The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s 20th Party Congress convened on 16 October, with CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping spending roughly an hour and 45 minutes — nearly half the time shorter than during the 19th Party Congress — delivering an abridged version of the party report.
The shortened delivery was a practical move, given that the group of party elders seated on stage included the 105-year-old Song Ping, while Xi himself is nearly 70 years old.
Several new points were made in the report, including the three major events, the party’s central task, the Chinese path to modernisation, the “Three Musts” (三个务必), self-reform (自我革命), and the whole-process people’s democracy.
In summarising the three major events of Xi’s ten-year rule, the report stated that China has “embraced the centenary of the Communist Party of China”, ushered in “a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, as well as eradicated absolute poverty and finished building “a moderately prosperous society in all respects”, thus completing the first centenary goal.
Evidently, two out of the three major events have concluded — the CCP’s 100th founding anniversary and the completion of the party’s first centenary goal. Meanwhile, the CCP is expected to be in a prolonged historical period of ushering in a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
The CCP’s 19th Party Congress already adopted Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as a new guiding ideology. The guiding position of Xi Jinping Thought, and Xi’s core position on the Central Committee and in the party as a whole are expected to be further strengthened during the 20th Party Congress.
The second centenary goal is a two-stage plan: one, to basically achieve socialist modernisation by 2035; and two, to make China a great modern socialist country by the middle of the 21st century when the People’s Republic of China celebrates its 100th anniversary.
As for the road ahead, the party report emphasised that the CCP’s central task will be “to lead the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization”.
Notably, the CCP’s two centenary goals were not first introduced at the 20th Party Congress — the idea was proposed as early as Deng Xiaoping’s era, and further refined at the 19th Party Congress five years ago.
During the 100th founding anniversary of the CCP in 2021, the CCP announced the completion of the first centenary goal — building China into a moderately prosperous society in all respects. This is also seen as the most important achievement of Xi’s ten-year rule. The second centenary goal is a two-stage plan: one, to basically achieve socialist modernisation by 2035; and two, to make China a great modern socialist country by the middle of the 21st century when the People’s Republic of China celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Long battle against corruption
In addition to following the blueprint of the second centenary goal proposed at the 19th Party Congress, the 20th Party Congress report formally introduced the concept of the “Chinese path to modernisation” (中国式现代化).
Based on the report, the Chinese path to modernisation consists of five characteristics, that is the modernisation of: a large population; common prosperity for all; material and cultural-ethical advancement; harmony between man and nature; and peaceful development.
The Chinese path to modernisation also comes with “basic requirements”, i.e, upholding the CCP leadership, upholding socialism with Chinese characteristics, realising high-quality growth, developing whole-process people's democracy, enriching the people mentally, realising common prosperity for all, promoting harmonious living between man and nature, building a community with a shared future for mankind, and creating a new model of human civilisation.
And in terms of the CCP’s mindset, the report of the 20th Party Congress proposed the “Three Musts”: staying true to the original aims and remembering the mission; being humble and prudent, and working hard; and daring to fight, and doing it well. This builds upon founding leader Mao Zedong’s “Two Musts” (两个务必) of being humble and prudent, and working hard.
The “Three Musts” are the CCP’s new requirements for the entire party amid the new domestic situation, especially after experiencing major changes in the international environment.
The report also proclaimed the CCP’s second solution of “self-reform” to break out of the historical cycle of the rise and fall of governance and regimes, and to ensure that the CCP holds fast to its nature, its conviction and its character.
Evidently, the CCP will maintain its high-pressure stance against corruption even after the 20th Party Congress.
In the 1940s, Mao proposed “letting the people monitor the government” as a solution for the CCP to break out of the feudal dynastic historical cycle, but even now, in practice, there are many issues with letting the people monitor the government.
In the 20th Party Congress, Xi proposed self-reform as the second solution to the CCP breaking out of the historical cycle, stressing that anti-corruption was the most thorough self-reform. He called for resoluteness in the long battle against corruption, saying, “As long as there is the soil and conditions for corruption, the fight against corruption will not stop for a moment. We must keep sounding the bugle and never rest, so that people are fearful and incapable of corruption and are against it.” Evidently, the CCP will maintain its high-pressure stance against corruption even after the 20th Party Congress.
... a socialist market economy was mentioned several times in Xi’s report, emphasising the building of a high-quality socialist market economy, and unwavering encouragement, support and guidance for the growth of the non-state-run economy...
Upholding a socialist market economy
In terms of the economy, the 20th Party Congress report raised new concepts while inheriting the basic principles that the CCP has held to in recent years, and was overall moderate and unsurprising. In terms of major issues such as its objectives, central tasks, market economy and distribution system, the report maintained the ideas of the 18th and 19th Party Congresses, with no “reversals” despite some earlier concerns.
For example, before the congress opened, some worried about whether the CCP would adhere to “growth as the top priority”. The report reiterated that growth was the top priority in the CCP’s governance and efforts to build up the country, and that it could not build a modern socialist power without a firm foundation in material technology.
There were also concerns that the 20th Party Congress might replace the longstanding socialist market economy with a people-oriented economy, which would be detrimental for the regular growth of the private sector and capital. However, a socialist market economy was mentioned several times in Xi’s report, emphasising the building of a high-quality socialist market economy, and unwavering encouragement, support and guidance for the growth of the non-state-run economy, and allowing the market to play its decisive role in resource distribution.
Over the next few days, Xi’s report will be the theme for discussion by the delegates of the 20th Party Congress, and state media will also expound on their speeches and statements in the spirit of the report. For some time to come, the 20th Party Congress report will be the latest outcome representing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era of Xi Jinping, and the main content that must be studied by cadres at all levels of the CCP.
For Lianhe Zaobao's special reports on the 20th Party Congress, click here.
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