinforcing the foundations for food security and preventing a precipitate decline in the country’s total area of farmland.
“We will develop infrastructure and public services in rural areas in a well-planned and coordinated way and build a beautiful and harmonious countryside that is desirable to live and work in.” At the same time, the party will “work faster to grant permanent urban residency to eligible people who move from rural to urban areas”.
Xi Jinping also devoted attention to the enhancement of China’s democracy, stating that:
“China is a socialist country of people’s democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the working class based on an alliance of workers and farmers; all power of the state in China belongs to the people. People’s democracy is the lifeblood of socialism, and it is integral to our efforts to build a modern socialist country in all respects. Whole-process people’s democracy is the defining feature of socialist democracy; it is democracy in its broadest, most genuine, and most effective form …
“We will rely wholeheartedly on the working class and improve the system of democratic management in enterprises and public institutions, which takes basic shape in the form of workers’ congresses, so as to protect workers’ lawful rights and interests.”
He also spoke about doing more to protect the rights and interests of those in flexible and new forms of employment, improve social security for people with disabilities, adhere to “the principle that housing is for living in and not for speculation”, provide better services for elderly people who live alone, give priority to prevention in health care, and place importance on mental and psychological health.
Advocating the promotion of world peace and development and the building of a human community with a shared future, Xi Jinping observed:
“Today, our world, our times, and history are changing in ways like never before. The historical trends of peace, development, cooperation, and mutual benefit are unstoppable. The will of the people and the general trends of our day will eventually lead to a bright future for humanity.
“And yet, the hegemonic, high-handed, and bullying acts of using strength to intimidate the weak, taking from others by force and subterfuge, and playing zero-sum games are exerting grave harm. The deficit in peace, development, security, and governance is growing.
“All of this is posing unprecedented challenges for human society. The world has once again reached a crossroads in history, and its future course will be decided by all the world’s peoples …
“China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. It stays true to the principle of equality of all countries big or small, strong or weak, and rich or poor, and it respects the development paths and social systems independently chosen by all the world’s peoples.
“China is prepared to invest more resources in global development cooperation. It is committed to narrowing the north-south gap and supporting and assisting other developing countries in accelerating development.”
Moving towards the conclusion of his report, Xi Jinping declared:
“The times are calling us, and the people expect us to deliver … All of us in the party must stay true to our fundamental purpose of serving the people wholeheartedly, maintain a people-centred mindset, and carry out the mass line.
“We must respect the pioneering spirit of our people and ensure that we are acting for the people and relying on the people in everything we do. We must follow the principle of ‘from the people, to the people’, maintain a close bond with the people, and accept their criticism and oversight. We must breathe the same air as the people, share the same future, and stay truly connected to them …
“Let us keep in mind that empty talk will do nothing for our country; only solid work will make it flourish.”
Numerous other issues are dealt with in this report of nearly 25,000 words, which needs to be carefully read and studied by anyone interested in China, socialism in the 21st century, or the challenges and perspectives facing humanity.