Last year, China celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China. On Oct 16, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China opened. This has been described as “the most influential in decades because China and today’s world are both at the crossroads of history”.
China and the West are indeed at the crossroads of history. Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about the “China threat” in the West, but this is really the greatest enigma in the world and there is absolutely no logic to it. Domestically, China has been busy developing its economy, building a fairer and safer living environment for its citizens, and improving their livelihoods. Externally, China has never interfered in any country’s affairs. It adheres to the principle of respect for other countries’ sovereignty. It has not launched any war against any country nor occupied any other country’s territory. It treasures peace, works hard to improve the environment and fight climate change, and offers its help to other developing countries generously. The only reason that China is depicted as the villain is its meteoric rise. The governments in the West need a villain from the outside to divert domestic discontent over their incompetence or lack of will to tackle their internal problems.
Are China and the West going to make peace and work together, or are China and the West going to fight each other to see who the winner is that takes all? There is nothing in China’s long history of civilization suggesting it intends to be a hegemon. But China does want to be treated as an equal member of the international community.
In the past decade, the CPC under General Secretary Xi’s leadership has carved a new development path for China. A lot of effort and resources have been devoted to poverty eradication, ecological and environmental improvement, infrastructure development, healthcare, and rebalancing economic development tilting more to the west instead of the coastal provinces
Whether we like it or not, however, the West is using its might to prevent China’s technological advance, and to smear China with accusations of human rights violations. The CPC today is facing this hard reality, but it will not be intimidated. China went through much more difficult times in the past. China’s leadership has to rise to the challenge, no matter what. President Xi Jinping is keenly aware of the challenges. And China today needs strong leadership more than ever.
Edward Cunningham, Tony Saich, and Jessie Turiel of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University have tracked Chinese citizens’ satisfaction with their government’s performance since 2003. They found Chinese citizens’ satisfaction with the government has increased virtually across the board, but especially among more-marginalized groups in poorer, inland regions. But they noted that respondents would respond both positively and negatively to real changes in their material well-being. So declining economic growth and a deteriorating natural environment could undermine their support for the government. The CPC is working hard to tackle the economic headwinds and clean up the environment.
The fact is that the Chinese people are not docile people, and governments at all levels often respond positively to real concerns of the people. After all, a responsive government is democratic. A government returned by a “one person, one vote” process that fails to respond to and address citizens’ concerns is democratic in name but not in substance. The “free press” in the West has been complicit with its politicians in diverting domestic grievances to an imagined threat and a horrific external enemy that is kept alive each day.
In the past decade, the CPC under General Secretary Xi’s leadership has carved a new development path for China. A lot of effort and resources have been devoted to poverty eradication, ecological and environmental improvement, infrastructure development, healthcare, and rebalancing economic development tilting more to the west instead of the coastal provinces. In the first half of this year, the Ningxia Hui autonomous region had the highest growth rate, at 5.3 percent, followed by the
Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Jiangxi province at 4.9 percent. This was followed by the Tibet autonomous region at 4.8 percent. These are all inland provincial-level areas, and Xinjiang is under severe sanctions from the West. China has been sacrificing the headline growth rate in favor of more-balanced, high-quality growth.
China’s 1982 Constitution has been amended five times, all for a good cause and based on better understanding of what constitutes good governance gained through experience. The 1988 amendment affirmed the legal status of the private sector and allowed transfer of land-use rights. The second amendment, in 1993, declared that China will practice a market economy instead of a planned economy. The 1999 amendment enshrined the guiding role of Deng Xiaoping Theory and declared the rule of law is stipulated as a national policy, and referred to the private sector as “an important component” in the country’s market economy. The 2004 amendment states that China respects and protects human rights. The Thought of Three Represents was written into the Constitution as well. The 2018 amendment affirms the leadership of the Communist Party of China as basic to “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and states that development should follow scientific principles. All this shows that China’s leaders are not a privileged clique that can use public power for private benefits but are bound by the nation’s Constitution and the Constitution of the CPC to serve the people.
The author is director of the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.