Eight challenges facing the Communist Party of China in the new era
A full century has passed since the Communist Party of China (CPC) was founded in 1921. After 100 years of vigorous growth, the CPC has become the world’s biggest ruling party that has governed the world’s largest socialist country for more than 70 years and owns more than 91 million members. The CPC has led the Chinese nation to make a great leap from standing up to growing rich and becoming strong, creating a “Miracle of the East” that has attracted worldwide attention. The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has led the Chinese people to eliminate absolute poverty, build a moderately prosperous society, and embark on a new journey toward completing a modern socialist country.
Over the past 100 years, the CPC has overcome numerous difficulties and obstacles. Today, at the historical intersection of the “two centenary goals” and closing in on the goal of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, we still face many challenges. What challenges does the century-old Party need to address in order to stay vigorous and grow even stronger?
Maintaining Sustainable and Healthy Economic Development
During the first 30-plus years after reform and opening-up policies began in 1978, China’s economy grew at double-digit rates, which has rarely been seen in the world.
But this fast growth rate did not continue across the fourth decade since. The slowdown was caused by the worsening economic situation in many countries around the world coupled with unilateralism and protectionism of the United States and some other countries which affected China’s export performance, making it much more difficult to achieve fast growth driven by exports. At the same time, relying on heavily increasing investment could not maintain fast growth either. Whether or not China’s economy can achieve sustained, rapid and healthy development is key to employment and even social stability across the country.
The double-digit growth rate is now history, and the traditional extensive way of seeking growth has proved unsustainable. Therefore, while continuing to promote development, China must focus on solving the problem of unbalanced and insufficient development and vigorously improve the quality and efficiency of development. In November 2015, General Secretary Xi Jinping first proposed promoting supply-side structural reform at the 11th meeting of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs. This became a major decision of the CPC Central Committee after a comprehensive analysis of the long cycle of the world economy and the new normal of China’s economic development that would evolve into a guideline for China’s economic development and economic work over the current and future periods. How does promotion happen? The new model is more dependent on scientific and technological innovation. In recent years, China has invested a lot in this realm and achieved significant results.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is still leaving a profound impact on the global economy. It increased uncertainty about the global recovery, dealt a blow to the global industrial chain, value chain, and supply chain, allowed protectionism and unilateralism to prevail in some countries, and caused geopolitical risks to spike. General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed fostering a dual-circulation development pattern with the domestic market as the mainstay and seeking the domestic and international markets to boost each other. This was a strategic choice to reshape the new advantages of international cooperation and competition.
In 2020, China achieved a breakthrough beyond 100 trillion yuan (about US$15.4 trillion) in GDP despite a complex domestic and international environment, especially the severe impact of COVID-19. In the first quarter of 2021, China’s economy achieved year-on-year growth of 18.3 percent, higher than any other G20 member.
Developing Democracy in a Steady, Orderly Manner
Democracy is a global trend. The CPC promised the people it would build a high-level socialist democracy. Clearly, democracy building needs to be pursued under the premise of maintaining stability. Social instability would be a disaster for China as well as the whole world.
China chose not to copy Western democracy after the country practiced it for a period. When the Republic of China (1912-1949) was founded after a victory of the Chinese bourgeois revolution in the early 20th Century, some 300 political parties emerged across the country. Many formed and disappeared so quickly that they hardly left any mark on Chinese history. Back then, “separation of powers” as a political system model once existed in China, but leaders changed frequently. According to incomplete statistics, the average tenure of a government in the early decades of the Republic of China was 45 days. Eventually, the Chinese people chose the CPC as the governing party of China. Almost 72 years have passed since the CPC took power, and remarkable achievements have been made on all fronts. The Chinese people trust this party system and see it as suitable for China.
China’s democracy is a people’s democracy under the leadership of the CPC, which is practiced in several ways. The first is the National People’s Congress (NPC) system. There are close to 3,000 NPC deputies representing all ethnic groups and social classes, including a great number of ordinary workers from the frontline of different fields. Another nearly 2 million deputies to local people’s congresses at all levels also play an increasingly important role in politics. The second is the development of socialist consultative democracy. Beyond simply voting, from the CPC’s perspective, democracy also involves consultation based on different opinions from all sides and absorbing the essence of every opinion. The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and local committees of the CPPCC at all levels are dedicated advisory bodies. Before promulgating an important policy, the CPC always consults with chiefs of all non-communist parties as well as the general public and experts in relevant fields to ensure the new policy is widely accepted by the public and implemented in an efficient manner. The third is the development of grassroots democracy. The establishment and improvement of the grassroots self-governance system has enabled the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens to truly enjoy the right to be the masters of their own country. On the issue of democracy, the Chinese are determined to follow this path and will not simply copy the Western model.
Boosting National Cultural Soft Power
“The backward are beaten, poverty means starvation, and if you fail to speak up, you will be scolded,” said General Secretary Xi Jinping, figuratively describing the CPC’s journey over the years as leading the people to solve the three major problems of “being beaten,” “being starved,” and “being scolded.” The CPC successfully solved the problem of “being beaten” by helping the Chinese people “stand up.” After solving the problem of “being starved,” now is the time to eliminate “being scolded” so that China can be considered truly strong.
Over the past few years, China’s national strength has increased, and more and more Chinese people have traveled abroad while increasing numbers of foreigners have visited China. As they gain a new and better understanding of China, people from foreign countries, especially those from the developing countries, have fostered more respect for the country.
“When the people have faith, the country has strength, and the nation has hope,” said General Secretary Xi Jinping. For a country of more than a billion people, a lack of mainstream values can cause chaos beyond control. As the ruling party, the CPC attaches great importance to the promotion of China’s outstanding traditional culture.
The Chinese civilization has experienced more than 5,000 years of development and continues to glow with vigorous vitality. CPC members are committed to creatively developing the outstanding traditional culture of China, helping the Chinese identify their own values and gain cultural confidence, and promoting Chinese culture beyond borders and exerting a significant influence worldwide.
Maintaining a Stable, Harmonious Society
Due to reasons such as the rich-poor gap and inconsistent interests, many social conflicts still plague China, some of which are acute. Ensuring stability and achieving harmony is a permanent and ongoing issue.
Before Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, more than 90 million people were still living below the poverty line in China. The income gap between the richest and the poorest classes had become huge, and any further expansion would threaten social stability. Only narrowing the income gap and increasing social justice could enable Chinese society to achieve lasting stability and harmony. In his report to the 19th CPC National Congress, Xi stated: “As socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the principal contradiction facing Chinese society in the new era is that between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s evergrowing needs for a better life.”
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has visited all of China’s 14 “contiguous impoverished areas” to gain a better understanding of the living and production needs of the villagers, talk face to face with them, and discuss plans to lift them out of poverty. By the end of 2020, China had achieved complete victory in the battle against poverty. Some 98.99 million poor rural residents under the current poverty line emerged from poverty as 832 impoverished counties and 128,000 poor villages were removed from the poverty list. China has eradicated regional poverty and accomplished the arduous task of eliminating absolute poverty.
China has also put a lot of effort into social security. For example, governments at all levels have been building housing for low-income people every year and renting the abodes to eligible people at very low rates. The governments even subsidize the rent for those in need. Another example is the basic medical insurance system. The government pays a share for each farmer while the farmers only need to pay a small amount. Today, the vast majority of Chinese citizens are covered by medical insurance, which partly contributes to the overall stability and harmony of Chinese society. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, a leading U.S. public opinion research institute, rated China as one of the most confident countries in the world in terms of its future.
Conserving a Good Ecological Environment
The CPC has always attached great importance to environmental protection and ecological civilization construction. After the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping introduced a series of new concepts and strategies which together formed the systematic Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization, an action plan for the construction of ecological civilization in the new era. Meanwhile, major breakthroughs were made in comprehensively deepening reform in the field of ecological civilization construction, and top-level design and institutional system building were accelerated.
A few years ago, the environmental pollution was severe in China, especially in major cities like Beijing, which was heavily plagued by haze during the winter heating season. I have lived in Beijing for more than 30 years, and I have felt the problem deeply. Nowadays, blue skies are commonplace in the capital and haze is much less severe and rare. However, air pollution and other environmental problems still exist in many places across the country, contrasting the people’s growing need for a beautiful ecological environment. In recent years, China has adopted a slew of measures to combat pollution such as eliminating backward industries, continuously raising emission standards, and establishing a sound economic system of green, low-carbon and circular development. However, pressures on the structure, roots, and trends of China’s ecological protection have not yet been fundamentally alleviated, so there is still a long way to go in this area.
Over the past years, China has made important contributions to global climate governance such as facilitating the Paris Agreement. China has pledged to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
Promoting Peaceful National Reunification
Since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the CPC has always considered resolution of the Taiwan question and realization of the complete reunification of the motherland an unswerving historical task. The Taiwan question, a result of the Liberation War (1945-1949), likely would have been settled decades ago if not for intervention by external forces.
Today, although cross-Straits interaction has increased, a timetable for peaceful reunification still seems a long way off. On issues involving national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation, the CPC will never waver or compromise China’s national interests.
The resolution of the Taiwan question and the complete reunification of the motherland is the common aspiration of all Chinese people, and the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations is a wise choice made by compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits in accordance with the historical trends. The Chinese government, led by the CPC, will never give international space to “Taiwan independence” forces, never allow Taiwan authorities to join any international organization of sovereign states, and never permit the existence of “two Chinas” in the world. At the same time, the Chinese government has provided considerable assistance to Taiwan residents. People from Taiwan are treated the same as those from Chinese mainland when they pursue studies, seek jobs, or live on the mainland. The Chinese government now offers mainland residence permits for people from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao, so that they can enjoy the same privileges as mainland residents.
Maintaining International Space for Peaceful Development
China began opening its door to the outside world in 1978, and this door has only opened wider and wider. China cannot develop without the rest of the world, nor can the world as a whole prosper without China. China is enthusiastic about maintaining communication with all countries and regions in economics, culture, and other areas. But in recent years, such communication has faced some difficulties.
The first few years of the 21st Century saw rapid growth of China, which caused certain Western powers to hype the so-called “China threat” theory, claiming that China’s rise would threaten Western countries politically, economically, militarily, and even in terms of values. The Chinese people are a peace-loving people, and none of them desire to invade other countries or dominate the world. I have had plenty of opportunities to visit African countries in recent years, where I witnessed what the Chinese have done in Africa—a stark contrast to the things colonialist countries did in Africa in the past and even what they are doing today on the continent.
The CPC is a political party committed to fostering happiness for the Chinese people and advancing the cause of human progress. The CPC has always considered its mission to be making new and greater contributions to mankind. It advocates the peaceful resolution of international disputes, advances the building of a community of shared future for mankind, and implements the principle of “extensive consultation, joint contributions, and shared benefits.” The idea of building a community of shared future for mankind has been written into official documents of the United Nations, and the role China has played in the globalization process is being appreciated by more and more countries.
Today, unilateralism and protectionism have been making a severe impact upon the international order and causing global problems while Chinese diplomacy has also been facing challenges. China’s road to peaceful development has not always been smooth. The CPC must lead China to cope with the severe and complicated international situation by taking a holistic approach to the situation at home and abroad, strengthening strategic planning and comprehensive operation, and fostering a favorable external environment for domestic development and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Corruption remains the most important and pressing among the many challenges facing the CPC. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has been steadfast in combating corruption and holding corrupt officials accountable. No place has been out of bounds, no ground left unturned, and no tolerance shown in the fight against corruption. Firm action has been taken to “take out tigers,” “swat flies,” and “hunt down foxes.” There have been no exceptions in the face of Party discipline and state law, and no leniency will be granted to those found guilty, regardless of their stature.
According to data released by the Central Discipline Inspection Commission on the eve of the 19th CPC National Congress, in the preceding five years, 440 of less than 3,000 officials at or above provincial or corps level had been investigated for corruption, more than 8,900 city-level officials and over 63,000 county-level officials were disciplined, and a total of 278,000 grassroots Party members and officials received disciplinary action. The CPC secured a sweeping victory in its fight against corruption to a degree rarely found in anti-corruption efforts of any ruling party in the world.
The clear anti-corruption results have lifted the Chinese people’s recognition of the CPC to new heights. Comprehensive and rigorous self-governance is a never-ending journey because no Party member can guarantee immunity from problems forever. New problems can emerge after today’s problems are solved, so it is necessary to continuously strengthen the ideological education of Party members, especially Party leaders and officials. More importantly, the Party’s institutional construction should be strengthened, and the people’s supervision of leading officials should be enhanced.
As part of the fight against corruption, reform of the discipline inspection and supervision system was deepened through establishment of supervisory committees at all levels, deployment of discipline inspection teams, major improvements in inspection methods and effectiveness, and reforms within the discipline inspection and supervision organs. Great progress has been achieved in the construction of Party and state supervision systems.
As the governing party of China, the CPC must maintain its advanced and pure nature and improve its cohesion and capability to act. This is also a major issue for the Party in its journey ahead towards the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects.
By Xie Chuntao