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.

 

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.

597db92d15000028008b431a

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.

136491592_15015927446261n

FOREIGN201708011326000293045782259

One of the realities of student life in China is ‘ideological education’. It is compulsory in middle school and in university. Obviously, such an approach has its benefits and problems. On the up side, I find that everyone knows the essential categories of Marxist analysis, socialism with Chinese characteristics, and so on. On the down side, many find it onerous, especially since it is a major feature of the gaokao, the university entry examinations. Or, as an article today in the Global Times, put it,

For college teachers, the ideological and political course about Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought and moral education is a hard nut to crack. Almost synonymous with dullness, for years, the class has been an ideal place for students to nap or play as long as one could bone up before the exam. The teachers were equally disinterested, and mostly repeated what was written in the books.

Many are those who have made similar observations to me when we have discussed it. But I also know quite a number of people who teach such courses and discussed with them the various strategies to interest the students.

But now Xi Jinping has come to their assistance. A little over six months ago he stressed the need to overhaul the whole way of teaching. For Xi, ‘moral education the central task in cultivating talents and making the ideological and political work run throughout the whole education process’. In fact, 2017 is the year focused on improving the quality and techniques for teaching this courses.

Plenty of examples in a long article in the Global Times, from the use of virtual reality to courses on friendship (youyi) at Fudan University by one of the ‘four zheng goddesses’, but I like this one from a colleague of mine at Renmin University:

“Do you believe in Communism? You may have different answers to the question. But if I ask, do you want to make a fortune, your answers may be unprecedentedly similar,” Wang Xiangming, a professor at the School of Marxism Studies of the Renmin University of China, said in his class.

“As a matter of fact, pursuing material wealth is what Communism is about. But real Communists don’t pursue fortune for themselves, but work for the welfare of the human beings. As long as we try our best in our positions to serve the people, we are adhering to Communism. Communism is not intangible. It is around us,” Wang told his students.

 

It has taken 29 meetings between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin over the last few few years for the rest of the world to begin to take notice. As Xi observed during the latest meeting in early July, China-Russia relations are at their “best time in history,” saying the two nations are each other’s most trustworthy strategic partners.

Plenty of stories on Xinhua News and the People’s Daily. These include general reports on the meeting, with both sides agreeing on coordination on major economic, military and geopolitical issues. You can also find specific reports on their positions regarding Syria and North Korea, with a statement that the USA should cease deploying weapons in South Korea and Eastern Europe. It may well be that the considered and united position concerning the Korean Peninsula is the reason that the relations are finally gaining attention.

I am also intrigued by the statements on the Paris climate accord, as well as joint efforts to counter a “Western” discourse that attempts to spread a “Hobbes’ style world view upon China and Russia,” distorting facts and hyping up “claims that China and Russia are self interested and have no regard for international orders and rules.” Indeed, they are quite clear that the China-Russia partnership underpins global strategic stability.

136415736_14991534534171n

Big celebrations this weekend in Hong Kong, with the 20-year anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China. For some strange reason, corporate media is not making much of the important speech by Xi Jinping, who today is wrapping up a three day visit. The full speech can be found here, but I would like to highlight a few features.

First, the story of Hong Kong is very much part of the story of modern China, moving from the humiliation at the hands of European colonialism to the overcoming of humiliation under the leadership of the CPC. As Xi puts it:

The destiny of Hong Kong has always been intricately bound with that of the motherland. After modern times, with a weak China under corrupt and incompetent feudal rule, the Chinese nation was plunged into deep suffering. In the early 1840s, Britain sent an expeditionary force of a mere 10,000 troops to invade China and got its way in forcing the Qing government, which had an 800,000-strong army, to pay reparations and cede the island of Hong Kong to it. After the Opium War, China was repeatedly defeated by countries which were far smaller in size and population. Kowloon and “New Territories” were forcibly taken away. That page of Chinese history was one of humiliation and sorrow. It was not until the Communist Party of China led the Chinese people to victory in a dauntless and tenacious struggle for national independence and liberation and founded New China that the Chinese people truly stood up and blazed a bright path of socialism with distinctive Chinese features. Thanks to close to four decades of dedicated efforts since the launch of the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, we have entered a new era in the development of the Chinese nation.

Further, the role of Deng Xiaoping is crucial, not merely with the reform and opening up (gaige kaifang) from 1978, with its emphasis on the central Marxist feature of unleashing the forces of production under socialism, but also the policy of ‘one country, two systems’.

It was against the historical backdrop of reform and opening-up that Mr. Deng Xiaoping put forward the great vision of “One Country, Two Systems”, which guided China’s diplomatic negotiations with the United Kingdom that led to the successful resolution of the Hong Kong question, an issue that was left over from the past. Twenty years ago today, Hong Kong returned to the embrace of the motherland. This ended past humiliation and marked a major step forward toward the complete reunification of China. Hong Kong’s return to the motherland has gone down as a monumental achievement in the history of the Chinese nation. Hong Kong has since then embarked on a journey of unity and common development with the motherland.

In case you wanted to know about the exact status of Hong Kong in relation to the rest of China, Xi lays it out very clearly:

As a special administrative region directly under the Central Government, Hong Kong has been re-integrated into China’s national governance system since the very day of its return. The Central Government exercises jurisdiction over Hong Hong in accordance with China’s Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, and corresponding systems and institutions have been set up for the special administrative region. Hong Kong’s ties with the mainland have grown increasingly close, so have its interactions and cooperation with the mainland.

In short, one country, two systems, means that Hong Kong can remain capitalist while the rest of China is socialist. This is also a model for global cooperation.

But they say of Xi Jinping that he is ’round on the outside and square on the inside’ In other words, he is very gentle and understanding in dealing with people, but very tough inside. For example:

To uphold and implement the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” meets the interests of the Hong Kong people, responds to the needs of maintaining Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, serves the fundamental interests of the nation, and meets the shared aspiration of all Chinese. That is why I have made it clear that the Central Government will unswervingly implement the policy of “One Country, Two Systems” and make sure that it is fully applied in Hong Kong without being bent or distorted.

Indeed, as is common in the tradition of leaders of socialist states, a speech also engages in criticism and self-criticism. Of course, there are problems that need to be addressed, such as distorted images among some of Chinese history and culture, public consensus of key political and legal issues, the challenges as Hong Kong loses its economic edge, the pressure on housing and opportunities for young people, and so on.

Let me emphasise these points:

First, in line with the nationalities policy from the 1990s, China’s sovereignty is not negotiable:

“One Country” is like the roots of a tree. For a tree to grow tall and luxuriant, its roots must run deep and strong. The concept of “One Country, Two Systems” was advanced, first and foremost, to realize and uphold national unity. That is why in the negotiations with the United Kingdom, we made it categorically clear that sovereignty is not for negotiation. Now that Hong Kong has returned to China, it is all the more important for us to firmly uphold China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.

Dialectically, this enables the diversity of the ‘two systems’, as embodied in the Constitution:

We must both adhere to the “One Country” principle and respect the differences of the “Two Systems”, both uphold the power of the Central Government and ensure a high degree of autonomy in the HKSAR, both give play to the role of the mainland as a staunch supporter of Hong Kong and enhance Hong Kong’s own competitiveness.

Another aspect of Chinese (and indeed socialist) culture is the simultaneous desire for peace and harmony, as well as the constant process of criticism. At times, this relationship can suffer by focusing on one or the other side too much:

So it comes as no surprise that there are different views and even major differences on some specific issues. However, making everything political or deliberately creating differences and provoking confrontation will not resolve the problems. On the contrary, it can only severely hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development.

In other words:

Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the Central Government and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible.

As Mao would put it, contradictions are to be expected, but antagonistic contradictions are not acceptable. Or as Xi puts it, invoking a traditional concept: ‘Harmony brings good fortune, while discord leads to misfortune’.

Xi wraps up his speech by invoking key features of CPC policy:

China is now in a decisive phase to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. People of all ethnic groups across the country are engaged in a joint endeavor to realize the Two Centenary Goals and fulfill the Chinese Dream of national renewal. Ensuring the continued success of the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong is part and parcel of the Chinese Dream.

All the key ideas are here (which I have written about extensively elsewhere). The ‘moderately prosperous society’ (xiaokang shehui) is a key element of Chinese socialism, drawing on a Confucian term, xiaokang. This is expressed in Xi’s signature ‘Chinese Dream’, which has the concrete elements of the two centenary goals. The first is the centenary of the CPC in 2021 and the second is the centenary of the People’s Republic in 2049. During this period the moderately prosperous society through ‘socialist modernisation’, will be achieved, which really means the second stage of socialism. How? Through lifting the remaining people, mostly in western China, out of poverty (700 million have so far been lifted out of poverty since 1978), through gradually bringing about a socialist welfare state (an original invention of socialism), through the Belt and Road Initiative, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Asia Infrastructure Development Bank, and – with specific reference to Hong Kong – the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

So what is Hong Kong to do in light of this? Xi quotes a local saying:

After leaving Suzhou, a traveler will find it hard to get a ride on a boat, meaning an opportunity missed is an opportunity lost.

From a stall in Xi’an

How is this for a timely intervention: last year I was asked to write a piece on the socialist imagination. So I decided to write ‘Xi Jinping’s China: Keeping the Socialist Imagination Alive’. It is based on a careful analysis of ‘The Governance of China’, containing his main writings up to 2014. More is on the way, into which I plan to delve. But now we find calls from the leaders of the CPC itself to study Xi Jinping’s speeches and texts. For example, Liu Yunshan has urged:

Chief officials and leading cadres should take the lead in studying Xi’s speeches and mastering Marxist standpoints to raise political awareness and improve governing ability … He said that the speeches contain the essence of Marxism, the wisdom rooted in traditional Chinese culture and the Party’s innovation and creative thoughts since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012.

This includes CPC leadership in philosophy and social sciences, as an earlier report indicates (see also here):

Noting that Marxism will remain the guiding theory in philosophy and social sciences in China, it called for more efforts in pushing for the sinicization, modernization and popularization of Marxism, and developing a Marxism that fits into the 21st century and contemporary China.

Not a bad time to be involved in China.