Communist Party of China 19th Congress – Transforming the Country

R Arun Kumar

THE 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was held in Beijing from October 18-24, 2017. The theme of the Congress was: ‘Remain true to our original aspiration and keep our mission firmly in mind, hold high the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, and work tirelessly to realise the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation’.

A total of 2,287 delegates attended the Congress, representing about 89 million party members. These delegates went through strict qualification procedures for their nomination, selection, organisational review and election, as laid down by the Party Constitution. The constitution stipulates that any Party member who has been in the Party for more than five years and has political integrity and clean work style can be elected as a delegate to the Party Congress, by the respective local CPC unit conferences.

The credentials of the delegates attending the Congress show that a total of 771 delegates, or 33.7 per cent of the total, were from frontline production and manufacturing. This is an increase of more than 3 per cent compared to the 18th Congress. Among them, 198 were workers or migrant workers, 86 were farmers and 283 were professional technical personnel. Women constituted 24.1 per cent of the total delegates in this Congress, while 11.5 per cent belonged to the ethnic minority groups. 43 out of the country’s 55 ethnic minority groups were represented at the Congress.

The average age of the delegates was 51.8, about 0.2 year younger compared with the 18th Congress, and about 70.6 per cent of them were under the age of 55. 2009 delegates, or 87.8 per cent of the total, joined the CPC after December 1978, ie, after the decision to ‘reform and open’ the economy was taken and 416 of them joined the Party after January 2000. These details show that younger generations are increasingly getting attracted to the CPC.

The report presented to the Congress, by general secretary, Xi Jinping, notes that since the 18th  Congress in 2012, China's economy expanded by an average annual rate of 7.2 per cent (2013-2016). China’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose from 54 trillion to 80 trillion yuan, and it has maintained its position as the world’s second largest economy, contributing more than 30 per cent of global economic growth. More than 60 million people have been lifted out of poverty, and the poverty headcount ratio has dropped from 10.2 per cent to less than 4 per cent. Employment has registered steady growth, with an average of over 13 million urban jobs created each year. Similarly, progress has been made in the expansion of educational opportunities, social security system to cover both urban and rural residents and in building government-subsidised housing projects. Public health and medical services too had improved vastly in the intervening five-year period.

The report notes that all these developments had taken place in the background of sluggish recovery of the global economy and frequent outbreaks of regional conflicts – a reflection of the deep-rooted economic crisis. Despite this adverse economic environment outside China, the report notes that the Chinese economy had entered a ‘new normal’ in economic development, with its focus on increasing internal demand.

Along with noting the positive developments in the past five-years, the report also identified certain weaknesses and areas where much needs to be done. “Some acute problems caused by unbalanced and inadequate development await solutions; and the quality and effect of development are not what they should be. China’s ability to innovate needs to be stronger, the real economy awaits improvement, and we have a long way to go in protecting the environment. In work on public wellbeing there are still many areas where we fall short; and poverty alleviation remains a formidable task. There are still large disparities in development between rural and urban areas, between regions, and in income distribution; and our people face many difficulties in employment, education, healthcare, housing, and elderly care….Ideological struggle is still complicated, and in national security we face new developments. Some reform plans and major policies and measures need to be better implemented. Many dimensions of Party building remain weak. These are all problems that demand our full attention to resolve”.

The report credits the strong leadership of the CPC, party members and all the people for the achievements recorded in the past five-years. Pursuing its own path of development and building socialism with Chinese characteristics – an application of Marxism to the ground realities in China – resulted in the vast strides of progress achieved by the country and in the living standards of the people. The CPC Report confidently states that the Chinese nation, with an ‘entirely new posture, now stands tall and firm in the East’. The economic prosperity and the advances made by socialist China as a country, are reflected in the confidence that resonates in the report. “The Chinese nation, which since modern times began had endured so much for so long, has achieved a tremendous transformation: it has stood up, grown rich, and is becoming strong; it has come to embrace the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation. It means that scientific socialism is full of vitality in 21st century China, and that the banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics is now flying high and proud for all to see. It means that the path, the theory, the system, and the culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics have kept developing, blazing a new trail for other developing countries to achieve modernisation. It offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence; and it offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind”.

The report states that Chinese society had crossed the threshold into a new era – an era of ‘building on past successes to further advance; of securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and of moving on to all-out efforts to build a great modern socialist country; an era for the Chinese people of all ethnic groups to work together and work hard to create a better life for themselves and ultimately achieve common prosperity for everyone; an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind’.

The report reiterates that entering into a ‘new era’ does not change the Party’s understanding of the stage of socialism in China. According to the CPC’s assessment, the country still remains in the primary stage of socialist construction.

The report, talks about the principal contradiction in Chinese society that had evolved: “the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life”. Noting an improvement in the productive forces, the report concludes that the measures taken for socialist construction had resulted in making it possible for people to live a decent life, as most of their basic needs are met. But still, ‘material and cultural needs have grown’ and so did their demand for ‘democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security, and a better environment’. The unbalanced and inadequate development is constraining people’s increasing needs for a better life and so a resolution of this contradiction becomes the utmost priority for the Party. The report notes: “It is in the movement of contradictions that a society advances; where there is contradiction there is struggle”.

The report specifies the steps that need to be implemented by both the Party and the socialist government in order to resolve this contradiction and lead Chinese society on the path of socialist construction. These steps are, what are labeled as ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ and incorporated in the Party Constitution. Xi Jinping Thought now joins, ‘Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents (introduced by Jiang Zemin), and the Scientific Outlook on Development (Hu Jintao)’ and builds upon them and further enriches them. This new addition, the report states, “represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and encapsulates the practical experience and collective wisdom of our Party and the people” and is “guide to action for all our members and all the Chinese people”.

The report indicates that the Party and government will continue on the path of ‘reform and opening up’, promoting economic globalisation, along with consolidating and developing the public sector. It also vows to improve basic socialist economic system and socialist distribution system. The report also details the steps that will be initiated in the coming years to further the growth in agricultural sector, develop the rural and backward areas, develop agro-industries and ensure a planned urbanisation. It classifies Chinese economy as transitioning from a ‘phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development’ and stresses on the need for transforming the Chinese growth model to evolve as a ‘modernised economy’. The report also emphasises on ‘supply-side structural reform’ as a main task to improve the quality, bring in higher efficiency and a better performance.

In order to concretise these tasks, the report specifies a timeframe, taking into consideration some of the important milestones of the CPC and Chinese revolution (centenary of CPC and Chinese revolution). “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 modernisation is basically realised. In the second stage from 2035 to the middle of the 21st century, we will, building on having basically achieved modernisation, 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”.

While development remains a top priority for achieving these goals, the report urges the need to strengthen the CPC: “as history progresses and we respond to risks and tests at home and abroad, the Party remains always the backbone of the nation; and that as history progresses and we continue to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, the Party remains always a powerful leadership core”.

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