November 13, 2022

CPC 20th Congress: ‘Dare to Say What Has Never Been Said and Do What Has Never Been Done’

R Arun Kumar

IMMEDIATELY after the conclusion of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), on October 25, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC led the first group study session of the Polit Bureau. This was to ‘study, understand and implement’ the guiding principles of the 20th Congress. The meeting emphasised that the tasks set forth by the 20th Congress ought to be implemented in all aspects of economic and social development, by being prepared to face all kinds of complex issues.

The report presented to the 20th Congress gave great importance to theoretical development of Marxism. Presenting the report before the Congress, Xi Jinping exhorted the delegates to never forget the founding principles of the Party and commitment to Marxism and socialism. He stated that the Party will never change its character, nature or conviction. “China would never veer off the course by changing its nature or abandoning the socialist system”.

The report stated that the past decade witnessed many new changes and gave rise to many practical demands that necessitated the CPC to ‘provide in-depth theoretical and practical answers to a series of epochal questions’. “Problems represent the voice of the times. The fundamental task of theory is to respond to problems and provide guidelines for finding solutions. The problems we face today are considerably more complex, and resolving them has become much more difficult...All things are interconnected and interdependent. We must view them with the understanding that they are universally connected, part of a complete system, and constantly evolving if we are to grasp the laws governing their development”. An answer to these problems is possible only by ‘adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of the times’.

The CPC characterises China as a ‘socialist country of people’s democratic dictatorship under the leadership of the working class based on an alliance of workers and farmers, where all power belongs to the people'. In this State, science and technology is identified as ‘primary productive force’, talent as ‘primary resource’ and innovation as ‘primary driver of growth’. The principal contradiction facing Chinese society is identified as between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. Resolving this contradiction is the focus of all the initiatives that the Party undertakes.

According to the CPC, China is a major developing country, still in the primary stage of socialism, which is going through an ‘extensive and profound social transformation’. In this background, even a ‘small move made to advance reform and development or to adjust interests may affect the bigger picture’ i.e., the long-term perspective of the Party. So, “we should be able to see the present from a historical perspective, look beyond the surface to get to the crux of issues, and properly manage the relationships between overall and local interests, between the present and the future, between macro and micro concerns, between primary and secondary issues, and between the special and the ordinary. We should improve our ability to adopt a strategic perspective and apply a historical, dialectical, and systematic approach to thinking; we should get better at thinking creatively….and considering worst-case scenarios. By doing so, we can develop a well-conceived approach to planning and advancing the endeavors of the Party and the country on all fronts in a forward-looking and holistic manner”.

It is with this understanding that the CPC wants to deepen reform of state-owned capital and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and see “state-owned capital and enterprises get stronger, do better, and grow bigger and enhance the core competitiveness of SOEs”. This is to be done along with the measures to provide an “enabling environment for private enterprises, protect their property rights and the rights and interests of entrepreneurs in accordance with the law, and facilitate the growth of the private sector”. However, ‘stronger action against monopolies and unfair competition’ would be taken together with supporting the development of ‘micro, small, and medium enterprises’.

Working class, through its workers’ Congresses is responsible for improving the system of ‘democratic management in enterprises and public institutions’ and for the protection of ‘workers’ lawful rights and interests’. The Report resolved to improve labour laws and regulations, mechanisms for labour relation consultations and mediation and systems for safeguarding workers’ rights and interests. It would act to do more to “protect the rights and interests of those in flexible employment and new forms of employment”.

Laws would ensure that workers are ‘paid more, for more work’. The Report also stated that it would “improve the policy system for distribution based on factors of production, explore multiple avenues to enable the low and middle-income groups to earn more from production factors, and increase the property income of urban and rural residents through more channels”. Industrial development would not be at the cost of agriculture or food security. It drew a redline of total farmland in China to be at 120 million hectares.

The Report notes that all its theoretical deductions and innovations are based on the application of Marxism to the concrete conditions in China. “Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology upon which our Party and our country are founded and thrive. Our experience has taught us that, at the fundamental level, we owe the success of our Party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to the fact that Marxism works, particularly when it is adapted to the Chinese context and the needs of our times. The sound theoretical guidance of Marxism is the source from which our Party draws its firm belief and conviction and which enables our Party to seize the historical initiative”.

Xi Jinping stated that it is through these theoretical explorations and innovations, the Party deepened its understanding of the ‘laws that underlie governance by a communist party, the development of socialism, and the evolution of human society’. He further stated that taking Marxism as a guide does not mean memorising and reciting its formulas and lines, or treating it as a dogma. “We must continue to free our minds, seek truth from facts, move with the times, and take a realistic and pragmatic approach. We must base everything we do on actual conditions and focus on solving real problems arising in our reform, opening up, and socialist modernisation endeavors in the new era. We must keep responding to the questions posed by China, by the world, by the people, and by the times; in doing so….reach conclusions that are compatible with objective laws, and develop new theories that are in step with the times, so as to provide better guidance for China’s practice….Just as there are no bounds to practice, there is no end to theoretical innovation”.

The CPC states that it respects and learns from the inexhaustible creative practices of the people, pools the wisdom of people on the basis of which it develops its theoretical innovations. Hence, its theories are ‘from the people, for the people, and beneficial to the people’. “Theories that are detached from the people will be feeble and ineffective and theories that cannot deliver for the people will be stale and lifeless”.

The entire Party is to remain firm in its conviction in Marxism and strengthen confidence in the ‘path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics’. Reiterating that Marxism is a science, the CPC states that the Party should be open to ‘new things’, ‘keep pace with the times and adapt to the evolution of practice’ and be ready to ‘make greater contributions to the development of Marxism’. “We must dare to say what has never been said and do what has never been done, and we must use new theory to guide new practice”.

The Congress called for arming all the Party members by educating them about the new theoretical innovations and by encouraging them to study Marxism. It also decided to develop a ‘pool of talented philosophers and social scientists’ by conducting ‘extensive public awareness activities to promote the core socialist values’; enhancing ‘commitment to patriotism, collectivism, and socialism’ and fostering a ‘new generation of young people to shoulder the mission of realising national rejuvenation’. The Congress decided to increase people’s knowledge of science and encourage everyone to read. It called for building the Party into a ‘Marxist party of learning’.

This would be done by strengthening the ideals and convictions of Party members, ensuring that they are committed to the Party’s purpose and resolving the ‘fundamental question of the worldview, outlook on life, and values they should embrace’. “We will be firm believers and loyal practitioners of the noble ideal of communism and the common ideal of socialism with Chinese characteristics….We will combine theoretical study with regular, long-term study of the Party’s history and see that Party members and officials strengthen their understanding, conviction, integrity, and diligence through continued study of Party history and carry forward our revolutionary traditions and heritage. We will launch theoretical study programs for Party members, especially leading officials at and above the county and director level”.

The report exhorted the Party to expand “global vision and develop keen insight into the trends of human development and progress, respond to the general concerns of people of all countries, and play our part in resolving the common issues facing humankind”. Drawing inspiration from all of human civilization’s outstanding achievements, they should work to build an even better world. This would be done by being ‘mindful of potential dangers’, and to deal with ‘worst-case scenarios, high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms’, by remaining at the ‘forefront of the times’ and firmly committed to Marxist theory.