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Dialectically Understanding the Evolution of the Principal Contradiction in Chinese Society and the Unchanged Historical Stage

Basing Ourselves on the Basic Dimension of the Chinese Context, Sticking to the Basic Line

Submit Time:11-04-2018 | Zoom In | Zoom Out

Author:Li Jian | Source:People’s Daily (March 20, 2018)

Abstract:

The report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China 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. The report also points out: 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. At present, some people still vaguely think that the evolution of the principal contradiction in Chinese society means China is no longer in the primary stage of socialism. Therefore, we need to use material dialectics to gain a full and accurate understanding. 

The conclusion that the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved while China’s historical stage has not changed made at the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China reflects adherence to and use of material dialectics, which holds that after certain quantitative change, things undergo partial qualitative change and enter a new stage of development. The principal contradiction, though changed then, does not end the whole process of things’ development. “Evolution” and “non-evolution” form a unified pair. Comrade Mao Zedong made the following analysis in On Contradiction: “The fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process determined by this fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the process is completed; but in a lengthy process the conditions usually differ at each stage.” Various stages of a process are united because the essence of things in various stages is consistent; various stages of a process differ mainly because of the evolution of the principal contradiction. Under the condition that things’ essence remains the same, the dialectical unity of the “evolution” of the principal contradiction and the “non-evolution” of the process itself is an objective universal law. 

The primary stage of socialism is a very long historical course, in which the principal contradiction facing society changes with social development. Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. This is a very important milestone change that took place in the long historical course of the primary stage of socialism in China. Now China’s overall productive forces have significantly improved and in many areas our production capacity leads the world. Meanwhile, people’s needs become diversified, multidimensional and multifaceted. 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. Because of the changes in these two aspects, the original statement about the principal contradiction facing Chinese society can no longer accurately reflect the deep changes in Chinese society, the historical evolution that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era and the new historic juncture in China’s development. Therefore, the report to the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China points out the problem that our development is unbalanced and inadequate has become the main constraining factor in meeting the people’s increasing needs for a better life and thus gives a new statement of the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society. 

The evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society is still evolution in the development of the primary stage of socialism. The primary stage of socialism is an underdeveloped stage of socialism. Such underdevelopment is manifested in economic, political, cultural, social, ecological and other aspects. Now China has seen the basic needs of over a billion people met and has basically made it possible for people to live decent lives, but there are still many difficulties and challenges to face. For example, some acute problems caused by unbalanced and inadequate development await solutions; in work on public wellbeing there are still many areas where we fall short; the level of civic-mindedness needs further improvement; social tensions and problems are intertwined; ideological struggle is still complicated; some reform plans and major policies and measures need to be better implemented; many dimensions of Party building remain weak. Therefore, 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. 

To sum up, we should not only see the historic evolution in the overall situation brought about by the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society, but also see that the basic features and fundamental tasks of the primary stage of socialism have not changed. We still need to base ourselves on the basic dimension of the primary stage of socialism, stick to the Party’s basic line, pursue development as the top priority and push forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. 

(Author’s Employer: School of Marxism, Peking University)


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