The New Normal with Chinese Characteristics

The 19th congress of the Communist Party of China has once again vividly demonstrated the unhurried, but permanent development of the country with the use of cautious empirical designs in all spheres of life, without ideological drama about building communism, and without frenzied criticism.

Before evaluating the outcome of the congress, it should be noted that preparations for this major party event were not accompanied by any urgency or nervousness, or, conversely, by complacency or stagnation. It was a fairly dynamic and systematic process, which followed the previously agreed plan throughout the pre-congress year.

A rather large number of conceptual amendments were introduced to the Party's Charter during the congress, among which the most significant was the provision about “Xi Jinping's idea of ​​ socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era [which] builds on and further enriches Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong thought, Deng Xiaoping theory, the theory of Three Represents, and the scientific outlook on development.” At the same time, Xi Jinping's ideas are “the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context.”

How the ‘Chinese Dream’ Will Impact Global Governance Sergei Luzyanin
The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China is an intermediate stage in the formation of China as a leader of the new world order, says Sergey Luzyanin, Director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Among the innovations in the Charter, the most important is the “new era” concept. Why this talk of a “new era”?

First, China has made significant progress in developing its economy and in ensuring the well-being of its people, having become the world's second most powerful economy, openly claiming leadership in this area. The well-being of China's population rapidly approached the point, which is referred to as “moderately prosperous society.” In any case, the so-called middle class has emerged and is rapidly growing in China. Overcoming poverty is an important achievement of the CPC and the Chinese government and a significant contribution to implementing the UN 2015 Millennium Goals.

Today, China is one of the few countries with state funds available to finance projects both domestically and abroad.

Second, there is the democratization of the country and society. It is unlikely that anyone can deny that China has made a huge leap in promoting and strengthening freedoms, human rights and electoral systems during its 40 years of reform. There are different types and forms of democracy in the world, and China is on its way to forming a consultative democracy. The Chinese leaders understand and admit that much remains to be done to achieve standards of democratic development that are equivalent to others’ – but their own. The democratization of the Communist Party and its activities is also a difficult issue that should be resolved as well.

Third, strengthening law and order in China is gradually acquiring steady dynamics and the required permanent prevalence. The current Chinese leadership set the task of further promoting the rule of law. A certain discrepancy between domestic and international law, which sets China apart from the international community, is rapidly disappearing.

Fourth, culture, both traditional and modern, has undoubtedly moved forward with new museums, theaters, libraries and stadiums opening their doors to the public.

The formation and steady development of a culture of citizenship and multi-party system is one of China’s obvious successes along with other achievements.

Of course, there’s no way that all the above accomplishments put the challenges faced by China on the back burner. Some of the problems are quite acute, including the gap between the rich and the poor, the coastal and western provinces, urban and rural areas, and the existence of a small number of impoverished people – by Chinese statistical standards – as well as a few outstanding social development issues, and so on.

Nevertheless, the overall upsurge of the country, and success of the reforms make it possible to talk about the transition to a “new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The theoretical foundation of the new era relies precisely on these achievements.

The possibility of making the Chinese experience of state construction available to other countries is limited to the terms “Chinese characteristics” and the “sinification of Marxism.”

The development policy was defined at the congress as the achievement of two centenary goals: 1) the 100th anniversary of the CPC in 2021, when it will be necessary to build a “moderately prosperous society”; and 2) the 100th anniversary of the PRC in 2049, when China will become a “modernized socialist state,” which, in fact, means becoming a superpower.

It is also important for the Chinese Communists to recognize the contradiction between the ever growing need of the people for a prosperous life and the unevenness and incompleteness of development. This formula is a fundamental political, economic and methodological basis for achieving these two centenary goals.

The CPC Charter also introduced a provision on “implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, which is critical for the country's foreign policy and is developing in accordance with the principles of shared consultations, shared construction and shared use.”

Clearly, the initiative has a global goal of economic “continentalization” of Eurasia.

China's foreign policy has been enriched with a new general formula of the international agenda – “creating a community of shared future for humankind.” The idea itself is charged with the notion of equality and joint harmonious development of all countries and nations of the world.

Second, the use of the word “shared” on three separate occasions adds to the impression that other Eurasian countries are being invited to get busy with pro-active implementation of this concept.

A third and final point, the Belt and Road initiative, like many of China’s other foreign policy and foreign economic proposals, means that China has completed its transition from “being led” to “being a leader” on the international arena. Some theorists of international politics and diplomacy in China are not yet ready to confirm this fact arguing that China remains a developing state, that the country is still at the initial stage of building socialism, and that the PRC is not yet ready to play a leading role in the world, which is actually included in the Party's Charter. The approach of Chinese experts and pundits in assessing this situation is understandable: the country’s enormous GNP (second largest in the world) and a fairly middling per capita GNP (90th place in the world) form a statistical imbalance, which easily transforms into terms such as “developing state” and “second-rate economy.”

The most important human resource issue, that is proclaiming that General Secretary of the CPC Xi Jinping is the “core” of the party, was settled long before the party congress, as was the question of Xi Jinping’s other positions and posts.

In general, the resulting consistency of the 19th Congress of the CPC was quite expected and without any ideological, political and personnel quirks or aggravations. The country smoothly sailed into a new era as part of “new normalcy.” The Communist Party of China acquired a fresh important conceptual and ideological fetish enshrined in relevant documents in the form of an idea of ​​“building socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era.”

The objective formulas for achieving the two goals of the century are based on clear diagnosis and forecasts for both domestic political and international life. Undoubtedly, such approaches build on a strict understanding of the issues and challenges, which are part of the life of the Communist Party and the country.

The sweeping renewal of the party’s staff and the state structures that took place during all five pre-congress years was, of course, not without losses because a large-scale and ruthless fight against corruption is underway.

The congress has once again vividly demonstrated the unhurried, but permanent development of the country with the use of cautious empirical designs in all spheres of life, without ideological drama about building communism, and without frenzied criticism.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.