For those desiring a heads-up on the future orientation of the Communist Party of China, and thus that of the country, there can be no better guide than the report General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered to the 19th National Congress on Oct 18.
Arguably the most watched of its kind in recent times, Xi’s speech may have attracted so much global interest in part because of its timing; coming as it did at a moment when the entire world is looking for clues as to how China will wield its newfound influence.
This need has been met, since Xi’s report is the CPC’s most comprehensive road map for its own, and the country’s development, to date. It is also the authoritative source for answers to the many questions that have arisen so far. Thus the report assumes a distinct place in the annals of CPC history because it goes above and beyond the regular charting of the course for the next five years.
It is a momentous report since it signals that the ruling party’s governance philosophy, included in the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, has not been updated, but rather upgraded.
For the first time since the concept of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” was proposed in Deng Xiaoping’s speech inaugurating the 12th CPC National Congress in 1982, all the strategic arrangements laid out in the report derive from new historical coordinates.
For the past almost four decades, the definition of the “principal contradiction” has been that between “the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the backwardness of social production”.
Xi’s report boiled down to two strategic judgments: That socialism with Chinese characteristics has now entered a new era, and that the principal contradiction in society is between people’s ever-growing needs for a better life and unbalanced, inadequate development.
Such a change necessarily entails fresh thinking and responses.
But as the report stated, the designation of a new era does not change the judgment that China remains in the “primary stage” of socialism with Chinese characteristics, nor change the reality of it being a developing country.
And it revealed the essential truth that the CPC remains focused on development. From the judgments made and policy initiatives proposed, the report bears testament to the Party’s longstanding conviction that development is the key to all the problems the country faces.
Thus, attributing the historic achievements made in nation-building to the CPC’s strong, efficient leadership, the report prioritized strengthening the Party’s leadership “in all undertakings”.
Judging from the CPC’s confidence in the path it has taken, as well as its resolve to continue refining its governance mechanisms and capabilities, there is no reason not to be optimistic about the country’s future.