Work report is Chinese-style modernization on full display
By Lau Siu-kai
On Oct 16 last year, General Secretary Xi Jinping comprehensively summarized the basic tenets of Chinese-style modernization in his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, noting that Chinese-style modernization is a modernization in a country with a huge population, a modernization to bring about common prosperity, a modernization striking a harmonious balance between material civilization and spiritual civilization, a modernization featuring harmonious coexistence between man and nature, and a modernization that treads the path of peaceful development.
On March 5, Premier Li Keqiang delivered his Government Work Report (Report) at the first meeting of the 14th National People's Congress, comprehensively and cogently expounding the central government's policies and measures in the past five years and for the future. Overall, the past and future direction of the central government's policies faithfully and accurately reflects the basic tenets of Chinese-style modernization.
As a modernization that takes place in a country with a huge population, Chinese-style modernization must "always think about problems, make decisions, and handle things based on national conditions, ... insist on making progress while maintaining stability, adopt a step-by-step approach, and advance continuously". The Report noted that in the past five years, although the country was facing severe challenges such as the rise of trade protectionism and the pummeling from COVID-19, the central government insisted on using proactive but prudent fiscal and monetary policies to promote economic development, increase employment and relieve people's hardships. In the words of Premier Li, "We will resolutely increase our efforts, but we will not engage in 'flood irrigation' (excessively expanding money supply) and overdraft the future." In the coming year, the central government will "solidly promote Chinese-style modernization and still adhere to the general tone of seeking progress while maintaining stability". In a country with a large population, Chinese-style modernization should never allow disruptive mistakes to be made, and should only advance incrementally, constantly summing up experiences and lessons and readjusting policies and actions; otherwise, huge and irreparable historical regrets will ensue.
As a modernization for common prosperity, Chinese-style modernization "adheres as the starting point and goal of modernization to the realization of the people's yearning for a better life. It focuses on maintaining and promoting social fairness and justice, concentrates on promoting the common prosperity of all people, and resolutely averts polarization". In the past five years, the living standards of the Chinese people continued to rise. After eight years of hard work, the country has eradicated the problem of absolute poverty. This is a gargantuan achievement that has attracted global attention and won the admiration of the international community. The important work in the future is to continuously elevate the living standards of all people. To that end, the Report vows to "implement the people-centered development idea, continue to enlarge investment in people's livelihoods, focus on the basics, set the bottom line (the minimal standard for protecting people's livelihoods), promote fairness, improve the quality of public services, and continuously upgrade people's livelihoods and well-being during the country's development". In the past few years, the central government had "enabled residents to gain more income through multiple channels", "increased the income of low and middle-income groups", increased support for the old revolutionary base areas, ethnic minority areas, and border areas, promoted the development of economically difficult areas, vigorously implemented the rural revitalization strategy, boosted education equity and quality, enhanced the capacity of medical and healthcare services, and strengthened social security. All these are effective and necessary measures to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and between different regions and are conducive to attaining common prosperity. The Report proposes that in the coming year, policies such as "strengthening the construction of the housing security system", "solving the housing problems of new urban residents and young people", and "promoting high-quality and balanced development of compulsory education and urban-rural integration" will enhance common prosperity and social justice.
As a modernization that synchronizes material civilization and spiritual civilization, Chinese-style modernization advocates that while promoting economic development, it will also "vigorously develop advanced socialist culture, strengthen education in ideals and beliefs, and transmit Chinese civilization from generation to generation". The Report noted that the spiritual culture and life of the people have been constantly enriched. The measures taken in this regard include "cultivating and practicing socialist core values", "deepening the formation of popular spiritual civilization", "implementing cultural projects to benefit the people", "allowing the public to use public libraries, museums, art galleries, and cultural centers for free", "intensifying the comprehensive promotion of reading", "supporting the development of the cultural industry", and "strengthening the capacity in the popularization of science in the country", etc. All of these measures have helped foster the spiritual civilization of the people.
As a modernization that fosters harmonious coexistence between man and nature, Chinese-style modernization "adheres to sustainable development, adheres to the policy of giving priority to environmental conservation and protection as well as natural restoration". The Report embraces the idea that "clear waters and green mountains are as valuable as gold and silver mountains". In the past few years, pollution control and ecological construction had been incessantly strengthened. "More and more people now can enjoy the blue sky, white clouds, clear water, and green mountains". Significant achievements have also been made in energy conservation and carbon reduction. The Report proposes to further promote the green transformation of the country's development model, including promoting the clean and efficient utilization of coal and related technological research as well as accelerating the construction of a new energy system. These are important measures to improve and conserve the ecological environment.
As a modernization that takes the path of peaceful development, Chinese-style modernization "holds high the banner of peace, development, cooperation, and 'win-win', seeks its development while firmly maintaining world peace and development, and uses the country's development to better maintain world peace and development". In the past several years, the central government firmly expanded China's opening-up and deepened international economic and trade cooperation under the principles of mutual benefits and win-win cooperation. In the face of unrelenting and escalating suppression and containment of China by the United States and the West, the central government has "implemented a more proactive opening-up strategy and promoted reform and development with higher-level opening-up." It also promoted high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Both are China's major policies to promote worldwide development, especially in developing countries. The Report pledges to "firmly safeguard the international trade system, oppose trade protectionism, properly respond to economic and trade frictions, and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation". These are all actions taken by China to promote world peace and development. In the past few years, China has comprehensively pushed ahead great-power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, proactively expanded global partnerships, committed to building an open world economy, maintained multilateralism, promoted the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and advanced international anti-pandemic cooperation, all of which are important actions contributing to the promotion of world peace and development. The Report emphasizes that China "is willing to work with the international community to implement the global development initiatives and global security initiatives put forward by the country, promote the common values of all mankind, join hands with other countries to build a community of shared future for mankind, and maintain world peace and regional stability".
It can be seen from the Report that Chinese-style modernization is currently advancing along the designed track at the pace of "seeking progress while maintaining stability". This will not only enable China to continue to create many "Chinese miracles", but will also allow it to make important contributions within its capabilities to the well-being of all mankind.
The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a consultant of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. The views do not necessarily reflect those of Bauhinia Magazine.