The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was convened at a time when China embarked on the journey to its second-centennial goal after achieving the first-centennial goal.
It’s particularly significant, not least because it put forward the concept of advancing national rejuvenation by way of Chinese-style modernization and confirmed the “two establishments” — establishing Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and establishing the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. These have solidified the theoretical and institutional foundations for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation by the middle of the century.
The Chinese nation was in the home stretch to its first-centennial goal when the Party convened its 19th National Congress back in October 2018. General Secretary Xi Jinping laid out a two-step visionary blueprint for the country to embark on a journey to reach its second-centennial goal by the middle of the century. He further set forth the theory of achieving Chinese-style modernization five years later at the 20th Party Congress when expounding on the second-centennial goal.
Xi explained that Chinese-style modernization is one involving a huge population, promoting common prosperity for all, pursuing the advancement of both material and spiritual civilization, seeking harmony between humanity and nature, and emphasizing peaceful development. Parts of these five traits are common features in global modernization, while the rest are unique to China and what make Chinese-style modernization distinct from that of the West.
The Chinese population, in both absolute number and proportion of the world’s population, exceeds those of major Western countries combined. Therefore, China naturally approaches modernization and tackling problems in a unique way. Take the anti-COVID-19 battle, for example, China’s “dynamic zero-COVID” approach reflects the people-centric attribute of socialism with Chinese characteristics and takes into account the country’s huge population.
Whereas Western-style modernization perpetuates an ever-growing wealth gap between the rich and the poor, Chinese-style modernization advocates common prosperity for all while allowing some people to get rich first. In lifting Chinese people out of poverty, President Xi reiterated that none of the 56 ethnic groups of the Chinese nation should be left behind. After the country achieved its poverty-alleviation goal, the CPC under the leadership of Xi has immediately started the process of promoting common prosperity for all.
Another drawback of Western-style modernization is that it has failed to synchronize the advancement of material and spiritual civilizations. Spiritual civilization is not only about culture, arts and concepts of human rights, but more about the government policies and the society’s attitude toward the underprivileged, as well as the way the developed countries treat the developing countries. The liberal international order is on the verge of collapse. The serious conflicts of interest over sanctions against Russia have pitted the United States against the European Union, which has contributed to the collapse of international order. The US prides itself on being a global beacon of capitalism, yet it fails to be the guiding light of the world, leaving many parts of the globe in darkness.
While many Western countries achieved modernization by exploiting natural resources around the world and undermined the global ecological environment in the process, they now seek to curb the modernization process of developing countries, including China, under the guise of environmental conservation. Former US president Barack Obama once said that Earth’s resources could not afford China to enjoy the same level of modernization as the US and the West. And now the Biden administration wants the EU to ban energy imports from Russia, forcing some EU members to rely on coal again and reverse their progress in environmental conservation.
The modernization of many Western countries is also tainted by an ugly history of exploiting their numerous colonies that they conquered with force or through wars. In contrast, the Chinese-style modernization puts the emphasis on building a community with a shared future for mankind.
In late 2018, or soon after the 19th Party Congress, Washington adjusted its global strategy and viewed China as one of its key strategic rivals. The Biden administration took a further step in its recent national security strategy declaration by calling the competition with China its “most consequential geopolitical challenge”.
In his work report to the 20th Party Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping warned of “high winds”, “choppy waters” and “storms” ahead. Understandably, China’s modernization and national rejuvenation need to be underpinned by rock-solid theoretical and institutional foundations, thus the concept of Chinese-style modernization and the “two establishments”.
The China-bashers in the West have depicted the competition between the US and China as “democracy versus authoritarianism”. The truth is, they are peddling such a narrative to hide their fear of their capitalist development model being outcompeted by socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.