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Accurate Grasp of the Evolution of the Principal Contradiction Confronting the Chinese Society

Submit Time:18-04-2018 | Zoom In | Zoom Out

Author:Lin Zhaomu | Source:People's Daily (March 30, 2018)

Abstract:

How to comprehend and sum up the principal contradiction confronting the Chinese society is an important task both theoretically and practically. The correct grasp of the principal contradiction is a prerequisite for the development of the correct strategies, policies and measures, the resolution to contradictions facing the society, and the progress of the entire community. Comrade Xi Jinping made in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress a major political assertion that the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved into the one between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life. It represents an update and innovation in the principal contradiction theory so that it can keep up with the times. Moreover, it also raises more new requirements for the work of the Party and the country.

An up-to-date development and enormous innovation in the theory of principal contradiction facing the society 

Since the 1950s, our Party has made strenuous theoretical and practical explorations for pinpointing the principal contradiction confronting the Chinese society. As a result of these efforts, it realized two leaps in theory. The two leaps occurred on the 8th CPC National Congress in 1956 and the 6th Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee in 1981, respectively. Back in 1956 when the socialist system had been established in our country, the Party at its 8th National Congress made it clear that "the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society has become the one between the need for building a modern industrial country and the reality of the backward agricultural country, and that between the needs of the people for rapid economic and cultural development and the failure of the current economic and cultural supplies to meet their needs." As the actuality-backed correct judgment suggested, the fundamental solution to the principal contradiction facing the society was to emancipate and facilitate productivity. Unfortunately, the major leaders of the Party got their attention distracted later. The correct assertion on the principal contradiction failed to be put in action. Instead, it was replaced by the principle of taking class struggle as the most important task, thus leading to the occurrence of an overarching severe error—the Great Cultural Evolution. In 1981, the Party on the 6th Plenary Session of its 11th Central Committee summed up the historical experience and lessons, and came to a correct grasp of our basic conditions and stage of development. On the basis, it proposed that "before the virtual conclusion of the socialist transformation, the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society is the one between the backward social production and the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the masses." This judgment stood as an extension of and improvement in the assertion on the principal contradiction made at the Party's 8th National congress. It marks that our Party realized its first theoretical leap in this regard. The painful process to the leap awakens to us the fact that the correct assertion is hard-won and means a lot. Only starting from it, can we completely deny the wrong theory and practice that hold class struggle at the core, convert the focus of the Party and the country to the socialist modernization drive, stick to the path of reform and opening up, and secure the eye-catching achievements in our economic and social development.  

The second leap in the theory on the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society occurred at the 19th CPC National Congress. As Xi Jinping noted in his report to the Congress, "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 the unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life." The evolution of the principal contradiction is a major strategic judgment that was concluded based on the comprehensive analysis of the profound changes that had occurred to our economic and social development since the founding of new China, especially the introduction of reform and opening up. Moreover, it is also an essential criterion to say the socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered into a new era, and also an important part of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Therefore, it will have a powerful and far-reaching effect on our strides towards the realization of the two centenary goals.  

The new assertion of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society in the new era reflects the unification between persistent inheritance and innovative development. According to it, the basic dimension of the Chinese context—that our country is still in the primary stage of socialism has not changed, and the most important task facing us still remains to unleash and develop productive forces. Differently, it employs the materialistic dialectics to thoroughly analyze the different phases of contradictions have evolved in the primary stage of socialism. Thus, a new theoretical summary of the principal contradiction arrived at in the light of the changed actuality. The new assessment more distinctly embodies the people-centered approach to development. To depict the purpose and connotation of development, the phrase of "the people's ever-growing needs for a better life" is coined to replace the original one of "the ever-growing material and material needs." This change indicates that the people are demonstrating ever-growing new demands in terms of democracy, law-based governance, fairness, justice, security, environment, and many other aspects, in addition to the higher requirements for material and cultural progress. When it comes to the primary problem holding back development, the phrase of "the unbalanced and inadequate development" is introduced to replace the original "backward social production". This proposal reveals that the focus of development has expanded from material production to the five-sphere integral development that encompasses economy, politics, culture, society, and ecological progress, as a move to get rid of the situation of unbalanced and inadequate development. The two aspects combined fully justify that the Party's profound understanding and accurate grasp of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society in the new era and the particularity of two sides of the contradiction enable it to update and innovate in the theory on the principal contradiction with the times. In this sense, it is pioneering and far-reaching both theoretically and practically.  

Conditions and bases for the evolution of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society 

Conditions and bases for the evolution of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society can be unfolded from the following four dimensions:  

Firstly, the substantially developed productivity paves the way for the evolution of the principal contradiction. Since the introduction of reform and opening up, China has managed to maintain the longest-lasting high-speed economic growth since World War II, which is a rare miracle. Its economic aggregate has jumped from 11th to 2nd in 2010 across the world, and maintained the spot since then. In 2017, China's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 82.7 trillion yuan, which is 33.5 times that in 1978 if calculated at comparable prices. Its manufacturing sector has generated an output that ranks No.1 worldwide for eight consecutive years; and 220-plus categories of industrial and agricultural products have seen their production capacity topped the entire world solidly, some of which even entered into the state of massive surplus. This fact makes the obvious case that the long-lasting shortage economy and undersupply has come to an end totally in China. Therefore, "the backward social production" has disappeared as one of the two sides that constitute the principal contradiction.  

Secondly, the people's living standards improved remarkably. China has ensured that more than one billion population's basic needs are met stably, thus forming the largest size of middle-income group in the world. Its total retail sales of consumer goods are expected to exceed those of the US, next to none worldwide. As the consuming structure continues to upgrade, its focus has shifted from satisfaction in quantity to pursuit for quality growth. Against such a backdrop, the people's needs for a better life have also expended from material and cultural spheres to almost every fields that cover politics, society, and ecology, among others.  

Thirdly, the long-term high-speed economic growth, coupled with the extensive development mode, uneven economic structure, and problematic institutions, exposes the unbalanced and inadequate development in urban and rural areas, regions, society, ecology and other fields, which is quite acute. In the meantime, China has seen its economic strength improved substantially. Now it is in a better position than ever to put the task of addressing the unbalanced and inadequate development on the agenda.  

Fourthly, since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has proposed a raft of pioneering thoughts, ideas and strategies, which are the base of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, providing the scientific theoretical guidance for our understanding of and dealing with the evolution of the principal contradiction confronting the Chinese society. This is also the fundamental reason for us to make this new theoretical summary in response to the objective changes in the principal contradiction.  

Thorough understanding the relations between the evolution of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society and the unchanged basic dimension of the Chinese context that our country is till in the primary stage of socialism  

To correctly comprehend the evolution of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society requires us to properly deal with the relationship between the fact that the historic period hasn't changed and the shift into a different process or sub-period. It should be noted that despite the evolution of the principal contradiction, 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 report to the 15th CPC National Congress tried to explain the meaning of the primary stage of socialism from a total of nine perspectives in 1997, which can be summarized into the following one sentence: The day when the socialism modernization and the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation both are achieved will signify that China moves to a stage higher than the primary stage of socialism. So the primary stage of socialism is a longstanding phase in the river of history. The stage itself is in midst of constant changes. Therefore, it can be further divided into different process or sub-periods. Each process or sub-period thereof demonstrates their particular contradictions. The evolution of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society is nothing but an embodiment of changes occurring to the primary stage of socialism as well as those particular contradictions appearing in the different processes or sub-periods, as parts of the stage.  

If we break the primary stage of socialism into two halves, the old phrase of "contradiction between the people's ever-growing material and cultural needs and the backward social production" conforms to the actuality of the first half; and the newly-coined expression of "the contradiction between the people's ever-growing needs for a better life and the unbalanced and inadequate development" then tells the truth of the second half. It is noteworthy that the evolution of the principal contradiction in the new era occurs within the primary stage of socialism rather than beyond of it. Therefore, the efforts to handle the evolved contradiction still need to proceed from the basic and foremost dimension of the Chinese context—that we are still in the primary stage of socialism. And the most important task for us to overcome such contradiction is still to unleash and develop productive forces. Either to meet the people's ever-growing needs for a better life or to step out of the unbalanced and inadequate development, we must bear in mind the actual conditions that are determined by the primary stage of socialism, do everything in our capacity, and adopt a step-by-step approach. What we restrain ourselves from doing is come up with requirements unattainable given the actual productivity.  

Rationally understanding the evolution of the principal contradiction confronting the Chinese society, and realizing the development that put people in the first place 

Only rationally understanding the evolution of the principal contradiction confronting the Chinese society, can we do a better job in realizing the people's immediate interests and long-term benefits. Over a quite long period of time before the introduction of reform and opening, neither the correct assessment of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society was put in action nor the Party and the country shifted their focus to the socialist construction. As a result, the productive forces sank to stagnation, fluctuation and disorder, and the people's living standards improved barely, if any. By contrast, in the four decades since commencement of reform and opening up, the Chinese economy and society have thrived and developed fast, and the people's living standards improved enormously. These dramatic changes are fundamentally attributed to our Party's correct grasp of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society.  

The Party made a new theoretical assessment of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society at its 19th National Congress. According to the new assessment, our most important task is to more efficiently meet the people's needs for a better life, safeguard and improve their wellbeing through development, shore up what we are weak in improving their wellbeing, and deal with the unbalanced and inadequate development. To do that will definitely benefit each and every Chinese from all of the following dimensions. The tough steps to carry out targeted poverty alleviation will lift all poor people out of poverty and lead a better life. The rural vitalization strategy aims to speed up the modernization of agriculture and rural areas, so that hundreds of millions of Chinese farmers will witness their life takes on a new look. According to the coordinated regional development strategy, the central and western regions will accelerate their development pace, narrow down their gap with other regions, and let more people live a richer life. A tough campaign against environmental pollution is launched to make sure the people can breathe fresh air, have access to clean water, and live in a beautiful environment step by step. While the Chinese economy transitions to a stage of high-quality development, more quality goods and services will be available to meet the people's diversified, personalized and ever-upgrading spending needs, thus helping them lift their living standards. As education, healthcare and other public sectors gather their pace in development, the people will see their needs for premium education and medical services are satisfied better, and every one of them has the chance to pursue career through hard work. In short, all the new requirements and deployments for the Party and the Country are made in response to the evolution of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society. To put these new requirements and deployments in action, we must implement the five-sphere integrated plan and the four-pronged comprehensive strategy with coordinated efforts, so as to better safeguard the people's rights and interests in every aspect and better meet their needs of all sorts.  

The evolution of the principal contradiction facing the Chinese society breathes new life into the world economy.  

The evolution of the principal contradiction represents a historic shift that affects the whole landscape, will have powerful and far-reaching effects on the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and will also breathe new life into the world economy.  

As required by the new demands arising from the evolution, China will move faster to transform its growth model, improve its economic structure, foster new drivers for growth, and propel economy toward high-quality development. This will create a huge market for such foreign industries as high and new technologies, eco-friendly technologies in favor of green and low-carbon operations, high-end manufacturing, and modern services.  

Also in response to the new demands arising from the evolution, China will make new ground in pursuing opening up on all fronts, adopt policies to promote high-standard liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, implement the system of pre-establishment national treatment plus a negative list across the board, significantly ease market access, and further open the service sector, all of which will offer huge new opportunities for foreign businessmen to invest in China and share the outcome of the Chinese economic development.  

In the meantime, the efforts to meet the people's ever-growing needs for a better life and solve the problems caused by the unbalanced and inadequate development will enable the size of the middle-income group to expand rapidly. As the Chinese people's income increases constantly, their demands for foreign goods and services will soar accordingly, and outbound tours, shopping trips and cross-border online shopping will continued to grow rapidly. In one word, China will give the world economy a strong shot in the arm.  

The principal contradiction facing the Chinese society in the new era can be handled and the dream of the Chinese nation for great rejuvenation can be realized only in a peaceful international environment and under a stable international order. This determines that China will stay on the path of peaceful development, and contribute its efforts to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and uphold international order. In this sense, we will definitely provide a powerful guarantee for the world economy's healthy development.  

(The author is a research fellow at the Academy of Macroeconomic Research of the National Development and Reform Commission of China.)


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