New march begins – How will CPC lead China to next centenary goal?

Yang Sheng, Liu Caiyu, October 14, 2022 — Strong leadership core to provide ‘certainty, cohesion and strength’ in new journey.
Editor’s Note:

The Communist Party of China (CPC) will convene its 20th National Congress on October 16 to bring China’s development to the next stage. This congress is being held after China has accomplished its first centenary goal of building xiaokang – a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2021 – and to start the second centenary goal of building a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by 2049.

From the founding of the CPC in 1921, the Chinese people took more than two decades to throw off oppression as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society and found the People’s Republic of China in 1949. After the launch of reform and opening-up in 1978 and through the continuous efforts of the Chinese people, China experienced the transformation from a huge, poor and backward country in the East into a thriving socialist China.

Today, after having lauded the great achievements that China has made in the past 100 years, the international community is paying close attention to how it will create a new miracle in a more complicated international environment. It is also necessary to review how the CPC has led the Chinese people to accomplish the first goal, as history always carries the secrets of future success. 

This is the second installment of the Global Times’ special coverage of the special event. Here is the first installment. 

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which will convene in Beijing on Sunday, marks the start of a new journey for China’s development and its role in international affairs, and the event takes place at a time when the world is experiencing profound changes not seen in a century. For people around the globe observing the historically significant political event, how China, under the strong leadership of the CPC, overcomes challenges to the country’s development and contributes certainty to a world in turbulence has become a key interest.

In 2021, the CPC accomplished the First Centenary Goal for China – building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, or xiaokang in Chinese. The 20th CPC National Congress will be held at a historic juncture as the Party and the country continue marching forward to the Second Centenary Goal based on the achievements and experience gained from its past journey.

The Second Centenary Goal, set by the CPC at its 18th National Congress and further defined by the CPC at its 19th National Congress in October 2017, seeks “to develop China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful by the middle of the 21st century.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said in 2017 that following the realization of a moderately prosperous society, the whole Party and people of various ethnic groups across the country would be motivated to build a modernized socialist country by 2049, the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Since China’s extraordinary achievements over the past 10 years have been widely acknowledged to have raised living standards at home and bolstered global development, the world is paying close attention to what more China can do for itself and the world in the next phase, especially as the world suffers from challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, energy and food crises caused by the geopolitical turbulence in Ukraine, and the Western sanctions against Russia, as well as the intensifying tension between the two biggest world economies caused by Washington’s hostility against China’s peaceful development.

Lujiazui, a financial zone in Shanghai Photo: VCG

Lujiazui, a financial zone in Shanghai Photo: VCG

Changes and challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has already taken more than 6 million lives worldwide in the past three years, bringing an unprecedentedly severe impact to humanity. A World Bank report said in 2020 that the pandemic caused the worst global economic recession “since World War II,” and as central banks across the world simultaneously hike interest rates in response to inflation, the situation in 2023 could be even worse, and a string of financial crises in emerging market and developing economies will do them lasting harm, according to the World Bank on September 15.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict that started early this year also adds a new challenge to the severe situation. Observers around the globe believe that the conflict is profoundly changing the international political order, and the ensuing unilateral Western-launched sanctions led by the US have also caused huge damage to the international trade system and global supply chains. Many major EU members are now suffering from high energy prices, inflation, and strikes, while many developing countries are facing a serious food crisis.

Xu Bu, president of the China Institute of International Studies and secretary-general of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy Studies Center, told the Global Times that “at present, the pandemic still exists, the international security situation is in turbulence, global economic recovery is fragile, and many crises are taking place. The world is entering a period of profound and complex change, and the journey to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has encountered new challenges.”

In such a complicated and challenging period, cooperation between major powers has failed to emerge, but bloc-to-bloc confrontation and a zero-sum mentality are deeply affecting international relations, making the challenges more severe, analysts said.

Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times that China has already developed to what it looks like today, and if it continues its growth and development, the international power comparison will surely change.

“The US and some of its Western followers who still dominate the current international system have already launched comprehensive suppression against China. This is the biggest risk and challenge from the outside world that we are facing right now,” Shen said.

US China Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US China Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Xu echoed the view that the top external challenge for China is the interruption to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation caused by hegemony and power politics, and the US hegemonic and unilateral strategy is not only threatening China, but also the world.

The US has unilaterally sanctioned about 20 countries and regions worldwide. These sanctions are not only against governments, but have also been imposed against individuals and nongovernmental sectors like companies and academic institutes such as universities, with human rights observers and experts raising concerns that the US and other Western-launched unilateral coercive measures constitute “one of the most serious challenges to solidarity, universality, development and human rights protection.”

The US is seeking “decoupling” from China in many aspects to serve its major power competition strategy, including imposing additional tariffs against Chinese goods and launching export controls of chips to contain China’s sci-tech development, and has also launched cyberattacks against Chinese institutes such as universities. The US also repeatedly provokes and challenges China’s sovereignty and core interests on sensitive matters including the Taiwan question, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong region, putting the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region in danger, said experts.

In Europe, the US continues to fan the flames of the Ukraine crisis which was fundamentally caused by US-led NATO expansion, and the continent is now experiencing its most dangerous situation since the Cold War, and with the unilateral anti-Russia sanctions dominated by the US, global supply chains have been seriously damaged and many countries have suffered from rarely seen high inflation, Xu said.

Facing such an unprecedented, complicated external situation, the CPC still needs to make sure that the Second Centenary Goal it promised to the people of China can be accomplished, and analysts say this requires the CPC to have very high capability in both internal governance and in handing external affairs.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that “in the previous era from the end of the Cold War to the early 2000s, the world was generally stable, and major powers still had some consensus on development and security. China was following the trend of globalization, but now, the situation has changed, and the Western-dominated globalization sees many problems and potential risks.”

“It’s time for China to actively guide the direction of the reform and improvement of globalization,” Wang noted.

“The world is expecting China, a responsible major power with strength and wisdom, to provide solutions to the problems troubling the globe. China won’t dominate the world order like a hegemon, but it can contribute certainty and stability to balance out the damage caused by the chaos and turbulence worldwide, because China is approaching the center of the international arena,” said Zhang Shuhua, director of the Institute of Political Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The upcoming 20th CPC National Congress will provide the Party’s answer to questions from not only the Chinese people, but also the world about China’s future.

The seventh plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee that ended on October 12 has analyzed the current situation and tasks, and hosted in-depth discussions on major issues including upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics on the new journey in the new era, and building a modern socialist country in all respects. It has made full preparations for the upcoming 20th CPC National Congress, according to the communiqué of the plenary session.

People visit an exhibition about China's victory over poverty at the National Museum of China on April 8, 2021. Photos: IC

People visit an exhibition about China’s victory over poverty at the National Museum of China on April 8, 2021. Photos: IC

Promises and tasks

On its new journey toward the Second Centenary Goal, the CPC has made a clear and encouraging plan to reach such a great goal stage by stage.

In his report delivered at the 19th CPC National Congress in 2017, President Xi said, “Based on a comprehensive analysis of the international and domestic environments and the conditions for China’s development, we have drawn up a two-stage development plan for the period from 2020 to the middle of this century.”

“In the first stage from 2020 to 2035, we will build on the foundation created by the moderately prosperous society with a further 15 years of hard work to see that socialist modernization is basically realized,” and “In the second stage from 2035 to the middle of the 21st century, we will, building on having basically achieved modernization, work hard for a further 15 years and develop China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful,” Xi said.

Shen said the upcoming 20th CPC National Congress will have a clear systematic arrangement for the core leadership of the Party, and this will guarantee stability, certainty and consistency for the next stage.

President Xi said in November 2020 that “China’s economy has the hope and potential to maintain long-term stable development.”

Residents in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, enjoy the sunrise in the Shenzhen Bay Park on October 1, 2022. Photo: VCG

Residents in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province, enjoy the sunrise in the Shenzhen Bay Park on October 1, 2022.  Photo: VCG

It is “completely possible” for China to meet the current standards for high-income countries by the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period and to double the total economic volume or per capita income by 2035, Xi said.

Zhu Guangyao, former Chinese vice minister of finance, told Xinhua that this means the per capita GDP in 2035 would at least have doubled the volume in 2019 and reach $20,000.

Wang said that in order to accomplish such a task, China will no longer maintain the old development model and will require a new one driven by innovation with a greater global vision. “China’s reform will promote the reform of the world, and China’s high-quality development will boost the high-quality development alongside the routes of the Belt and Road, and will also guide the new rules-making for the future globalization and regional integration. This is a challenge we will face but also a mission that we must accomplish in the next stage.”

Shen echoed that the new development model will be “green and sustainable,” and after realizing the economic growth, the Party needs to make the growth transfer to the concrete wellbeing and livelihood improvement, so it requires a more advanced distribution system, which makes the distribution process and result fairer and more rightful.

In the field of science and technology, China needs to tackle its weaknesses and utilize its advantages to effectively overcome the problem of being suppressed by hegemonic sanctions in specific high-tech areas, Shen said.

According to the report of the 19th CPC National Congress, by the end of the first stage from 2020 to 2035, “China’s economic and technological strength will have increased significantly, making China a global leader in innovation.”

The biggest challenge to such a goal, domestically, is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development, which requires more decisive reforms; externally, it’s the suppression and containment strategy launched by the US, and China needs to find more effective solutions in the next stage, analysts said.

The national reunification would also be a mission that must be accomplished. According to the report of the 19th CPC National Congress, “achieving China’s full reunification is essential to realizing national rejuvenation.”

There is no timetable or deadline so far to clearly state when the Taiwan question will be solved, but Shen said that after the 20th CPC National Congress, the roadmap for China to solve this question will be much clearer and distinct, because this question won’t last forever, and “the question won’t be left to the next generation, as it’s likely to be solved in this generation.”

In order to accomplish these missions, the Party and the country need a loyal, powerful and modernized military force with undoubtable combat capability that’s able to deter and defeat all kinds of enemies and external threats, and to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, it provides strategic support to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, experts said.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will celebrate its centenary in 2027, and by that time, the Chinese military force will see significant improvement, and experts believe that in the upcoming 20th CPC National Congress, the Party will further define the tasks and missions for the military in the next stage.

Source of strength

From economic growth to sci-tech development and military modernization, as well as reform on governance system, there is no easy task and all of them require efforts, wisdom and courage, especially under the impact of the pandemic and in a world with profound change and serious turbulence. Apart from China, there is hardly any other major power able to set such an ambitious goal.

Why is China so confident? Analysts said the most fundamental reason is that China has the leadership of the CPC, and the CPC has a strong core of leadership, and this is also the reason why China has achieved extraordinary goals in the past 10 years and also the past century.

Having a strong core leadership has always been the Party’s key advantage that has helped it overcome serious challenges, such as finishing the Long March in the 1930s and winning the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea in the 1950s. It’s also a key strength that allowed the Party to achieve historic goals such as the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and kicking off the reform and opening-up in 1978, analysts said.

Strong cores of leadership like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping have guaranteed the Party’s survival and victories again and again, and in the new era and the new journey amid the world with profound change unseen in a century, such rich experience and tradition will surely be inherited, experts said.

A visitor looks at statues of earlier generations of revolutionaries at the site of the First National Congress of the CPC in Shanghai on Thursday when restoration at the site finished and it is reopened to the public as a museum. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

A visitor looks at statues of earlier generations of revolutionaries at the site of the First National Congress of the CPC in Shanghai on Thursday when restoration at the site finished and it is reopened to the public as a museum. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Shen said a strong core of leadership with high certainty is a great comparative advantage for the CPC and China, which allows China to maintain consistency and stability on its strategy and policy-making.

Chinese analysts said that with General Secretary Xi at the core of the CPC Central Committee and the whole Party, the CPC has proved that it is able to handle serious challenges and achieve historic goals.

Without such a strong core of leadership to continually lead the whole Party and the country, China might not have been able to successfully control the COVID-19 epidemic and prevent its huge impact on the economy and people’s lives like what happened in many Western countries, especially the US which so far has recorded more than 1 million COVID deaths, and China might not have been able to handle the trade war launched by the US in 2018 and retaliate US’ provocations in the South China Sea and on the Taiwan question, and also might not even have been able to successfully restore peace and order in Hong Kong after the 2019 turmoil, analysts said.

For a great nation with a huge population and territory like China, many policies will need years or even decades to show effects, so it’s essential to maintain stable leadership, so that the country will have a more long-term and consistent policymaking strategy, and many goals that require long-term efforts can also be realized, Shen noted.

In comparison with the US, China’s political system with one ruling party that has a strong and consistent leadership is definitely better than the two-party system that frequently changes leadership with great uncertainty, Shen said.

The upcoming 20th CPC National Congress will elect a new CPC Central Committee and a new CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, according to Xinhua.

The congress will be an event with historic significance in the new journey that the Party and all Chinese people will take marching toward the Second Centenary Goal, and the leadership of the CPC is the biggest advantage of the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Xu said.

Xu stressed that “the congress will make scientific arrangements and plans for the Party and the country’s development in the next five years and even a longer period and for the future of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

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