Making China Stronger in the New Era




CHINESE President Xi Jinping pointed out that both China and the bigger world are in the midst of profound and complex changes in the report delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October. As the Party’s general secretary, he presented a review of the work and historic change over the past five years, and reached the important conclusion that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and that the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved into one between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.


Xi put forward that China must continue to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, and set the goal to secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and move on to all-out efforts to build a great modern socialist country. Decisions and plans have been made to advance socialism with Chinese characteristics and Party building in the new era.



The Chinese nation, which since modern times has endured so much for so long, has achieved a tremendous transformation — it has stood up, grown rich, and become strong. The hard work that has been done since the 18th CPC National Congress has significantly boosted this transformation. Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. This is a historic new juncture in China’s development.  


Increased National Strength


The strength of a country determines its future. The report delivered at the 14th CPC National Congress stated that China’s composite strength had reached a new stage. That was the first time for a big country in the world to set increasing composite strength as a national strategic goal. Through years of endeavors, China has made great progress in enhancing its strength, and today it is in a leading position in terms of composite national strength.


China has been at the forefront of the world in terms of economic strength, and it still keeps a relatively high growth rate.


The Waigaoqiao container terminal of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ).


China has maintained a leading position in terms of technological strength. Although this doesn’t mean China has scaled the frontiers of science and technology, the country has made progress in this regard and a shrinking gap with the U.S. can be seen. In the past, China lagged after developed countries in technological innovation, but today it not only keeps pace with them, but also takes the lead in the technological race in some areas. It is now in a crucial stage in the transition from quantitative change to qualitative change and from making breakthroughs in individual issues to improving overall capability.


Moreover, China’s defense capabilities and international influence have both seen unprecedented improvement. Over the past five years, Xi Jinping made 28 foreign trips to 56 countries and major international and regional organizations on the five continents, flying an accumulative 570,000 kilometers and spending 193 days on those foreign visits. During these visits he put forward China’s proposals and plans concerning major international and regional affairs, improving upon China’s global influence.


Over the past five years, China’s national strength has seen historic changes; never has it seen such proximity to the international center stage and impacted the world in such comprehensive ways as it does today.


The Leadership of the CPC


Against the background of globalization, the competition among countries is in fact a competition in national strength and innovative capabilities, both hinging on the competition of national governance systems. A viable system boosts a nation’s ability to learn and innovate, which in turn enhances its competitiveness.


What is the secret behind China’s growing strength? The answer is the leadership of the CPC. What is the secret for the success of the CPC? The Party seeks innovative leadership and it encourages its people to innovate and inspires creativity throughout society.


Visitors watch a robot dance at the 3E-Beijing International Consumer Electronics Expo on July 8, 2017 at the China National Convention Center in Beijing. The “3E” stands for electronic, entertainment, and economic.


Under the leadership of the CPC, China has promoted innovation in the socialist market economy system, significantly improving national economic strength. It has implemented innovation-driven development strategies, substantially enhancing the national technological strength. It has made efforts in strengthening and revitalizing the armed forces, raising the national defense capabilities. It has promoted the Five-sphere Integrated Plan to promote coordinated economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological advancement, boosting the national composite strength. It has made all-round efforts in the pursuit of major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, improving China’s international influence.


The fundamental reason for these historic achievements is the Party’s increasingly enhanced ability to innovate, to unite, to fight, to lead politically, to organize the people, and to inspire society.   


Grow Rich and Become Strong   


China has become strong because it is governed by a Party of great vitality and strong capability. Over the past five years, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core has been deeply aware about the changing international and domestic circumstances and the condition of the CPC itself. It has seen that governance over the Party is exercised fully and with rigor. It has formulated or revised nearly 80 Party regulations, so both the system of Party regulations and the political ecosystem of the Party have been improved markedly.


China has become strong as it has prioritized qualitative growth. The average economic growth rate from 2013 to 2016 is about 7.2 percent, much higher than the world average. What is more important is that we adapt to the new circumstances when entering a new normal in economic development. The CPC Central Committee pursues supply-side structural reform as the main task, improving the economic structure and fostering new drivers of growth. Technology and innovation have gradually become the primary driving force of development.


China has become strong, with its people’s living standards and wellbeing steadily improved. Over the past five years, the income distribution has become fairer and more orderly. The gap between urban and rural areas continues to narrow. Great progress has been made in the fight against poverty, creating a miracle in the world. The social security system has been improved to benefit more people. The pledge made by the Party that “the aspirations of the people to live a better life must always be the focus of our efforts” has been transformed into stronger sense of fulfillment of the people.  


China has become strong, which has been embodied in its thriving cultural industry and greater confidence of the Chinese people in their own culture. Over the past five years, the foundation for developing a great socialist culture is more solid, and people have greater confidence in their own culture. The Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation and core socialist values have been embraced by the people. Chinese wisdom, Chinese concepts, and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing humankind have won wider recognition around the world.


Furthermore, great achievements have been made in carrying out the Beautiful China initiative. Over the past five years, China has steadfastly pursued green development with the conviction that the protection of natural environment means the protection and development of the productive forces. Energy efficiency has been continuously increased, and the environment has seen marked improvements.


The New Era


The report delivered at the 19th National Congress of the CPC emphasized that the basic dimension of the Chinese context — China is still and will long remain in the primary stage of socialism — has not changed. Since such an assessment was first put forward in the report of the 13th National Congress, the Chinese leaders have all reiterated this assessment while making new analysis about the new development stage.


The primary stage of Chinese socialism has experienced three phases. The first is the Mao Zedong era, during which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded and socialist construction was launched. The Chinese people “stood up” in this era. Relatively independent and complete industrial and national economic systems were established, laying down the foundation for economic take-off and achieving socialist modernization in terms of material, human resources, science and technology, institutions, and infrastructure.


The second is the Deng Xiaoping era, whose reform and opening-up policy has brought unprecedented opportunity for the country’s economic boom. The Third Plenary Session of 11th CPC Central Committee held in 1978 put forward that the Party and the country must take economic development as the central task, concentrating efforts on socialist modernization, and developing productive forces. On that basis, efforts should be made to gradually meet people’s material and cultural needs and ensure a better life.


The third is the Xi Jinping era, during which socialism with Chinese characteristics enters a new era. China has entered the new normal stage in economic development. Its economy has been transitioning from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development. Its goal has moved on from making part of the population rich first to ultimately achieving common prosperity for everyone and making the country strong globally. Currently, China is trying to achieve the two Centenary Goals. The report to the 19th CPC National Congress pointed out that the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved to one between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.


China has entered an era of building a great modern socialist country. The report to the 19th CPC National Congress set the goal to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the century. The goal in the 18th CPC National Congress was to develop a strong socialist culture, cultivate a large pool of competent professionals, and build China into a maritime power. At the 19th National Congress, it set the new goals of building China into a manufacturer and a trader of quality, improving its strength in science and technology, product quality, aerospace, cyberspace, and transportation, as well as making China a country strong on sports and education.


The number of rural poor in China had declined to 43.35 million by the end of 2016, with the poverty headcount ratio dropping to 4.5 percent. It is estimated that rural poverty will be eliminated by 2020.  We will then work toward the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by increasing people’s incomes and promoting well-rounded human development, so to achieve common prosperity for everyone.


China is now moving closer to the center stage of the world. In the early years of the PRC, China transformed from a state of disunity to a nation of solidarity, and laid a solid foundation for future economic take-off. However, its per capita GDP still lagged behind that of most economies in the world, placing itself at the edge of the global stage. With the implementation of the reform and opening-up policy, China’s economic size has climbed from 11th to second in the world. Its total imports and exports volume in goods soared from the 29th to second largest in the world. It ranked from 38th to first in the world in terms of foreign exchange reserves. All the metrics show that it is moving closer to the global center stage.  


Today people all over China are striving with one heart to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. In the 21st century, China has accelerated its pace to catch up with the U.S., and even surpassed it in some ways. The relative gap between China and the U.S. in terms of per capita GDP, life expectancy, average years of schooling, and Human Development Index (HDI) is shrinking quickly. 


Features of the New Era


The new era is expected to mark 10 economic and social transformations: (1) to move to medium-developed level; (2) to promote well-rounded human development and all-round social progress; (3) to gradually reduce the proportion of poverty-stricken population in the total population and finally achieve the goal of eradicating poverty; (4) to continuously improve people’s life to ensure higher living standards, so to achieve common prosperity for everyone; (5) to achieve industrialization, urbanization, and agricultural modernization; (6) to build China into an industrialized country backed by modern agriculture and a modern service sector; (7) to reduce disparities in development of different regions; (8) to build China’s strength in science and technology, as well as education and innovation; (9) to promote harmonious coexistence between man and nature; (10) to move closer to the world forefront and achieve the great goal of national rejuvenation.


China is still and will long remain in the primary stage of socialism. The evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society does not change the nature of the present stage of Chinese socialism. China’s social productivity has been improved significantly, and now leads the world in several areas. However it still faces unbalanced and inadequate development in terms of capability in social services, scientific and technological innovation, cultural industry, and ecological conservation, and this has become the main constraining factor in meeting the people’s increasing needs for a better life. We must further unleash and develop productive forces to accomplish the historic task of advancing modernization in all respects.


China in the new era is still the world’s largest developing country. Over the past five years China’s international standing has risen as never before, and it moves closer to the world’s center stage. But it doesn’t change the fact that China is still the largest developing country. China ranks at the forefront in terms of total economic output, but its per capita GDP ranks 97th among the 217 world economies. China is the most populous country in the world, but its HDI ranks 90th among 188 countries and regions. As China has a huge population, the amount of resources available for each person is limited. Its ecological environment remains fragile. All those constraining factors for development remain unchanged.


China’s economy is transitioning from a phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development. It is in a pivotal stage for transforming the growth model, improving economic structure and fostering new drivers of growth. Efforts will be made to develop a modernized economy. As the country has entered the new normal stage in economic development, the focus of its economic development has shifted from speed and scale to quality and efficiency, and to improving economic structure by increasing high-quality supply and reducing excess inventory. The driving force of development has switched from resources and low labor costs to innovation.


China has transformed from a GDP-centered to a people-centered approach to growth.


It is in accordance with our goal of achieving common prosperity for everyone. The driving force for developing productive forces is the people, and the goal for developing productive forces is for the people. The fruits for developing productive forces should also be shared by the people. The development of productive forces will make the country strong and its people enjoy a better life.


The people-centered approach emphasizes well-rounded human development. The ultimate goal for developing productive forces is well-rounded human development; therefore, the people-centered philosophy of development must be espoused, and efforts should be made to achieve balanced development of economy, science and technology, social progress, culture and ecological conservation.


China is posed to become a strong modern socialist country in the new era. To make the country strong and its people enjoy higher living standards has been the historic mission of the CPC.  The CPC rules the world’s most populous nation, and itself has the largest membership globally. Its mission concerns not only China’s 1.3 billion people of 56 ethnic groups but also the entire world.


Today, China is closer, more confident and capable than ever of making the goal of national rejuvenation a reality. Realizing our great dream demands unrelenting efforts for the great struggle, great projects, and great causes.


HU ANGANG is the director of the Center for China Studies and a professor at School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University. He was a senior adviser for the making of China’s 11th, 12th, and 13th Five-Year Plans.