Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017


Word in the CPC for a while has been that preparations are under way for a transition to the second stage of socialism (the distinction was first made by Stalin in the late 1930s). Until now, China has been in the first or preliminary stage of socialism. But if you study Xi Jinping’s first volume of writings, The Governance of China, you will already find the terminology of ‘socialist modernisation [shehuizhuyi xiandaihu]’, and a ‘moderately well-off society [xiaokang shehui]’. Xiaokang is an old Confucian term that had made its way into Chinese Marxist terminology. It is not the Datong, the ‘Great Harmony’, but a more realistic situation in which the vast majority can feel secure (anquangan) about food, shelter, clothing and well-being.

When will this take place? The target is the period of the Two Centenaries. The first centenary is 100 years since the founding of the Communist Party of China, in 2021, and the second is the founding of the People’s Republic in 2049.

All this is now becoming even more explicit, in preparations for the 19th Congress of the CPC in November this year. These congresses take place every five years, so preparations are under way. Already we find a number of key statements.

First, Xi has declared that socialism with Chinese characteristics is entering a ‘new development stage‘, if not a ‘new historical starting point’. Thus far, Chinese socialism has enabled the transitions from ‘standing-up to becoming better-off to getting stronger’, but now ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics has expanded the pathway to modernization for developing countries, thus providing Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions to problems facing mankind’.

So what does all this mean in concrete terms? To begin with, a xiaokang society has lifted as many people out of poverty as possible. In the last 40 years, 750 million people lifted out of poverty (one of the greatest human rights achievements of all time), with more than 55 million since 2012. And Xi has made the continuance of this program a cornerstone of his presidency. A shade over 43 million remain in poverty in rural areas, with about 12 million a year making it out of poverty.

It also includes continual overhauling of the medical system, education, fostering supply-side structural reform, reducing overcapacity, dealing with the income gap, and – crucially – clean governance.

If these aims are indeed achieved between 2021 and 2049 then the second stage of socialism will have been attained.

 

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As Lenin and the Bolsheviks realised after the Potemkin Mutiny in 1905, any communist revolution needs a military wing. This could be either its own force, or a process of winning over significant parts of the existing armed forces – or both.

In China, what became the People’s Liberation Army began with the Nanchang Uprising, on 1 August 1927. This was a response to the anti-communist attack by the Guomindang (after their first alliance). So yesterday marks 90 years since that first event, the foundation of the PLA.

Plenty of material in China celebrating the anniversary. The People’s Daily has a whole section devoted to it. Performances have been held, art-work produced, speeches given, and wechat is full of comments and pictures.

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And Xi Jinping has also made a major speech (see also here), emphasising the the history of the PLA, its achievements, and continual reforms in a changing world. I must admit that I was taken with the following two observations:

The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions. We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory from the country at any time, in any form.

Emphasising the absolute leadership of the CPC over the PLA, Xi – as he is fond of doing, quoted Mao:

Our principle is the Party commands the guns, and we will never allow the guns to command the Party.

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