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Correctly Grasp the Evolution of the Principal Contradiction Facing Chinese Society

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Author:Leng Rong | Source:People’s Daily (November 27, 2017)

Abstract:

The report delivered by Comrade Xi Jinping to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China gives a new definition of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society and points out “As socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life.” Correctly apprehending and grasping this new major political conclusion is of important significance to deeply understanding the new historic juncture in China’s development and implementing a series of major strategic arrangements of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core for building a great modern socialist country under the new conditions of the era and realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. 

Scientifically analyzing and soberly grasping the principal contradiction facing Chinese society is an important prerequisite to formulation of correct lines, principles and policies by the Party. 

Grasping key points to promote overall work is a requirement of materialistic dialectics and a methodology our Party always advocated and adhered to in various periods of revolution, construction and reform. Comrade Mao Zedong pointed out: “The study of the various states of unevenness in contradictions, of the principal and non-principal contradictions and of the principal and the non-principal aspects of a contradiction constitutes an essential method by which a revolutionary political party correctly determines its strategic and tactical policies both in political and in military affairs. All Communists must give it attention.” To successfully advance the cause of the Party and the country, we must correctly grasp the principal contradiction facing Chinese society. 

This is not only a plain philosophical truth, but also a profound conclusion made after summarizing the Party’s history. In the period of the New Democratic Revolution, our Party correctly analyzed the overall contradiction of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal Chinese society, formulated the general line of the New Democratic Revolution and a series of principles and policies, and won the New Democratic Revolution. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, especially after the establishment of socialism as China’s basic system, the 8th National Congress of the Communist Party of China clearly pointed out: “the major contradiction of our country was the contradiction between the demand of people wanting to establish a developed industrial country and the reality that our country was a undeveloped agricultural country, and the contradiction between the demand of people requiring the rapid development of economy & culture and the reality that development of economy and culture cannot meet with the current needs of people.” This expression was in line with China’s reality then. However, because of complex social and historical reasons, this correct conclusion was not adhered to later. After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee, our Party scientifically analyzed China’s principal contradiction in the primary stage of socialism, further refined the expression put forward at the 8th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, and proposed “the principal contradiction facing Chinese society is the contradiction between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the backwardness of social production”. This provided important guidance for our arrangements for the overall work of the Party and the country. In nearly 40 years of reform and opening up, because our Party formulated and adhered to correct lines, principles and policies according to this principal contradiction, China made tremendous achievements in socialist modernization. 

History fully shows that whether the cause of the Party and the country can develop smoothly is closely related to whether we can accurately apprehend and grasp the principal contradiction facing society according to changes in social and historical conditions and whether we can formulate correct political lines, strategies and tactics on this basis. Sticking to the actual situation of Chinese society, grasping the principal contradiction among numerous social contradictions and in the overall situation of contradictions keenly and making arrangements for the work of the Party and the country focusing on the principal contradiction conscientiously is our Party’s successful experience from conscientiously using the Marxist contradiction theory to analyze and solve specific problems in China’s revolution, construction and reform. 

The new expression about the principal contradiction facing society comes from the current objective reality of China. 

The new expression about the principal contradiction facing society in the report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has sufficient factual basis, given according to the new historic juncture in China’s development: socialism with Chinese characteristics has crossed the threshold into a new era. The report point out: “China has seen the basic needs of over a billion people met, has basically made it possible for people to live decent lives, and will soon bring the building of a moderately prosperous society to a successful completion. The needs to be met for the people to live a better life are increasingly broad. Not only have their material and cultural needs grown; their demands for democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security, and a better environment are increasing. While China’s overall productive forces have significantly improved and in many areas our production capacity leads the world, our problem is that our development is unbalanced and inadequate. This has become the main constraining factor in meeting the people’s increasing needs for a better life.” This incisive exposition deeply reflects the occurrence of new changes in China’s social production and social needs. The original expression about “the contradiction between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and the backwardness of social production” can no longer accurately reflect this changed objective reality, and a new summary needs to be made as a matter of course. 

In terms of social production, after nearly 40 years of rapid development brought about by reform and opening up, China’s overall productive forces have significantly improved and in many areas our production capacity leads the world. The situation of economic shortage and insufficient supply existing in China for long has changed fundamentally, so still talking about “the backwardness of social production” is not in line with the reality. This is an obvious change. 

In terms of social needs, as people’s lives improve significantly, their aspirations to live a better life are increasingly strong. People’s needs demonstrate the characteristics of diversity, multiple levels and multiple facets, and the areas and focuses of needs have gone beyond the original level and category of material and cultural needs, so only talking about “the ever-growing material and cultural needs” can no longer reflect people’s changed needs. This is also an obvious fact. 

The above two aspects both show that we need to think on the basis of the historic juncture in China’s social development, think with the overall development of the cause of the Party and the country as the point of departure and think in terms of insisting on our people-centered philosophy of development to make new judgments and expressions of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society. The key here is to accurately apprehend and grasp the changing characteristics of China in the primary stage of socialism, accurately apprehend and grasp milestone features of China’s development and accurately find the main factors influencing satisfaction of the aspirations, longings and needs to live a better life at the current stage. After comprehensively analyzing various aspects, the report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China concludes that the problem of unbalanced and inadequate development has become the main constraining factor in meeting the people’s increasing needs for a better life. Unbalanced development mainly refers to lack of balanced development in various regions and aspects restraining improvement of the national development level. Inadequate development mainly refers to the problem of insufficient development in some areas, fields and aspects, making the task of development still heavy. In the current stage, China’s unbalanced and inadequate development is manifested in many aspects. For example, in view of the productive forces, China still has a lot of traditional, backward and even primitive productive forces, and the level and layout of productive forces are quite unbalanced. In view of the five-sphere integrated plan, we have not done enough to promote China’s development in various aspects and realize balanced and adequate development. In view of development of rural and urban areas, there are still large disparities in development levels, and economic and social development in old revolutionary bases, regions of minority groups, inland boundary areas and poverty-stricken areas is still quite backward. In view of income distribution, the gaps in incomes are still quite wide, more than 40 million people in the countryside have not been lifted out of poverty, and there are still many urban residents in need. These imbalances and inadequacies of development impede each other, bring about many social contradictions and problems and have become the main aspect of the principal contradiction facing society. We must work hard to apprehend and solve them. 

The new expression about the principal contradiction facing Chinese society in the report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is a result of sticking to the Party’s ideological line of seeking truth from facts and combining the fundamental Marxist principles with China’s specific reality in the current stage and a scientific conclusion made to free our minds, seek truth from facts, move with the times and apply a realistic and pragmatic approach. 

The evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society represents a historic shift that affects the whole landscape and that creates many new demands for the work of the Party and the country. 

We must correctly recognize that the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society represents a historic shift that affects the overall work of the Party and the country. We should uphold the methodology of dialectical and historical materialism, have strategic perspectives, develop creative thinking and a dialectical approach to thinking, think in terms of the rule of law, think about worst-case scenarios and think about combination of history and reality, theory and practice as well as the domestic and international to make right conclusions. 

First, our thinking must focus on the theme of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society, and the focus must not deviate. The new expression in the report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is about the principal contradiction facing Chinese society instead of the principal contradiction in China’s economic development. So we must think on the basis of the historic juncture in China’s social development and grasp the principal contradiction facing Chinese society and its main aspect in the new era instead of thinking narrowly. 

Second, our thinking must stick to materialistic standpoints, views and methods as the point of departure, and this major judgment should be apprehended and grasped in light of actual social movements. To identify the principal contradiction facing Chinese society, we need to avoid abstract thoughts, ideas, state descriptions and work requirements. Only in this way can we make our conclusions tenable and capable of withstanding the test of practice and history. 

Third, our thinking must stick to the overall situation so that solving this principal contradiction will play a leading and guiding role in developing the cause of the Party and the country. The new expression about the principal contradiction facing Chinese society in the report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is not a purely conceptual change and must be implemented in various fields, aspects and work tasks. We should closely focus on the priorities of the CPC Central Committee’s work since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the work being done by the people under the Party’s leadership, the overall contradiction facing Chinese society in the current stage, the main tasks facing the development of the cause of the Party and the country now as well as the wishes and expectations of the people. We should act in sync with coordinated implementation of the five-sphere integrated plan and the four-pronged comprehensive strategy, implementation of the new vision for development, the requirement of promoting development of various undertakings of the Party and the country as well as people’s aspirations to live a better life. 

Fourth, our thinking must stick to proceeding from long-term development of the cause of the Party and the country. We should fully recognize that this new expression is not a narrow or short-term concept but one targeting the milestone of realizing the second centenary goal in the middle of this century and covering a very long historical period, and fully recognize that this new expression has not only very strong realistic pertinence and work orientation, but also very strong historical adaptability and temporal flexibility. 

We must correctly apprehend the major significance of the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society and its new requirements on the work of the Party and the country. According to the requirements of the report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, “Building on continued efforts to sustain development, we must devote great energy to addressing development’s imbalances and inadequacies, and push hard to improve the quality and effect of development. With this, we will be better placed to meet the ever-growing economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological needs of our people, and to promote well-rounded human development and all-round social progress.” 

The evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society does not change our assessment of the present stage of socialism in China. 

The evolution of the principal contradiction facing society will certainly exert extensive and profound influence on China’s overall development and must be grasped comprehensively. The report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China points out: “We must recognize that the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society does not change our assessment of the present stage of socialism in China. The basic dimension of the Chinese context—that our country is still and will long remain in the primary stage of socialism—has not changed. China’s international status as the world’s largest developing country has not changed. The whole Party must be completely clear about this fundamental dimension of our national context, and must base our work on this most important reality —the primary stage of socialism. We must remain fully committed to the Party’s basic line as the source that keeps the Party and the country going and that brings happiness to the people. We must lead and unite the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in fulfilling the central task of economic development. We must uphold the Four Cardinal Principles, continue to reform and open up, be self-reliant, hardworking, and enterprising, and strive to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.” 

In terms of the relationship between the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society and the primary stage of socialism, we should correctly apprehend and grasp the following points. 

First, the primary stage of Chinese socialism is an undeveloped stage of socialism when the level of economic development plays an important role, so we must unswervingly stick to the central task of economic development; meanwhile, we should also recognize that the level of economic development is not the only decisive condition of the primary stage, so the primary stage should be associated with the overall level of social development. The report to the 15th National Congress of the Communist Party of China expounded this issue in depth. This shows our Party never viewed the primary stage of socialism simply from the single perspective of economic development levels but always looked at it in light of the overall development of socialism involving many aspects such as productive forces and relations of production, the economic base and superstructure, material, cultural and ethical advancement, economic, political, cultural, social and ecological development and Party building. 

Second, the primary stage of socialism is a very long historical course. Just like many aspects change, the principal contradiction facing Chinese society will also inevitably change with social development in this long historical course. However, these changes do not mean the basic national conditions in the primary stage of socialism have changed. They are just changes occurring in the historical stage of the primary stage of socialism. 

Third, we should apprehend and understand the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society and must accurately grasp the characteristic of constant change in the primary stage of socialism. We should adhere to the Party’s theory of the primary stage of socialism and better solve various problems occurring in Chinese society, better realize various undertakings’ all-round development, better develop socialism with Chinese characteristics and better promote people’s all-round development and society’s all-round progress while solving various problems occurring in Chinese society. 

To sum up, in studying the new expression about the principal contradiction facing Chinese society in the report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, accurately understanding the material dialectical relationship between such “changes” and “constants” is vitally important. 

The profound incisive exposition about socialism with Chinese characteristics entering a new era and the changed principal contradiction facing Chinese society is an important aspect of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This major theoretical innovation further deepening people’s understanding of the laws that underlie governance by the Communist Party, the development of socialism and the evolution of human society is a major contribution to scientific socialism. Just like the judgment about the principal contradiction facing Chinese society made at the 8th National Congress of the People’s Republic of China, this new judgment and expression made at the 19th National Congress of the People’s Republic of China will certainly play a realistic and long-term guiding role in developing socialism with Chinese characteristics and finally realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. 


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