China’s Development Concepts, Thoughts, and Strategies for the New Era




THE five years since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012 are an extraordinary period in the course of the Party and the state’s development. It is a time when, facing a slew of profound changes at home and abroad including a sluggish world economic recovery, recurrent regional tensions and conflicts, festering global issues and the Chinese economy entering a “new normal,” China has, under the leadership of the CPC, solved many tough problems that were long overdue on the agenda but never resolved, and accomplished many goals set but not previously attained.


A large exhibition featuring China’s outstanding achievements over the last five years opens to the public at the Beijing Exhibition Hall on September 26, 2017.


After an arduous journey since it adopted reform and opening-up policy, China has come to a new era in its history. In this new era the principal contradiction in contemporary Chinese society is between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life; and the national goal by the middle of the century is to take a two-step approach to building China into a great, modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful. These developments are elaborated in Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.


Key Concepts


In the past five years the CPC set two centenary goals and the goal to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, which reflects the Party’s self-confidence. Meanwhile it has demonstrated greater resolve in self-improvement, picking up efforts to exercise full and rigorous self-governance.


CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping first used the term “full and rigorous governance over the Party” during an inspection tour of Jiangsu Province in December 2014, and included it in the nation’s Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy (which is to make comprehensive moves to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, deepen reform, advance law-based governance and strengthen Party self-governance). Previously the notion was “rigorous governance over the Party.” By adding “full” to the phrase, the General Secretary made the theoretical innovation of expanding Party building to five realms – thinking, organization, moral conduct, anti-corruption, institutions – and answered the significant question of “how does the Party exercise self-governance.” It marks a big advance in Party building.



The Scientific Outlook on Development is about what kind of development China seeks and how to realize it, and is well grounded in the reality of the time we are in. In the past five years the CPC leadership with Xi Jinping at the core went on to give its response to how to implement this outlook into practice on the basis of close observation of the trend of development in China and the broader world. It updates the Scientific Outlook on Development by espousing the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development. Being part of Xi Jinping’s thoughts on state governance, this vision develops and enriches the theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics on national development, advances Marxist concepts on development to a new phase, and marks the latest theoretical achievement in applying Marxism to the Chinese context. 


New Historical Positioning


During his tour of southern China in the early years of opening-up and reform, late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping expressed the hope that China would develop a set of mature and stable systems over 30 years. Three decades later, Xi Jinping observed that “in terms of forming mature and stable systems, the practice of Chinese socialism has crossed the halfway point.” In the new era China will further improve and develop the system of Chinese socialism on the basis of the basic socialist systems already in place, and advance socialist practice by creating a complete set of better-developed, more stable and effective institutions and systems that underpin the development of the Party and the nation, the wellbeing of the people, social harmony and stability, and lasting peace of the nation.


In this new era, Chinese people of all ethnic groups will work together and work hard to create a better life for themselves and ultimately achieve common prosperity for everyone. It is the original aspiration and the mission of Chinese Communists to strive for the wellbeing of the Chinese people and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, which is also the essential demand of Chinese socialism.


China successfully installs the containment dome for its first demonstrative nuclear power project using a domestically developed third-generation reactor design technology called the Hualong One, in Fujian Province on May 25, 2017. 


As the world’s second largest economy, China has amazed the world with its growth velocity and capacity for innovation. But its development is still inadequate and imbalanced, and is yet to meet the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. In this circumstance we need to galvanize the creativity and vigor of the entire nation to achieve better-quality, efficient, fairer and more sustainable development. We must also promote fairness and justice and continuously improve people’s wellbeing so that the results of China’s reform and development will benefit each and every citizen.


We are now in an era when China is moving closer to center stage globally and making greater contributions to humankind. During its long and strenuous struggles the CPC has come to the conclusion that China must take its own path of development; and observing sustained growth since the inception of China’s reform and opening-up has gained the understanding that China must integrate its development with that of the world at large. This is why Xi Jinping urged his fellow Party members to “adopt a global vision, coordinate domestic development with opening-up, integrate China’s development with that of the entire world, and align the interests of the Chinese people with those of people of other nations.”


By offering its experience, lessons, and achievements in reform, opening-up and socialism building to the development of international socialism and humankind, China accentuates the international influence of the path, the theory, the system and the culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and offers other developing countries a new option for modernization. This is the appeal and advantage of Chinese socialism in the new era.


New Principal Contradiction


Correctly identifying the principal contradiction in the Chinese society is of historical significance for the overall development of China. The 19th National Congress of the CPC declared that what we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing need for a better life. This judgment is part of our vision of an all-round moderate prosperity that is only years away from completion, and is also a theoretical innovation about our goal of providing a better life for the people.


Sohu-backed Sogou is listed on the New York Stock Exchange on November 9, 2017.


The statement of the new contradiction precisely reflects the status quo of Chinese social development. With its GDP now standing at RMB 80 trillion and per capita GDP at US $8,260, China has left behind it the time of deficiency, but is still plagued by imbalance and inadequacy in regional and structural development, grappling with both structural surplus and deficiency.


A glaring example is the bike sharing service, which has mushroomed since 2016 and spread to every corner in China’s major cities. While providing commuters great convenience, its explosive, disordered growth has come to the point of congesting urban transport and becoming an eyesore in cityscape. By contrast there are few shared bikes in smaller cities and rural areas where the demand is strong despite government efforts to steer rental companies’ attention to these regions. In the new era a priority of China is to address and resolve such structural imbalance in its development. 


In coping with the new contradiction the CPC must firmly stand by the people, addressing their needs and answering their call for a better life. In the past five years China has deepened reform of the medical and healthcare system, abolished markups on pharmaceuticals at public hospitals, and put an end to the practice of hospitals funding their operations with profits from drug sales, reducing people’s medical expenses over the long term. The reform to replace business tax with value-added tax has averted repetitive taxation, reduced tax burden on businesses, and added fuel to innovation-driven development across the society.


China has also tore into housing speculation, and is moving faster to put in place a housing system that ensures supply through multiple sources, provide housing support through multiple channels, and encourages both housing purchase and renting. These measures all testify the CPC’s commitment to serving the people and relying on the people.


Nowadays, Chinese people expect more from life. They are no longer satisfied with having the basic needs of subsistence – enough food and clothes – and turn their backs to equalitarianism. Their needs in life are of higher levels, better quality and greater diversity.


When talking of the trend of Chinese families sending children to study abroad, Shanghai University President Jin Donghan, who was also a delegate to the 19th National Congress of the CPC, commented: “China has plenty of universities, but few are renowned internationally.” There is space for these children in Chinese universities, some of which are fairly good. But they and their parents tend to look for better choices when financially possible. It requires fuller and more balanced development of the domestic educational sector to meet the higher demands of the Chinese people for better education.


The insight into the principal contradiction in Chinese society indicates the theoretical height, depth, and breadth of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.


New Goals, New Journey


In response to the new era, the CPC has fine-tuned China’s second centenary goal. The period between the 19th and the 20th National Congress is the period in which the timeframes of the two centenary goals converge. The 19th National Congress of the CPC therefore clarified the strategic priorities in accomplishing the first goal – finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and planned for efforts to achieve the second goal – fully build a modern socialist country. In doing so it updated the roadmap for China’s socialist modernization which is divided into five stages.


The goal for the first stage, from the beginning of reform and opening-up to 1990, is to meet the basic needs of the people. For the second stage, from 1991 to 2000, the goal is to have people live a decent life. For the third stage, from 2001 to 2020, the goal is to complete building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. For the fourth stage, from 2021 to 2035, the goal is to basically realize socialist modernization. And in the fifth stage, from 2036 to 2050, our goal is to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.


The 19th CPC National Congress set the time to basically realize socialist modernization 15 years earlier than previously scheduled. This indicates on one hand that China’s development has exceeded earlier expectations, and on the other that the momentum for long-term development remains strong.


The Congress’ definition of the great modern socialist country we are working to build resonates with the nation’s Five-sphere Integrated Plan (which is to promote coordinated economic, political, cultural, social and ecological advancement). It reveals that China intends to seek not only economic development, but also well-rounded human development and harmony between man and nature, thereby making greater contributions to humankind.  


A New Thought


Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era builds on and further enriches Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development. It is the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and another innovation in the guiding theories of the CPC.


This thought is based on the understanding that China is now in an important period of strategic opportunity for development when it faces both bright prospects and severe challenges, and is grounded in the ongoing practices of Chinese socialism. Taking into account features of the new era, it makes thorough analysis of key issues in upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, including its guiding principle, overarching goal, overall planning, overall strategy, development concepts, military building, national defense, and Party building. It is an important component of the system of theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics.


Covering every aspect of China, including reform, national development and stability, domestic and foreign affairs, national defense, and governance of the CPC, the state and the military, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is a scientific system of theories of strong logic, rich content and keen vision. It provides theoretical guidance, and is a guide to action for the Party to lead the Chinese people in carrying out our great struggle, advancing our great cause, and realizing our great dream.


The thought makes it clear that the basic policy underpinning our endeavors to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era consists of 14 points: Ensuring Party leadership over all work, committing to a people-centered approach, continuing to comprehensively deepen reform, adopting a new vision for development, seeing that the people run the country, ensuring every dimension of governance is law-based, upholding core socialist values, ensuring and improving living standards through development, ensuring harmony between humans and nature, pursuing a holistic approach to national security, upholding absolute Party leadership over the people’s armed forces, upholding the principle of “one country, two systems” and promoting national reunification, promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and exercising full and rigorous governance over the Party.


At such breadth and depth, Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era deepens our understanding of the laws that underlie governance by a Communist party, the development of socialism, and the evolution of human society.


The era is the mother of thought; practice is the fount of theory. The new era we have come to has inspired new practices that yield new thoughts. Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era stands for Marxism of 21st century China.


XIA YIPU is an associate researcher with Academy of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.