‘Chinese Characteristics’ Grow with the World

‘As to what kind of society humanity will create in the future, I have a feeling that China will develop a new model for all.’

So many recent headlines in both Japanese domestic and international media have included the word “China.” Since the Biden administration took office, the U.S. has done everything in its power to work with its allies including Japan, Australia, and European countries to apply pressure on China. Ironically, however, the more Washington plays tit-for-tat with China, the more China’s global influence becomes apparent.

The idea that “the end of the Cold War signaled the triumph of capitalism” has prevailed in the Western world for more than 30 years. But after the global financial crisis, financial inflation and “capitalist greed” exacerbated by financial games led to chaos in myriad realms that have inspired waves of second-guessing. In such a chaotic epoch in which capitalism begins to diminish before a more promising path to the future is clear, it feels like significant historical changes are about to happen.

This July, China is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) while announcing the achievement of the first of its “two centenary goals.” At this moment of epochal significance, I would like to share my reflection on China’s message to the world as well as its implications.

Memorial hall of the former site of the Manchuria Provincial Committee of the CPC in Shenyang, Liaoning Province. (ZHANG WENKUI)

Seeking Truth from Facts

The term “socialism with Chinese characteristics” encapsulates all thoughts and studies about China. The CPC experienced a road to Chinese revolution from its founding in 1921 to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a period of transition from new democracy to socialism, and a shift from implementing reform and opening-up to seeking a higher level of development and building “socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.” The philosophies, strategies, and specific measures the Party adopted in each of these stages may vary, but “Chinese characteristics” have remained unchanged as a defining feature, which makes the century-long history of the CPC an important chapter of world history. This also speaks to the success of the Chinese revolution and explains why Chinese society has achieved such remarkable progress.

Essentially, China has been “seeking truth from facts.”

Although Marxism interpreted some basic truths when it was conceived in Western Europe, the philosophy can never succeed simply by applying the theory verbatim to forcibly accommodate national realities. After the victory of the October Revolution in Russia, rather than copying the Soviet experience, the CPC focused on the actual situation in China and united all the Chinese people to resist aggression by imperialist powers and end China’s status as a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. To this end, the CPC walked a path of courage and sacrifice. It completed the arduous Long March, established revolutionary bases, took root in the countryside, formulated strategies and tactics based on analysis of reality, and united and mobilized people from all walks of life to found New China. Behind this is a path of struggle that combined the basic principles of Marxism with specific realities of China, including spiritual and cultural characteristics nurtured throughout its lengthy history, social system, and passionate public emotion.

The history of the Chinese revolution is significant to the modern world, not only for lessons learned from difficulties in solving social contradictions simply by emulating others, but also due to the success of exploring a Chinese path based on “seeking truth from facts” and relying on the people.

Socialism with Chinese Characteristics

“Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” provides useful lessons for many developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that have not yet found a clear path to escape poverty and develop their economies. These countries were colonized by imperialist powers before gaining independence after World War II, but colonial rule and plunder left their economic and industrial development weak and state governance more problematic. For them, China’s development miracle should be inspiring, and one example is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

President Xi Jinping has described the BRI as a path to mutual benefits and win-win cooperation that will drive the economies along the route to become more closely integrated through more infrastructure and institutional innovation in all involved countries. Xi devised the BRI to create new economic and employment growth points and enhance countries’ endogenous power and risk resistance. The term “endogenous power” means a lot. As an approach, the BRI seeks cooperation between China and other countries involved to serve as a catalyst for igniting the potential of all countries along the route and inspire their people to spontaneously contribute to exploration of paths of economic development.

Developing countries are now accelerating participation in competition in the global value chain, and the world is shifting from a previous vertical division of labor to a more horizontal one. And the BRI, which upholds principles of “extensive consultation, joint contributions, and shared benefits,” has emerged as an insightful strategy that is compliant with the new world order of the 21st Century. Alongside the economic aspect, pluralistic international cooperation mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have also played a key role in promoting peaceful coexistence among countries.

With a global vision and based on “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the BRI has mapped a blueprint for the world in every area from economics to security. The ancient Silk Road linked the East and West through business and cultural exchanges for centuries, and enhanced mutual understanding with other civilizations endowed China with historical profundity set for a renaissance in the new era.

Governance Experience Worth Learning

At the same time, “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” has also provided important insights for capitalism as it struggles to find a way out. As to what kind of society humanity will create in the future, I have a feeling that China will develop a new model for all.

Contradictions arise frequently in modern capitalism, and the world has seen a trend of “rediscovering Marxism” in recent years. In this context, construction of economic and social systems, exploration of new institutional designs in the fields of environment and culture, and deepening of policy sciences have become pressing issues.

China has eradicated poverty and is advancing toward a “great modern socialist power,” with an ultimate goal of building an “affluent society” featuring common prosperity. The socio-economic system and methods of governance to achieve this will certainly provide inspiration for social systems stuck in the late-capitalist era. China’s exploration of topics such as how to coordinate public and non-public economies to build a vibrant society, how to promote environmentally-friendly sustainable development, and establishing a global economic order that benefits all countries and people have created valuable and important experiences. Not only will China share more industrial and technological experience, it will also drive home the significance of the new concepts it advocates in the new era in areas such as social systems, ecological conservation, cultural development, and governance. The wisdom, experience, and policies China has accumulated will also serve as global public property in the 21st Century, which I believe represents a deeper meaning of “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.”

Furthermore, I would like to stress that in contrast to capitalism’s nature of bullying the weak due to greed, the CPC has been adhering to the fundamental principle of relying on the people and serving the people since the day it was founded. Such a “people first” philosophy has circulated through all of its work and governance policy, which is of immense importance for future society.

President Xi Jinping has been urging the world to “build a community of shared future for mankind,” an initiative that envisions a world with no war or conflict, but only lasting peace and shared prosperity. I am deeply convinced that the process of building this idealistic world essentially aligns with Marx’s vision of the world and mankind shattering old social and productive relations to attain liberation.

“Its 100-year journey continues surging forward with great momentum, and its original aspirations remain even firmer one hundred years later,” remarked Xi on the 100th birthday of the CPC in his 2021 New Year address. “From Shikumen in Shanghai to South Lake in Jiaxing City, the small red boat (where the first CPC congress concluded) carried the great trust of the people and the hope of the nation. The boat has navigated turbulent rivers and treacherous shoals and voyaged across violent tidal waves, becoming a great ship capable of delivering China’s stable and long-term development.”

These words capture the essence of the path the CPC and the Chinese people have walked together. Over the past century, the Party has overcome danger, hardship, and various other tests. When I look back at the CPC’s history, I am inspired to look forward to China’s great contribution of wisdom and strength to building a better world in the 21st Century.

By Tomoyoshi Kimura

About the author Tomoyoshi Kimura is former anchor at Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK).

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