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The Center for Strategic Translation provides statesmen and scholars with the tools needed to interpret the Chinese party-state of today while training a new generation of China specialists with the skills needed to guide our relations with the China of tomorrow.

The Center meets this need through initiatives in translation and education. The Center locates, translates, and annotates documents of historic or strategic value that are currently only available in Chinese. Our introductory essays, glossaries, and commentaries are designed to make these materials accessible and understandable to statesmen and scholars with no special expertise in Chinese politics or the Chinese language.

Complementing the Center’s published translations are the Center’s training seminars. Starting in the summer of 2023 the Center will host a series of seminars to instruct young journalists, graduate students, and government analysts in the open-source analysis of Communist Party policy, introduce them to the distinctive lexicon and history of Party speak, and train them how to draw credible conclusions from conflicting or propagandistic documentary sources.
    
The Center is an initiative of the American Governance Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that studies and promotes the betterment of American public institutions and publishes the quarterly magazine Palladium. The Center is directed by Tanner Greer, a noted essayist, journalist, and researcher with expertise interpreting China in the context of American foreign policy.

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Advancing Towards The Center of The World Stage
Zǒu Jìn Shìjiè Wǔtái Zhōngyāng
走近世界舞台中央

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Chinese officials and diplomats often describe China’s return to national greatness as a process of “advancing towards the center of the world stage.” As with other aspirational aims associated with China’s NATIONAL REJUVENATION, this “advance towards the center of the world stage” is intended to be completed by 2049, the centennial anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Most of the central leadership’s aspirations for 2049 concern domestic affairs: this phrase is one of the rare statements of what a fully rejuvenated China means for the rest of the world. 

The phrase “advancing towards the center of the world stage” was introduced in a 2011 People’s Daily editorial and saw periodic use in the early days of Xi Jinping. Xi elevated the slogan’s importance in his report to the 19th Party Congress. There he tied the claim that “our country advances ever closer to the center of the world stage” [我国日益走近世界舞台中央] to his declaration that the Party had entered a NEW ERA [新时代] in its history. As Mao gave China independence, and Deng made China prosperous, so would Xi Jinping help China “become strong.”  This stronger, more assertive China could then turn its eyes outside of China’s borders to “make greater contributions to mankind” [为人类作出更大贡献]. In Xi’s judgment, growing Chinese influence over the future of the species is an integral part of moving China to the world’s “center stage.” 

Phrases like “advancing towards the center of the world stage” and “making greater contributions to mankind” suggest the global scope of Chinese ambition while obscuring its ultimate object. An official Xinhua commentary on the 19th Congress provides an unusually forthright description of what this advance entails:

China has stood up, grown rich and become strong. It will advance  toward center stage and make greater contributions for mankind. By 2050, two centuries after the Opium Wars, which plunged the “Middle Kingdom” into a period of hurt and shame, China is set to regain its might and re-ascend to the top of the world.
…China’s success proves that socialism can prevail and be a path for other developing countries to emulate and achieve modernization. China is now strong enough, willing, and able to contribute more for mankind. The new world order cannot be just dominated by capitalism and the West, and the time will come for a change (Xinhua 2017).

Xinhua associates the “advance towards the center of the world stage” with a world order that is no longer capitalist nor Western-led; the less circumspect writing of Chinese academics and public intellectuals use the phrase in a similar fashion. The slogan should thus serve as a reminder that China’s leadership believes that the road to NATIONAL REJUVENATION demands structural changes to the world outside of China’s borders.


See also:   CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY;

Sources

Doshi, Rush. 2021. The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order. New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press; Swaine, Michael. 2018. “Chinese Views of Foreign Policy in the 19th Party Congress,” China Leadership Monitor 55; Tobin, Dan. 2020. “How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should HaveEnded U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions” Center for Strategic and International Studies; Xinhua. 2017. “Commentary: Milestone Congress Points to New Era for China and the World.”

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Calcium Deficiency
Quē Gài
缺钙

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 See SOFT BONE DISEASE

Sources

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Center, The
Zhōngyāng
中央

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“The Center” is a literal rendering of zhōngyāng. The phrase is is most commonly used as an abbreviation for the CENTRAL COMMITTEE of the Communist Party of China (中国共产党中央委员会), and official Chinese translations almost always opt for translating it as “The Central Committee.” The term, however, is more ambiguous than most translations into English allow. Cheng Zhenqiu, who directed  the English translation of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, described his dissatisfaction with his own translation with these comments:

Lexically, there are still many issues…for example, the translation of zhōngyāng [中央]….Sometimes zhongyang refers to the Central Standing Committee [中央常委], sometimes it refers to the Central Politburo [中央政治局], and more often it refers to the Central Committee. Abroad some have begun translating it as “the Center”; on this issue there’s room for further research (Snape 2021).

The kaleidoscopic nature of the term is evident in Party regulations governing the Central Committee, which declares that 

The Central Committee, Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) are the brain and central hub of the Party organization. Only the Party Centre has the mandate to make decisions and interpret Party-wide and state-wide important principles and policies  (Xinhua 2020).

The usefulness of a term whose definition can stretch to describe either the Central Committee, the POLITBURO, or the POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE as contingency requires has been recognized since the days of Mao Zedong, when obedience to The Center was first codified as part of the “FOUR OBEYS” regulating Party life. In particular, obfuscating the specific source of new directives means that decisions that may have only been made by a small group of leading cadres are cloaked with the mantle of larger party organs, suggesting a shared consensus or collective decision making process that may not actually exist.

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE; POLITBURO

Sources

Li Ling. 2020. “Appeal of Strategic Ambiguity on PartyCentre–Reading the Party Directive on the Operation of the Central Committee.” TheChina Collection;Snape, Holly. 2020. “New Regulations for the CentralCommittee: Codifying Xi Era Democratic Centralism,” China Law Translate; Xinhua. 2020. “Directive on the Operation of the CentralCommittee.”

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Central Committee
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng Zhōngyāng Wěiyuánhuì
中国共产党中央委员会

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The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, until 1927 called the Central Executive Committee (中央执行委员会), is the central administrative and decision-making body of the Chinese party-state. 

In the post-Mao era members of the Central Committee have been elected by the National Congress of the CPC every five years. These elections are a confirmation vote based on a candidate list where the number of candidates slightly exceeds the number of available seats. Usually only 8% to 12% of candidates are not elected to the Central Committee; it is customary for the Committee to include the governors and party secretaries of China’s provinces, the heads of central government bodies, major SOEs, and national party organizations, and high ranking military officers in the PLA among its members. 

The Central Committee has the nominal power to elect the members of the Secretariat, Politburo, and its Standing Committee, but in practice it merely confirms candidates pre-selected by the top leadership.  At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee, called PLENUMS, have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the POLITBURO ahead of time. Documents drafted during Central Committee meetings are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each condenses the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party.

See also: CENTER, THE; PLENUM

Sources

Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Heilman, Sebastian. 2017. China’s Political System. Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield; Sullivan, Lawrence. 2022. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party, 2nd ed. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

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Century of National Humiliation
Bǎinián Guóchǐ
百年国耻

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In Chinese historiography, the decades between the conclusion of the First Opium War in 1842 and the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 are described as a “century of national humiliation.” In these decades China lost a series of wars with European powers, ceded control of Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Manchuria, the Amur River Basin, and Outer Mongolia to alien empires, was forced to grant extraterritorial rights to foreigners in China, lost sovereign control of its markets and currency, and was saddled with onerous indemnities. This period of external intervention culminated with the Japanese invasion of 1937, which lead to the death of some 20 million Chinese. The legacy of humiliation haunts Chinese intellectuals today and provides the Communist Party of China with one of its most emotionally powerful legitimizing narratives.

The term “national humiliation” [国耻] dates to the late 19th century and served as a common touchstone for the various nationalist movements that sought to “save the country” [救国] at the beginning of the 20th. The founders of the Communist Party of China began their careers as activists more interested in nationalist uplift than communist utopia. In the disciplined, militarized hierarchy of a Leninist party they saw a vehicle for rescuing their nation. “Only socialism can save China” [只有社会主义才能救中国] they declared, and to this day Party historians and officials argue that Republican era experiments with other political ideologies all failed to unite China or drive out imperialist influence.

This narrative erases the sacrifices made by millions of Chinese not associated with the Communist Party, as well as the success these sacrifices secured. It was under KMT rule that the Japanese were defeated, Western powers gave up their extraterritorial privileges in China, and China was given one of five seats on the UN Security Council. In Communist eyes these feats count for little, as they were all accomplished with the aid of imperialist powers. The early Communist leadership believed that only “cleaning out the house before inviting guests in” [打扫干净屋子再请客]—in other words, driving Westerners completely out of China before readmitting them on Chinese terms—could guarantee the founding of a NEW CHINA free from the taint of imperialist influence. The Communist version of eradicating  national humiliation thus began with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and was confirmed by Chinese success against “American imperialism” in the Korean War.   

By instructing the children of China to chant “never forget national humiliation” (勿忘国耻) the Party legitimizes this founding moment. It also suggests to the Chinese people what nightmares might occur if Party rule falters. The century of humiliation is a narrative of victimhood. It presumes an innocent China thrust into a dangerous world, there victimized by rapacious foreigners eager to feed on any nation too weak to maintain its sovereignty. Foreign opposition to Chinese policy today is easily reframed as a continuation of this antique pattern.  Under this schema China is still a victim of undeserved hostility; without the guiding hand of a strong and united Party, these hostile forces will force national humiliation on the Chinese people once again.

See also: GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; NEW CHINA

Sources

Fitzgerald, John. Cadre Country: How China Became TheChinese Communist Party. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2022; Garver, John. 2018. China’s Quest: The History of theForeign Relations of the People’s Republic of China. Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress; Schell, Orville and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’sLong March to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random House; Zheng Wang. 2012. Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations. New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press.

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Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
Zhōngguó Rénmín Zhèngzhì Xiéshāng Huìyì
中国人民政治协商会议

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The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference is the central vehicle by which the Communist Party of China coordinates with and co-opts influential elites who have risen to prominence outside of the party hierarchy, such as tech entrepreneurs, religious authorities, prominent scientists and authors, or the leaders of state-sanctioned associations like the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Abbreviated in English as the CPPCC and in Chinese as the Rénmín Zhèngxié [人民政协] or simply as the Zhèngxié [政协], the CPPCC meets once a year. It is organized as a political advisory organ whose members can propose laws and policies to party authorities. Yet with no legislative power of its own, the authority of the CPPCC is limited to “political consultation.” 

The origins of the CPPCC lie in the revolutionary era, when the Communist Party sought a “united front” with various outside political parties to defeat the Japanese and then drive the Nationalists out of power. At this time the CPPCC functioned as a coordination forum for this coalition. Though Mao promised these groups a real share of political power in NEW CHINA, once he secured control of the country he moved swiftly to neuter his erstwhile allies and strip them of any real influence. Eight of these parties still exist: they are allowed only a consultative role in the Chinese system. All must accept the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and none are allowed to recruit members absent strict supervision and restriction.

A share of the CPPCC’s 3,000 seats are thus reserved for representatives of these eight legacy parties. The other members of the CPPCC are divided into four overarching classifications: representatives of the eight state sanctioned “social organizations” [社会团体], such as the Communist Youth League or the All-China Federation of Women; representatives of 13 “social circles” [各界人士], which range from “journalism” and “education” to “ethnic minorities” and “friends of foreign countries;” “specially invited personages” [特邀人士] from Hong Kong and Macau; and  “personages without a party affiliation” [无党派人士]. The remainder of the CPPCC seats are given to Communist Party members who work in diplomacy, intelligence, or the United Front system.

The central purpose of the Conference is to provide this last group with access to the others present. The CPPCC thus serves as a kind of intermediary organization that links Communist Party officials to the broader social world they hope to shape and influence. By institutionalizing access to party leaders, the Party both gives outside elites a stronger stake in the political system and creates an exclusive forum for fostering cooperation and consensus between these leaders and party personnel.

Sources

Bowe, Alexander. 2018. “China’s Overseas United Front Work Background and Implications for the United States.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report; Lawrence, Susan and Mari Y. Lee. 2021. “China’s Political System in Charts: A Snapshot Before the 20th Party Congress.” Congressional Research Service; Mattis, Peter. 2020. “The Center of China’s Influence: theChinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.” In Insidious Power: How China Undermines Global Democracy, ed. Hsu Szu-chien and J. Michael Cole. Manchester UK: Eastbridge Books. pp 3-39.

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Community of Common Destiny For All Mankind
Rénlèi Mìngyùn Gòngtóngtǐ
人类命运共同体

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In 2018 Yang Jiechi, then the POLITBURO member responsible for Chinese foreign policy, declared that  “Building a Community of Common Destiny for Mankind is the overall goal of China’s foreign affairs work in the New Era.” (Yang 2018). This “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” (also commonly translated as “Community With a Shared Future for Mankind”) refers to the central leadership’s vision for the future of the international order. At its core, building a “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” means leveraging globalization and other types of global interdependence to reshape the international order in China’s favor. Party officials and party-affiliated intellectuals have long expressed frustration with the norms and structures of the post-Cold War order, which they believe are neither conducive to their continued rule nor fully compatible with China’s ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE. This slogan signals their determination to build something better. 

Though the slogan is strongly associated with the NEW ERA of Xi Jiping, most of the tenets of the “Community of Common Destiny” predate him. The substance of the CPC’s critique of the existing order, as well as a tentative vision for what might replace it, were laid out by Hu Jintao in a 2003 address at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he declared that the aim of Chinese foreign policy was a “HARMONIOUS WORLD” (和谐世界). Hu argued that this “HARMONIOUS WORLD” would improve on existing arrangements for global governance in five specific arenas: politics, security, economic development, culture, and the environment. On multiple occasions Xi has reiterated the importance of these five categories, whose scope reflects both the scale of Beijing’s ambitions and the depth of its dissatisfaction with the existing order, to his own  “Community of Common Destiny” formulation.  

The thrust of the “Common Destiny” critique goes as follows: the existing international order was created by Western powers for Western powers. The legacy organizations at the core of this order speak for the world but are controlled by the West. The “universal values” enshrined in these institutions  are imperialistic impositions of Western concepts on other civilizations. This is just as true of the political institutions and development models pioneered by the West and now seen as normative in international society. Some of these ideas and institutions are useful advances suitable for all peoples; others are simply relics that would have long disappeared were they not upheld by the illegitimate American HEGEMONISM.

The Community of Common Destiny will have no hegemons (in Chinese the word hegemon describes a state whose predominance depends on coercive power). After the defensive blocs and security treaties that make American hegemony possible crumble, bilateral trade will become the central organizing principle of the new order. China will be the center hub of this global community. New international institutions will be founded; existing ones will be altered. All will give China a central role in global governance. None of these institutions will honor dangerous concepts like “human rights” or “universal values.” In light of Chinese wealth and power, the human community will view liberal institutions as the parochial tradition of a few Western nations, not as the default model for development. At this point, as one Xinhua backgrounder explains, humanity will finally enjoy an “open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity” (Xinhua 2018).

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; HEGEMONISM

Sources

Doshi, Rush. 2021. The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy toDisplace American Order. New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press;Rolland, Nadège. 2017. “Eurasian Integration ‘a la Chinese’:Deciphering Beijing’s Vision for the Region as a ‘Community of CommonDestiny,’” Asan Forum; Rolland, Nadège. 2018. “Beijing’s Vision for a ReshapedInternational Order,” China Brief; Rolland, Nadège. 2020. China’s Vision for a New World Order.NBR Special Report, The National Bureau of Asian Research; Tobin, Liza. 2018. “Xi’s Vision for Transforming GlobalGovernance: A Strategic Challenge for Washington and Its Allies.” TexasNational Security Review 2 (1): 154–66; Xinhua. 2018. “China Keywords: Community With a Shared Future for Mankind”; Yang Jiechi. 2018. “Building a Community of Common Destinyfor Mankind is the overall goal of China’s foreign affairs work in the NewEra.” Seeking Truth.

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Composite National Strength
Zōnghé Guólì
综合国力

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In Chinese political discourse, the concept of composite national strength is used by strategists and theorists of international relations as a general measure of power and rank. Sometimes translated as “comprehensive national power,” the concept was developed in the early 1980s by strategic analysts in the PLA Academy of Military Science who believed that standard measures of military power–such as naval tonnage or army size–did not capture the true strength of the two Cold War superpowers. They argued that any accurate estimate of national strength must incorporate the full suite of economic, scientific, diplomatic, political, and cultural resources that might contribute to international success. This aggregated measure of all potential elements of national power is a country’s composite national strength.

The concept of composite national strength dates back to the reforms of the 1980s. As the PRC reestablished diplomatic relations with the West, a wave of Chinese academics and theorists began to study Western political science and adapt it to Chinese conditions. An analyst in the strategic studies department at the PLA Academy of Military Science named Huang Shuofeng  introduced the phrase as a translation of “state power,” a term he encountered while studying the realist school of international relations theory. He would present his version of the concept to his colleagues in a 1985 conference on the strategic problems posed by Soviet-American rivalry. There Huang defined composite national strength as “the total strength (both material and non-material) and international influence that a sovereign state wields for its survival and development” (Huang 1999, 5). Huang argued that this type of national power can be naturally divided into seven components: political strength [政治力], economic strength [经济力], scientific and technological strength [科技力], military strength [国防力], cultural and educational strength [文教力], diplomatic strength [外交力], and natural resource endowments [资源力] (Huang 1999, 12). 

This complex of ideas spread across the Chinese strategic community in the decades that followed. Since 1985, the Chinese Academy of Science, the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations, and the Academy of Military Science have all sponsored research projects or conferences devoted to different theories of composite national strength (Jia 2015).  However, there is no universal schema for calculating a country’s composite national strength. While there is general agreement among analysts that both material factors (such as industrial capacity) and less tangible factors (such as global cultural influence) must be integrated in any calculation, there is no consensus on which specific factors must be included, nor on the relative importance of any given element of power vis a vis the others. Thus even the most empirically rigorous attempts to calculate international rankings of composite national strength rely on the idiosyncratic judgments of individual researchers. 

The concept is employed far less wonkishly by generalist intellectuals and leading communist cadres. Deng Xiaoping was the first CORE LEADER to use the phrase. During his 1992 “Southern Tour” Deng employed the concept to justify further market reform. In place of the old ideological standards cadres used to use to evaluate policy, Deng proposed three “chief criterion” [三个有利于] for judging the failure and success of a new measure: “[does] it promote the growth of the productive forces in a socialist society, increase the composite national strength of the socialist state, or raise living standards?” (Deng 1992). This usage is typical. In the rhetoric of Chinese communism composite national strength is not a precise measure but a vague policy aim that can be loosely tied to development planning, security theory, technology development, or any other policy that might feasibly hasten the REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION.

SEE ALSO: DISCURSIVE POWER; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM

Sources

Deng Xiaoping. 1992. “Excerpts From Talks Given In Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai.” The Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping; Jia Haitao 贾海涛. 2015. Zonghe Guoli Yu Wenhuali Xitong Yanjiu 综合国力与文化力系统研究 A Systematic Study of Comprehensive National Power and Cultural Power. Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe 中国社会科学出版社 China Social Science Publishign Co.; Pillsbury, Michael. 2000. China Debates the FUture Security Environment. Washington D.C.: National Defense University Press; Huang Shuofeng 黄硕风. 1999. Zonghe Guoli Xinlun: Jianlun Xinzhongguo Zonghe Guoli 综合国力新论:兼论新中国综合国力 A New Theory of Comprehensive National Power: With a Reflection on New China’s Comprehensive National Power. Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe 中国社会科学出版社 China Social Science Publishign Co.

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Core Interests
Héxīn Lìyì
核心利益

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The term “core interests,” often written as the longer “core interests and major concerns” [核心利益与 重大关切] , is used by Party officials as a shorthand for the set of issues so central to the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE  that the official position on them is not subject to negotiation or compromise. The term entered the Party lexicon in 2003 in a discussion of Taiwanese independence, but subsequent party commentaries have identified these interests as falling into three broad categories: sovereignty, security, and development. 

Each category is paired with a series of corresponding threats. Threats to China’s sovereignty interests originally referred to “splittism” in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, but in the Xi Jinping era the term has expanded to include opposition to Chinese claims in the South China Sea and challenges to state control over Chinese cyberspace. China’s security interests are challenged both by the type of threat that can be handled with traditional military deterrence and less traditional threats to China’s “political security”—that is, threats to the stability of China’s socialist system and legitimacy of the CPC leadership's over it. Defending development interests means safeguarding China’s economic model from outside interference. Originally conceived in terms of securing trade routes and access to key natural resources, the Sino-American trade war of the late 2010s has prompted Party leaders to reframe threats to China’s development in terms of technology controls and tariffs. Diplomats of the Xi era are instructed to take the protection of these interests as the “starting point and end point” [出发点和落脚点] of Chinese diplomacy (Yang 2018).

Sources

Economy, Elizabeth. 2018. The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Eng Jinghan, Xiao Yuefan, and Shaun Breslin. 2015. “Securing China’s Core Interests: The State of the Debate in China,” International Affairs 91 (2): 245–66; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Swaine, Michael. 2010. “China’s Assertive Behavior Part One: On ‘Core Interests.’” China Leadership Monitor 34; Yang Jiechi. 2018. “Use Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy forGuidance, Deeply Advance Foreign Work in the New Era.” Seeking Truth.

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Core Socialist Values
Shèhuìzhǔyì Héxīn Jiàzhíguān
社会主义核心价值观

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The Core Socialist Values, first presented in 2006 under the tenure of General Secretary Hu Jintao, were a response to a sense of social crisis caused by China’s growing wealth. The boom economy greased the wheels of corruption while exposing an ever larger number of Chinese to the culture of the Western world. By articulating a set of cultural ideals that all Chinese can aspire to, party leaders hope to rescue Chinese society from the moral vacuum of a marketized economy while inoculating Chinese citizens against liberal ideology.  

The Core Socialist Values are expressed as 12 distinct ideals divided into three overarching categories. First are the national values of prosperity and national strength [富强], democracy [民主], civilized behavior [文明] and harmony [和谐]; second are the social values of freedom [自由], equality [平等], justice [公正] and the rule of law [法治]; third are the the individual values of patriotism [爱国], dedication [敬业], integrity [诚信] and friendship [友善]. This list of words is ubiquitous in modern China, adorning classroom walls, public squares, highway billboards, and the speeches of high officials.

 Party leaders are open about why they must publicly articulate and endorse these values. After affirming that these “Core Socialist Values are the soul of the Chinese nation,” Hu Jintao urged cadres to “use them to guide social trends of thought and forge public consensus,” to “guide the building of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” to “adapt Marxism to Chinese conditions… and increase [Marxism’s] appeal to the people,” to take “theories of socialism… and make them a way of thinking,” and to “rally the people under the great banner of SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS” (Hu 2012). Implicit in these statements is the admission that Marxist dogma did not have the same moral authority that it once did, that corruption had weakened what moral authority the Party still had, and that to govern effectively the Party must reestablish this authority in a more broadly shared moral sense that could appeal to Chinese of all backgrounds.

Yet fostering the Core Socialist Values is not only a project for changing Chinese perceptions of the Party; it is just as much about changing Chinese perceptions of themselves. As Xi Jinping argued:

Without morals, a country cannot thrive, and its people cannot stand upright. Whether or not a nation or an individual has a strong sense of identity largely depends on their morals. If our people cannot uphold the moral values that have been formed and developed on our own soil, and instead indiscriminately and blindly parrot Western moral values, then it will be necessary to genuinely question whether we will lose our independent ethos as a country and a people. Without this independent ethos, our political, intellectual, cultural and institutional independence will have the rug pulled out from under it (Gow 2017, 11).

This explains why the imagery that accompanies propaganda devoted to the Core Socialist Values is drawn from the paintings, poems, and iconography of pre-socialist China: though words like “justice” and “friendship” transcend national borders, the purpose of the Core Socialist Values is to associate these values with a distinctly Chinese identity. Such an identity, party leaders hope, will fortify the Chinese people from being seduced by corrupting vices at home or subversive strains of thought abroad.  

See also: DISCURSIVE POWER; SOFT BONE DISEASE

Sources

Gow, Michael. 2017. “The Core Socialist Values of the Chinese Dream: Towards a Chinese Integral State.” Critical Asian Studies 49 (1): 92-116; Hu Jintao. 2012. “Full Text of Hu Jintao’s Report to the 18th Party Congress.” Xinhua; Ying Mao. 2021. “Romanticising the Past: Core Socialist Values and the China Dream as Legitimisation Strategy.” Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 49 (2): 162–184.

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Discursive Power
Huàyǔquán
话语权

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Those who wield discursive power possess the ability to shape, select, or amplify the ideas, frames, and sources of authority that guide political decision making. The concept was developed in response to the puzzlement and frustration many Chinese nationalists felt as their country’s mounting material power failed to translate into commensurate influence over global affairs. They concluded that China’s dazzling economic growth and rising military might was insufficient to change the structure of the international order because the norms that govern interstate relations are downstream of cultural values China had little influence over. The West’s intellectual hegemony allows it to embed its value set and viewpoint in the structure of international politics. This is a form of power: discursive power.

Often translated as “discourse power,” more rarely as “the right to speak,” and sometimes simply as “say” or “voice,” the neologism rose to prominence in Chinese academic writing in the mid-aughts and was subsequently elevated into the Party lexicon in the 2010s. The various alternative translations of the term reflect an ambiguity present in the original Chinese. Huàyǔquán [话语权] is a compound word that combines huàyǔ [话语], the Chinese word for “speech,” “language,” or “discourse,” with the more ambiguous quán [权], whose meaning shifts between “authority,” “rights,” or “power” depending on the context in which it is used. “Right to speak” is therefore a reasonable translation of huàyǔquán [话语权], for the right to speak about the Party’s accomplishments through a “Chinese” frame is precisely what party leaders believe the hegemonic culture of the West denies them. However, neither dictionary listings for the word nor academic discussion of its role in international affairs emphasize freedoms or entitlements. Their focus is on influence and control. They suggest that control of the world rests with those who control the words that the world is using.

This is not an entirely new concept in Party thought. Following in Marx and Lenin’s footsteps, Mao rejected the notion of a neutral public sphere where policy can be hashed out in a process of rational deliberation. He was insistent that the world of ideas was in fact a central domain in the struggle for power, and that no idea could be divorced from the class interest or political program of those who proposed it. Chinese discussions of Western discursive power take a similar approach, treating concepts like “human rights,” “universal values,” and other guiding liberal ideals not as genuine moral or intellectual commitments but as tools of power used to legitimize American hegemony and weaken America’s enemies. Here the Soviet Union’s sad fate serves as a warning: failure to challenge the discursive power of the hegemon abroad can lead to the collapse of discursive power at home. Thus discursive power does not just influence China’s international standing, but also the political security of its ruling regime.

Chinese leaders have found no easy solutions to the problems posed by the West’s discursive dominance.  Censorship at home and interference operations abroad allow the Party to stifle some ideas that might otherwise find their way into discourse. However, the Party leadership recognizes the limits to this negative approach. In their view, if China wishes to successfully reshape the operating norms of the international system, then China must articulate a positive vision of the world it wants to build; if China desires renown and acclaim on the international stage, then it must articulate a value set less hostile to Chinese success than the human rights paradigm now normative across the globe. Xi Jinping has thus directed Chinese academics to develop “new concepts, new categories, and a new language that international society can easily understand and accept so as to guide the direction of research and debate in the international academic community” (Xi 2016). Cadres and diplomats are charged with a simpler mission: “tell China’s story well” [讲好中国故事]. As Xi recently put it, to secure China's NATIONAL REJUVENATION the Party must:

Collect and refine the defining symbols and best elements of Chinese culture and showcase them to the world. Accelerate the development of China’s discourse and narrative systems, tell China’s story well, make China’s voice heard, and present a China that is worthy of trust, adoration, and respect. Strengthen our international communications capabilities, make our communications more effective, and strive to strengthen China’s discursive power in international affairs so that it is commensurate with our composite national strength and international status (Xi 2022).

See also: COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; HEGEMONISM; PEACEFUL EVOLUTION; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM; COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER

Sources

China Media Project. 2021. “Telling China’s Story Well.” The CMP Dictionary; Friedman, Toni. 2022. “Lexicon: ‘Discourse Power’ or the‘Right to Speak’ [话语权] Huàyǔ Quán.” DigiChina; Rolland, Nadège. 2020. “China’s Vision for a New World Order.”NBR Special Report, The National Bureau of Asian Research; Thimbaut, Kenton. 2022. “Chinese Discourse Power: Ambitions and Reality in the Digital Domain,” Atlantic Council and DFR Joint Report; Xi Jinping. 2016. “Speech at the Symposium on Philosophy and Social Sciences.” Xinhua; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Political Report to 20th Congress.” Xinhua.

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Great Changes Unseen in a Century
Bǎinián Wèiyǒu De Dà Biànjú
百年未有的大变局

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The phrase “Great Changes Unseen in a Century,” sometimes translated by official party media as “Profound Changes Unseen in a Century,” was first used by Chinese academics following the Great Recession. The phrase is associated with the dangers and opportunities posed by American decline, and has been adopted by THE CENTER as a programmatic assessment of a changing world order. 

“Great Changes” was officially elevated into the party lexicon in 2017, when then-State Councilor Yang Jiechi described it as a guiding tenet of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy was formally adopted by the Party in a 2018 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, where Xi informed the collected leadership of the Chinese diplomatic corp and state security apparatus that

China now finds itself in the best period for development it has seen since the advent of the modern era; [simultaneously], the world faces great changes unseen in a century. These two [trends] are interwoven, advancing in lockstep; each stimulates the other. Now, and in the years to come, many advantageous international conditions exist for success in foreign affairs (Xi 2020).

Xi’s comments followed a tradition laid out in innumerable Party documents, speeches, and regulations, which present declarations of  policy, especially foreign policy, as following from an  assessment of the “overall landscape” [全局] “inherent tendencies” [大势], or “the great trends” [大趋势] of the historical moment in which the Party finds itself. “Great changes unseen in a century” is a shorthand for the central leadership’s current assessment of the future trajectory of the international order.

The slogan invokes a slew of great changes that shook global politics one century ago: the collapse of British hegemony and the European imperial system following WWI and the concurrent rise of the United States and the Soviet Union as the predominant powers of world politics. The slogan implies that a similar power transition is now underway, with America playing the role of faltering hegemon, and China the rising  power.  

More substantive discussions of the slogan by Chinese academics and state affiliated scholars trace this power transition to myriad causes: the growing wealth of the developing world, the rise of right-wing populism in Western countries, the debilitating effects that neoliberalism and identity politics have on American power, the resurgence of nationalism across the globe, advances in novel technologies not pioneered by the West, and the proliferation of non-traditional security threats (such as pandemics and terrorist attacks) are all common explanations for the crumbling of the American-led international order. 

Though the phrase was introduced in a rather triumphal tone, the slogan has taken on a darker valence as Sino-American relations have worsened and China has grown more isolated in the international arena. Party propagandists and Chinese academics alike now pair the phrase “great changes unforeseen in a century” with increasingly dire warnings about the unique risks and dangers China faces in the final stage of NATIONAL REJUVENATION. Thus the slogan has come to also signify a warning that China sails into uncharted waters. As Xi Jinping reported in his address to the 20th Congress:

Great changes unseen in a century are accelerating across the world… the once-in-a-century pandemic has had far-reaching effects; a backlash against globalization is rising; and unilateralism and protectionism are mounting… The world has entered a new period of turbulence and change… [where] external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time.

Our country has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising... We must therefore be more mindful of potential dangers, be prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms (Xi 2022).

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION

Sources

Doshi, Rush. 2021. The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy toDisplace American Order. New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press; Fravel, Taylor. 2022. Hearing on “US-China Relations at theChinese Communist Party’s Centennial” § US-China Economic and Security ReviewCommission; Greitens, Sheena Chesnut. 2022. “Internal Security & Chinese Strategy.” Hearing on “The United States’ Strategic Competition withChina,” § Senate Armed Services Committee; Xi Jinping, “Break New Ground in China’s Major-CountryDiplomacy.” In Governance of China, vol III. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Political Report to the 20th Congress.” Xinhua.

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Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation
Zhōnghuámínzú Wěidà Fùxīng
中华民族伟大复兴

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General Secretaries of the Communist Party of China have described “national rejuvenation” [民族复兴] as the central mission of their Party since the Thirteenth Party Congress in 1987. Their wording intentionally echoes the language used by Sun Yat-sen and the nationalist revolutionaries who overthrew the Qing Dynasty at the cusp of the modern era. Those revolutionaries dreamed of restoring a broken nation to its traditional station at the center of human civilization.Though he lives a century after Sun Yat-sen’s death, Xi Jinping rarely gives a speech without endorsing the same aspiration. As Xi describes it, national rejuvenation is a “strategic plan” for “achieving lasting greatness for the Chinese nation” (Xi 2022). The formal term for this plan is the “National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation,” a term that could be alternatively translated as the “National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Race.”

The work of a Leninist party is inherently goal oriented. Chinese governance depends on a  “high pressure system” [压力型体制] that uses a mix of campaign tactics and career incentives to focus the work of millions of cadres on a shared set of tasks, all of which are nested in a hierarchy of overarching goals. During the Maoist era China’s leadership identified the  “the realization of communism” as the “ultimate aim of the Party,” and proposed “victory in class struggle” as the path for reaching this end (Perrolle 1976). The CPC of today still endorses the“realization of communism” as the “highest ideal and ultimate aim” of the Party, but argues that “the highest ideal of communism pursued by Chinese Communists can be realized only when socialist society is fully developed and highly advanced,” a historical process that will “take over a century” to achieve (Constitution of the CPC 2022). In contrast, the “lasting greatness” associated with national rejuvenation can be accomplished on a more feasible timescale. The Party expects to lead the Chinese race to this desired end state by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China. Achieving the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation by this date is the overarching goal of the Chinese party-state.

To attain national rejuvenation, party leadership has argued that China must become a “great and modern socialist state” [社会主义现代化强国]. In Xi Jinping’s NEW ERA this imperative has been broken down into five aspirational end states: prosperity and strength [富强],democracy [民主], advanced culture [文明], social harmony [和谐], and beauty [美丽]. The first category emphasize the Party’s drive to build a country whose COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER is commensurate with a civilization at the leading edge of modernity; the next three identify the desired relationship between the Communist Party and a unified Chinese nation; the last is associated with campaigns to reduce pollution and forge a healthier relationship between industrial development and the natural environment. 

With sub-components as broad as these, almost any policy promoted by THE CENTER falls under the remit of “national rejuvenation.” The breadth of this mandate is intentional. As communist utopia retreats ever further into the future, Party leadership has bet that reclaiming lost Chinese greatness is the one cause “the entire Party and all the Chinese people [will] strive for” (Xi 2022). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION

Sources

2022. “Constitution of the Communist Party of China.” Xinhua; Deal, Jacqueline Newmyer. 2013. “China’s Nationalist Heritage.” The National Interest (123): 44–53; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm:Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Perrolle, Pierre M. 1976. Fundamentals of the Chinese Communist Party. New York: Routledge; Schell, Orville and John Delury. 2014. Wealth and Power:China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random House; Tobin, Dan. 2020. “How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should HaveEnded U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions” Center for Strategic and InternationalStudies;Xi Jinping. 2022. “Political Report to the 20th Congress.” Xinhua.

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Harmonious World
Héxié Shìjiè
和谐世界

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See COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND

Sources

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Hegemonism
Bàquánzhǔyì
霸权主义

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When Chinese intellectuals and Communist Party officials inveigh against “hegemonism” they invoke a term first used more than two millennia ago to refer to a ruling power that maintains its position through violence and subterfuge. The territory of ancient China was divided between a dozen warring kingdoms; for centuries the only respite from turmoil came when leaders of unusual strategic acumen used diplomatic skill and military power to overwhelm their enemies and enforce a general peace. These kings were known as [霸], or “hegemons.” The order of a hegemon rarely lasted past his death. Ancient Chinese thinkers often contrasted the fragile peace produced by the “way of the hegemon” with the imagined  “way of a true king,” which promised a peaceful order premised not on violence, but moral suasion. When 21st century Chinese proclaim that they  “oppose hegemonism” it is thus a specific style of leadership they reject–a style reminiscent of the illegitimate hegemons of Chinese antiquity.

Deng Xiaoping described the features of modern hegemonism in a blistering 1974 address to the United Nations. There he condemned the Soviet Union and the United States as 

the biggest international exploiters and oppressors of today... They both possess large numbers of nuclear weapons. They carry on a keenly contested arms race, station massive forces abroad and set up military bases everywhere, threatening the independence and security of all nations. They both keep subjecting other countries to their control, subversion, interference or aggression (Deng 1974).

Deng maintained that in response to this illegitimate exercise of hegemonic power, Chinese foreign policy would focus on “strengthening the unity of the developing countries, safeguarding their national economic rights and interests, and promoting the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and hegemonism” (Deng 1974). Though Chinese diplomats would take a less confrontational stance during the era of REFORM AND OPENING, Deng continued to describe  “opposing hegemonism” as a central plank of Chinese foreign policy for the rest of his life. 

Chinese propagandists are still preoccupied with the ills of American hegemonism. They often pair attacks on American belligerence with a vow that China will “never seek hegemony” [永远不称霸]. When uttering this phrase, Chinese officials and diplomats are not promising to abandon China’s ADVANCE TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE. Rather, they promise that China will rise without adopting the “hegemonic” means America has relied on (such as alliance blocs, nuclear coercion, or an expansive network of global military bases) to maintain its global position. 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR MANKINDHOSTILE FORCES

Sources

Deng Xiaoping. 1974. “Speech By Chairman of the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Garver, John. 2018. China's Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People's Republic of China. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Kim, Sungmin. 2019. Theorizing Confucian Virtue Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Li Kwok-Sing. 1995. A Glossary of Political Terms of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press; Wang Yueqing, Qingang Bao, and Guoxing Guan. 2020. History of Chinese Philosophy Through Its Key Terms. New York: Springer.

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Hostile Forces
Díduì Shìlì
敌对势力

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The first warnings about the dangers posed by “hostile forces” were issued in the Soviet Union of Lenin and Trotsky. The basic meaning of the term has shifted little over the subsequent century: then, as now, “hostile forces” refer to the constellation of individuals, organizations, and nations that communist party leaders believe are ideologically committed to overthrowing or subverting communist rule. The phrase does not distinguish enemies foreign and domestic; it is often used when party leaders or theorists wish to blur that distinction altogether. To label an unwelcome episode the product of ‘hostile forces’ is to insinuate that dissent and disorder within China is ultimately dependent on malicious actors outside of it.

The revolutionary leadership of the Soviet Union saw in the setbacks, reversals, and disasters that haunted their cause the malign hand of “hostile forces,” “hostile elements,” and “hostile classes.” A passage from Stalin's Short Course, an official primer on Soviet history avidly studied by Mao and his contemporaries as a textbook on socialist construction, provides an illustration of both the term itself and the mindset behind its employment:

Survivals of bourgeois ideas still remained in men’s minds and would continue to do so even though capitalism had been abolished in economic life. It should be borne in mind that the surrounding capitalist world, against which we had to keep our powder dry, was working to revive and foster these survivals….. [For example] the Party organizations had relaxed the struggle against local nationalism, and had allowed it to grow to such an extent that it had allied itself with hostile forces, the forces of intervention, and had become a danger to the state…. Comrade Stalin [thereupon] called upon the Party to be more active in ideological-political work, to systematically expose the ideology and the remnants of the ideology of the hostile classes and of the trends hostile to Leninism (Stalin 1939, emphasis added).

This bit of Stalinist rhetoric blends fear of foreign intervention, dissident ideology, and state weakness into one fearsome whole. In the late Mao era Chinese communists imported the term into their own lexicon, and have consistently used it to describe this same threatening trinity.  An editorial in the People’s Daily published shortly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre provides a characteristic example. It blames that incident on both “the [larger] international climate and the domestic climate” which allowed  “hostile forces at home and abroad” to “manufacture this storm [for the purpose of] overthrowing the leadership of the CPC, subverting the socialist system, and turning China into a vassal of the capitalist developed countries” (People’s Daily 1990).

Classifying social groups and foreign powers by their hostility to the communist cause is a rhetorically clever solution to an otherwise difficult set of problems. Most warnings about the threat posed by hostile forces do not explicitly identify the hostile actors in question. This fuzziness allows party propagandists to imply that internal opposition relies on external support without ever having to engage themselves in the messy business of proving which organizations, individuals, or social groups are linked to foreign powers, which foreign powers they are linked to, or how these links are maintained. Diplomatic crises are avoided in a similar fashion, with the Party exploiting the threat of hostile combinations to instill urgency in its cadres without needing to accuse any specific group of foreigners of wrongdoing.

This ambiguity has proved less sustainable in the age of Xi Jinping. As Sino-American relations have worsened, the phrase “hostile forces” is often reduced to a thinly veiled label for the United States and its allies. Yet foreign pressure has only exacerbated Xi's anxieties about China's internal cohesion. Over his tenure Xi Jinping has re-engineered the state security complex to make it more sensitive to and capable of resolving internal political shocks. This overhaul has been both costly and comprehensive. Guiding this transformation is Xi’s signature TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM, a set of ideas which places the threat posed by ideological and political threats to one-party rule on the same plane as national defense. One doctrinal summary of Xi's paradigm returns to the problem of hostile forces to justify such great effort:

Hostile forces inside and outside our borders have never abandoned their subversive intent to Westernize and divide our state. They do not rest, not even for a moment... This is a real and present danger to the security of our sovereign power. (Office of the Central National Security Commission 2022).

See also: HEGEMONISM; PEACEFUL EVOLUTION; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM

Sources

Stalin, Joseph. 1939. History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). New York: International Publishers; Office of the Central National Security Commission and Central Propaganda Department. 2022. The Total National Security Paradigm:A Study Outline. Beijing: Xuexi Chuban She;Johnson, Matthew. 2020. “Safeguarding Socialism: The Origins, Evolution and Expansion of China’s Total Security Paradigm,” Sinopsis. AcaMedia z.ú; Gruffydd-Jones, Jamie J. 2022. Hostile Forces: How theChinese Communist Party Resists International Pressure on Human Rights. Oxford:Oxford University Press; Chen, Stella. 2022. “Hostile Forces,” China Media Project; Chen, Stella. 2021. “Hostile Forces in the Digital Age,”China Media Project;4 June 1990. People’s Daily.

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Industrial Party
Gōngyè Dǎng
工业党

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The Industrial Party is the self-chosen moniker of a Chinese internet subculture and intellectual scene devoted to debating and dissecting problems in engineering, economic development, and international relations. Public intellectuals associated with this subculture argue that technological progress is the sole measure of social progress or state legitimacy, as well as the most critical element in China’s geopolitical rivalry with the United States. Typically young men with backgrounds in science or engineering, Industrial Party commentators are articulate spokesmen for a distinctly Chinese techno-nationalism. Their voices are heard in almost all public discussions of Chinese industrial policy or Sino-American tech competition.

Contrary to its name, the Industrial Party is not an organized political party—the closest analogue on the American scene would be online communities like the “Dirtbag Left,” the “New Right,” or the “Rationalist Movement,” whose identities are anchored on the writings of intellectuals operating on the margins of power. The origins of this community lie in message boards of the mid aughts; there a young generation of technically minded Chinese gathered to discuss the technologies portrayed in science fiction novels, debate the finer details of Chinese industrial policy, and follow new developments in PLA weaponry. Like all internet communities, this one had distinctive cultural quirks. These included scrupulous attention to technical detail, exhaustive statistical summaries, and an unwavering commitment to logical, dispassionate analysis. These traits would still be hallmarks of Industrial Party commentary a decade later, when the best Industrial Policy voices were read not only in niche online forums, but across the Chinese public sphere.

There is no Industrial Party catechism. Commentators identified with the Industrial Party have included both communists and democrats, advocates of both market liberalization and advocates of stronger central planning. What unites the Industrial Party commentariat is the belief that alternatives like these are best thought of as technical questions, not moral ones. In their eyes appeals to morality and philosophy are just appeals to emotion by another name; beneath the subjective word games of political philosophy lies a world more solid and real—a world of material things that can be measured, calculated, and manipulated. The technological advances that allow human beings to engineer these objective physical realities for their own ends are the crowning achievements of the human race. They are the only objective measure of social progress that holds true regardless of culture or location and are the only proper purpose for government action.

The Industrial Party’s faith in technological glory is matched only by its fear of falling behind. To technology they credit the difference between weakness and strength, collapse and survival, imperialized and imperialist. Scientific discoveries may be made in the name of the species, but the practical benefits of new discoveries flow first to the nations who discover them. In the Industrial Party worldview, technological progress is inherently a national endeavor. Nations that fall behind will suffer. China experienced this first hand during its own CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION. Such humiliation, the Industrial Party insists, need not occur again. China’s ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE can be guaranteed—but only if China’s leaders care more for scientific research and industrial development than they do about less tangible political ideals.

 

See also: ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; KEY CORE TECHNOLOGIES; WHITE LEFT.

Sources

King, Dylan Levi. 2021. “China’s Exit to Year Zero.” Palladium Magazine. April 9; Lu Nanfeng 卢南峰, Wu Qing 吴靖. 2018. “Lishi zhuanzhe zhong de hongda xushi: gongyedang wangluo sichao de zhengzhi fengxi 历史转折中的宏大叙事:’工业党’网络思潮的政治分析[Historical Transformation and Grand Narrative: A Political Analysis of the ‘Industrial Party,’ an Online Intellectual Trend],” Dongfang Xuefan 东方学刊 [Dongfang Journal]; Lu Nanfeng 卢南峰, Wu Qing 吴靖. 2019. “‘Gongyedang’ yu ‘xiaofenghong’ youshenme butong ‘工业党”’与’小粉红’有什么不同 [What is the Difference between the Industrial Party and the Little Pinkies].” Souhu 搜狐. 17 June; Ma, T.J. 2019. “Development Blogging: Understanding Social Media Support for BRI.” Panda Paw Dragon Claw. 10 February; Shi-Kupfer, Kristin, Mareike Ohlberg, Simon Lang, and Bertram Lang. 2017. “Ideas and Ideologies Competing For China’s Political Future.” Mercator Institute for China Studies. October.

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Initial Stage of Socialism
Shèhuì Zhǔyì Chūjí Jiēduàn
社会主义初级阶段

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Since the 1980s the concept of the initial stage of socialism (also translated as the “primary stage of socialism”) has served as the theoretical foundation for the Communist Party of China’s embrace of market economics. The theory of the initial stage of socialism posits that the ideal socialist order—from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs—presumes a level of wealth that China simply does not have. China remains in the initial stage of socialist rule; in this stage the Communist Party of China must focus its work on creating the wealth that future generations will redistribute. The transition to that more “advanced” stage of socialism must wait until China’s productive capacity and COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL POWER has caught up with or surpassed that of the leading capitalist nations.

The origins of the slogan begin with an oversight: Karl Marx did not anticipate that communist revolutionaries would succeed in economically underdeveloped agrarian empires. He theorized revolution as the inevitable end point of industrialization and saw socialism as the culmination of capitalist development. Marx’s writings, therefore, offered little guidance to any revolutionary leader who seized control of a country that had not yet industrialized. The attempts these leaders made to modernize their countries sans private property, market mechanisms, and the other trappings of capitalism led to some of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies—China’s own Great Leap Forward chief among them.

Having experienced these tragedies firsthand, the men who led the Communist Party of China in the 1980s did not need to be convinced that the economic programs of Stalin and Mao were disasters. However, theirs was a negative consensus: there was no widespread agreement on what positive economic program China should follow. Deng Xiaoping’s reform program was therefore both experimental and provisional. It drew criticism from both the “left” and the “right.” Leftists opposed the ongoing reforms out of fear that they undermined party authority and threatened a wholesale retreat from Marxist principles. The rightists, on the other hand, thought that Deng’s reforms did not go far enough. They hoped that economic reform might evolve into a radical overhaul of not only the Chinese economy but also the Chinese political system. It was in the context of this debate that the market-friendly Zhao Ziyang proposed the theory of the initial stage of socialism.

Though close antecedents to the phrase can be found in party documents as far back as the 1950s, the concept was neither fully explored nor codified as part of the CPC’s guiding ideology until General Secretary Zhao Ziyang used it to justify the sweeping market reform package that he introduced at the 13th Congress in 1987. By that point the phrase “initial stage of socialism” had been used at least three times before in major policy documents of the preceding decade (the 1981 resolution on party history, Hu Yaobang’s Political Report to the 12th Congress, and the 1986 “Resolution on the Construction of a Socialist Spiritual Civilization”), though it was never presented in a systematic way in any of them. However, as party leaders had already endorsed these documents, the phrase “initial stage of socialism” was a useful vehicle for Zhao’s new program.

Zhao’s version of the initial stage of socialism was carefully designed to parry criticism from both the left and the right. To leftists, Zhao emphasized the importance of socialist rule over China. China was still socialist—it was just that in China’s present “historical stage” [历史阶段] low productive capacity was a fundamental “national condition” [国情] that any program of SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS could not ignore. “When a backward country is trying to build socialism,” Zhao explained, it is: 

natural that during the long initial period its productive forces will not be up to the level of those in developed capitalist countries and that it will not be able to eliminate poverty completely. Accordingly, in building socialism we must do all we can to develop the productive forces and gradually eliminate poverty, constantly raising the people’s living standards. Otherwise, how will socialism be able to triumph over capitalism?

In the second stage, or the advanced stage of communism, when the economy is highly developed and there is overwhelming material abundance, we shall be able to apply the principle of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ (Zhao 2009).

Yet even as Zhao’s commitment to communist rule placated the left, by promising that economic reform would remain at the center of the Party’s policy platform as long as the country remained in the initial stage of socialism Zhao also sought to ease the fears of the right. Zhao estimated that for China to enter an “advanced stage of communism” economic development must remain the focus of the Party for several generations—at least until the year 2050. This allowed Zhao to position himself in between extremes to both his left and right:  

Under the specific historical conditions of contemporary China, to believe that the Chinese people cannot take the socialist road without going through the stage of fully developed capitalism is to take a mechanistic position on the question of the development of revolution, and that is the major cognitive root of Right mistakes. On the other hand, to believe that it is possible to jump over the initial stage of socialism, in which the productive forces are to be highly developed, is to take a Utopian position on this question, and that is the major cognitive root of Left mistakes (Zhao 1987).

Zhao was able to continue this dance until the Tiananmen protests of 1989 led to his removal from power. His favored phrase initially seemed to fall with him, but in 1997 Jiang Zemin returned the slogan to the center of the Party’s policy program. In his Political Report to the 15th Congress Jiang used the initial stage of socialism as a cudgel to silence critics who wished to walk back Dengist reforms. In a long section of the Report devoted to the concept, Jiang affirmed that “the true reality is that China is currently in the initial stage of socialism and will remain in this stage for a long time to come…. This is a historical stage we cannot jump over.” In this stage China will “accomplish industrialization,” “realize socialist modernization by and large,” “gradually narrow the gap between our level and the advanced world standard,” and “bring about a GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION on the basis of socialism.” 

Taking the founding of the PRC in 1949 as the starting point of the initial stage of socialism, Jiang estimated that China “will take at least a century to complete this historical process.” He predicted that following 2050 “a much longer period of time to consolidate and develop the socialist system” will be needed. Attaining communism in this period “will require persistent struggle by many generations, a dozen or even several dozen” (Jiang 1997).

Like his predecessors, Xi Jinping has emphasized both that China remains in the initial stage of socialism and that cadres must have faith that communism will eventually be realized in the distant future. But where Zhao, Jiang, and other leaders of the reform generation closely tied their invocations of the initial stage to their judgment that they must make “economic development the central task of the entire Party and the whole country… and make sure that all other work is subordinated to and serves this task” (Jiang 1997), Xi has used the phrase to support party work on a larger set of priorities.

“We have laid a solid material foundation to embark on a new journey and achieve new and higher goals by our unremitting endeavors since the founding of the NEW CHINA, especially over the four decades since the reform and opening up,” Xi instructed members of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE in 2021. This “new journey” is possible because in Xi’s view the initial stage of socialism is “not static, but rather dynamic, active, promising, and permeated with vigorous vitality.” The task the CPC faces now is not merely to develop China’s productive forces, but to “advance from the initial stage [of socialism] to a higher one” (Xinhua 2021). 

Xi describes this higher stage of socialism in terms of modernization and rejuvenation. If the first two decades of development under the “initial stage of socialism” schema made China wealthy, Xi Jinping believes that development during the last three decades of the initial stage of socialism will restore China to its proper place at the CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE.

See also: DENG XIAOPING THEORY; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; MODERATELY PROSPEROUS SOCIETY; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS; REFORM AND OPENING; SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS.

Sources

Baum, Richard. 1996. Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Deng Xiaoping. 1994. “Two Features of the Thirteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” In Volume III: 1982-1992, Vol 3 of Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Fewsmith, Joseph. 2008. China Since Tiananmen: From Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Gerwitz, Julian. 2021. Never Turn Back: China and the Forbidden History of the 1980s. Cambridge: Belknap Press. Jiang Zemin. 1997. “Hold High the Great Banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory for an All-round Advancement of the Cause of Building Socialism With Chinese Characteristics’ Into the 21st Century.” Beijing Review; Xinhua. 2021. “Xi Focus: Xi stresses good start for fully building modern socialist China.”; Zhao Ziyang. 1987. “Advance Along the Road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” Beijing Review 30; Zhao Ziyang. 2009. Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, trans. Adi Ignatius and Bao Pu. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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Key Core Technologies
Guānjiàn Héxīn Jìshù
关键核心技术

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In official party terminology, the term “key core technologies” refers to all existing or emerging technologies that promise critical strategic advantages to nations that control their production, distribution, or use. The phrase is used most often when Party leaders and state planning documents discuss technologies that Chinese firms lack the ability to manufacture, or that they can only manufacture by relying on foreign suppliers for parts or expertise. The term is intended as a call to action. When a Chinese leader identifies a specific field or product as a “key core technology” he is urging cadres, scientists, and industrialists to build the academic, financial, industrial, or legal infrastructure China needs to engineer this technology with Chinese resources alone.

The phrase key core technologies first appeared in mid-2010s, but its antecedents predate Xi Jinping. Economic planning and science policy documents produced by the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government in the early 2000s reference “core technologies in key areas” [关键领域核心技术]. The “National Medium and Long-term Science and Technology Development Plan Outline,” a communique published by the State Council in 2006, provides a typical example. The communique argues that “in key areas related to the lifeline of the national economy and national security, real core technologies cannot be bought.” (State Council 2006). The communique presents the indigenous development of these “core technologies” as a prerequisite for sovereign control of Chinese economic development. To secure Chinese economic growth on the long run, the communique directs officials to build a National Innovation System [国家创新体系] focused on achieving Chinese self-sufficiency in eleven “important fields and priority topics,” eight “cutting-edge fields,” and four “fields of basic research,” including renewable energy, materials science, and protein research.

These documents largely operate in a market-friendly frame. The core technologies in key fields were presented as essential to the modernization of the Chinese economy. Chinese firms would learn to engineer these technologies not by isolating themselves from the global economy, but by integrating with it. This reflected the consensus of the times: China faced a rare PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY where foreign capital and know-how could safely serve the REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION

This consensus eroded in the 2010s. Over this decade Chinese science and technology policy became more ambitious, more security-oriented, and more state-directed. These changes are reflected in the highest level guidance offered by Xi Jinping. Indigenous innovation is a central component of his NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT [新发展理念], a framework for reorienting Chinese economic planning towards what Xi Jinping calls “high quality development.” During the reform era Chinese economic growth was largely driven by investments in fixed assets and cheap foreign exports. Xi’s New Development Concept, in contrast, calls for a growth model anchored in high end manufacturing at the edge of the technological frontier. 

Under the aegis of the NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT the phrase “key core technologies” entered top-level economic planning documents. The State Council published an “Innovation-Driven Development Strategy Outline” in 2016 which highlighted China’s inability to produce several key core technologies: 

We must also note that certain industries in our country are still at the mid- and low-end of the global value chain, and certain key core technologies are under others’ control. Developed countries still have a clear lead in [advancing] the scientific frontier and high-tech fields (State Council 2016, emphasis added).

To mitigate China’s relative weakness in the global value chain, the outline proposes a three-stage plan: first, the Chinese state must construct a functioning national innovation system and a MODERATELY PROSPEROUS SOCIETY by 2020; then, it must achieve a leading position in the global science and technology ecosystem by 2030; finally, it must become a “strong techno-scientific power” and achieve NATIONAL REJUVENATION by 2050. 

The outline provides specific directions for which fields of technology must see progress, and by which dates progress must be made. The list is a useful portrait of what sort of technologies are considered “key” and “core.” By 2020, the outline instructs, the Chinese party-state must construct national research-industrial complexes for:  

  • High-end general-purpose chips
  • High-end CNC machine tools
  • Integrated circuit equipment
  • Broadband mobile communications
  • Oil and gas field technology
  • Nuclear power
  • Water pollution control
  • Genetically modified crops
  • New pharmaceutical drugs
  • Infectious disease prevention and control.

By 2030 the same should be accomplished for:

  • Aero-engine and gas turbines
  • Quantum communications
  • Novel information network technology
  • Intelligent manufacturing and robotics
  • Deep space and deep-sea exploration
  • Materials science 
  • Emerging energy sources
  • Brain science
  • Medical systems and care (State Council 2016). 

While many of these technologies have military applications, the drive to establish “technological self-sufficiency and self-empowerment” [科技自立自强] in these fields has more to do with economic security than military power. Dependence on foreign technology meant that China’s future economic growth might be held hostage by HOSTILE FORCES outside of China. These fears were soon vindicated by American export controls. Beijing could no longer trust that it would have access to key technologies on the global marketplace. If China was to successfully construct a NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN that relied on Chinese resources to power Chinese growth, then China must possess the ability to produce cutting edge innovations independent of the West. “Breakthroughs in key core technologies,” Xi Jinping concluded in 2020, are a “significant question” in the success or failure of “our state’s development pattern and the key to forming [a development pattern] with our domestic large-scale cycle [of goods and services] as the mainstay [of our economy]” (People’s Daily 2020). 

Assessing the progress of this program is difficult. After the key core technologies schema was codified in the Fourteenth Five Year Plan in 2020, China’s central government ministries and provincial governments began publishing lists of research complexes and megaprojects that they have funded to accelerate technological self-sufficiency. Economists who have studied these lists note that funding is concentrated in sectors where Chinese firms currently have competitive advantages or where there are reasonable prospects of developing such an advantage on the short term. In other words, investment is being channeled technologies that where Chinese firms have the potential to leap-frog over current market leaders, allowing China to pass developed nations “on the curve” [弯道超车] (Naughton et al 2023). However, these efforts are tied to benchmarks that lie many years in the future. Their success or failure may not be apparent for years to come.     

See also:  NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN; NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT; ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; NEW ROUND OF TECHNO-SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION AND INDUSTRIAL TRANSFORMATION

Sources

Campbell, Joel R. (2013). “Becoming a Techno-Industrial Power: Chinese Science and Technology Policy.” Brookings. Issues in Technology Innovation No. 23. April; Huang Ruihan and Joshua Henderson. “The Return of The Technocrats in Chinese Politics.” Macro Polo. May 3.; Huang Ruihan and AJ Cortese. 2023. “Nanometers over GDP: Can Technocrat Leaders Improve China’s Industrial Policy?” Macro Polo. May 23;Jiang Zemin 江泽民. 1999. “Zai Quanguo Jishu Chuangxing Dahui Shang de Jianghua 在全国技术创新大会上的讲话 [Speech at the National Technology Innovation Conference].” Reformdata.org. August 23; Naughton, Barry, Xiao Siwen, and Xu Yaosheng. 2023. “The Trajectory of China’s Industrial Policies.” UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. June; People’s Daily. 2020. “Zhangwo Fazhan Zhudongquan Dahao Guanjian Hexin Jishu Gonghianzhan 掌握发展主动权 打好关键核心技术攻坚战 [Seize the Initiative in Development and Fight the Battle for Key Core Technologies.” Xinhua Wang 新华网 [Xinhua Web News] November 23; People’s Daily. 2022. “Jianquan Guojian Hesin Jishu Gongguan Xingxin Juguo Tizhi 健全关键核心技术攻关新型举国体制 [Improve the New Whole-Nation System for Tackling Key Core Technologies].” September 7; State Council. 2006. “Guojia Zhongchangqi Kexue he Jishu Fazhan Guihua Gangyao 国家中长期科学和技术发展规划纲要(2006—2020年)National Medium and Long-term Science and Technology Development Plan Outline (2006-2020).” State Council Communique No 9; State Council. 2012. “Zhonggong Zhongyang Guowuyuan Guanyu Shenhua Keji Tizhi Gaige Jiakuai Guojia Chuangxin Tixi Jianshe de Yìjian 中共中央国务院关于深化科技体制改革加快国家创新体系建设的意见 [Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council Opinions on Reforming the Science and Technology System and Accelerating the Construction of the National Innovation System].” Gov.cn. September 23; State Council. 2016. “Guojia Chuangxin Qudong Fazhan Zhanlue Gangyao 国家创新驱动发展战略纲要 [National Innovation-Driven Development Strategy Outline].” Xinhua She 新华社 [Xinhua News]. May 19; Xinhua News Agency. March 2021. “Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035.” Translated by Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

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Leadership Core
Lǐngdǎo Héxīn
领导核心

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In Leninist political systems the authority of a party leader does not always align with his formal position in a communist party's hierarchy. Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping exercised immense power despite retiring from all official leadership positions; in contrast, the authority of men like Zhao Ziyang and Hu Jintao was tightly circumscribed despite their selection as General Secretary. The concept of the “leadership core” provides one way for party members to recognize the exceptional standing of a paramount leader without reference to his formal position in the Party. Under this schema, a leader of unusual historical significance will be labeled the “core” [核心] of his leadership cohort.

Xi Jinping is the acknowledged core of the Party today. He was not always honored with this title: it was not until the 6th PLENUM of the 18th CENTRAL COMMITTEE—some four years into Xi’s tenure as formal leader of the Communist Party of China—that state media described Xi Jinping as the core leader of his era.

A speech given by Xi Jinping in early 2013 provides a typical example of the way this title is employed in communist rhetoric. In a ceremony commemorating Hu Jintao’s leadership of the Party, Xi Jinping told the representatives at the People’s Congress that 

Under the leadership of the Party’s first generation of collective leadership with Comrade Mao Zedong as the core, the Party’s second generation of collective leadership with Comrade Deng Xiaoping as the core, the Party’s third generation of collective leadership with Comrade Jiang Zemin as the core, and the Party’s Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as the General Secretary, people of all ethnic groups in the country have worked together, persevered, and overcome various difficulties and obstacles on the path of progress. (Xi 2013)

As this passage makes clear, not all leaders deserve “core” status. The modest achievements and limited power of Hu Jintao vis a vis other leading party members of his era denies Hu this honor. Hu’s historical role only merits the mention of his formal party title, that of “General Secretary.”  

The origins of the “core” designation are found in the early years of the Deng era. Mao was never referred to as the “core” of a collective leadership cohort during his tenure. He preferred titles—such as the “People’s Leader” [人民领袖]—that elevated him far above other members of the revolutionary generation, and which justified the concentration of power in his own hands. For Deng Xiaoping, this was one of the central errors of the late Mao era. As with many other leading cadres, Deng attributed his suffering during the Cultural Revolution to Mao’s incontestable authority. These men hoped that “collective leadership” [集体领导] might preserve the Party from similar disasters in the future. “The overconcentration of power,” Deng said in 1980, “hinders the practice of socialist democracy and of the Party’s democratic centralism, impedes the progress of socialist construction and prevents us from taking full advantage of collective wisdom” (Deng 1980). 

Formalizing mechanisms for collective leadership and instituting “intra-party democracy” [党内民主] was thus a key priority of Deng’s early reform agenda. The 12th Party Congress of 1982 abolished the post of Chairman of the Central Committee, a position that many deemed too powerful. Instead the Party would be formally led by a General Secretary with a ten-year term limit.  Other reforms intended to constrain and distribute political power across the Party included new mandatory retirement ages, the regular holding of party congresses, and the staggered filling of the POLITBURO seats every five years.

Yet Deng’s attempt to institutionalize the CPC power structure was fatally undermined by his own style of leadership. In the 1980s Deng twice identified potential successors and elevated them to the position of General Secretary. Despite their formal authority, the actual power of these chosen heirs was limited. Anytime a contentious issue divided the Party, Deng’s intervention was necessary for a solution to be implemented. On two occasions this solution included the removal of an uncooperative General Secretary from office. Events like these repeatedly offered Deng Xiaoping a choice between procedural integrity and political victory. Deng consistently chose the latter. Aligning policy and personnel with his own preferences behind the scenes weakened the formal institutions, procedures, and norms he hoped would eventually govern the Party in his place. 

It was in this context that the concept of the leadership core was introduced to the Party. Deng Xiaoping neither possessed nor aspired to absolute power: his influence flowed from his indispensability. Loyalty to Deng was the one nexus point holding the various factions of the Party together. Thus Deng concluded that “for the second generation of leaders, I can be considered the core, but the group is still a collective” (Deng 1989a).

In 1989, Deng began working to pass this status on to a new successor. Four days before the denouement of the Tiananmen demonstrations, Deng negotiated with Chen Yun and other party elders of his generation to choose the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Jiang Zemin was their choice. Soon after, Deng further argued that Jiang must be treated as the future “core” of the party’s collective leadership. “A collective leadership must have a core; without a core, no leadership can be strong enough,” said Deng.

The core of our first generation of collective leadership was Chairman Mao. Because of that core, the “cultural revolution” did not bring the Communist Party down. Actually, I am the core of the second generation. Because of this core, even though we changed two of our leaders, the Party’s exercise of leadership was not affected but always remained stable. The third generation of collective leadership must have a core too; all you comrades present here should be keenly aware of that necessity and act accordingly. You should make an effort to maintain the core — Comrade Jiang Zemin, as you have agreed. From the very first day it starts to work, the new Standing Committee should make a point of establishing and maintaining this collective leadership and its core (Deng 1989b). 

Though Jiang Zemin would govern under the shadow of Deng Xiaoping for another five years, the slow passing of the revolutionary generation gave Jiang the opportunity to fill critical party positions with his own people. Jiang’s consolidation of power proved enduring. By the time Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao, rose to the position of CPC General Secretary in November 2002, both the POLITBURO and the CENTRAL COMMITTEE were stocked with Jiang’s men. Jiang himself would stay on as Chairman of the Central Military Commission for several years into Hu’s term. No one was under the illusion that Hu Jintao was the “core” of anything. Instead, his role in the collective leadership was usually described with the phrase “the Party CENTER with Comrade Hu Jintao as General Secretary” [以胡锦涛同志为总书记的党中央]. 

Xi Jinping successfully centralized power in a fashion Hu Jintao never managed. Through bureaucratic restructuring and a colossal anti-corruption drive that removed hundreds of thousands of Party members from the rolls, Xi remade the Communist Party in his own image. He used this power to rollback Deng era norms of collective leadership. Just one year after Xi obtained official recognition as the “core,” the Party abolished the term limit of the General Secretary. At the conclusion of the Party Congress where this occurred, Cai Qi–a Xi loyalist who would soon be elevated to the PBSC–referred to Xi Jinping as the Leader, or lingxiu [领袖], of the Party. Up to this point this grandiose title had only ever been applied to Mao Zedong and his designated successor, Hua Guofeng. Cai maintained that:

In the past five years, historic changes have taken place in the cause of the Party and the state, all of which stem from the fact that General Secretary Xi Jinping, the strong leadership core, is the helmsman [掌舵] of the whole Party. General Secretary Xi Jinping is worthy of being a wise leader [英明领袖], the chief architect of reform, opening up and modernization in the New Era, and the core of this generation of the Party. At all times and in all circumstances, we must resolutely safeguard the authority and centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core. (Cai 2017).   

Thus the valence of the term “core” has shifted as the norms of the Deng era have eroded away. If in the Reform era the “core” designation signaled a break from the Maoist past, associating Deng’s pre-eminence with the more restrained language of intra-party democracy, in Xi’s NEW ERA the phrase is deployed in the same breath as titles once reserved for Mao himself, such as “helmsman” and "Leader.” Three decades after its introduction the concept of the leadership core lives on. The associated ideals of collective leadership do not. 

Sources

Cai Qi. 2017. “Běijīng shìwěi shūjì càiqí: Zhǐmíng zhōnghuá mínzú wěidà fùxīng qiánjìn fāngxiàng 北京市委书记蔡奇:指明中华民族伟大复兴前进方向 [Cai Qi, Secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee: Point out the direction for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation].” People’s Daily; Chen, Stella. 13 June 2022. “Core.” The CMP Dictionary. China Media Project; CPC News. 9 November 1989. “Dì shísān jiè zhōngyāng wěiyuánhuì dì wǔ cì quántǐ huìyì gōngbào 第十三届中央委员会第五次全体会议公报 [Communiqué of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Thirteenth Central Committee].” CPC Archives; Deng Xiaping. 1980. “On the Reform of the System of Party and State Leadership.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Marxist Online Archives; Deng Xiaping. 1989a. “We Must Form A Promising Collective Leadership That Will Carry Out Reform.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Marxist Online Archives; Deng Xiaping. 1989b. “Urgent Tasks of China’s Third Generation of Collective Leadership.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Marxist Online Archives; Fewsmith, Joseph. 2021. Rethinking Chinese Politics. London: Cambridge University Press. He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge. p 280; Heilmann, Sebastian. 2017. China’s Political System. Mercator Institute for China Studies. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield; Mao Zedong. 1948. “On Strengthening the Party Committee System.” Marxist Online Archives; People’s Daily. 2016. “Zhōnggòng shíbā jiè liù zhōng quánhuì zàijīng jǔxíng 中共十八届六中全会在京举行 [The Sixth Plenary Session of the Eighteenth CPC Central Committee Was Held in Beijing]”; ​​Shirk, Susan. 2018. China in Xi’s “New Era”: The Return to Personalistic Rule. Journal of Democracy, 29(2), 22-36; Wilson Center Digital Archive. 25 February 1956. “Khrushchev's Secret Speech, ‘On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences,’ Delivered at the Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” From the Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 84th Congress, 2nd Session (May 22, 1956-June 11, 1956), C11, Part 7 (June 4, 1956), pp. 9389-9403; Wilson Center Digital Archive. 27 June 1981. “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.” Translation from the Beijing Review 24, no. 27 (July 6, 1981): 10-39; Xi Jinping. 2013. “Xiàng hújǐntāo tóngzhì biǎoshì zhōngxīn de gǎnxiè hé chónggāo de jìngyì 向胡锦涛同志表示衷心的感谢和崇高的敬意 [Expressing heartfelt gratitude and profound respect to Comrade Hu Jintao].” Xinhua.

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Making a Greater Contribution to Mankind
Rénlèi Zuòchū Gèng Dà Gòngxiàn
人类作出更大贡献

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See ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE

Sources

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Moderately Prosperous Society
Xiǎokāng Shèhuì
小康社会

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In 1979, leaders of the People’s Republic of China began describing the creation of a “moderately prosperous society” as a unifying aim of all work done by the Communist Party of China. Alternatively translated as a “well-off society,” the term’s origins lie in a classical Confucian phrase for a prospering social order that nevertheless falls short of utopian ideals. Reformers elevated the term to orthodoxy both to signal that the Maoist struggle for utopia was over and that party work should henceforth be focused on the more practical needs of normal economic development. For several decades party leaders identified the year 2021—the centennial of the CPC’s founding—as the date on which China would secure its status as a moderately prosperous society. When in 2021 Chinese officials duly declared that China had in fact become moderately prosperous, they were not only celebrating the economic successes of the previous three decades but justifying the Party’s transition away from a narrow focus on economic growth to a broader pursuit of NATIONAL REJUVENATION on all fronts. 

The idea of “moderate prosperity,” or xiǎokāng [小康], dates back to the Book of Rites, one of the canonical texts of the Confucian tradition. There Confucius described a past golden age where “the world was shared by all alike. The worthy and the able were promoted to office and men practiced good faith and lived in affection. Therefore they did not regard as parents only their own parents, or as sons only their own sons” (Chen 2011). Confucius called this utopic past dàtóng [大同] , or “the Great Unity.” He contrasted this with the xiǎokāng societies founded by worthy rulers of his own day, which despite being well-ordered, governed by ritual, and relatively wealthy did not attain the harmony and moral excellence of the distant past. 

Exposure to Western thought prompted Chinese intellectuals to reimagine these Confucian ideals for modern conditions. Both the late Qing reformer Kang Youwei (1858-1927) and his political opponent, the aspiring democrat Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), endorsed dàtóng as the ultimate goal of their political programs (Kang redefined “moderate prosperity” as a social stage that would immediately precede dàtóng). Mao Zedong equated dàtóng with the promise of communism, arguing that his revolution would create the “conditions where classes, state power and political parties will die out very naturally.” Mao predicted that once the proletariat’s internal class enemies had been defeated “China can develop steadily, under the leadership of the working class and the Communist Party, from an agricultural into an industrial country, and from a new-democratic into a socialist and communist society, [and then] can abolish classes and realize dàtóng” (Mao 1949). 

It is against this backdrop that Deng Xiaoping revived the idea of “moderate prosperity” as an achievable alternative to utopia. In a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira, Deng explained that “moderate prosperity” was the CPC’s mid-term goal for the modernization of China. “Even if we reach [moderate prosperity],” he confessed, “we will still be a backward nation compared to Western countries. However, at that point China will be a country with comparative prosperity and our people will enjoy a much higher standard of living than they do now” (Deng 1979). For party apparatchiks used to the grandiose plans of the Mao era, the new slogan was a remarkably honest assessment of China’s national conditions and served as a realistic goal for national development. Deng even pegged his version of moderate prosperity to a specific dollar amount: China would be a moderately prosperous society when it had per capita gross national income (GNI) of $800 to $1,000 USD.

The economic boom years forced a reassessment of the phrase’s meaning. Though China’s GNI per capita reached $800 in 1998, stark disparity between urban and rural economic had emerged and many regions of China remained in extreme poverty. It was evident that Deng’s index was insufficient to capture the full scope of what a moderately prosperous society would look like. As Jiang Zemin remarked, “The moderately prosperous life we are leading is still at a low level, it is not all-inclusive and is very uneven” (Jiang 2002). In 1997, he expanded the concept to encompass a more holistic set of goals: GDP growth, rural development, improved living standards, the implementation of a social security system, the strengthening of governing institutions and education, poverty alleviation, and protection of the environment. Jiang codified these goals with the new slogan “comprehensively [全面] building a moderately prosperous society.” Jiang further stated that this all around version of the moderately prosperous society would be achieved by 2020.   

Xi Jinping endorsed “comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society” as key to his own domestic platform, codifying it as the first item in a quartet of policy aims known as the FOUR COMPREHENSIVES. He often articulated this goal as a battle to eradicate extreme poverty. In Xi’s words, "it is a solemn promise made by our party to ensure that poor people and poor areas will enter a moderately prosperous society together with the rest of the country“ (State Council Information Office 2021). 

In early 2021, the Communist Party of China declared that this promise had been fulfilled. The battle was over: extreme poverty had been officially eradicated from China, and moderate prosperity has been officially extended throughout the country. A host of critics pounced on these pronouncements, pointing to gaps between official rhetoric and ground realities in China’s poorest regions. Yet declaring the mission accomplished was less about self-congratulations on the part of party leaders than an urgent sense the Party needed to reorient itself around a new set of goals. REFORM AND OPENING had made China rich: now it was time for China to become strong. Accordingly, the first item of the Four Comprehensives was changed from “comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society" to "comprehensively building a modern socialist country [全面建设社会主义现代化国家]."

See also: DENG XIAOPING THEORY; FOUR COMPREHENSIVES; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS; PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT ARE THE THEMES OF THE TIMES; PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY; REFORM AND OPENING.

Sources

2002. “Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress.” China.org.cn; Bandurski, David. 2022. “Four Comprehensives.” China Media Project; Chen, Albert H. Y. 2011. “The Concept of ‘Datong’ in Chinese Philosophy as an Expression of the Idea of the Common Good.” University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper, No. 2011/020; Delury, John. 2008. “‘Harmonious’ In China: The Ancient Sources of Modern Doctrine.” Hoover Institution; Deng Xiaoping. 1979. “China’s Goal is to Achieve Comparative Prosperity by the End of the Century.” Marxist Online Archives; He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge; Mao Zedong. “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship 30 June 1949.” Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung: Vol. IV; Smith, Craig. 2019. “Datong and Xiaokang.” In Afterlives of Chinese Communism, ed. Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere. Australia: ANU Press and Verso Books; The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China. 2021. “Poverty Alleviation: China’s Experience and Contribution.” Xinhua; Yang Shengqun. 2017. “From Initiating the Target of Moderate Prosperity to Completing the Building of a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects.” Contemporary Social Science 3: 12-18.

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National Rejuvenation
Mínzú Fùxīng
民族复兴

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See GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION

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New Development Concept
Xīn Fāzhǎn Lǐniàn
新发展理念

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Xi Jinping introduced the New Development Concept, alternatively translated as the New Development Philosophy, to guide China’s development strategy in an age of declining growth rates. Presented shortly before the Thirteenth Five Year Plan in 2015, the express aim of the New Development Concept is to reorient Chinese economic planning away from narrow GDP growth targets and towards what Xi Jinping calls “high quality development” [高质量发展].  From a macroeconomic perspective, the New Development Concept aims to boost China’s economic growth on the long run by addressing the structural challenges inherent in China’s development model; from a social perspective, it aims to temper popular discontent with pollution, inequality, and other negative byproducts of growth pursued at all costs; and from a geopolitical perspective, it aims to transform China into the global leader in science and technology, paving China’s ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE.

The roots of the problem set tackled by the New Development Concept stretch back to the early Reform Era. Shortly after the death of Mao Zedong many party leaders concluded that economic growth was the key to restoring China’s national strength, the Party’s international standing, and the loyalty of the Chinese people. After more than a decade of experimentation proved the value of this logic, General Secretary Jiang Zemin would codify it as the Party’s “basic line” during the “INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM,” declaring in his 1997 Political Report to the 15th National Congress that “We have no choice but to make economic construction the central task of the entire Party and the whole country. All other work is subordinated to and serves this task.... The key to the solution of all of China's problems lies in our own development” (Jiang 1997). For two generations the entire machinery of the Chinese party-state served the demands of this mantra. 

The results of the Party’s unfaltering pursuit of development were extraordinary: the living standard of the average Chinese person increased by twenty-six times in real terms during the four decades between 1978 and 2018, while China’s share of the global economy climbed from 2 percent to 16 percent over the same period (Yao 2020). The main drivers of the fantastic growth of this era were government investment in fixed capital assets and strong foreign demand for cheap Chinese goods. This meant that despite its undeniable achievements, the growth model of the Reform Era came with a prepackaged expiration date. Chinese economists long predicted that climbing Chinese wages would eventually price China out of many export markets. They also understood that there are limits to the number of roads, sewers, skyscrapers, and railways any country—even a country as large as China—can build before additional capital investments provide diminishing returns. It was only a matter of time before China would be forced to either adopt a new growth model or accept economic stagnation.

The Great Recession marked this transition point: the financial crisis lowered global demand for Chinese goods, forcing the Chinese state to power through the emergency with a massive stimulus spending spree. This spending package saved China from recession at the cost of stagnating returns on capital investments and a sharp accumulation of debt on local government balance sheets. To make matters worse, a shrinking surplus labor pool pushed up production costs in China, making Chinese goods less competitive in the global market just as global demand began to recover. Henceforth the Chinese economy would require new sources of growth if China was to attain the long-term development goals that party leaders had set for it.

The CENTER understood these problems well. In 2013, Xi cataloged a series of problems facing China’s development in the Third PLENUM of the 18th CENTRAL COMMITTEE

Unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development remains a big problem. We are weak in scientific and technological innovation. The industrial structure is unbalanced and the growth mode remains inefficient. The development gap between urban and rural areas and between regions is still large, and so are income disparities (Xi 2014, p. 78).

The key to surmounting these challenges, Xi maintained, was widespread recognition that the Chinese economy had entered a “new normal” [新常态]. The halcyon days where Chinese economic planners could rely on high-speed growth were over; medium-high speed growth must be the new norm. This would require China to adjust its economic strategy. At the Central Conference on Economic Work in 2014, Xi warned cadres that in this new environment “economic restructuring will be painful but is unavoidable.” He assured cadres that restructuring would mark the beginning of a what he called a New Development Stage [新发展阶段] where China would transition to “to a [development] model that is more advanced, better structured, and with a more complicated division of labor” (Xi 2017, p. 255). 

The New Development Concept was introduced to guide development planning in this new stage. Presented in 2015 in tandem with the Thirteenth Five Year Plan, the concept directs cadres to prioritize five qualitative outcomes over quantitative measures of growth: economic development must be innovative [创新], coordinated [协调], green [绿色], open [开放], and shared [共享].  Scientific and technological innovation lay at the center of this new development approach. The New Development Concept presumes that the global economy sits on the cusp of a technological revolution. Whichever nation invents, introduces, and controls these emerging technologies will determine the course of global economic development in the decades to come. However, “inadequate capacity for innovation is [China’s] Achilles’ heel,” Xi remarked during a study session of the Thirteenth Five Year Plan. “Innovation-driven growth has become the pressing demand for China’s development. Therefore, I stress repeatedly that innovation is development; innovation is the future” (Xi 2017, p. 223). In response to this call the PRC rolled out multiple techno-industrial policies—the most famous being “Made in China 2025”— between 2015 and 2017. All attempted to push the industrial foundations of the Chinese economy up the global value chain.  

Parallel to this push towards the technological frontier was a drive to cut away unproductive parts of the existing industrial base. The stimulus package that powered China through the Great Recession also saddled the Chinese economy with wasteful overcapacity in state-run industries like steel and coal. Reforming the Chinese growth model meant taking the axe to these industries—and stomaching the costs of a short-term GDP slowdown to do so. The Center signaled its willingness to stomach those costs in a 2016 series of People’s Daily articles penned by an “authoritative personage” (rumored to be Liu He, then head of the highest economic policymaking body, the Central Economic and Financial Leading Group) outlining the “supply side reforms” [供给侧改革] required by the New Development Concept. 

In reference to the growing debts incurred by local governments and state owned enterprises, the People’s Daily wrote that “a tree cannot grow to the sky; high leverage carries high risks.” The old growth playbook no longer worked: “economic stabilization relies on the old method, which is investment-driven, and fiscal pressure in some areas has added to possibilities of economic risks” (Wright 2023). To reduce these risks the State Council passed a series of measures for supply-side structural reform. The primary target of these reforms were so-called “zombie enterprises,” state-owned enterprises that were not generating enough profits. Parallel measures sought to reduce financial risks posed by a poorly regulated banking sector and crackdown on industries responsible for large-scale industrial pollution.

Up until 2018 or so, the New Development Concept could be understood primarily in these terms. The concept would guide China towards a growth model driven less by state investment in infrastructure and more by domestic demand for Chinese goods. It would do this through an industrial policy tailored to support Chinese firms working on the technological frontier while slowly diminishing the role that unproductive sectors of the economy, which relied on lax regulation or expensive state subsidies to survive, played in China’s future development. However, under the pressure of a grueling trade war, the threat of foreign export controls, and a global pandemic, both the stated aims and means of the New Development Concept began to shift. Party leaders began framing the New Development Concept in terms of China’s “economic security” [经济安全]. Security concepts previously associated with the TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM began to be deployed alongside those associated with the New Development Concept. The Central Committee officially endorsed this marriage of Chinese economic and security strategy in the 5th plenum of the 19th Party Congress. The plenum readout declared that “the integrated planning of development and security” [统筹发展和安全] should henceforth be recognized as a core tenet of development planning (Central Committee 2021). Today it is common for party leaders to not only call for innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development, but “secure” development as well.

Now the stated aim of the New Development Concept is to guide the Chinese economy towards what Xi Jinping has dubbed a NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN. This is a schema of self-sufficiency: if successful, the Party leadership will rely on domestic consumers to power the Chinese economy and on a homegrown scientific-industrial complex to power China’s technological advance. This will prevent Chinese development from being held hostage by HOSTILE FORCES. These goals are not too far afield from the original aims of the New Development Concept—what has changed is less the ultimate aims of Xi’s development program than the urgency with which the Party must pursue it. What was once a strategy for making China wealthier, more equal, and less polluted is now described to cadres as a strategy that will “decide our state’s capacity for survival” (Office of the Central National Security Commission 2022). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN; SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM;

Sources

Central Committee. 2021. “Communiqué of the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.” China Aerospace Studies Institute; DiPippo, Gerard. 2023. “Chinese Economy After COVID-19.” China Leadership Monitor; Kroeber, Arthur. 2016. China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press; Naughton, Barry, Siwen Xiao, and Yaosheng Xu. June 2023. “The Trajectory of China’s Industrial Policies.” IGCC Working Paper. University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Naughton, Barry. 2018. The Chinese Economy: Adoption and Growth. Second Ed. The MIT Press; Naughton, Barry. January 2023. “The CCP Inc. The Reshaping of China’s State Capitalist System.” CSIS; Office of the Central National Security Commission and Central Propaganda Department. April 2022. Translated by the Center for Strategic Translation.“Chapter Five: Uphold the Integrated Planning of Development and Security: On the Necessary Requirements of National Security in the New Era.” In The Total National Security Paradigm: A Study Guide. Beijing: Xuexi Chuban She 学习出版社 [Study Xi Press] and Renmin Chuban She 人民出版社 [People Press], 47-5; Rudd, Kevin. 2023. “China’s Competing Ideological and Economic Policy Objectives in 2023.” Asia Society Policy Institute; Wang, Howard. 2022. “Security is the Prerequisite for Development: Consensus Building Toward a new Top Priority in the Chinese Communist Party.” Journal of Contemporary China; Wright, Logan. April 2023. “Grasping Shadows: The Politics of China’s Deleveraging Campaign.” CSIS; Wuttke, Jörg. 2017. “The Dark Side of China's Economic Rise.” Global Policy 8 (4): 62-70; Xi Jinping. 2014. Governance of China Vol 1. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2017. Governance of China Vol 2. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2020. Governance of China Vol 3. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2022. Governance of China Vol 4. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xinhua News Agency. March 2021. “Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035.” Translated by Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Xinhua. March 2023. “Toward Modernity: The Value of Xi Jinping's Economic Thought.” Xinhua. November 2017. “Full text of Chinese President Xi's address at APEC CEO Summit.” Xinhua Net; Yao Yang. 2020. “China’s Economic Growth in Retrospective” in David Dollar, Yiping Huang, and Yang Yao, eds., China 2049: Economic Challenges of a Rising Global Power. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

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New Development Pattern
Xīn Fāzhǎn Géjú
新发展格局

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The new development pattern—sometimes translated by Chinese state media as the new development dynamic—describes a proposed structure for the Chinese economy that was first introduced to the Party in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequently adopted as a guiding principle in the China’s Fourteenth Five Year Plan (2021-2025). As a blueprint for China’s future development, the new development pattern imagines a country whose economic growth and technological progress is not dependent on fickle global markets or foreign HOSTILE FORCES. While urging China towards self-reliance, the new development pattern is not a call for autarky. Instead, Xi Jinping instructs cadres to engineer a pattern of growth where “the domestic cycle is the mainstay, with the domestic cycle and international cycle providing mutual reinforcement.” (Xi 2022, p. 178).  Under this “dual cycle” or “dual circulation” [双循环] formula, China is expected to contribute to and benefit from global markets even as it transitions towards an economic model whose near-term growth primarily flows from domestic demand for Chinese goods and whose long term promise rests on China’s indigenous capacity for scientific and technological innovation. 

Chinese economists first began characterizing China’s economic development in terms of  “large scale cycles” [大循环] in the era of Deng Xiaoping. In 1987 Wang Jian, an economist then working for the State Planning Commission, proposed that China’s future growth could be best guaranteed by securing a place in the “large-scale international cycle” of trade and capital. Burdened with decaying heavy industry and a surplus pool of labor, Wang argued that China could reverse these trends by developing light industries like textiles and consumer appliances. The slogan “two ends extending abroad, with a high-volume of  imports and exports” [两头在外, 大进大出] captured the logic of the proposed development pattern. Under this schema, Chinese firms would first purchase raw materials for production from foreign markets (one of the two “ends extending abroad”), exploit China’s surplus labor to manufacture goods at low cost, and then sell the finished products in the global marketplace (the other “end” of the slogan). Trade would occur at volumes high enough to accumulate foreign exchange, which in turn could be used to purchase the new machinery needed to revitalize China’s out-of-date heavy industries. Enmeshing China in the “large-scale international cycle” of trade and capital flows outside of China would thus create a virtuous cycle of climbing wealth and growing industry inside China.     

This strategy was openly endorsed by General Secretary Zhao Ziyang; under his successors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao the integration of the Chinese economy with the global market would continue apace. There was a quiet geopolitical calculation behind this development strategy. The “two ends extending abroad” approach took economic interdependence as a prerequisite for China’s continued growth. This required a period of time where China could safely leverage the gains of integration without provoking opposition from foreign powers alarmed by its growing strength and wealth. Party leaders concluded that globalization would offer China such a PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY—a period they predicted would last through the first two decades of the 21st century.

These predictions proved prescient: globalization's assigned role in Chinese economic growth was downgraded as the 2010s came to a close. Two developments would undermine the choice position of global integration in Chinese development planning. The first was a waning commitment to economic growth as the be-all and end-all of the Party’s work. When Xi Jinping came to power, the negative consequences of the Party’s growth-at-all-costs mindset were apparent: noxious pollution, rising class tensions, regional wealth disparities, massive debt on local government ledgers, and a ubiquitous culture of corruption all undermined the Party’s quest for national rejuvenation. To address these problems Xi Jinping incorporated a new intellectual framework for economic development inside the Thirteenth Five Year Plan (2016-2020). This framework, dubbed the NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT, instructed cadres to prioritize “high quality development” [高质量发展] over narrower metrics of GDP growth. The concept called for the Party to achieve these aims by transitioning away from growth driven by fixed asset investments and cheap foreign exports to growth driven by domestic consumption and high end manufacturing at the edge of the technological frontier.

Parallel to these changes in development philosophy was the transformation of Chinese security theory. Under the auspices of Xi Jinping’s TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM, Chinese security officially began to blur existing distinctions between hard and soft power, internal and external threats, and traditional dividing lines between the worlds of economics, culture, and diplomacy. From this viewpoint, emerging problems in any of these domains might threaten the Party’s hold on power and thus must be viewed through the lens of regime security. Viewed from this perspective, the economic gains that international integration promised must be balanced against increased exposure to hostile forces from the outside world.

These two streams—economic planning and security strategy—began to merge as American export controls and tariffs placed pressure on the Chinese economy. The high-tech development strategy envisioned by the New Development Concept assumes access to crucial technological components that Chinese firms do not yet have the capacity to manufacture. Party leaders began to worry that without the capacity to manufacture these components at home, China’s ADVANCE TO THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE might be held hostage by hostile foreign powers. These anxieties were only reinforced by the dramatic drop in global demand for Chinese goods and equally dramatic rise in global anti-China sentiment caused by the 2020 pandemic. The lesson was clear: the PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY was closing. Chinese development was dangerously dependent on foreign powers. In this environment China could no longer afford a development pattern that prioritized economic growth and global integration over self-reliance. 

“We have become more aware that security is a prerequisite for development and development guarantees security,” Xi concluded in a Politburo study session in October 2020. “Our country is exposed to the risk of various problems and dangers now and in the future, and risks – both foreseeable and unforeseeable – are on the increase” (Xi 2022, p. 133). To mitigate these risks, China needed to “integrate the planning of security and development” [统筹发展和安全]. 

In April 2020 Xi Jinping laid out what a “secure” development pattern must look like. Chinese development can no longer take the  “large-scale international cycle” as its foundation. Instead, the Party must construct a “large-scale domestic cycle” [国内大循环] to serve as the mainstay of future growth, with the “international cycle” [国际循环] serving as a supplement. As much as possible, planners should locate both the materials used as inputs for Chinese manufacturing and the consumers of China’s manufactured goods (the “two ends extending abroad” in the old slogan) within China’s own borders.

This development strategy has both macroeconomic and security rationales. Chinese observers note that from a macroeconomic standpoint, raising domestic consumption promises to right an economy that has long been described as “unbalanced.” As Chinese wages rise and the labor supply shrinks, China can no longer maintain a growth model premised on low-end manufacturing for the global market. Intentional investment in emerging technologies and key strategic industries is one route around the feared “middle income trap.” It is also a way to escape technological dependence on hostile foreign powers. Xi Jinping describes the drive for technological self-sufficiency as “vital to the survival and development of [the] nation” (Xi 2021, p. 204). By reshoring technological supply chains, as well as key economic inputs like food and energy, the new development pattern promises to secure China against sanction or blockade.

However, the new development pattern is less a bid for autarky than a plan for “hedged integration” with the global economy (Blanchette and Polk 2020). Chinese economists expect that rising Chinese consumer demand will fuel economic growth for exporters across the globe; if China successfully pushes forward the technological frontier, Chinese firms expect to export their new products to every corner of the earth. As one manual designed to teach cadres about the strategy concludes: “Constructing a new development pattern is... a forward-looking gambit for seizing the initiative of future growth.” The ultimate goal of self-reliance is not to cut China off from the world, but to make China more central to it. If realized, the new development pattern will “allow us to attract essential resources from across the globe, become powerful competitors in a fierce international competition, and become a powerful driving force in the allocation of the world’s natural resources” (Office of the Central National Security Commission 2023). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT; SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM;

Sources

Blanchette, Jude and Andrew Polk. 2020. “Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged Integration Strategy.” CSIS; DiPippo, Gerard. June 2023. “Chinese Economy After COVID-19.” China Leadership Monitor; Gerwitz, Julian. 2021. Never Turn Back: China and the Forbidden History of the 1980s. Cambridge: Belknap Press; Kroeber, Arthur. 2016. China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press; Naughton, Barry, Siwen Xiao and Yaosheng Xu. June 2023. “The Trajectory of China’s Industrial Policies.” IGCC Working Paper. University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Naughton, Barry. 2018. The Chinese Economy: Adoption and Growth. Second Ed. The MIT Press; Office of the Central National Security Commission and Central Propaganda Department. July 2023. “Chapter Five: Uphold the Integration of Development and Security: On the Necessary Requirements of National Security in the New Era.” Translated by Ethan Franz. San Francisco: Center for Strategic Translation; Wang, Howard. 2022. “Security is the Prerequisite for Development: Consensus Building Toward a New Top Priority in the Chinese Communist Party.” Journal of Contemporary China; Tran, Hung. 2021. “Decoupling/reshoring versus Dual Circulation: Competing Strategies for Security and Influences.” Atlantic Council; Wang Jian. 1988. “Xuanze Zhengque de Chang Qi Fazhan Zhanlüe ──Guanyu ‘Guoji Da Xunhuan’ Jingji Fazhan Zhanlüe de Gouxiang 选择正确的长期发展战略──关于“国际大循环”经济发展战略的构想 [Choose the Right Long-term Development Strategy–On the Large-Scale International Cycle Strategy].” January 5. 经济日报 [Economic Daily]; Wang Jian and Wu Lihua. 2020. Sanshisan Nian Qian Chuangxiangle ‘Guoji Da Xunhuan Zhanlue Gouxiang’de Ta, Ru Jin Zhe Yang Xixie ‘Shuang Xunhuan’” 33年前创想了“国际大循环战略构想”的他,如今这样细解“双循环. [The Man Who Invented the "Strategic Conception of the Large Scale International Cycle" 33 Years Ago Now Explains the "Double Cycle" in Detail]. Ai Sixiang 爱思想; Xi Jinping. 2022. Governance of China Vol 4. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2020. Governance of China Vol 3. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping, January 2017. “Full Text of Xi Jinping keynote at the World Economic Forum.” CGTN; Xinhua News Agency. March 2021. “Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035.” Translated by Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Yu Yongding. 2020. “Zenyang Shixian Cong ‘Guoji Daxunhuan’ Dao ‘Shuangxunhuan’ De Zhuanbian 怎样实现从 ‘国际大循环’到 ‘双循环’的转变? [How to Achieve the Change from ‘International Big Circulation’ to ‘Dual Circulation’?].” Xinlang 新浪; Yu Yongding. 2022. “Shuang Xunhuan he Zhongguo Zengzhang Moshi de Tiaozheng 双循环和中国增长模式的调整 [Dual Cycles and Adjustment of China's Growth Model].” Ai Sixiang 爱思想.

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Peace and Development are the Theme of the Times
Hépíng Yǔ Fāzhǎn Shì Dāngjīn Shídài de Zhǔtí
和平与发展是当今时代的主题

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The Communist Party of China claims that it discerns the “laws governing the development of the history of human society” (Constitution of the Communist Party of China 2022). In line with this claim, Party leaders orient both policy and strategy around official assessments of the material laws and historical trends at work in the world. The Maoist political program was ostensibly grounded in Mao’s judgment that “war and revolution” were the defining geopolitical trends of the 20th century; to reorient the Party towards a new focus on economic development Deng Xiaoping needed to revise this judgment. Thus in 1985 Deng Xiaoping declared that “peace and development are the theme of the times.” This assessment, restated by countless Chinese strategists and statesmen in the decades that followed, takes globalization as the defining feature of modern history. Implicit in the slogan is an injunction to treat harnessing the forces of globalization for China’s development as the CENTRAL TASK of the Party.

From Mao’s declaration that the Party “had to take the possibility of coming under attack as the starting point of all work” flowed many of the defining policies of Mao’s last decade in power (Meyskens 2020, 50). These included diplomatic estrangement from the West, aid for revolutionary movements across the developing world, and the the concentration of heavy industry deep in the mountain provinces of inland China. Though these policies did not long outlive Mao’s death, the extent to which China should open its economy remained a hotly contested issue throughout the 1980s.

In the midst of debates over economic reform Deng Xiaoping informed a delegation from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry that “peace and development are the two outstanding issues in the world today.” “Although there is still the danger of war,” he confided to the Japanese, “the forces that can deter it are growing, and we find that encouraging.” In the same address, he indicated that peace and development are “issues of global strategic significance.” Matters of peace concern “East-West relations” while matters of development concern “North-South relations.” As a war between the East and West was unlikely, prudent nations in the Global South should focus on catching up to the Global North in economic development – and such would be China’s objective in the reform and opening era (Deng 1985). 

Two months later Deng proceeded to free up resources for economic development by reducing the People’s Liberation Army to one million men. If previously his peace and development assessment had been associated with international trade and investment, it now carried a second connotation: Deng’s belief that military spending must be subordinate to the development of the larger economy.

These conclusions were codified as party dogma when Jiang Zemin described “peace and development are the main theme of the times” as a major component of Deng Xiaoping Theory [邓小平理论] in his 1997 report to the 15th Congress. That year’s National Defense Law would reiterate this stance, stating that China’s policy was to “strengthen national defense while focusing on economic development” (China National People’s Congress 1997). Both Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao would restate these ideas, including the line “peace and development are the main themes of the times” in every Party Congress political report they delivered in the two decades that followed Jiang’s 1997 codification of the phrase.  

Over these two decades there was only one serious challenge to the judgment that peace and development were the defining features of international politics. This occurred in 1999 after the American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Over that summer the Party allowed a widespread debate among intellectuals, academics, and party theorists over whether Deng’s sunny pronouncements still described China’s international environment. The pro-globalization forces won this argument. Their victory was codified in Jiang Zemin’s declaration that “A new world war is unlikely in the foreseeable future” and “it is realistic to bring about a fairly long period of peace in the world and a favorable climate in areas around China.” To Deng’s “peace and development” line Jiang added his own theoretical formulation, urging the Party to seize the “first two decades of the 21st century” as “an important PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY” for China’s development (Jiang 2002). With these slogans first Jiang, and then Hu and Xi after him, endorsed the idea that globalization was the surest guarantee of China’s rise.

By Xi Jinping’s second term this no longer seemed so safe a guarantee. Setbacks in the BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE, unfavorable election results in Taiwan, a trade war with the United States, and mounting tensions in China’s bilateral relationship with numerous democratic nations seemed to challenge rosy assessments that development remained the theme of the times. Xi did not include “peace and development” line in his 2022 political report. The closely related “period of strategic opportunity” phrasing was replaced with references to a “a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising” (Xi 2022).

 The practical relevance of the changed assessment is perhaps best seen in the PRC’s defense budget. In 2023 this budget grew by more than 7%—even though China’s economy was only projected to grow by 5%. The Party can no longer claim that it is “strengthening national defense while focusing on economic development.” That was a strategy of a past era, an era when peace and development were the theme of the times.  

See also: GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY; PATH OF PEACEFUL DEVELOPMENT; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS

Sources

2022. “Constitution of the Communist Party of China.” Xinhua; China National People’s Congress. 1997. “People’s Republic of China National Defense Law”; Deng Xiaoping. 1985. “Peace and Development Are the Two Outstanding Issues In the World Today.” Online Marxist Archive; Erdhal, Brock and Daid Gitter. 2022. “China’s Uncertain Times and Fading Opportunities,” CACR Occasional Report. Washington DC: Center for Advanced China Research; Finkelstein, David M. 2000. “China Reconsiders Its National Security: “The Great Peace and Development Debate of 1999,” Report No. D0014464.A1. CNA Corportation; Garver, John W. China’s Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China. New York: Oxford University Press; He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge; Jiang Zemin. 2002. “Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress.” China.org.cn; Meyskens, Covell F. 2020. Mao’s Third Front: The Militarization of Cold War China. London: Cambridge University Press; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Full Text of Xi Jinping’s Speech at China’s Party Congress.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

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Peaceful Evolution
Hépíng Yǎnbiàn
和平演变

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For several decades the phrase “peaceful evolution” has been used by Chinese leaders and propagandists to describe their belief that the United States seeks to overthrow the Communist Party of China by peaceful means. Descriptions of the “peaceful evolution” threat have changed over time, but the phrase generally describes an intentional strategy of economic pressure, ideological subversion, and active support of disaffected Chinese to trigger a revolution capable of dissolving China’s communist regime.

The phrase has its roots in the pronouncements made by John Foster Dulles when he served as Secretary of State under the Eisenhower administration. Dulles rejected arguments that America was obligated to use its military power to roll back the communist advance. He told his fellow Americans that “liberation” from Soviet rule could occur through a “process short of war” (Dulles 1953), for “internal pressures are bound to alter the character of the communist regimes,” and thus American foreign policy should seek to “accelerate [this] evolution within the Sino-Soviet bloc” through peaceful means (Dulles 1958, 10-11).

Dulles’ statements had a powerful effect on communist leaders in Beijing, who were searching for an intellectual framework that might explain the source of threatening “revisionist”  trends then roiling the communist bloc. As the USSR de-Stalinized and political turmoil struck both Poland and Hungary, Mao began to intensively study Dulles’ words. At a senior leadership meeting convened in 1959 to discuss the threat of “peaceful evolution” Mao concluded:

The United States not only has no intention to give up its policy of force, but also wants, as an addition to its policy of force, to pursue a ‘peaceful evolution’ strategy of infiltration and subversion in orderto avoid the prospect of its ‘being surrounded.’ The US desires to achieve the ambition of preserving itself (capitalism) and gradually defeating the enemy(socialism)” (Qian 1995).

The concept would survive Mao’s death. It would undergo a significant renaissance after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the massacre on Tiananmen Square, events that conclusively proved that there were forces far more dangerous to communist rule than American military might. Shortly after those events Deng Xiaoping would declare that the United States and its allies “engage in peaceful evolution…[and thereby] wage a world war without smoke or gunpowder” (Deng 1994).

Though party leaders and state affiliated thinkers now often frame the threat of peaceful evolution in terms of “color revolutions” or warnings that HOSTILE FORCES pose a threat to the “political security” of the standing regime, the danger they believe the United States poses to the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION has remained remarkably consistent over time. Both in Mao's day and our own, party leaders have argued that Western powers are constitutionally averse to any great power that is not part of the liberal capitalist fold. As long as this is so, party members must remain on guard against the perils of peaceful evolution.

See also:  HEGEMONISM; HOSTILE FORCES; SOFT BONE DISEASE; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM

Sources

Deng Xiaoping. 1994. Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol. 3. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Dulles, John Foster. 1953. U.S. Senate Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations; Dulles, John Foster. 1958. Policy for the Far East. Washington: U.S. Government Print Office; Johnson, Matthew. 2020. “Safeguarding Socialism: The Origins, Evolution and Expansion of China’s Total Security Paradigm.” Sinoposis; Ong, Russel. 2007, “‘Peaceful Evolution’, ‘Regime Change’ and China's Political Security.” Journal of Contemporary China 16 (53): 717-727; Qiang Zhai. 1995. “Mao Zedong and Dulles’s ‘Peaceful Evolution’ Strategy: Revelations from Bo Yibo’s Memories.” Cold War International History Project Bulletin (6/7): 228-232.

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Period of Strategic Opportunity
Zhànlüè Jīyù Qī
战略机遇期

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The concept of a “period of strategic opportunity” was first introduced by Jiang Zemin in 2002. In his political report to the 16th Party Congress, Jiang identified “the first two decades of the twenty-first century” as “an important period of strategic opportunity that must be grasped tightly.” In Jiang’s telling, the turn of the 21st century introduced a rare window of time in which China could focus all of its efforts on economic development. By embracing the forces of globalization during this window, the Party had the opportunity to build Chinese power through peaceful means, thereby laying the foundation for “a strong, prosperous, democratic and culturally advanced socialist country by the middle of this century” (Jiang 2002).

Jiang’s slogan was born out of the foreign policy debates that racked the Communist Party of China in the late 1990s. A decade before Deng Xiaoping had declared that PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT WERE THE THEME OF THE TIMES; a suite of reform era policies—including China’s opening to outside investment, Deng’s pursuit of market reforms, and the decision to terminate support for Maoist guerillas in the developing world—flowed from this assessment. A world trending towards peace and economic integration was a world where it was safe to focus the work of the Chinese party-state on economic reform.

The annual debates over China’s trading status in Washington, the 1997 Taiwan Straits crisis, and America’s 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade all put Deng’s assessment of the international scene to question. Many in China believed that it had been a mistake to prioritize economic growth over military power or confrontation with the United States. China’s ascension to the WTO and the 9/11 attacks—which diverted American hostility away from the PRC and towards the Middle East—put an end to their worries. By 2002 it was clear that globalization would not only power China’s economic ascent but would also temper opposition to China’s growing material might.

Jiang’s conception of the period of strategic opportunity was endorsed by the two men who governed China during the remainder of this window of opportunity. Both Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping repeated Jiang’s phrase verbatim; both paired it with fulsome depictions of globalization as an unstoppable historical force. Yet as Xi Jinping’s second term came to a close, economic integration seemed a far less powerful trend than it had seemed at the start of tenure. By that point the BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE had met with numerous setbacks; China was engaged in an unforgiving trade war with the United States, and anti-China sentiment was rising across the globe. Two decades after Jiang’s introduction of the period of strategic opportunity, Xi would offer a new assessment of the times:

Our country has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising… We must therefore be more mindful of potential dangers, be prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms (Xi 2022).

 Xi’s new formula does not predict imminent war. It does suggest, however, that the Party can no longer rely on globalization and economic integration to shepherd the REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION. In an international environment defined by risk and danger, the strategies of the reform era are no longer sufficient to secure the Party CENTER’s desired future.

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY; PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT ARE THE THEME OF THE TIMES; COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER; PATH OF PEACEFUL DEVELOPMENT

Sources

2002. “Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress.” China.org.cn; Dessein, Alex. 2019. “Identifying Windows of Opportunity within China’s Rise: Problematizing China’s Hundred-Year Strategy toward Great-Power Status,” Military Review; Erdhal, Brock and Daid Gitter. 2022. “China’s Uncertain Times and Fading Opportunities,” CACR Occasional Report. Washington DC: Center for Advanced China Research; Garver, John W. China’s Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China. New York: Oxford University Press; He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Song Wenlong. 2022. “Seizing the Window of Strategic Opportunity: A Study of China’s Macro–Strategic Narrative since the 21st Century,” Social Sciences 11, iss. 10; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Full Text of Xi Jinping’s Speech at China’s Party Congress.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China; Yong Deng. 2022. China’s Strategic Opportunity: Change and Revisionism in Chinese Foreign Policy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Plenary Session
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

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See PLENUM.

Sources

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Plenum
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

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A plenum, or more formally, a Plenary Session of a Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is a gathering of all full and alternate members of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE  held to review and approve policies proposed by the POLITBURO. In the post-Mao era it is customary for each CENTRAL COMMITTEE to hold seven plenums in its five year term. These closed door meetings are usually the most important political events of any given year. The topics discussed in the plenary sessions range from revisions to the constitution to realignments of development strategy. Deliberations are secret. The General Secretary delivers a speech to the CENTRAL COMMITTEE, but this speech is usually not published until long after the plenum has concluded.  

In the post-Mao era the topics addressed in the seven plenums tend to follow a pattern: the first plenum is held to select the POLITBURO and CENTRAL COMMITTEE membership, the second confirms the leadership of important government posts, the third is devoted to economic development and reform, the fourth focuses on initiatives in law or party building, the fifth lays the groundwork for the next FIVE YEAR PLAN, the sixth addresses problems of ideology, culture, or intra-party rules, and the seventh prepares the CENTRAL COMMITTEE for the upcoming PARTY CONGRESS.

Documents drafted during plenums are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each compacts the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party. At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd and 5th plenums of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee simply makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the Politburo ahead of time. 

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE; POLITBURO; PARTY CONGRESS; FIVE YEAR PLAN

Sources

Blanchette, Jude. 2019. “Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum Delayed?” Center for Strategic and International Studies; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Heilman, Sebastian. 2017. China’s Political System. Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield.

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Politburo
Zhōngyāng Zhèngzhì Jú
中央政治局

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The Political Bureau, or Politburo, is the command headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party. The Politburo is composed of twenty-four senior leaders who can be placed in two tiers: a small core of leading generalists serving on the STANDING COMMITTEE, and a broader group of officials serving as leaders at the provincial or ministerial level. While day to day decision making authority for the Communist Party rests with the Standing Committee, Politburo members possess considerable influence over both national policy and personnel selection. The composition of the Politburo is therefore a key concern of any General Secretary; the number of loyalists he is able to elevate into the Politburo is a rough measure of his effective power.

Nominally, Politburo members are elected by the CENTRAL COMMITTEE, the body from which its members are drawn and its decision making authority is delegated. In practice, the composition of the Politburo is decided internally by the General Secretary, the Standing Committee, retired grandees, and the incumbent members of the Politburo. The rotation of Politburo seats is aided by a set of guiding retirement norms introduced in the Jiang Zemin era. In 1997 Jiang forced all members aged 70 or over to retire at the end of their five-year term; at subsequent Congresses the retirement age was lowered to 68. Though not officially codified in any party document, this norm has, with a few recent exceptions, governed the composition of the Politburo and functioned as an effective shield against gerontocracy. 

Since 2002, the Politburo has regularly held “Politburo collective study sessions” [中央政治局集体学习] and more standard “Politburo meetings” [中央政治局会议]. During its standard meetings the Politburo discusses new policy directives, provides feedback on policy implementation, and prepares for future work conferences, plenums, or congresses. These meetings are about coordination, information exchange, and practical planning at the highest levels of the party. 

Study sessions, in contrast, play a more educational role. These sessions take place shortly after the standard Politburo meetings–usually on the same day or the day after. Professors, think tank scholars, or other experts are invited to lecture the Politburo members on a topic chosen by the General Secretary. Their lectures often end with “work recommendations” [工作建议] for the Politburo to consider. The sessions typically conclude with a speech by the General Secretary on the topic of study. In contrast to the meetings of the Standing Committee, whose agendas are rarely discussed in public, the subject of Politburo meetings and study sessions are often publicized with some fanfare. Collective study session topics are not chosen simply to educate Politburo members but to signal policy priorities to the cadres across the country. Thus even when passively listening to lectures, the Politburo fulfills its role as a bridge between the Standing Committee and the rest of the Party.  

See also: CENTER, THE; CENTRAL COMMITTEE; PLENUM; POLITICAL BUREAU STANDING COMMITTEE (PBSC)

Sources

Fewsmith, Joseph. 2019. Rethinking Chinese Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Hart, Brian. 2021. “The CCP’s Shifting Priorities: An Analysis of Politburo Group Study Sessions.” China Brief. Jamestown Foundation; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Lawrence, Susan and Mari Y. Lee. 2021. “China’s Political System in Charts: A Snapshot Before the 20th Party Congress.” Congressional Research Service; Lieberthal, Kenneth. 2003. Governing China: From Revolution Through Reform. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.; Ling Li. 2022. “The Hidden Significance and Resilience of the Age-Limit Norm of the Chinese Communist Party,” Asia Pacific Journal 20 (19).

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Political Bureau Standing Committee (PBSC)
Zhōngyāng Zhèngzhì Jú Chángwěihuì
中央政治局常委会

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The Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) is the most senior decision making body of the Chinese party-state. On a day to day basis the PBSC has ultimate responsibility for and administrative authority over all policy domains, and its members approve personnel appointments across China. The composition of the PBSC is thereby one of the most important indicators of the power of a General Secretary: the more loyalists he is able to place in the PBSC, the more powerful his position.

The PBSC's members are all drawn from the membership of the POLITBURO; but unlike the other members of that body, who are geographically distributed across China, the officials of the more select Standing Committee are all located in Beijing. In theory, the PBSC is subordinate to the CENTRAL COMMITTEE. Article 23 of the CPC Constitution provides that the members of the Standing Committee are elected at the plenary sessions of the Central Committee and that the PBSC shall exercise the functions and power of the Central Committee when the latter is not in session. In reality, the PBSC holds de facto power over the CENTRAL COMMITTEE, whose members usually meet only once a year and whose own membership is largely decided by negotiations between Standing Committee members and retired grandees.   

The role of the Standing Committee has evolved over time. During the Mao era, the Standing Committee held little power. But its status was elevated under Deng Xiaoping, who institutionalized party structures and began concentrating administrative authority in the Standing Committee. Its functions were fully institutionalized in the tenure of Jiang Zemin when the PBSC was transformed into the all-powerful body we know today. 

The number of PBSC members has also varied over time. Xi Jinping reduced the number of the Standing Committee’s members from nine to seven. In the pre-pandemic era the PBSC typically met once a week. During the pandemic this slowed to around 14 meetings a year. The agenda of these meetings is not available to the public and can only be guessed at by examining subsequent party directives.

As with other members of the POLITBURO, PBSC members are given dual responsibilities in both the party and state apparatuses. After the 20th Party Congress, the membership of the PBSC consisted of General Secretary Xi Jinping, Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Deng Xuexiang, and Li Xi. All of these men are devoted Xi Jinping loyalists; securing their position in the Standing Committee was a political victory with no precedent in the Hu or Jiang eras.

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE; POLITBURO; THE CENTER

Sources

Fewsmith, Joseph. 2019. Rethinking Chinese Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Lawrence, Susan and Mari Y. Lee. 2021. “China’s Political System in Charts: A Snapshot Before the 20th Party Congress.” Congressional Research Service.

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Red and Expert
Yòu Hóng Yòu Zhuān
又红又专

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The phrase “Red and Expert” began as a slogan in the 1957 “Anti-Rightist Campaign,” which targeted Chinese intellectuals critical of the Communist regime. The slogan communicated the imperative for those with specialized scientific or technical knowledge (“expert”) to be loyal to the Party and the socialist cause (“red”). As Mao wrote at the time:

Red is politics; expert is one's job. To be only expert and not red is to be a white expert. If one pursues politics so that one is only red and not expert, doesn't know one's job and doesn't understand practical matters, then the redness is a false redness and one is an empty-headed politician. While grasping politics, one must be thoroughly familiar with one's job; grasping technique must start with redness. If we are to overtake Britain in 15 years, then we must mold millions upon millions of intellectuals whose loyalty is to the proletariat” (MacFarquhar 1987, 28). 

Though the slogan implores specialists to be both “red and expert,” the slogan’s meaning has shifted from one era to another, sometimes emphasizing the demand for redness, at other times emphasizing the need for expertise. At the height of the Maoist era, the phrase was regularly used to bludgeon bourgeois intellectuals for their lack of proletarian consciousness, and was used later to celebrate the potential “red” laymen had to develop expertise equal to but distinct from that of the professional scientist or engineer. After the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping resuscitated the slogan to push the Party towards embracing technocratic expertise. As a set of regulations issued by the Central Committee in 1980 explained, the injunction to be red and expert then meant that “a Communist Party member who does not earnestly study expert knowledge and has been a layman for a long time in his own work cannot make a real contribution… His so-called political consciousness and advanced nature are mere empty talk” (Deng 1980). The slogan fell out of use in the late Deng era, and is only occasionally used today. 

Sources

Richard Baum,. “Red and Expert”: The Politico-Ideological Foundations of China’s Great Leap Forward,” Asian Survey 4, no. 9 (1964); Sigrid Schmalzer, “Red and Expert,” in The Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts From Mao to Xi, ed.Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere (Acton, Aus.: ANU and Verso Press, 2019), 215-221.

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Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
Zhōngguó Tèsè Shèhuì Zhǔyì
中国特色社会主义

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Leaders of the Communist Party of China use the phrase “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” as the preferred moniker for the political and economic system that they govern. The now ubiquitous phrase was invented shortly after the death of Mao Zedong to describe the distinctive features of a Leninist political system retreating from a Stalinist economic model. Yet if Socialism with Chinese Characteristics was originally intended to explain CPC deviations from orthodox Marxism, in the decades following the fall of the communist bloc it has most often been used to justify China’s deviation from the liberal norms of the world’s richest nations. To invoke Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is to remind cadres that China follows a distinct path to modernity. This path not only precludes the wholesale importation of Western institutions and values, but also provides an explanation for perceived Western hostility to China’s National Rejuvenation.  

The origins of the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics concept can be traced back to Mao Zedong’s various statements on the need to develop the “Sinicization of Marxism” [马克思主义的中国化].  In his most famous proclamation on this theme, Mao declared that “the history of this great nation of ours goes back several thousand years. It has its own laws of development [and] its own national characteristics.” These characteristics must be integrated into the revolutionary programs of the Chinese communists because even though “a communist is a Marxist internationalist…. Marxism must take on a national form before it can be put into practice.” Mao thus championed a

Marxism that has taken on a national form, that is, Marxism applied to the concrete struggle in the concrete conditions prevailing in China, and not Marxism abstractly used. If a Chinese Communist, who is a part of the great Chinese people, bound to his people by his very flesh and blood, talks of Marxism apart from Chinese peculiarities, this Marxism is merely an empty abstraction. Consequently, the Sinicization of Marxism—that is to say, making certain that in all its manifestations it is imbued with Chinese characteristics, using it according to Chinese peculiarities—becomes a problem that must be understood and solved by the whole Party without delay (Schram 2004, liii).

Mao spoke these words as the leader of a guerilla revolutionary movement. Neither Marx’s writings nor the Soviet experience provided much practical guidance in this situation. Stalinist models would prove more relevant to Mao after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Using Stalin’s Short Course as a guidebook, China’s new communist regime imported Soviet economic and political structures with little alteration. The failure of these structures over the next few decades would eventually prompt the leaders of the Communist Party of China to seek a new path—and to justify that path with language that echoed Mao’s early calls for a Sinicized form of Marxism.  “We must integrate the universal truth of Marxism with the concrete realities of China,” Deng Xiaoping would report to the 12th Party Congress in 1982, “and blaze a path of our own and build a Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” (Deng 1991).

The phrase “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” has featured in the title of every subsequent Political Report given by a General Secretary to a Party Congress. In these reports Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is consistently identified as comprising a distinctive theoretical system [理论体系], a set of institutions [制度], a culture [文化], and a path [道路].  As Xi Jinping describes it, the theoretical system of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics offers intellectual “guid[ance] to the Party and people,” the institutions of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics “provide the fundamental guarantee for progress and development” of socialism, the culture of Socialism with Chinese characteristics “is a powerful source of strength and inspiration” for individual cadres, while the path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics “is the only path to socialist modernization and a better life for the people” (Xi 2020).  Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is thus defined both by the aims of China's political system and the tools cadres must use to accomplish these aims. 

The political debates of the 1980s powerfully shaped both these tools and aims. As the failings of the Chinese economy grew clearer, Party leaders concluded that “the practice of implementing orthodox socialist principles in the style of the Soviet Union was excessive for China’s level of socioeconomic development and productivity” (Zhao 2009). A country starting from such a low economic base must prioritize economic growth over class struggle—even if this required marketization of parts of the Chinese economy. In Zhao Ziyang’s 1987 Political Report this developmental stage—called the INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM—was linked to the political structures and priorities of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics:

The basic line of our Party in building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics during the initial stage of socialism is as follows: to lead the people of all our nationalities in a united, self-reliant, intensive and pioneering effort to turn China into a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and modern socialist country… The fundamental task for a socialist society is to develop its productive forces and concentrate on a drive for modernization (Zhao 1987).

Zhao and his fellow economic reformers were aware that statements like these broke from Marxist orthodoxy. “Building socialism in a big, backward, Eastern country like China is something new in the history of the development of Marxism,” Zhao told the Party. “We are not in the situation envisioned by the founders of Marxism” (Zhao 1987). Deng Xiaoping echoed this theme in an interview with a doubtful member of the Japanese socialist party: “Ours is an entirely new endeavor, one that was never mentioned by Marx, never undertaken by our predecessors and never attempted by any other socialist country. So there are no precedents for us to learn from. We can only learn from practice, feeling our way as we go” (Deng 1994).

Statements like these gave reformers the cover they needed to defeat “hidebound thinking” and introduce market mechanisms to Chinese life. The idea that China must bend Marxist-Leninism to fit its national circumstances allowed the reformists to obscure the differences between capitalism and socialism. Tolerance for market processes and an open embrace of international trade would remain a distinguishing feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the decades to come.

Yet a return to “hidebound thinking” and “leftist deviation” was never the only danger that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics sought to avert. From its origins the concept was associated with Deng Xiaoping’s FOUR CARDINAL PRINCIPLES—a set of commitments that Deng did not allow the Party to retreat from or tolerate debate over. The four items that party members must remain loyal to include: the socialist path, the rule of a dictatorship of the proletariat, the political predominance of the Communist Party of China, and Marxist and Maoist thought. In practical terms these Four Cardinal Principles were understood as a party-wide commitment to maintain communist control over Chinese politics even as the Party relinquished a measure of control over China’s economy. These political commitments remain in force. “The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” Xi Jinping instructed in his Political Report to the 20th Congress, “and [is] the greatest strength of the system of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” (Xi 2022). 

From the concept’s origin in the 1980s, the leaders of the CPC have identified liberalism as the most dangerous threat to the Party’s monopoly on power. Zhao Ziyang’s discussion of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics warns that “the tendency towards bourgeois liberalization, which rejects the socialist system in favor of capitalism… will last throughout the initial stage of socialism” (Zhao 1987). Socialism with Chinese Characteristics can thus be thought of as an attempt to ward off not only the temptations of the orthodox Marxist “left” but also the liberal-capitalist “right.” 

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the allure of leftist deviation was much diminished. In recent decades Party leaders tend to contrast the theory, institutions, culture, and path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics not with Marxist orthodoxy but liberal heresy. Thus Xi Jinping warns party cadres that

Since the end of the Cold War, some countries, affected by Western values, have been torn apart by war or afflicted with chaos. If we tailor out practices to Western capitalist values, measure our national development by means of the Western capitalist evaluation system, and regard Western standards as the sole standards for development, the consequences will be devastating—we will have to follow others slavishly at every step, or we subject ourselves to their abuse (Xi 2017, 356).

The contrast with China could not be clearer. In Xi’s home country, “[our] party has led the people in independently blazing the path to success over the past century, and the success of Marxism in China has been realized by Chinese Communists through our own endeavors.” Xi insists that as cadres “strengthen [their] confidence in the path, theoretical system, institutions, and culture of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” they will be able to “deal with China’s issues… in light of the Chinese context.” In the eyes of Xi Jinping and other senior leaders of the Communist Party of China, this is the only path by which China can become strong, wealthy, beautiful, and modern  (Xi 2022). 

See Also: DENG XIAOPING THEORY; FOUR CARDINAL PRINCIPLES; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; MODERATELY PROSPEROUS SOCIETY; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS.

Sources

Baum, Richard. 1996. Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Deng Xiaoping. 1991. “Opening Speech At the Twelfth National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” In Volume II: 1978-1982, vol 2 of Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Deng Xiaoping. 1994. “Two Features of the Thirteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” In Volume III: 1982-1992, Vol 3 of Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Gerwitz, Julian. 2021. Never Turn Back: China and the Forbidden History of the 1980s. Cambridge: Belknap Press; Miller, Alice L. 2018. “Only Socialism Can Save China; Only Xi Jinping Can Save Socialism.” China Leadership Monitor (56); Schram, Stuart, ed. 1992. Volume VI: 1937-1938, Vol 6 of Mao's Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912-1949. New York: Routledge; Xi Jinping. 2017. “Uphold and Consolidate the Party’s Ideological Leadership.” In Volume II, Vol 2 of The Governance of China. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2020. “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” In Volume III, Vol 3 of The Governance of China. Beijing: Foreign Language Press.; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Full text of the report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” Xinhua News; Yan Sun. 1995. The Chinese Reassessment of Socialism, 1976-1992. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Zhao Ziyang. 1987. “Advance Along the Road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” Beijing Review 30, No. 45. 1-27; Zhao Ziyang. 2009. Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, trans. Adi Ignatius and Bao Pu. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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Soft Bone Disease
Ruǎngǔ Bìng
软骨病

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For Xi Jinping, the cadres and leading officials of the Communist Party of China are prone to one devastating weakness: lack of conviction. Xi attributes both hesitation in crisis and graft in prosperity to faltering faith. He often describes emotional attachment to the party’s revolutionary heritage and sincere belief in the eventual realization of communist utopia as “spiritual calcium” that fortifies the spines of party cadres in face of hardship and sacrifice. In contrast, cadres afraid to defend the Party or its historic mission suffer from "a calcium deficiency" [缺钙] and are thus stricken with “soft bone disease.” Their pusillanimous character threatens the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION.

Xi Jinping introduced this metaphor in one of his earliest speeches as General Secretary. In his very first address to a meeting of the POLITBURO, Xi told the senior leadership of the Party that

Belief in Marxism and a faith in socialism and communism is the political soul and spiritual pillar of a Communist, enabling them to withstand all test. To put it more vividly, ideals and convictions are the spiritual calcium of Communists, and if these ideals and convictions are missing or irresolute, then there is a lack of spiritual calcium that leads to soft bone disease. This has proved true by the cases of some Party members and officials who acted improperly due to lack of ideals and confused faith.” (Xi 2014, 16).

Xi’s comments about officials who “act improperly” came soon after the fall of Bo Xilai and just before Xi began his historic anti-corruption campaign. Soft bone disease is thus Xi’s go-to explanation for the general institutional rot he inherited. To tame corruption the Party must do more than jail the corrupt: it must rekindle belief in the old revolutionary faith.

This is not the only context where the calcium metaphor shows up: it found just as commonly in official discussions of political security. Xi Jinping’s famous judgment that the Soviet Union collapsed because there “was no one man enough to stand up and resist” [但竟无一人是男儿,没什么人出来抗争] should be read in light of Xi’s many statements on soft bone disease. From this perspective the spinelessness of the CPSU was less a problem of manly toughness and more a problem of waning faith. The Soviets faltered because they no longer received the spiritual nourishment that stiffens conviction in the face of opposition and doubt. Many of Xi’s signature concepts and policies were designed to prevent the Communist Party of China from sharing their fate.

Sources

Xi Jinping. 2014. Governance of China, vol I. Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

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Tell China’s Story Well
Jiǎng Hǎo Zhōngguó Gùshì
讲好中国故事

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See DISCURSIVE POWER

Sources

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Total National Security Paradigm
Zǒngtǐ Guójiā Ānquán Guān
总体国家安全观

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The Total National Security Paradigm is a set of interlinked concepts that party sources describe as Xi Jinping’s signature contribution to Chinese security theory. Xi introduced the paradigm in a 2014 address where he instructed cadres to “pay attention to both traditional and non-traditional security, and build a national security system that integrates such elements as political, military, economic, cultural, social, science and technology, information, ecological, resource, and nuclear security” (Xi 2014, p. 221-222).  This distinction between traditional [传统] and non-traditional [非传统] security is key to Xi’s paradigm. “Traditional security” is oriented around threats to China’s territorial integrity and threats from foreign military powers. The Total National Security Paradigm guides cadres to place equal emphasis on “non-traditional security” threats which cannot be resolved with military tools, but which are potentially as dangerous as military defeat.

Variously translated as the Holistic Approach to National Security, the Comprehensive National Security Concept, or the Overall National Security Outlook, the core of Xi's security paradigm is a maximalist conception of security. This intellectual framework blurs the lines between hard and soft power, internal and external threats, and traditional distinctions between the worlds of economics, culture, and diplomacy. China’s accounting of its security must be “total” [总体].

Though the Total National Security Paradigm is the most forceful and systematic presentation of this idea, it is not new to Party thought. Mao introduced the phrase PEACEFUL EVOLUTION into the party lexicon to describe the threat posed by Western powers who hoped to overthrow communist regimes by instigating revolution from within. The collapse of the Soviet Union vividly demonstrated what happened to a party who ignored this threat. From that moment to the present day, party leaders and state intellectuals have portrayed the Communist Party of China as safeguarding a system under siege. Be they faced with economic coercion and political isolation or friendly offers to integrate into the international order, party authorities consistently describe their country as the object of hostile stratagems designed to subvert China’s domestic stability and the Party’s unquestioned rule.

Xi Jinping’s solution to this problem differs from its predecessors more in scale than concept. Officials in the Jiang and Hu eras offered regular warnings about the danger that ideological dissent, social protest, online media, and official corruption posed to the Party’s hold on power. The Total National Security Paradigm formalized these warnings into a more systematic conceptual framework. In Leninist systems theoretical frameworks like these are the necessary prerequisite of bureaucratic overhaul. If this was the concept’s purpose it seems to have accomplished its aim: by the 20th Congress, the Chinese government was spending more on its internal security budget than on military power, the state security apparatus saw fresh expansion down to lower levels of government, and new national bodies like the Central National Security Commission (CNSC) [中央国家安全委员会] were coordinating state security functions across China’s bureaucratic labyrinth.

See also: CORE INTERESTS; HOSTILE FORCES; PEACEFUL EVOLUTION; SOFT BONE DISEASE; COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER

Sources

Blanchette, Jude. 2022. “The Edge of an Abyss: Xi Jinping’s Overall National Security Outlook,” China Leadership Monitor; Cheung, Tai Ming. 2022. Innovate to Dominate: The Rise of the Chinese Techno-Security State. Ithica: Cornell University Press; Greitens, Sheena Chesnut. “Internal Security & Chinese Strategy,” hearing on “The United States’ Strategic Competition with China” § Senate Armed Services Committee; Hoffman, Samantha. 2017. “Programming China: the Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security,” PhD diss, University of Nottingham. Wuthnow, Joel. 2022. “Transforming China’s National Security Architecture in the Xi Era” hearing on “CCP Decision-Making and the 20th Party Congress” § U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing; Xi Jinping. 2014. Governance of China, vol I. Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

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White Left
Báizuǒ
白左

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The phrase “white left” first arose in prominence as a piece of Chinese internet slang around 2015. While it has not been adopted as a Party slogan, the phrase, mostly used as a pejorative, has slowly made its way into higher intellectual discourse since its internet debut.

The term  is used to distinguish the post-materialist concerns of Western leftists with the political program of the Chinese left, which frames political conflict through traditional class categories. Like Westerners, Chinese understand their politics in terms of a right-to-left spectrum. But “right” and “left” carry a very different valence in China, where the “left“ is generally associated with nostalgia for Maoism, unapologetic nationalism, disdain for limited government, and a hostility to capitalist enterprise, and the “right” is associated with market reforms, support for civil liberties, and a more cosmopolitan worldview. In a country where most political attitudes can be placed on a sliding scale between Josef Stalin and John Stewart Mill there is no easy home for the 'woke' political priorities of the Western left. While demands for justice for racial, sexual, and ethnic minorities do not resonate with either the Chinese right or the left, they usually provoke the most vitriolic response from Chinese leftists, who see identity politics as a betrayal and perversion of the international left’s traditional concern for the poor of the Earth.

Tied up in this critique of Western leftism as a political program is the stereotyped image of the Western leftist as a social type: in Chinese internet debates the Western leftist is often depicted as Pharisaical, shallow, and privileged; she makes showy gestures of solidarity and moralizes on human rights while living a comfortable, urbane life at the top of a system of privilege she has no real intention of overturning. In this sense the “white” [bái 白] in  “white left” [báizuǒ 白左] is not just a reference to the race of most social justice leftists, but also a play on two words that describe character traits that Chinese leftists associate with the social justice movement: “wasted effort/to try in vain” [báizuò 白做] and “idiocy” [báichī, 白痴]. To capture the term’s popularity as an insult, the pun-minded translator could thus fairly translate the term as the “useless left” or the “imbecile left.”

Sources

King, Dylan Levi. 2017. “‘White Left’: The Internet Insult the West Has Gotten Wrong,” Sixth Tone; Kuo, Kaiser. 2018. “Kuora: The Origin of ‘Baizuo’ (白左)—the Chinese Libtard, or ‘White Left.’” The China Project. Pan, Jennifer and Yiqing Xu. 2018. “China’s Ideological Spectrum. The Journal of Politics.” The Journal of Politics 80 (1): 254–273; Zhang Chenchen. 2017. “The Curious Rise of the ‘White Left’ as a Chinese Internet Insult.” Open Democracy;

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Sources

Minxin Pei, “Rewriting the Rules of the Chinese Party-State: Xi’s Progress in Reinvigorating the CCP,” China Leadership Monitor, No. 59 (June 1, 2019).

Mentioned in
Advancing Towards The Center of The World Stage
Zǒu Jìn Shìjiè Wǔtái Zhōngyāng
走近世界舞台中央

Chinese officials and diplomats often describe China’s return to national greatness as a process of “advancing towards the center of the world stage.” As with other aspirational aims associated with China’s NATIONAL REJUVENATION, this “advance towards the center of the world stage” is intended to be completed by 2049, the centennial anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Most of the central leadership’s aspirations for 2049 concern domestic affairs: this phrase is one of the rare statements of what a fully rejuvenated China means for the rest of the world. 

The phrase “advancing towards the center of the world stage” was introduced in a 2011 People’s Daily editorial and saw periodic use in the early days of Xi Jinping. Xi elevated the slogan’s importance in his report to the 19th Party Congress. There he tied the claim that “our country advances ever closer to the center of the world stage” [我国日益走近世界舞台中央] to his declaration that the Party had entered a NEW ERA [新时代] in its history. As Mao gave China independence, and Deng made China prosperous, so would Xi Jinping help China “become strong.”  This stronger, more assertive China could then turn its eyes outside of China’s borders to “make greater contributions to mankind” [为人类作出更大贡献]. In Xi’s judgment, growing Chinese influence over the future of the species is an integral part of moving China to the world’s “center stage.” 

Phrases like “advancing towards the center of the world stage” and “making greater contributions to mankind” suggest the global scope of Chinese ambition while obscuring its ultimate object. An official Xinhua commentary on the 19th Congress provides an unusually forthright description of what this advance entails:

China has stood up, grown rich and become strong. It will advance  toward center stage and make greater contributions for mankind. By 2050, two centuries after the Opium Wars, which plunged the “Middle Kingdom” into a period of hurt and shame, China is set to regain its might and re-ascend to the top of the world.
…China’s success proves that socialism can prevail and be a path for other developing countries to emulate and achieve modernization. China is now strong enough, willing, and able to contribute more for mankind. The new world order cannot be just dominated by capitalism and the West, and the time will come for a change (Xinhua 2017).

Xinhua associates the “advance towards the center of the world stage” with a world order that is no longer capitalist nor Western-led; the less circumspect writing of Chinese academics and public intellectuals use the phrase in a similar fashion. The slogan should thus serve as a reminder that China’s leadership believes that the road to NATIONAL REJUVENATION demands structural changes to the world outside of China’s borders.


See also:   CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY;

Sources

Doshi, Rush. 2021. The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order. New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press; Swaine, Michael. 2018. “Chinese Views of Foreign Policy in the 19th Party Congress,” China Leadership Monitor 55; Tobin, Dan. 2020. “How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should HaveEnded U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions” Center for Strategic and International Studies; Xinhua. 2017. “Commentary: Milestone Congress Points to New Era for China and the World.”

Mentioned in
Calcium Deficiency
Quē Gài
缺钙

 See SOFT BONE DISEASE

Sources

Mentioned in
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Center, The
Zhōngyāng
中央

“The Center” is a literal rendering of zhōngyāng. The phrase is is most commonly used as an abbreviation for the CENTRAL COMMITTEE of the Communist Party of China (中国共产党中央委员会), and official Chinese translations almost always opt for translating it as “The Central Committee.” The term, however, is more ambiguous than most translations into English allow. Cheng Zhenqiu, who directed  the English translation of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong, described his dissatisfaction with his own translation with these comments:

Lexically, there are still many issues…for example, the translation of zhōngyāng [中央]….Sometimes zhongyang refers to the Central Standing Committee [中央常委], sometimes it refers to the Central Politburo [中央政治局], and more often it refers to the Central Committee. Abroad some have begun translating it as “the Center”; on this issue there’s room for further research (Snape 2021).

The kaleidoscopic nature of the term is evident in Party regulations governing the Central Committee, which declares that 

The Central Committee, Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) are the brain and central hub of the Party organization. Only the Party Centre has the mandate to make decisions and interpret Party-wide and state-wide important principles and policies  (Xinhua 2020).

The usefulness of a term whose definition can stretch to describe either the Central Committee, the POLITBURO, or the POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE as contingency requires has been recognized since the days of Mao Zedong, when obedience to The Center was first codified as part of the “FOUR OBEYS” regulating Party life. In particular, obfuscating the specific source of new directives means that decisions that may have only been made by a small group of leading cadres are cloaked with the mantle of larger party organs, suggesting a shared consensus or collective decision making process that may not actually exist.

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE; POLITBURO

Sources

Li Ling. 2020. “Appeal of Strategic Ambiguity on PartyCentre–Reading the Party Directive on the Operation of the Central Committee.” TheChina Collection;Snape, Holly. 2020. “New Regulations for the CentralCommittee: Codifying Xi Era Democratic Centralism,” China Law Translate; Xinhua. 2020. “Directive on the Operation of the CentralCommittee.”

Mentioned in
Central Committee
Zhōngguó Gòngchǎndǎng Zhōngyāng Wěiyuánhuì
中国共产党中央委员会

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, until 1927 called the Central Executive Committee (中央执行委员会), is the central administrative and decision-making body of the Chinese party-state. 

In the post-Mao era members of the Central Committee have been elected by the National Congress of the CPC every five years. These elections are a confirmation vote based on a candidate list where the number of candidates slightly exceeds the number of available seats. Usually only 8% to 12% of candidates are not elected to the Central Committee; it is customary for the Committee to include the governors and party secretaries of China’s provinces, the heads of central government bodies, major SOEs, and national party organizations, and high ranking military officers in the PLA among its members. 

The Central Committee has the nominal power to elect the members of the Secretariat, Politburo, and its Standing Committee, but in practice it merely confirms candidates pre-selected by the top leadership.  At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee, called PLENUMS, have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the POLITBURO ahead of time. Documents drafted during Central Committee meetings are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each condenses the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party.

See also: CENTER, THE; PLENUM

Sources

Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Heilman, Sebastian. 2017. China’s Political System. Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield; Sullivan, Lawrence. 2022. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party, 2nd ed. New York: Rowman and Littlefield.

Mentioned in
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Century of National Humiliation
Bǎinián Guóchǐ
百年国耻

In Chinese historiography, the decades between the conclusion of the First Opium War in 1842 and the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 are described as a “century of national humiliation.” In these decades China lost a series of wars with European powers, ceded control of Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Manchuria, the Amur River Basin, and Outer Mongolia to alien empires, was forced to grant extraterritorial rights to foreigners in China, lost sovereign control of its markets and currency, and was saddled with onerous indemnities. This period of external intervention culminated with the Japanese invasion of 1937, which lead to the death of some 20 million Chinese. The legacy of humiliation haunts Chinese intellectuals today and provides the Communist Party of China with one of its most emotionally powerful legitimizing narratives.

The term “national humiliation” [国耻] dates to the late 19th century and served as a common touchstone for the various nationalist movements that sought to “save the country” [救国] at the beginning of the 20th. The founders of the Communist Party of China began their careers as activists more interested in nationalist uplift than communist utopia. In the disciplined, militarized hierarchy of a Leninist party they saw a vehicle for rescuing their nation. “Only socialism can save China” [只有社会主义才能救中国] they declared, and to this day Party historians and officials argue that Republican era experiments with other political ideologies all failed to unite China or drive out imperialist influence.

This narrative erases the sacrifices made by millions of Chinese not associated with the Communist Party, as well as the success these sacrifices secured. It was under KMT rule that the Japanese were defeated, Western powers gave up their extraterritorial privileges in China, and China was given one of five seats on the UN Security Council. In Communist eyes these feats count for little, as they were all accomplished with the aid of imperialist powers. The early Communist leadership believed that only “cleaning out the house before inviting guests in” [打扫干净屋子再请客]—in other words, driving Westerners completely out of China before readmitting them on Chinese terms—could guarantee the founding of a NEW CHINA free from the taint of imperialist influence. The Communist version of eradicating  national humiliation thus began with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China and was confirmed by Chinese success against “American imperialism” in the Korean War.   

By instructing the children of China to chant “never forget national humiliation” (勿忘国耻) the Party legitimizes this founding moment. It also suggests to the Chinese people what nightmares might occur if Party rule falters. The century of humiliation is a narrative of victimhood. It presumes an innocent China thrust into a dangerous world, there victimized by rapacious foreigners eager to feed on any nation too weak to maintain its sovereignty. Foreign opposition to Chinese policy today is easily reframed as a continuation of this antique pattern.  Under this schema China is still a victim of undeserved hostility; without the guiding hand of a strong and united Party, these hostile forces will force national humiliation on the Chinese people once again.

See also: GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; NEW CHINA

Sources

Fitzgerald, John. Cadre Country: How China Became TheChinese Communist Party. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2022; Garver, John. 2018. China’s Quest: The History of theForeign Relations of the People’s Republic of China. Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress; Schell, Orville and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’sLong March to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random House; Zheng Wang. 2012. Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations. New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press.

Mentioned in
Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
Zhōngguó Rénmín Zhèngzhì Xiéshāng Huìyì
中国人民政治协商会议

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference is the central vehicle by which the Communist Party of China coordinates with and co-opts influential elites who have risen to prominence outside of the party hierarchy, such as tech entrepreneurs, religious authorities, prominent scientists and authors, or the leaders of state-sanctioned associations like the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Abbreviated in English as the CPPCC and in Chinese as the Rénmín Zhèngxié [人民政协] or simply as the Zhèngxié [政协], the CPPCC meets once a year. It is organized as a political advisory organ whose members can propose laws and policies to party authorities. Yet with no legislative power of its own, the authority of the CPPCC is limited to “political consultation.” 

The origins of the CPPCC lie in the revolutionary era, when the Communist Party sought a “united front” with various outside political parties to defeat the Japanese and then drive the Nationalists out of power. At this time the CPPCC functioned as a coordination forum for this coalition. Though Mao promised these groups a real share of political power in NEW CHINA, once he secured control of the country he moved swiftly to neuter his erstwhile allies and strip them of any real influence. Eight of these parties still exist: they are allowed only a consultative role in the Chinese system. All must accept the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and none are allowed to recruit members absent strict supervision and restriction.

A share of the CPPCC’s 3,000 seats are thus reserved for representatives of these eight legacy parties. The other members of the CPPCC are divided into four overarching classifications: representatives of the eight state sanctioned “social organizations” [社会团体], such as the Communist Youth League or the All-China Federation of Women; representatives of 13 “social circles” [各界人士], which range from “journalism” and “education” to “ethnic minorities” and “friends of foreign countries;” “specially invited personages” [特邀人士] from Hong Kong and Macau; and  “personages without a party affiliation” [无党派人士]. The remainder of the CPPCC seats are given to Communist Party members who work in diplomacy, intelligence, or the United Front system.

The central purpose of the Conference is to provide this last group with access to the others present. The CPPCC thus serves as a kind of intermediary organization that links Communist Party officials to the broader social world they hope to shape and influence. By institutionalizing access to party leaders, the Party both gives outside elites a stronger stake in the political system and creates an exclusive forum for fostering cooperation and consensus between these leaders and party personnel.

Sources

Bowe, Alexander. 2018. “China’s Overseas United Front Work Background and Implications for the United States.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report; Lawrence, Susan and Mari Y. Lee. 2021. “China’s Political System in Charts: A Snapshot Before the 20th Party Congress.” Congressional Research Service; Mattis, Peter. 2020. “The Center of China’s Influence: theChinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.” In Insidious Power: How China Undermines Global Democracy, ed. Hsu Szu-chien and J. Michael Cole. Manchester UK: Eastbridge Books. pp 3-39.

Mentioned in
Community of Common Destiny For All Mankind
Rénlèi Mìngyùn Gòngtóngtǐ
人类命运共同体

In 2018 Yang Jiechi, then the POLITBURO member responsible for Chinese foreign policy, declared that  “Building a Community of Common Destiny for Mankind is the overall goal of China’s foreign affairs work in the New Era.” (Yang 2018). This “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” (also commonly translated as “Community With a Shared Future for Mankind”) refers to the central leadership’s vision for the future of the international order. At its core, building a “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” means leveraging globalization and other types of global interdependence to reshape the international order in China’s favor. Party officials and party-affiliated intellectuals have long expressed frustration with the norms and structures of the post-Cold War order, which they believe are neither conducive to their continued rule nor fully compatible with China’s ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE. This slogan signals their determination to build something better. 

Though the slogan is strongly associated with the NEW ERA of Xi Jiping, most of the tenets of the “Community of Common Destiny” predate him. The substance of the CPC’s critique of the existing order, as well as a tentative vision for what might replace it, were laid out by Hu Jintao in a 2003 address at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he declared that the aim of Chinese foreign policy was a “HARMONIOUS WORLD” (和谐世界). Hu argued that this “HARMONIOUS WORLD” would improve on existing arrangements for global governance in five specific arenas: politics, security, economic development, culture, and the environment. On multiple occasions Xi has reiterated the importance of these five categories, whose scope reflects both the scale of Beijing’s ambitions and the depth of its dissatisfaction with the existing order, to his own  “Community of Common Destiny” formulation.  

The thrust of the “Common Destiny” critique goes as follows: the existing international order was created by Western powers for Western powers. The legacy organizations at the core of this order speak for the world but are controlled by the West. The “universal values” enshrined in these institutions  are imperialistic impositions of Western concepts on other civilizations. This is just as true of the political institutions and development models pioneered by the West and now seen as normative in international society. Some of these ideas and institutions are useful advances suitable for all peoples; others are simply relics that would have long disappeared were they not upheld by the illegitimate American HEGEMONISM.

The Community of Common Destiny will have no hegemons (in Chinese the word hegemon describes a state whose predominance depends on coercive power). After the defensive blocs and security treaties that make American hegemony possible crumble, bilateral trade will become the central organizing principle of the new order. China will be the center hub of this global community. New international institutions will be founded; existing ones will be altered. All will give China a central role in global governance. None of these institutions will honor dangerous concepts like “human rights” or “universal values.” In light of Chinese wealth and power, the human community will view liberal institutions as the parochial tradition of a few Western nations, not as the default model for development. At this point, as one Xinhua backgrounder explains, humanity will finally enjoy an “open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity” (Xinhua 2018).

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; HEGEMONISM

Sources

Doshi, Rush. 2021. The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy toDisplace American Order. New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press;Rolland, Nadège. 2017. “Eurasian Integration ‘a la Chinese’:Deciphering Beijing’s Vision for the Region as a ‘Community of CommonDestiny,’” Asan Forum; Rolland, Nadège. 2018. “Beijing’s Vision for a ReshapedInternational Order,” China Brief; Rolland, Nadège. 2020. China’s Vision for a New World Order.NBR Special Report, The National Bureau of Asian Research; Tobin, Liza. 2018. “Xi’s Vision for Transforming GlobalGovernance: A Strategic Challenge for Washington and Its Allies.” TexasNational Security Review 2 (1): 154–66; Xinhua. 2018. “China Keywords: Community With a Shared Future for Mankind”; Yang Jiechi. 2018. “Building a Community of Common Destinyfor Mankind is the overall goal of China’s foreign affairs work in the NewEra.” Seeking Truth.

Mentioned in
Composite National Strength
Zōnghé Guólì
综合国力

In Chinese political discourse, the concept of composite national strength is used by strategists and theorists of international relations as a general measure of power and rank. Sometimes translated as “comprehensive national power,” the concept was developed in the early 1980s by strategic analysts in the PLA Academy of Military Science who believed that standard measures of military power–such as naval tonnage or army size–did not capture the true strength of the two Cold War superpowers. They argued that any accurate estimate of national strength must incorporate the full suite of economic, scientific, diplomatic, political, and cultural resources that might contribute to international success. This aggregated measure of all potential elements of national power is a country’s composite national strength.

The concept of composite national strength dates back to the reforms of the 1980s. As the PRC reestablished diplomatic relations with the West, a wave of Chinese academics and theorists began to study Western political science and adapt it to Chinese conditions. An analyst in the strategic studies department at the PLA Academy of Military Science named Huang Shuofeng  introduced the phrase as a translation of “state power,” a term he encountered while studying the realist school of international relations theory. He would present his version of the concept to his colleagues in a 1985 conference on the strategic problems posed by Soviet-American rivalry. There Huang defined composite national strength as “the total strength (both material and non-material) and international influence that a sovereign state wields for its survival and development” (Huang 1999, 5). Huang argued that this type of national power can be naturally divided into seven components: political strength [政治力], economic strength [经济力], scientific and technological strength [科技力], military strength [国防力], cultural and educational strength [文教力], diplomatic strength [外交力], and natural resource endowments [资源力] (Huang 1999, 12). 

This complex of ideas spread across the Chinese strategic community in the decades that followed. Since 1985, the Chinese Academy of Science, the Chinese Academy of Social Science, the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations, and the Academy of Military Science have all sponsored research projects or conferences devoted to different theories of composite national strength (Jia 2015).  However, there is no universal schema for calculating a country’s composite national strength. While there is general agreement among analysts that both material factors (such as industrial capacity) and less tangible factors (such as global cultural influence) must be integrated in any calculation, there is no consensus on which specific factors must be included, nor on the relative importance of any given element of power vis a vis the others. Thus even the most empirically rigorous attempts to calculate international rankings of composite national strength rely on the idiosyncratic judgments of individual researchers. 

The concept is employed far less wonkishly by generalist intellectuals and leading communist cadres. Deng Xiaoping was the first CORE LEADER to use the phrase. During his 1992 “Southern Tour” Deng employed the concept to justify further market reform. In place of the old ideological standards cadres used to use to evaluate policy, Deng proposed three “chief criterion” [三个有利于] for judging the failure and success of a new measure: “[does] it promote the growth of the productive forces in a socialist society, increase the composite national strength of the socialist state, or raise living standards?” (Deng 1992). This usage is typical. In the rhetoric of Chinese communism composite national strength is not a precise measure but a vague policy aim that can be loosely tied to development planning, security theory, technology development, or any other policy that might feasibly hasten the REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION.

SEE ALSO: DISCURSIVE POWER; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM

Sources

Deng Xiaoping. 1992. “Excerpts From Talks Given In Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shanghai.” The Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping; Jia Haitao 贾海涛. 2015. Zonghe Guoli Yu Wenhuali Xitong Yanjiu 综合国力与文化力系统研究 A Systematic Study of Comprehensive National Power and Cultural Power. Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe 中国社会科学出版社 China Social Science Publishign Co.; Pillsbury, Michael. 2000. China Debates the FUture Security Environment. Washington D.C.: National Defense University Press; Huang Shuofeng 黄硕风. 1999. Zonghe Guoli Xinlun: Jianlun Xinzhongguo Zonghe Guoli 综合国力新论:兼论新中国综合国力 A New Theory of Comprehensive National Power: With a Reflection on New China’s Comprehensive National Power. Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe 中国社会科学出版社 China Social Science Publishign Co.

Mentioned in
No items found.
Core Interests
Héxīn Lìyì
核心利益

The term “core interests,” often written as the longer “core interests and major concerns” [核心利益与 重大关切] , is used by Party officials as a shorthand for the set of issues so central to the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE  that the official position on them is not subject to negotiation or compromise. The term entered the Party lexicon in 2003 in a discussion of Taiwanese independence, but subsequent party commentaries have identified these interests as falling into three broad categories: sovereignty, security, and development. 

Each category is paired with a series of corresponding threats. Threats to China’s sovereignty interests originally referred to “splittism” in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, but in the Xi Jinping era the term has expanded to include opposition to Chinese claims in the South China Sea and challenges to state control over Chinese cyberspace. China’s security interests are challenged both by the type of threat that can be handled with traditional military deterrence and less traditional threats to China’s “political security”—that is, threats to the stability of China’s socialist system and legitimacy of the CPC leadership's over it. Defending development interests means safeguarding China’s economic model from outside interference. Originally conceived in terms of securing trade routes and access to key natural resources, the Sino-American trade war of the late 2010s has prompted Party leaders to reframe threats to China’s development in terms of technology controls and tariffs. Diplomats of the Xi era are instructed to take the protection of these interests as the “starting point and end point” [出发点和落脚点] of Chinese diplomacy (Yang 2018).

Sources

Economy, Elizabeth. 2018. The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Eng Jinghan, Xiao Yuefan, and Shaun Breslin. 2015. “Securing China’s Core Interests: The State of the Debate in China,” International Affairs 91 (2): 245–66; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Swaine, Michael. 2010. “China’s Assertive Behavior Part One: On ‘Core Interests.’” China Leadership Monitor 34; Yang Jiechi. 2018. “Use Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy forGuidance, Deeply Advance Foreign Work in the New Era.” Seeking Truth.

Mentioned in
Core Socialist Values
Shèhuìzhǔyì Héxīn Jiàzhíguān
社会主义核心价值观

The Core Socialist Values, first presented in 2006 under the tenure of General Secretary Hu Jintao, were a response to a sense of social crisis caused by China’s growing wealth. The boom economy greased the wheels of corruption while exposing an ever larger number of Chinese to the culture of the Western world. By articulating a set of cultural ideals that all Chinese can aspire to, party leaders hope to rescue Chinese society from the moral vacuum of a marketized economy while inoculating Chinese citizens against liberal ideology.  

The Core Socialist Values are expressed as 12 distinct ideals divided into three overarching categories. First are the national values of prosperity and national strength [富强], democracy [民主], civilized behavior [文明] and harmony [和谐]; second are the social values of freedom [自由], equality [平等], justice [公正] and the rule of law [法治]; third are the the individual values of patriotism [爱国], dedication [敬业], integrity [诚信] and friendship [友善]. This list of words is ubiquitous in modern China, adorning classroom walls, public squares, highway billboards, and the speeches of high officials.

 Party leaders are open about why they must publicly articulate and endorse these values. After affirming that these “Core Socialist Values are the soul of the Chinese nation,” Hu Jintao urged cadres to “use them to guide social trends of thought and forge public consensus,” to “guide the building of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” to “adapt Marxism to Chinese conditions… and increase [Marxism’s] appeal to the people,” to take “theories of socialism… and make them a way of thinking,” and to “rally the people under the great banner of SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS” (Hu 2012). Implicit in these statements is the admission that Marxist dogma did not have the same moral authority that it once did, that corruption had weakened what moral authority the Party still had, and that to govern effectively the Party must reestablish this authority in a more broadly shared moral sense that could appeal to Chinese of all backgrounds.

Yet fostering the Core Socialist Values is not only a project for changing Chinese perceptions of the Party; it is just as much about changing Chinese perceptions of themselves. As Xi Jinping argued:

Without morals, a country cannot thrive, and its people cannot stand upright. Whether or not a nation or an individual has a strong sense of identity largely depends on their morals. If our people cannot uphold the moral values that have been formed and developed on our own soil, and instead indiscriminately and blindly parrot Western moral values, then it will be necessary to genuinely question whether we will lose our independent ethos as a country and a people. Without this independent ethos, our political, intellectual, cultural and institutional independence will have the rug pulled out from under it (Gow 2017, 11).

This explains why the imagery that accompanies propaganda devoted to the Core Socialist Values is drawn from the paintings, poems, and iconography of pre-socialist China: though words like “justice” and “friendship” transcend national borders, the purpose of the Core Socialist Values is to associate these values with a distinctly Chinese identity. Such an identity, party leaders hope, will fortify the Chinese people from being seduced by corrupting vices at home or subversive strains of thought abroad.  

See also: DISCURSIVE POWER; SOFT BONE DISEASE

Sources

Gow, Michael. 2017. “The Core Socialist Values of the Chinese Dream: Towards a Chinese Integral State.” Critical Asian Studies 49 (1): 92-116; Hu Jintao. 2012. “Full Text of Hu Jintao’s Report to the 18th Party Congress.” Xinhua; Ying Mao. 2021. “Romanticising the Past: Core Socialist Values and the China Dream as Legitimisation Strategy.” Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 49 (2): 162–184.

Mentioned in
Discursive Power
Huàyǔquán
话语权

Those who wield discursive power possess the ability to shape, select, or amplify the ideas, frames, and sources of authority that guide political decision making. The concept was developed in response to the puzzlement and frustration many Chinese nationalists felt as their country’s mounting material power failed to translate into commensurate influence over global affairs. They concluded that China’s dazzling economic growth and rising military might was insufficient to change the structure of the international order because the norms that govern interstate relations are downstream of cultural values China had little influence over. The West’s intellectual hegemony allows it to embed its value set and viewpoint in the structure of international politics. This is a form of power: discursive power.

Often translated as “discourse power,” more rarely as “the right to speak,” and sometimes simply as “say” or “voice,” the neologism rose to prominence in Chinese academic writing in the mid-aughts and was subsequently elevated into the Party lexicon in the 2010s. The various alternative translations of the term reflect an ambiguity present in the original Chinese. Huàyǔquán [话语权] is a compound word that combines huàyǔ [话语], the Chinese word for “speech,” “language,” or “discourse,” with the more ambiguous quán [权], whose meaning shifts between “authority,” “rights,” or “power” depending on the context in which it is used. “Right to speak” is therefore a reasonable translation of huàyǔquán [话语权], for the right to speak about the Party’s accomplishments through a “Chinese” frame is precisely what party leaders believe the hegemonic culture of the West denies them. However, neither dictionary listings for the word nor academic discussion of its role in international affairs emphasize freedoms or entitlements. Their focus is on influence and control. They suggest that control of the world rests with those who control the words that the world is using.

This is not an entirely new concept in Party thought. Following in Marx and Lenin’s footsteps, Mao rejected the notion of a neutral public sphere where policy can be hashed out in a process of rational deliberation. He was insistent that the world of ideas was in fact a central domain in the struggle for power, and that no idea could be divorced from the class interest or political program of those who proposed it. Chinese discussions of Western discursive power take a similar approach, treating concepts like “human rights,” “universal values,” and other guiding liberal ideals not as genuine moral or intellectual commitments but as tools of power used to legitimize American hegemony and weaken America’s enemies. Here the Soviet Union’s sad fate serves as a warning: failure to challenge the discursive power of the hegemon abroad can lead to the collapse of discursive power at home. Thus discursive power does not just influence China’s international standing, but also the political security of its ruling regime.

Chinese leaders have found no easy solutions to the problems posed by the West’s discursive dominance.  Censorship at home and interference operations abroad allow the Party to stifle some ideas that might otherwise find their way into discourse. However, the Party leadership recognizes the limits to this negative approach. In their view, if China wishes to successfully reshape the operating norms of the international system, then China must articulate a positive vision of the world it wants to build; if China desires renown and acclaim on the international stage, then it must articulate a value set less hostile to Chinese success than the human rights paradigm now normative across the globe. Xi Jinping has thus directed Chinese academics to develop “new concepts, new categories, and a new language that international society can easily understand and accept so as to guide the direction of research and debate in the international academic community” (Xi 2016). Cadres and diplomats are charged with a simpler mission: “tell China’s story well” [讲好中国故事]. As Xi recently put it, to secure China's NATIONAL REJUVENATION the Party must:

Collect and refine the defining symbols and best elements of Chinese culture and showcase them to the world. Accelerate the development of China’s discourse and narrative systems, tell China’s story well, make China’s voice heard, and present a China that is worthy of trust, adoration, and respect. Strengthen our international communications capabilities, make our communications more effective, and strive to strengthen China’s discursive power in international affairs so that it is commensurate with our composite national strength and international status (Xi 2022).

See also: COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; HEGEMONISM; PEACEFUL EVOLUTION; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM; COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER

Sources

China Media Project. 2021. “Telling China’s Story Well.” The CMP Dictionary; Friedman, Toni. 2022. “Lexicon: ‘Discourse Power’ or the‘Right to Speak’ [话语权] Huàyǔ Quán.” DigiChina; Rolland, Nadège. 2020. “China’s Vision for a New World Order.”NBR Special Report, The National Bureau of Asian Research; Thimbaut, Kenton. 2022. “Chinese Discourse Power: Ambitions and Reality in the Digital Domain,” Atlantic Council and DFR Joint Report; Xi Jinping. 2016. “Speech at the Symposium on Philosophy and Social Sciences.” Xinhua; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Political Report to 20th Congress.” Xinhua.

Mentioned in
Great Changes Unseen in a Century
Bǎinián Wèiyǒu De Dà Biànjú
百年未有的大变局

The phrase “Great Changes Unseen in a Century,” sometimes translated by official party media as “Profound Changes Unseen in a Century,” was first used by Chinese academics following the Great Recession. The phrase is associated with the dangers and opportunities posed by American decline, and has been adopted by THE CENTER as a programmatic assessment of a changing world order. 

“Great Changes” was officially elevated into the party lexicon in 2017, when then-State Councilor Yang Jiechi described it as a guiding tenet of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy was formally adopted by the Party in a 2018 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference, where Xi informed the collected leadership of the Chinese diplomatic corp and state security apparatus that

China now finds itself in the best period for development it has seen since the advent of the modern era; [simultaneously], the world faces great changes unseen in a century. These two [trends] are interwoven, advancing in lockstep; each stimulates the other. Now, and in the years to come, many advantageous international conditions exist for success in foreign affairs (Xi 2020).

Xi’s comments followed a tradition laid out in innumerable Party documents, speeches, and regulations, which present declarations of  policy, especially foreign policy, as following from an  assessment of the “overall landscape” [全局] “inherent tendencies” [大势], or “the great trends” [大趋势] of the historical moment in which the Party finds itself. “Great changes unseen in a century” is a shorthand for the central leadership’s current assessment of the future trajectory of the international order.

The slogan invokes a slew of great changes that shook global politics one century ago: the collapse of British hegemony and the European imperial system following WWI and the concurrent rise of the United States and the Soviet Union as the predominant powers of world politics. The slogan implies that a similar power transition is now underway, with America playing the role of faltering hegemon, and China the rising  power.  

More substantive discussions of the slogan by Chinese academics and state affiliated scholars trace this power transition to myriad causes: the growing wealth of the developing world, the rise of right-wing populism in Western countries, the debilitating effects that neoliberalism and identity politics have on American power, the resurgence of nationalism across the globe, advances in novel technologies not pioneered by the West, and the proliferation of non-traditional security threats (such as pandemics and terrorist attacks) are all common explanations for the crumbling of the American-led international order. 

Though the phrase was introduced in a rather triumphal tone, the slogan has taken on a darker valence as Sino-American relations have worsened and China has grown more isolated in the international arena. Party propagandists and Chinese academics alike now pair the phrase “great changes unforeseen in a century” with increasingly dire warnings about the unique risks and dangers China faces in the final stage of NATIONAL REJUVENATION. Thus the slogan has come to also signify a warning that China sails into uncharted waters. As Xi Jinping reported in his address to the 20th Congress:

Great changes unseen in a century are accelerating across the world… the once-in-a-century pandemic has had far-reaching effects; a backlash against globalization is rising; and unilateralism and protectionism are mounting… The world has entered a new period of turbulence and change… [where] external attempts to suppress and contain China may escalate at any time.

Our country has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising... We must therefore be more mindful of potential dangers, be prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms (Xi 2022).

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION

Sources

Doshi, Rush. 2021. The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy toDisplace American Order. New York: Oxford, Oxford University Press; Fravel, Taylor. 2022. Hearing on “US-China Relations at theChinese Communist Party’s Centennial” § US-China Economic and Security ReviewCommission; Greitens, Sheena Chesnut. 2022. “Internal Security & Chinese Strategy.” Hearing on “The United States’ Strategic Competition withChina,” § Senate Armed Services Committee; Xi Jinping, “Break New Ground in China’s Major-CountryDiplomacy.” In Governance of China, vol III. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Political Report to the 20th Congress.” Xinhua.

Mentioned in
Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation
Zhōnghuámínzú Wěidà Fùxīng
中华民族伟大复兴

General Secretaries of the Communist Party of China have described “national rejuvenation” [民族复兴] as the central mission of their Party since the Thirteenth Party Congress in 1987. Their wording intentionally echoes the language used by Sun Yat-sen and the nationalist revolutionaries who overthrew the Qing Dynasty at the cusp of the modern era. Those revolutionaries dreamed of restoring a broken nation to its traditional station at the center of human civilization.Though he lives a century after Sun Yat-sen’s death, Xi Jinping rarely gives a speech without endorsing the same aspiration. As Xi describes it, national rejuvenation is a “strategic plan” for “achieving lasting greatness for the Chinese nation” (Xi 2022). The formal term for this plan is the “National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation,” a term that could be alternatively translated as the “National Rejuvenation of the Chinese Race.”

The work of a Leninist party is inherently goal oriented. Chinese governance depends on a  “high pressure system” [压力型体制] that uses a mix of campaign tactics and career incentives to focus the work of millions of cadres on a shared set of tasks, all of which are nested in a hierarchy of overarching goals. During the Maoist era China’s leadership identified the  “the realization of communism” as the “ultimate aim of the Party,” and proposed “victory in class struggle” as the path for reaching this end (Perrolle 1976). The CPC of today still endorses the“realization of communism” as the “highest ideal and ultimate aim” of the Party, but argues that “the highest ideal of communism pursued by Chinese Communists can be realized only when socialist society is fully developed and highly advanced,” a historical process that will “take over a century” to achieve (Constitution of the CPC 2022). In contrast, the “lasting greatness” associated with national rejuvenation can be accomplished on a more feasible timescale. The Party expects to lead the Chinese race to this desired end state by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China. Achieving the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation by this date is the overarching goal of the Chinese party-state.

To attain national rejuvenation, party leadership has argued that China must become a “great and modern socialist state” [社会主义现代化强国]. In Xi Jinping’s NEW ERA this imperative has been broken down into five aspirational end states: prosperity and strength [富强],democracy [民主], advanced culture [文明], social harmony [和谐], and beauty [美丽]. The first category emphasize the Party’s drive to build a country whose COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER is commensurate with a civilization at the leading edge of modernity; the next three identify the desired relationship between the Communist Party and a unified Chinese nation; the last is associated with campaigns to reduce pollution and forge a healthier relationship between industrial development and the natural environment. 

With sub-components as broad as these, almost any policy promoted by THE CENTER falls under the remit of “national rejuvenation.” The breadth of this mandate is intentional. As communist utopia retreats ever further into the future, Party leadership has bet that reclaiming lost Chinese greatness is the one cause “the entire Party and all the Chinese people [will] strive for” (Xi 2022). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION

Sources

2022. “Constitution of the Communist Party of China.” Xinhua; Deal, Jacqueline Newmyer. 2013. “China’s Nationalist Heritage.” The National Interest (123): 44–53; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm:Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Perrolle, Pierre M. 1976. Fundamentals of the Chinese Communist Party. New York: Routledge; Schell, Orville and John Delury. 2014. Wealth and Power:China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random House; Tobin, Dan. 2020. “How Xi Jinping’s ‘New Era’ Should HaveEnded U.S. Debate on Beijing’s Ambitions” Center for Strategic and InternationalStudies;Xi Jinping. 2022. “Political Report to the 20th Congress.” Xinhua.

Mentioned in
Harmonious World
Héxié Shìjiè
和谐世界

See COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL MANKIND

Sources

Mentioned in
No items found.
Hegemonism
Bàquánzhǔyì
霸权主义

When Chinese intellectuals and Communist Party officials inveigh against “hegemonism” they invoke a term first used more than two millennia ago to refer to a ruling power that maintains its position through violence and subterfuge. The territory of ancient China was divided between a dozen warring kingdoms; for centuries the only respite from turmoil came when leaders of unusual strategic acumen used diplomatic skill and military power to overwhelm their enemies and enforce a general peace. These kings were known as [霸], or “hegemons.” The order of a hegemon rarely lasted past his death. Ancient Chinese thinkers often contrasted the fragile peace produced by the “way of the hegemon” with the imagined  “way of a true king,” which promised a peaceful order premised not on violence, but moral suasion. When 21st century Chinese proclaim that they  “oppose hegemonism” it is thus a specific style of leadership they reject–a style reminiscent of the illegitimate hegemons of Chinese antiquity.

Deng Xiaoping described the features of modern hegemonism in a blistering 1974 address to the United Nations. There he condemned the Soviet Union and the United States as 

the biggest international exploiters and oppressors of today... They both possess large numbers of nuclear weapons. They carry on a keenly contested arms race, station massive forces abroad and set up military bases everywhere, threatening the independence and security of all nations. They both keep subjecting other countries to their control, subversion, interference or aggression (Deng 1974).

Deng maintained that in response to this illegitimate exercise of hegemonic power, Chinese foreign policy would focus on “strengthening the unity of the developing countries, safeguarding their national economic rights and interests, and promoting the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and hegemonism” (Deng 1974). Though Chinese diplomats would take a less confrontational stance during the era of REFORM AND OPENING, Deng continued to describe  “opposing hegemonism” as a central plank of Chinese foreign policy for the rest of his life. 

Chinese propagandists are still preoccupied with the ills of American hegemonism. They often pair attacks on American belligerence with a vow that China will “never seek hegemony” [永远不称霸]. When uttering this phrase, Chinese officials and diplomats are not promising to abandon China’s ADVANCE TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE. Rather, they promise that China will rise without adopting the “hegemonic” means America has relied on (such as alliance blocs, nuclear coercion, or an expansive network of global military bases) to maintain its global position. 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARD THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; COMMUNITY OF COMMON DESTINY FOR MANKINDHOSTILE FORCES

Sources

Deng Xiaoping. 1974. “Speech By Chairman of the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Garver, John. 2018. China's Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People's Republic of China. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Kim, Sungmin. 2019. Theorizing Confucian Virtue Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Li Kwok-Sing. 1995. A Glossary of Political Terms of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press; Wang Yueqing, Qingang Bao, and Guoxing Guan. 2020. History of Chinese Philosophy Through Its Key Terms. New York: Springer.

Mentioned in
Hostile Forces
Díduì Shìlì
敌对势力

The first warnings about the dangers posed by “hostile forces” were issued in the Soviet Union of Lenin and Trotsky. The basic meaning of the term has shifted little over the subsequent century: then, as now, “hostile forces” refer to the constellation of individuals, organizations, and nations that communist party leaders believe are ideologically committed to overthrowing or subverting communist rule. The phrase does not distinguish enemies foreign and domestic; it is often used when party leaders or theorists wish to blur that distinction altogether. To label an unwelcome episode the product of ‘hostile forces’ is to insinuate that dissent and disorder within China is ultimately dependent on malicious actors outside of it.

The revolutionary leadership of the Soviet Union saw in the setbacks, reversals, and disasters that haunted their cause the malign hand of “hostile forces,” “hostile elements,” and “hostile classes.” A passage from Stalin's Short Course, an official primer on Soviet history avidly studied by Mao and his contemporaries as a textbook on socialist construction, provides an illustration of both the term itself and the mindset behind its employment:

Survivals of bourgeois ideas still remained in men’s minds and would continue to do so even though capitalism had been abolished in economic life. It should be borne in mind that the surrounding capitalist world, against which we had to keep our powder dry, was working to revive and foster these survivals….. [For example] the Party organizations had relaxed the struggle against local nationalism, and had allowed it to grow to such an extent that it had allied itself with hostile forces, the forces of intervention, and had become a danger to the state…. Comrade Stalin [thereupon] called upon the Party to be more active in ideological-political work, to systematically expose the ideology and the remnants of the ideology of the hostile classes and of the trends hostile to Leninism (Stalin 1939, emphasis added).

This bit of Stalinist rhetoric blends fear of foreign intervention, dissident ideology, and state weakness into one fearsome whole. In the late Mao era Chinese communists imported the term into their own lexicon, and have consistently used it to describe this same threatening trinity.  An editorial in the People’s Daily published shortly after the Tiananmen Square Massacre provides a characteristic example. It blames that incident on both “the [larger] international climate and the domestic climate” which allowed  “hostile forces at home and abroad” to “manufacture this storm [for the purpose of] overthrowing the leadership of the CPC, subverting the socialist system, and turning China into a vassal of the capitalist developed countries” (People’s Daily 1990).

Classifying social groups and foreign powers by their hostility to the communist cause is a rhetorically clever solution to an otherwise difficult set of problems. Most warnings about the threat posed by hostile forces do not explicitly identify the hostile actors in question. This fuzziness allows party propagandists to imply that internal opposition relies on external support without ever having to engage themselves in the messy business of proving which organizations, individuals, or social groups are linked to foreign powers, which foreign powers they are linked to, or how these links are maintained. Diplomatic crises are avoided in a similar fashion, with the Party exploiting the threat of hostile combinations to instill urgency in its cadres without needing to accuse any specific group of foreigners of wrongdoing.

This ambiguity has proved less sustainable in the age of Xi Jinping. As Sino-American relations have worsened, the phrase “hostile forces” is often reduced to a thinly veiled label for the United States and its allies. Yet foreign pressure has only exacerbated Xi's anxieties about China's internal cohesion. Over his tenure Xi Jinping has re-engineered the state security complex to make it more sensitive to and capable of resolving internal political shocks. This overhaul has been both costly and comprehensive. Guiding this transformation is Xi’s signature TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM, a set of ideas which places the threat posed by ideological and political threats to one-party rule on the same plane as national defense. One doctrinal summary of Xi's paradigm returns to the problem of hostile forces to justify such great effort:

Hostile forces inside and outside our borders have never abandoned their subversive intent to Westernize and divide our state. They do not rest, not even for a moment... This is a real and present danger to the security of our sovereign power. (Office of the Central National Security Commission 2022).

See also: HEGEMONISM; PEACEFUL EVOLUTION; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM

Sources

Stalin, Joseph. 1939. History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). New York: International Publishers; Office of the Central National Security Commission and Central Propaganda Department. 2022. The Total National Security Paradigm:A Study Outline. Beijing: Xuexi Chuban She;Johnson, Matthew. 2020. “Safeguarding Socialism: The Origins, Evolution and Expansion of China’s Total Security Paradigm,” Sinopsis. AcaMedia z.ú; Gruffydd-Jones, Jamie J. 2022. Hostile Forces: How theChinese Communist Party Resists International Pressure on Human Rights. Oxford:Oxford University Press; Chen, Stella. 2022. “Hostile Forces,” China Media Project; Chen, Stella. 2021. “Hostile Forces in the Digital Age,”China Media Project;4 June 1990. People’s Daily.

Mentioned in
Industrial Party
Gōngyè Dǎng
工业党

The Industrial Party is the self-chosen moniker of a Chinese internet subculture and intellectual scene devoted to debating and dissecting problems in engineering, economic development, and international relations. Public intellectuals associated with this subculture argue that technological progress is the sole measure of social progress or state legitimacy, as well as the most critical element in China’s geopolitical rivalry with the United States. Typically young men with backgrounds in science or engineering, Industrial Party commentators are articulate spokesmen for a distinctly Chinese techno-nationalism. Their voices are heard in almost all public discussions of Chinese industrial policy or Sino-American tech competition.

Contrary to its name, the Industrial Party is not an organized political party—the closest analogue on the American scene would be online communities like the “Dirtbag Left,” the “New Right,” or the “Rationalist Movement,” whose identities are anchored on the writings of intellectuals operating on the margins of power. The origins of this community lie in message boards of the mid aughts; there a young generation of technically minded Chinese gathered to discuss the technologies portrayed in science fiction novels, debate the finer details of Chinese industrial policy, and follow new developments in PLA weaponry. Like all internet communities, this one had distinctive cultural quirks. These included scrupulous attention to technical detail, exhaustive statistical summaries, and an unwavering commitment to logical, dispassionate analysis. These traits would still be hallmarks of Industrial Party commentary a decade later, when the best Industrial Policy voices were read not only in niche online forums, but across the Chinese public sphere.

There is no Industrial Party catechism. Commentators identified with the Industrial Party have included both communists and democrats, advocates of both market liberalization and advocates of stronger central planning. What unites the Industrial Party commentariat is the belief that alternatives like these are best thought of as technical questions, not moral ones. In their eyes appeals to morality and philosophy are just appeals to emotion by another name; beneath the subjective word games of political philosophy lies a world more solid and real—a world of material things that can be measured, calculated, and manipulated. The technological advances that allow human beings to engineer these objective physical realities for their own ends are the crowning achievements of the human race. They are the only objective measure of social progress that holds true regardless of culture or location and are the only proper purpose for government action.

The Industrial Party’s faith in technological glory is matched only by its fear of falling behind. To technology they credit the difference between weakness and strength, collapse and survival, imperialized and imperialist. Scientific discoveries may be made in the name of the species, but the practical benefits of new discoveries flow first to the nations who discover them. In the Industrial Party worldview, technological progress is inherently a national endeavor. Nations that fall behind will suffer. China experienced this first hand during its own CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION. Such humiliation, the Industrial Party insists, need not occur again. China’s ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE can be guaranteed—but only if China’s leaders care more for scientific research and industrial development than they do about less tangible political ideals.

 

See also: ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; CENTURY OF NATIONAL HUMILIATION; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; KEY CORE TECHNOLOGIES; WHITE LEFT.

Sources

King, Dylan Levi. 2021. “China’s Exit to Year Zero.” Palladium Magazine. April 9; Lu Nanfeng 卢南峰, Wu Qing 吴靖. 2018. “Lishi zhuanzhe zhong de hongda xushi: gongyedang wangluo sichao de zhengzhi fengxi 历史转折中的宏大叙事:’工业党’网络思潮的政治分析[Historical Transformation and Grand Narrative: A Political Analysis of the ‘Industrial Party,’ an Online Intellectual Trend],” Dongfang Xuefan 东方学刊 [Dongfang Journal]; Lu Nanfeng 卢南峰, Wu Qing 吴靖. 2019. “‘Gongyedang’ yu ‘xiaofenghong’ youshenme butong ‘工业党”’与’小粉红’有什么不同 [What is the Difference between the Industrial Party and the Little Pinkies].” Souhu 搜狐. 17 June; Ma, T.J. 2019. “Development Blogging: Understanding Social Media Support for BRI.” Panda Paw Dragon Claw. 10 February; Shi-Kupfer, Kristin, Mareike Ohlberg, Simon Lang, and Bertram Lang. 2017. “Ideas and Ideologies Competing For China’s Political Future.” Mercator Institute for China Studies. October.

Mentioned in
Initial Stage of Socialism
Shèhuì Zhǔyì Chūjí Jiēduàn
社会主义初级阶段

Since the 1980s the concept of the initial stage of socialism (also translated as the “primary stage of socialism”) has served as the theoretical foundation for the Communist Party of China’s embrace of market economics. The theory of the initial stage of socialism posits that the ideal socialist order—from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs—presumes a level of wealth that China simply does not have. China remains in the initial stage of socialist rule; in this stage the Communist Party of China must focus its work on creating the wealth that future generations will redistribute. The transition to that more “advanced” stage of socialism must wait until China’s productive capacity and COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL POWER has caught up with or surpassed that of the leading capitalist nations.

The origins of the slogan begin with an oversight: Karl Marx did not anticipate that communist revolutionaries would succeed in economically underdeveloped agrarian empires. He theorized revolution as the inevitable end point of industrialization and saw socialism as the culmination of capitalist development. Marx’s writings, therefore, offered little guidance to any revolutionary leader who seized control of a country that had not yet industrialized. The attempts these leaders made to modernize their countries sans private property, market mechanisms, and the other trappings of capitalism led to some of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies—China’s own Great Leap Forward chief among them.

Having experienced these tragedies firsthand, the men who led the Communist Party of China in the 1980s did not need to be convinced that the economic programs of Stalin and Mao were disasters. However, theirs was a negative consensus: there was no widespread agreement on what positive economic program China should follow. Deng Xiaoping’s reform program was therefore both experimental and provisional. It drew criticism from both the “left” and the “right.” Leftists opposed the ongoing reforms out of fear that they undermined party authority and threatened a wholesale retreat from Marxist principles. The rightists, on the other hand, thought that Deng’s reforms did not go far enough. They hoped that economic reform might evolve into a radical overhaul of not only the Chinese economy but also the Chinese political system. It was in the context of this debate that the market-friendly Zhao Ziyang proposed the theory of the initial stage of socialism.

Though close antecedents to the phrase can be found in party documents as far back as the 1950s, the concept was neither fully explored nor codified as part of the CPC’s guiding ideology until General Secretary Zhao Ziyang used it to justify the sweeping market reform package that he introduced at the 13th Congress in 1987. By that point the phrase “initial stage of socialism” had been used at least three times before in major policy documents of the preceding decade (the 1981 resolution on party history, Hu Yaobang’s Political Report to the 12th Congress, and the 1986 “Resolution on the Construction of a Socialist Spiritual Civilization”), though it was never presented in a systematic way in any of them. However, as party leaders had already endorsed these documents, the phrase “initial stage of socialism” was a useful vehicle for Zhao’s new program.

Zhao’s version of the initial stage of socialism was carefully designed to parry criticism from both the left and the right. To leftists, Zhao emphasized the importance of socialist rule over China. China was still socialist—it was just that in China’s present “historical stage” [历史阶段] low productive capacity was a fundamental “national condition” [国情] that any program of SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS could not ignore. “When a backward country is trying to build socialism,” Zhao explained, it is: 

natural that during the long initial period its productive forces will not be up to the level of those in developed capitalist countries and that it will not be able to eliminate poverty completely. Accordingly, in building socialism we must do all we can to develop the productive forces and gradually eliminate poverty, constantly raising the people’s living standards. Otherwise, how will socialism be able to triumph over capitalism?

In the second stage, or the advanced stage of communism, when the economy is highly developed and there is overwhelming material abundance, we shall be able to apply the principle of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ (Zhao 2009).

Yet even as Zhao’s commitment to communist rule placated the left, by promising that economic reform would remain at the center of the Party’s policy platform as long as the country remained in the initial stage of socialism Zhao also sought to ease the fears of the right. Zhao estimated that for China to enter an “advanced stage of communism” economic development must remain the focus of the Party for several generations—at least until the year 2050. This allowed Zhao to position himself in between extremes to both his left and right:  

Under the specific historical conditions of contemporary China, to believe that the Chinese people cannot take the socialist road without going through the stage of fully developed capitalism is to take a mechanistic position on the question of the development of revolution, and that is the major cognitive root of Right mistakes. On the other hand, to believe that it is possible to jump over the initial stage of socialism, in which the productive forces are to be highly developed, is to take a Utopian position on this question, and that is the major cognitive root of Left mistakes (Zhao 1987).

Zhao was able to continue this dance until the Tiananmen protests of 1989 led to his removal from power. His favored phrase initially seemed to fall with him, but in 1997 Jiang Zemin returned the slogan to the center of the Party’s policy program. In his Political Report to the 15th Congress Jiang used the initial stage of socialism as a cudgel to silence critics who wished to walk back Dengist reforms. In a long section of the Report devoted to the concept, Jiang affirmed that “the true reality is that China is currently in the initial stage of socialism and will remain in this stage for a long time to come…. This is a historical stage we cannot jump over.” In this stage China will “accomplish industrialization,” “realize socialist modernization by and large,” “gradually narrow the gap between our level and the advanced world standard,” and “bring about a GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION on the basis of socialism.” 

Taking the founding of the PRC in 1949 as the starting point of the initial stage of socialism, Jiang estimated that China “will take at least a century to complete this historical process.” He predicted that following 2050 “a much longer period of time to consolidate and develop the socialist system” will be needed. Attaining communism in this period “will require persistent struggle by many generations, a dozen or even several dozen” (Jiang 1997).

Like his predecessors, Xi Jinping has emphasized both that China remains in the initial stage of socialism and that cadres must have faith that communism will eventually be realized in the distant future. But where Zhao, Jiang, and other leaders of the reform generation closely tied their invocations of the initial stage to their judgment that they must make “economic development the central task of the entire Party and the whole country… and make sure that all other work is subordinated to and serves this task” (Jiang 1997), Xi has used the phrase to support party work on a larger set of priorities.

“We have laid a solid material foundation to embark on a new journey and achieve new and higher goals by our unremitting endeavors since the founding of the NEW CHINA, especially over the four decades since the reform and opening up,” Xi instructed members of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE in 2021. This “new journey” is possible because in Xi’s view the initial stage of socialism is “not static, but rather dynamic, active, promising, and permeated with vigorous vitality.” The task the CPC faces now is not merely to develop China’s productive forces, but to “advance from the initial stage [of socialism] to a higher one” (Xinhua 2021). 

Xi describes this higher stage of socialism in terms of modernization and rejuvenation. If the first two decades of development under the “initial stage of socialism” schema made China wealthy, Xi Jinping believes that development during the last three decades of the initial stage of socialism will restore China to its proper place at the CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE.

See also: DENG XIAOPING THEORY; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; MODERATELY PROSPEROUS SOCIETY; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS; REFORM AND OPENING; SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS.

Sources

Baum, Richard. 1996. Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Deng Xiaoping. 1994. “Two Features of the Thirteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” In Volume III: 1982-1992, Vol 3 of Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Fewsmith, Joseph. 2008. China Since Tiananmen: From Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Gerwitz, Julian. 2021. Never Turn Back: China and the Forbidden History of the 1980s. Cambridge: Belknap Press. Jiang Zemin. 1997. “Hold High the Great Banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory for an All-round Advancement of the Cause of Building Socialism With Chinese Characteristics’ Into the 21st Century.” Beijing Review; Xinhua. 2021. “Xi Focus: Xi stresses good start for fully building modern socialist China.”; Zhao Ziyang. 1987. “Advance Along the Road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” Beijing Review 30; Zhao Ziyang. 2009. Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, trans. Adi Ignatius and Bao Pu. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Mentioned in
Key Core Technologies
Guānjiàn Héxīn Jìshù
关键核心技术

In official party terminology, the term “key core technologies” refers to all existing or emerging technologies that promise critical strategic advantages to nations that control their production, distribution, or use. The phrase is used most often when Party leaders and state planning documents discuss technologies that Chinese firms lack the ability to manufacture, or that they can only manufacture by relying on foreign suppliers for parts or expertise. The term is intended as a call to action. When a Chinese leader identifies a specific field or product as a “key core technology” he is urging cadres, scientists, and industrialists to build the academic, financial, industrial, or legal infrastructure China needs to engineer this technology with Chinese resources alone.

The phrase key core technologies first appeared in mid-2010s, but its antecedents predate Xi Jinping. Economic planning and science policy documents produced by the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government in the early 2000s reference “core technologies in key areas” [关键领域核心技术]. The “National Medium and Long-term Science and Technology Development Plan Outline,” a communique published by the State Council in 2006, provides a typical example. The communique argues that “in key areas related to the lifeline of the national economy and national security, real core technologies cannot be bought.” (State Council 2006). The communique presents the indigenous development of these “core technologies” as a prerequisite for sovereign control of Chinese economic development. To secure Chinese economic growth on the long run, the communique directs officials to build a National Innovation System [国家创新体系] focused on achieving Chinese self-sufficiency in eleven “important fields and priority topics,” eight “cutting-edge fields,” and four “fields of basic research,” including renewable energy, materials science, and protein research.

These documents largely operate in a market-friendly frame. The core technologies in key fields were presented as essential to the modernization of the Chinese economy. Chinese firms would learn to engineer these technologies not by isolating themselves from the global economy, but by integrating with it. This reflected the consensus of the times: China faced a rare PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY where foreign capital and know-how could safely serve the REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION

This consensus eroded in the 2010s. Over this decade Chinese science and technology policy became more ambitious, more security-oriented, and more state-directed. These changes are reflected in the highest level guidance offered by Xi Jinping. Indigenous innovation is a central component of his NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT [新发展理念], a framework for reorienting Chinese economic planning towards what Xi Jinping calls “high quality development.” During the reform era Chinese economic growth was largely driven by investments in fixed assets and cheap foreign exports. Xi’s New Development Concept, in contrast, calls for a growth model anchored in high end manufacturing at the edge of the technological frontier. 

Under the aegis of the NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT the phrase “key core technologies” entered top-level economic planning documents. The State Council published an “Innovation-Driven Development Strategy Outline” in 2016 which highlighted China’s inability to produce several key core technologies: 

We must also note that certain industries in our country are still at the mid- and low-end of the global value chain, and certain key core technologies are under others’ control. Developed countries still have a clear lead in [advancing] the scientific frontier and high-tech fields (State Council 2016, emphasis added).

To mitigate China’s relative weakness in the global value chain, the outline proposes a three-stage plan: first, the Chinese state must construct a functioning national innovation system and a MODERATELY PROSPEROUS SOCIETY by 2020; then, it must achieve a leading position in the global science and technology ecosystem by 2030; finally, it must become a “strong techno-scientific power” and achieve NATIONAL REJUVENATION by 2050. 

The outline provides specific directions for which fields of technology must see progress, and by which dates progress must be made. The list is a useful portrait of what sort of technologies are considered “key” and “core.” By 2020, the outline instructs, the Chinese party-state must construct national research-industrial complexes for:  

  • High-end general-purpose chips
  • High-end CNC machine tools
  • Integrated circuit equipment
  • Broadband mobile communications
  • Oil and gas field technology
  • Nuclear power
  • Water pollution control
  • Genetically modified crops
  • New pharmaceutical drugs
  • Infectious disease prevention and control.

By 2030 the same should be accomplished for:

  • Aero-engine and gas turbines
  • Quantum communications
  • Novel information network technology
  • Intelligent manufacturing and robotics
  • Deep space and deep-sea exploration
  • Materials science 
  • Emerging energy sources
  • Brain science
  • Medical systems and care (State Council 2016). 

While many of these technologies have military applications, the drive to establish “technological self-sufficiency and self-empowerment” [科技自立自强] in these fields has more to do with economic security than military power. Dependence on foreign technology meant that China’s future economic growth might be held hostage by HOSTILE FORCES outside of China. These fears were soon vindicated by American export controls. Beijing could no longer trust that it would have access to key technologies on the global marketplace. If China was to successfully construct a NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN that relied on Chinese resources to power Chinese growth, then China must possess the ability to produce cutting edge innovations independent of the West. “Breakthroughs in key core technologies,” Xi Jinping concluded in 2020, are a “significant question” in the success or failure of “our state’s development pattern and the key to forming [a development pattern] with our domestic large-scale cycle [of goods and services] as the mainstay [of our economy]” (People’s Daily 2020). 

Assessing the progress of this program is difficult. After the key core technologies schema was codified in the Fourteenth Five Year Plan in 2020, China’s central government ministries and provincial governments began publishing lists of research complexes and megaprojects that they have funded to accelerate technological self-sufficiency. Economists who have studied these lists note that funding is concentrated in sectors where Chinese firms currently have competitive advantages or where there are reasonable prospects of developing such an advantage on the short term. In other words, investment is being channeled technologies that where Chinese firms have the potential to leap-frog over current market leaders, allowing China to pass developed nations “on the curve” [弯道超车] (Naughton et al 2023). However, these efforts are tied to benchmarks that lie many years in the future. Their success or failure may not be apparent for years to come.     

See also:  NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN; NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT; ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; NEW ROUND OF TECHNO-SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION AND INDUSTRIAL TRANSFORMATION

Sources

Campbell, Joel R. (2013). “Becoming a Techno-Industrial Power: Chinese Science and Technology Policy.” Brookings. Issues in Technology Innovation No. 23. April; Huang Ruihan and Joshua Henderson. “The Return of The Technocrats in Chinese Politics.” Macro Polo. May 3.; Huang Ruihan and AJ Cortese. 2023. “Nanometers over GDP: Can Technocrat Leaders Improve China’s Industrial Policy?” Macro Polo. May 23;Jiang Zemin 江泽民. 1999. “Zai Quanguo Jishu Chuangxing Dahui Shang de Jianghua 在全国技术创新大会上的讲话 [Speech at the National Technology Innovation Conference].” Reformdata.org. August 23; Naughton, Barry, Xiao Siwen, and Xu Yaosheng. 2023. “The Trajectory of China’s Industrial Policies.” UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. June; People’s Daily. 2020. “Zhangwo Fazhan Zhudongquan Dahao Guanjian Hexin Jishu Gonghianzhan 掌握发展主动权 打好关键核心技术攻坚战 [Seize the Initiative in Development and Fight the Battle for Key Core Technologies.” Xinhua Wang 新华网 [Xinhua Web News] November 23; People’s Daily. 2022. “Jianquan Guojian Hesin Jishu Gongguan Xingxin Juguo Tizhi 健全关键核心技术攻关新型举国体制 [Improve the New Whole-Nation System for Tackling Key Core Technologies].” September 7; State Council. 2006. “Guojia Zhongchangqi Kexue he Jishu Fazhan Guihua Gangyao 国家中长期科学和技术发展规划纲要(2006—2020年)National Medium and Long-term Science and Technology Development Plan Outline (2006-2020).” State Council Communique No 9; State Council. 2012. “Zhonggong Zhongyang Guowuyuan Guanyu Shenhua Keji Tizhi Gaige Jiakuai Guojia Chuangxin Tixi Jianshe de Yìjian 中共中央国务院关于深化科技体制改革加快国家创新体系建设的意见 [Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council Opinions on Reforming the Science and Technology System and Accelerating the Construction of the National Innovation System].” Gov.cn. September 23; State Council. 2016. “Guojia Chuangxin Qudong Fazhan Zhanlue Gangyao 国家创新驱动发展战略纲要 [National Innovation-Driven Development Strategy Outline].” Xinhua She 新华社 [Xinhua News]. May 19; Xinhua News Agency. March 2021. “Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035.” Translated by Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

Mentioned in
Leadership Core
Lǐngdǎo Héxīn
领导核心

In Leninist political systems the authority of a party leader does not always align with his formal position in a communist party's hierarchy. Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping exercised immense power despite retiring from all official leadership positions; in contrast, the authority of men like Zhao Ziyang and Hu Jintao was tightly circumscribed despite their selection as General Secretary. The concept of the “leadership core” provides one way for party members to recognize the exceptional standing of a paramount leader without reference to his formal position in the Party. Under this schema, a leader of unusual historical significance will be labeled the “core” [核心] of his leadership cohort.

Xi Jinping is the acknowledged core of the Party today. He was not always honored with this title: it was not until the 6th PLENUM of the 18th CENTRAL COMMITTEE—some four years into Xi’s tenure as formal leader of the Communist Party of China—that state media described Xi Jinping as the core leader of his era.

A speech given by Xi Jinping in early 2013 provides a typical example of the way this title is employed in communist rhetoric. In a ceremony commemorating Hu Jintao’s leadership of the Party, Xi Jinping told the representatives at the People’s Congress that 

Under the leadership of the Party’s first generation of collective leadership with Comrade Mao Zedong as the core, the Party’s second generation of collective leadership with Comrade Deng Xiaoping as the core, the Party’s third generation of collective leadership with Comrade Jiang Zemin as the core, and the Party’s Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as the General Secretary, people of all ethnic groups in the country have worked together, persevered, and overcome various difficulties and obstacles on the path of progress. (Xi 2013)

As this passage makes clear, not all leaders deserve “core” status. The modest achievements and limited power of Hu Jintao vis a vis other leading party members of his era denies Hu this honor. Hu’s historical role only merits the mention of his formal party title, that of “General Secretary.”  

The origins of the “core” designation are found in the early years of the Deng era. Mao was never referred to as the “core” of a collective leadership cohort during his tenure. He preferred titles—such as the “People’s Leader” [人民领袖]—that elevated him far above other members of the revolutionary generation, and which justified the concentration of power in his own hands. For Deng Xiaoping, this was one of the central errors of the late Mao era. As with many other leading cadres, Deng attributed his suffering during the Cultural Revolution to Mao’s incontestable authority. These men hoped that “collective leadership” [集体领导] might preserve the Party from similar disasters in the future. “The overconcentration of power,” Deng said in 1980, “hinders the practice of socialist democracy and of the Party’s democratic centralism, impedes the progress of socialist construction and prevents us from taking full advantage of collective wisdom” (Deng 1980). 

Formalizing mechanisms for collective leadership and instituting “intra-party democracy” [党内民主] was thus a key priority of Deng’s early reform agenda. The 12th Party Congress of 1982 abolished the post of Chairman of the Central Committee, a position that many deemed too powerful. Instead the Party would be formally led by a General Secretary with a ten-year term limit.  Other reforms intended to constrain and distribute political power across the Party included new mandatory retirement ages, the regular holding of party congresses, and the staggered filling of the POLITBURO seats every five years.

Yet Deng’s attempt to institutionalize the CPC power structure was fatally undermined by his own style of leadership. In the 1980s Deng twice identified potential successors and elevated them to the position of General Secretary. Despite their formal authority, the actual power of these chosen heirs was limited. Anytime a contentious issue divided the Party, Deng’s intervention was necessary for a solution to be implemented. On two occasions this solution included the removal of an uncooperative General Secretary from office. Events like these repeatedly offered Deng Xiaoping a choice between procedural integrity and political victory. Deng consistently chose the latter. Aligning policy and personnel with his own preferences behind the scenes weakened the formal institutions, procedures, and norms he hoped would eventually govern the Party in his place. 

It was in this context that the concept of the leadership core was introduced to the Party. Deng Xiaoping neither possessed nor aspired to absolute power: his influence flowed from his indispensability. Loyalty to Deng was the one nexus point holding the various factions of the Party together. Thus Deng concluded that “for the second generation of leaders, I can be considered the core, but the group is still a collective” (Deng 1989a).

In 1989, Deng began working to pass this status on to a new successor. Four days before the denouement of the Tiananmen demonstrations, Deng negotiated with Chen Yun and other party elders of his generation to choose the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Jiang Zemin was their choice. Soon after, Deng further argued that Jiang must be treated as the future “core” of the party’s collective leadership. “A collective leadership must have a core; without a core, no leadership can be strong enough,” said Deng.

The core of our first generation of collective leadership was Chairman Mao. Because of that core, the “cultural revolution” did not bring the Communist Party down. Actually, I am the core of the second generation. Because of this core, even though we changed two of our leaders, the Party’s exercise of leadership was not affected but always remained stable. The third generation of collective leadership must have a core too; all you comrades present here should be keenly aware of that necessity and act accordingly. You should make an effort to maintain the core — Comrade Jiang Zemin, as you have agreed. From the very first day it starts to work, the new Standing Committee should make a point of establishing and maintaining this collective leadership and its core (Deng 1989b). 

Though Jiang Zemin would govern under the shadow of Deng Xiaoping for another five years, the slow passing of the revolutionary generation gave Jiang the opportunity to fill critical party positions with his own people. Jiang’s consolidation of power proved enduring. By the time Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao, rose to the position of CPC General Secretary in November 2002, both the POLITBURO and the CENTRAL COMMITTEE were stocked with Jiang’s men. Jiang himself would stay on as Chairman of the Central Military Commission for several years into Hu’s term. No one was under the illusion that Hu Jintao was the “core” of anything. Instead, his role in the collective leadership was usually described with the phrase “the Party CENTER with Comrade Hu Jintao as General Secretary” [以胡锦涛同志为总书记的党中央]. 

Xi Jinping successfully centralized power in a fashion Hu Jintao never managed. Through bureaucratic restructuring and a colossal anti-corruption drive that removed hundreds of thousands of Party members from the rolls, Xi remade the Communist Party in his own image. He used this power to rollback Deng era norms of collective leadership. Just one year after Xi obtained official recognition as the “core,” the Party abolished the term limit of the General Secretary. At the conclusion of the Party Congress where this occurred, Cai Qi–a Xi loyalist who would soon be elevated to the PBSC–referred to Xi Jinping as the Leader, or lingxiu [领袖], of the Party. Up to this point this grandiose title had only ever been applied to Mao Zedong and his designated successor, Hua Guofeng. Cai maintained that:

In the past five years, historic changes have taken place in the cause of the Party and the state, all of which stem from the fact that General Secretary Xi Jinping, the strong leadership core, is the helmsman [掌舵] of the whole Party. General Secretary Xi Jinping is worthy of being a wise leader [英明领袖], the chief architect of reform, opening up and modernization in the New Era, and the core of this generation of the Party. At all times and in all circumstances, we must resolutely safeguard the authority and centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core. (Cai 2017).   

Thus the valence of the term “core” has shifted as the norms of the Deng era have eroded away. If in the Reform era the “core” designation signaled a break from the Maoist past, associating Deng’s pre-eminence with the more restrained language of intra-party democracy, in Xi’s NEW ERA the phrase is deployed in the same breath as titles once reserved for Mao himself, such as “helmsman” and "Leader.” Three decades after its introduction the concept of the leadership core lives on. The associated ideals of collective leadership do not. 

Sources

Cai Qi. 2017. “Běijīng shìwěi shūjì càiqí: Zhǐmíng zhōnghuá mínzú wěidà fùxīng qiánjìn fāngxiàng 北京市委书记蔡奇:指明中华民族伟大复兴前进方向 [Cai Qi, Secretary of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee: Point out the direction for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation].” People’s Daily; Chen, Stella. 13 June 2022. “Core.” The CMP Dictionary. China Media Project; CPC News. 9 November 1989. “Dì shísān jiè zhōngyāng wěiyuánhuì dì wǔ cì quántǐ huìyì gōngbào 第十三届中央委员会第五次全体会议公报 [Communiqué of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Thirteenth Central Committee].” CPC Archives; Deng Xiaping. 1980. “On the Reform of the System of Party and State Leadership.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Marxist Online Archives; Deng Xiaping. 1989a. “We Must Form A Promising Collective Leadership That Will Carry Out Reform.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Marxist Online Archives; Deng Xiaping. 1989b. “Urgent Tasks of China’s Third Generation of Collective Leadership.” Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Marxist Online Archives; Fewsmith, Joseph. 2021. Rethinking Chinese Politics. London: Cambridge University Press. He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge. p 280; Heilmann, Sebastian. 2017. China’s Political System. Mercator Institute for China Studies. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield; Mao Zedong. 1948. “On Strengthening the Party Committee System.” Marxist Online Archives; People’s Daily. 2016. “Zhōnggòng shíbā jiè liù zhōng quánhuì zàijīng jǔxíng 中共十八届六中全会在京举行 [The Sixth Plenary Session of the Eighteenth CPC Central Committee Was Held in Beijing]”; ​​Shirk, Susan. 2018. China in Xi’s “New Era”: The Return to Personalistic Rule. Journal of Democracy, 29(2), 22-36; Wilson Center Digital Archive. 25 February 1956. “Khrushchev's Secret Speech, ‘On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences,’ Delivered at the Twentieth Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” From the Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 84th Congress, 2nd Session (May 22, 1956-June 11, 1956), C11, Part 7 (June 4, 1956), pp. 9389-9403; Wilson Center Digital Archive. 27 June 1981. “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.” Translation from the Beijing Review 24, no. 27 (July 6, 1981): 10-39; Xi Jinping. 2013. “Xiàng hújǐntāo tóngzhì biǎoshì zhōngxīn de gǎnxiè hé chónggāo de jìngyì 向胡锦涛同志表示衷心的感谢和崇高的敬意 [Expressing heartfelt gratitude and profound respect to Comrade Hu Jintao].” Xinhua.

Mentioned in
No items found.
Making a Greater Contribution to Mankind
Rénlèi Zuòchū Gèng Dà Gòngxiàn
人类作出更大贡献

See ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE

Sources

Mentioned in
No items found.
Moderately Prosperous Society
Xiǎokāng Shèhuì
小康社会

In 1979, leaders of the People’s Republic of China began describing the creation of a “moderately prosperous society” as a unifying aim of all work done by the Communist Party of China. Alternatively translated as a “well-off society,” the term’s origins lie in a classical Confucian phrase for a prospering social order that nevertheless falls short of utopian ideals. Reformers elevated the term to orthodoxy both to signal that the Maoist struggle for utopia was over and that party work should henceforth be focused on the more practical needs of normal economic development. For several decades party leaders identified the year 2021—the centennial of the CPC’s founding—as the date on which China would secure its status as a moderately prosperous society. When in 2021 Chinese officials duly declared that China had in fact become moderately prosperous, they were not only celebrating the economic successes of the previous three decades but justifying the Party’s transition away from a narrow focus on economic growth to a broader pursuit of NATIONAL REJUVENATION on all fronts. 

The idea of “moderate prosperity,” or xiǎokāng [小康], dates back to the Book of Rites, one of the canonical texts of the Confucian tradition. There Confucius described a past golden age where “the world was shared by all alike. The worthy and the able were promoted to office and men practiced good faith and lived in affection. Therefore they did not regard as parents only their own parents, or as sons only their own sons” (Chen 2011). Confucius called this utopic past dàtóng [大同] , or “the Great Unity.” He contrasted this with the xiǎokāng societies founded by worthy rulers of his own day, which despite being well-ordered, governed by ritual, and relatively wealthy did not attain the harmony and moral excellence of the distant past. 

Exposure to Western thought prompted Chinese intellectuals to reimagine these Confucian ideals for modern conditions. Both the late Qing reformer Kang Youwei (1858-1927) and his political opponent, the aspiring democrat Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), endorsed dàtóng as the ultimate goal of their political programs (Kang redefined “moderate prosperity” as a social stage that would immediately precede dàtóng). Mao Zedong equated dàtóng with the promise of communism, arguing that his revolution would create the “conditions where classes, state power and political parties will die out very naturally.” Mao predicted that once the proletariat’s internal class enemies had been defeated “China can develop steadily, under the leadership of the working class and the Communist Party, from an agricultural into an industrial country, and from a new-democratic into a socialist and communist society, [and then] can abolish classes and realize dàtóng” (Mao 1949). 

It is against this backdrop that Deng Xiaoping revived the idea of “moderate prosperity” as an achievable alternative to utopia. In a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira, Deng explained that “moderate prosperity” was the CPC’s mid-term goal for the modernization of China. “Even if we reach [moderate prosperity],” he confessed, “we will still be a backward nation compared to Western countries. However, at that point China will be a country with comparative prosperity and our people will enjoy a much higher standard of living than they do now” (Deng 1979). For party apparatchiks used to the grandiose plans of the Mao era, the new slogan was a remarkably honest assessment of China’s national conditions and served as a realistic goal for national development. Deng even pegged his version of moderate prosperity to a specific dollar amount: China would be a moderately prosperous society when it had per capita gross national income (GNI) of $800 to $1,000 USD.

The economic boom years forced a reassessment of the phrase’s meaning. Though China’s GNI per capita reached $800 in 1998, stark disparity between urban and rural economic had emerged and many regions of China remained in extreme poverty. It was evident that Deng’s index was insufficient to capture the full scope of what a moderately prosperous society would look like. As Jiang Zemin remarked, “The moderately prosperous life we are leading is still at a low level, it is not all-inclusive and is very uneven” (Jiang 2002). In 1997, he expanded the concept to encompass a more holistic set of goals: GDP growth, rural development, improved living standards, the implementation of a social security system, the strengthening of governing institutions and education, poverty alleviation, and protection of the environment. Jiang codified these goals with the new slogan “comprehensively [全面] building a moderately prosperous society.” Jiang further stated that this all around version of the moderately prosperous society would be achieved by 2020.   

Xi Jinping endorsed “comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society” as key to his own domestic platform, codifying it as the first item in a quartet of policy aims known as the FOUR COMPREHENSIVES. He often articulated this goal as a battle to eradicate extreme poverty. In Xi’s words, "it is a solemn promise made by our party to ensure that poor people and poor areas will enter a moderately prosperous society together with the rest of the country“ (State Council Information Office 2021). 

In early 2021, the Communist Party of China declared that this promise had been fulfilled. The battle was over: extreme poverty had been officially eradicated from China, and moderate prosperity has been officially extended throughout the country. A host of critics pounced on these pronouncements, pointing to gaps between official rhetoric and ground realities in China’s poorest regions. Yet declaring the mission accomplished was less about self-congratulations on the part of party leaders than an urgent sense the Party needed to reorient itself around a new set of goals. REFORM AND OPENING had made China rich: now it was time for China to become strong. Accordingly, the first item of the Four Comprehensives was changed from “comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society" to "comprehensively building a modern socialist country [全面建设社会主义现代化国家]."

See also: DENG XIAOPING THEORY; FOUR COMPREHENSIVES; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS; PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT ARE THE THEMES OF THE TIMES; PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY; REFORM AND OPENING.

Sources

2002. “Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress.” China.org.cn; Bandurski, David. 2022. “Four Comprehensives.” China Media Project; Chen, Albert H. Y. 2011. “The Concept of ‘Datong’ in Chinese Philosophy as an Expression of the Idea of the Common Good.” University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper, No. 2011/020; Delury, John. 2008. “‘Harmonious’ In China: The Ancient Sources of Modern Doctrine.” Hoover Institution; Deng Xiaoping. 1979. “China’s Goal is to Achieve Comparative Prosperity by the End of the Century.” Marxist Online Archives; He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge; Mao Zedong. “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship 30 June 1949.” Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung: Vol. IV; Smith, Craig. 2019. “Datong and Xiaokang.” In Afterlives of Chinese Communism, ed. Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere. Australia: ANU Press and Verso Books; The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China. 2021. “Poverty Alleviation: China’s Experience and Contribution.” Xinhua; Yang Shengqun. 2017. “From Initiating the Target of Moderate Prosperity to Completing the Building of a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects.” Contemporary Social Science 3: 12-18.

Mentioned in
No items found.
New Development Concept
Xīn Fāzhǎn Lǐniàn
新发展理念

Xi Jinping introduced the New Development Concept, alternatively translated as the New Development Philosophy, to guide China’s development strategy in an age of declining growth rates. Presented shortly before the Thirteenth Five Year Plan in 2015, the express aim of the New Development Concept is to reorient Chinese economic planning away from narrow GDP growth targets and towards what Xi Jinping calls “high quality development” [高质量发展].  From a macroeconomic perspective, the New Development Concept aims to boost China’s economic growth on the long run by addressing the structural challenges inherent in China’s development model; from a social perspective, it aims to temper popular discontent with pollution, inequality, and other negative byproducts of growth pursued at all costs; and from a geopolitical perspective, it aims to transform China into the global leader in science and technology, paving China’s ADVANCE TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE.

The roots of the problem set tackled by the New Development Concept stretch back to the early Reform Era. Shortly after the death of Mao Zedong many party leaders concluded that economic growth was the key to restoring China’s national strength, the Party’s international standing, and the loyalty of the Chinese people. After more than a decade of experimentation proved the value of this logic, General Secretary Jiang Zemin would codify it as the Party’s “basic line” during the “INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM,” declaring in his 1997 Political Report to the 15th National Congress that “We have no choice but to make economic construction the central task of the entire Party and the whole country. All other work is subordinated to and serves this task.... The key to the solution of all of China's problems lies in our own development” (Jiang 1997). For two generations the entire machinery of the Chinese party-state served the demands of this mantra. 

The results of the Party’s unfaltering pursuit of development were extraordinary: the living standard of the average Chinese person increased by twenty-six times in real terms during the four decades between 1978 and 2018, while China’s share of the global economy climbed from 2 percent to 16 percent over the same period (Yao 2020). The main drivers of the fantastic growth of this era were government investment in fixed capital assets and strong foreign demand for cheap Chinese goods. This meant that despite its undeniable achievements, the growth model of the Reform Era came with a prepackaged expiration date. Chinese economists long predicted that climbing Chinese wages would eventually price China out of many export markets. They also understood that there are limits to the number of roads, sewers, skyscrapers, and railways any country—even a country as large as China—can build before additional capital investments provide diminishing returns. It was only a matter of time before China would be forced to either adopt a new growth model or accept economic stagnation.

The Great Recession marked this transition point: the financial crisis lowered global demand for Chinese goods, forcing the Chinese state to power through the emergency with a massive stimulus spending spree. This spending package saved China from recession at the cost of stagnating returns on capital investments and a sharp accumulation of debt on local government balance sheets. To make matters worse, a shrinking surplus labor pool pushed up production costs in China, making Chinese goods less competitive in the global market just as global demand began to recover. Henceforth the Chinese economy would require new sources of growth if China was to attain the long-term development goals that party leaders had set for it.

The CENTER understood these problems well. In 2013, Xi cataloged a series of problems facing China’s development in the Third PLENUM of the 18th CENTRAL COMMITTEE

Unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable development remains a big problem. We are weak in scientific and technological innovation. The industrial structure is unbalanced and the growth mode remains inefficient. The development gap between urban and rural areas and between regions is still large, and so are income disparities (Xi 2014, p. 78).

The key to surmounting these challenges, Xi maintained, was widespread recognition that the Chinese economy had entered a “new normal” [新常态]. The halcyon days where Chinese economic planners could rely on high-speed growth were over; medium-high speed growth must be the new norm. This would require China to adjust its economic strategy. At the Central Conference on Economic Work in 2014, Xi warned cadres that in this new environment “economic restructuring will be painful but is unavoidable.” He assured cadres that restructuring would mark the beginning of a what he called a New Development Stage [新发展阶段] where China would transition to “to a [development] model that is more advanced, better structured, and with a more complicated division of labor” (Xi 2017, p. 255). 

The New Development Concept was introduced to guide development planning in this new stage. Presented in 2015 in tandem with the Thirteenth Five Year Plan, the concept directs cadres to prioritize five qualitative outcomes over quantitative measures of growth: economic development must be innovative [创新], coordinated [协调], green [绿色], open [开放], and shared [共享].  Scientific and technological innovation lay at the center of this new development approach. The New Development Concept presumes that the global economy sits on the cusp of a technological revolution. Whichever nation invents, introduces, and controls these emerging technologies will determine the course of global economic development in the decades to come. However, “inadequate capacity for innovation is [China’s] Achilles’ heel,” Xi remarked during a study session of the Thirteenth Five Year Plan. “Innovation-driven growth has become the pressing demand for China’s development. Therefore, I stress repeatedly that innovation is development; innovation is the future” (Xi 2017, p. 223). In response to this call the PRC rolled out multiple techno-industrial policies—the most famous being “Made in China 2025”— between 2015 and 2017. All attempted to push the industrial foundations of the Chinese economy up the global value chain.  

Parallel to this push towards the technological frontier was a drive to cut away unproductive parts of the existing industrial base. The stimulus package that powered China through the Great Recession also saddled the Chinese economy with wasteful overcapacity in state-run industries like steel and coal. Reforming the Chinese growth model meant taking the axe to these industries—and stomaching the costs of a short-term GDP slowdown to do so. The Center signaled its willingness to stomach those costs in a 2016 series of People’s Daily articles penned by an “authoritative personage” (rumored to be Liu He, then head of the highest economic policymaking body, the Central Economic and Financial Leading Group) outlining the “supply side reforms” [供给侧改革] required by the New Development Concept. 

In reference to the growing debts incurred by local governments and state owned enterprises, the People’s Daily wrote that “a tree cannot grow to the sky; high leverage carries high risks.” The old growth playbook no longer worked: “economic stabilization relies on the old method, which is investment-driven, and fiscal pressure in some areas has added to possibilities of economic risks” (Wright 2023). To reduce these risks the State Council passed a series of measures for supply-side structural reform. The primary target of these reforms were so-called “zombie enterprises,” state-owned enterprises that were not generating enough profits. Parallel measures sought to reduce financial risks posed by a poorly regulated banking sector and crackdown on industries responsible for large-scale industrial pollution.

Up until 2018 or so, the New Development Concept could be understood primarily in these terms. The concept would guide China towards a growth model driven less by state investment in infrastructure and more by domestic demand for Chinese goods. It would do this through an industrial policy tailored to support Chinese firms working on the technological frontier while slowly diminishing the role that unproductive sectors of the economy, which relied on lax regulation or expensive state subsidies to survive, played in China’s future development. However, under the pressure of a grueling trade war, the threat of foreign export controls, and a global pandemic, both the stated aims and means of the New Development Concept began to shift. Party leaders began framing the New Development Concept in terms of China’s “economic security” [经济安全]. Security concepts previously associated with the TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM began to be deployed alongside those associated with the New Development Concept. The Central Committee officially endorsed this marriage of Chinese economic and security strategy in the 5th plenum of the 19th Party Congress. The plenum readout declared that “the integrated planning of development and security” [统筹发展和安全] should henceforth be recognized as a core tenet of development planning (Central Committee 2021). Today it is common for party leaders to not only call for innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development, but “secure” development as well.

Now the stated aim of the New Development Concept is to guide the Chinese economy towards what Xi Jinping has dubbed a NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN. This is a schema of self-sufficiency: if successful, the Party leadership will rely on domestic consumers to power the Chinese economy and on a homegrown scientific-industrial complex to power China’s technological advance. This will prevent Chinese development from being held hostage by HOSTILE FORCES. These goals are not too far afield from the original aims of the New Development Concept—what has changed is less the ultimate aims of Xi’s development program than the urgency with which the Party must pursue it. What was once a strategy for making China wealthier, more equal, and less polluted is now described to cadres as a strategy that will “decide our state’s capacity for survival” (Office of the Central National Security Commission 2022). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; NEW DEVELOPMENT PATTERN; SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM;

Sources

Central Committee. 2021. “Communiqué of the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.” China Aerospace Studies Institute; DiPippo, Gerard. 2023. “Chinese Economy After COVID-19.” China Leadership Monitor; Kroeber, Arthur. 2016. China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press; Naughton, Barry, Siwen Xiao, and Yaosheng Xu. June 2023. “The Trajectory of China’s Industrial Policies.” IGCC Working Paper. University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Naughton, Barry. 2018. The Chinese Economy: Adoption and Growth. Second Ed. The MIT Press; Naughton, Barry. January 2023. “The CCP Inc. The Reshaping of China’s State Capitalist System.” CSIS; Office of the Central National Security Commission and Central Propaganda Department. April 2022. Translated by the Center for Strategic Translation.“Chapter Five: Uphold the Integrated Planning of Development and Security: On the Necessary Requirements of National Security in the New Era.” In The Total National Security Paradigm: A Study Guide. Beijing: Xuexi Chuban She 学习出版社 [Study Xi Press] and Renmin Chuban She 人民出版社 [People Press], 47-5; Rudd, Kevin. 2023. “China’s Competing Ideological and Economic Policy Objectives in 2023.” Asia Society Policy Institute; Wang, Howard. 2022. “Security is the Prerequisite for Development: Consensus Building Toward a new Top Priority in the Chinese Communist Party.” Journal of Contemporary China; Wright, Logan. April 2023. “Grasping Shadows: The Politics of China’s Deleveraging Campaign.” CSIS; Wuttke, Jörg. 2017. “The Dark Side of China's Economic Rise.” Global Policy 8 (4): 62-70; Xi Jinping. 2014. Governance of China Vol 1. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2017. Governance of China Vol 2. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2020. Governance of China Vol 3. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2022. Governance of China Vol 4. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xinhua News Agency. March 2021. “Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035.” Translated by Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Xinhua. March 2023. “Toward Modernity: The Value of Xi Jinping's Economic Thought.” Xinhua. November 2017. “Full text of Chinese President Xi's address at APEC CEO Summit.” Xinhua Net; Yao Yang. 2020. “China’s Economic Growth in Retrospective” in David Dollar, Yiping Huang, and Yang Yao, eds., China 2049: Economic Challenges of a Rising Global Power. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Mentioned in
New Development Pattern
Xīn Fāzhǎn Géjú
新发展格局

The new development pattern—sometimes translated by Chinese state media as the new development dynamic—describes a proposed structure for the Chinese economy that was first introduced to the Party in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequently adopted as a guiding principle in the China’s Fourteenth Five Year Plan (2021-2025). As a blueprint for China’s future development, the new development pattern imagines a country whose economic growth and technological progress is not dependent on fickle global markets or foreign HOSTILE FORCES. While urging China towards self-reliance, the new development pattern is not a call for autarky. Instead, Xi Jinping instructs cadres to engineer a pattern of growth where “the domestic cycle is the mainstay, with the domestic cycle and international cycle providing mutual reinforcement.” (Xi 2022, p. 178).  Under this “dual cycle” or “dual circulation” [双循环] formula, China is expected to contribute to and benefit from global markets even as it transitions towards an economic model whose near-term growth primarily flows from domestic demand for Chinese goods and whose long term promise rests on China’s indigenous capacity for scientific and technological innovation. 

Chinese economists first began characterizing China’s economic development in terms of  “large scale cycles” [大循环] in the era of Deng Xiaoping. In 1987 Wang Jian, an economist then working for the State Planning Commission, proposed that China’s future growth could be best guaranteed by securing a place in the “large-scale international cycle” of trade and capital. Burdened with decaying heavy industry and a surplus pool of labor, Wang argued that China could reverse these trends by developing light industries like textiles and consumer appliances. The slogan “two ends extending abroad, with a high-volume of  imports and exports” [两头在外, 大进大出] captured the logic of the proposed development pattern. Under this schema, Chinese firms would first purchase raw materials for production from foreign markets (one of the two “ends extending abroad”), exploit China’s surplus labor to manufacture goods at low cost, and then sell the finished products in the global marketplace (the other “end” of the slogan). Trade would occur at volumes high enough to accumulate foreign exchange, which in turn could be used to purchase the new machinery needed to revitalize China’s out-of-date heavy industries. Enmeshing China in the “large-scale international cycle” of trade and capital flows outside of China would thus create a virtuous cycle of climbing wealth and growing industry inside China.     

This strategy was openly endorsed by General Secretary Zhao Ziyang; under his successors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao the integration of the Chinese economy with the global market would continue apace. There was a quiet geopolitical calculation behind this development strategy. The “two ends extending abroad” approach took economic interdependence as a prerequisite for China’s continued growth. This required a period of time where China could safely leverage the gains of integration without provoking opposition from foreign powers alarmed by its growing strength and wealth. Party leaders concluded that globalization would offer China such a PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY—a period they predicted would last through the first two decades of the 21st century.

These predictions proved prescient: globalization's assigned role in Chinese economic growth was downgraded as the 2010s came to a close. Two developments would undermine the choice position of global integration in Chinese development planning. The first was a waning commitment to economic growth as the be-all and end-all of the Party’s work. When Xi Jinping came to power, the negative consequences of the Party’s growth-at-all-costs mindset were apparent: noxious pollution, rising class tensions, regional wealth disparities, massive debt on local government ledgers, and a ubiquitous culture of corruption all undermined the Party’s quest for national rejuvenation. To address these problems Xi Jinping incorporated a new intellectual framework for economic development inside the Thirteenth Five Year Plan (2016-2020). This framework, dubbed the NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT, instructed cadres to prioritize “high quality development” [高质量发展] over narrower metrics of GDP growth. The concept called for the Party to achieve these aims by transitioning away from growth driven by fixed asset investments and cheap foreign exports to growth driven by domestic consumption and high end manufacturing at the edge of the technological frontier.

Parallel to these changes in development philosophy was the transformation of Chinese security theory. Under the auspices of Xi Jinping’s TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM, Chinese security officially began to blur existing distinctions between hard and soft power, internal and external threats, and traditional dividing lines between the worlds of economics, culture, and diplomacy. From this viewpoint, emerging problems in any of these domains might threaten the Party’s hold on power and thus must be viewed through the lens of regime security. Viewed from this perspective, the economic gains that international integration promised must be balanced against increased exposure to hostile forces from the outside world.

These two streams—economic planning and security strategy—began to merge as American export controls and tariffs placed pressure on the Chinese economy. The high-tech development strategy envisioned by the New Development Concept assumes access to crucial technological components that Chinese firms do not yet have the capacity to manufacture. Party leaders began to worry that without the capacity to manufacture these components at home, China’s ADVANCE TO THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE might be held hostage by hostile foreign powers. These anxieties were only reinforced by the dramatic drop in global demand for Chinese goods and equally dramatic rise in global anti-China sentiment caused by the 2020 pandemic. The lesson was clear: the PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY was closing. Chinese development was dangerously dependent on foreign powers. In this environment China could no longer afford a development pattern that prioritized economic growth and global integration over self-reliance. 

“We have become more aware that security is a prerequisite for development and development guarantees security,” Xi concluded in a Politburo study session in October 2020. “Our country is exposed to the risk of various problems and dangers now and in the future, and risks – both foreseeable and unforeseeable – are on the increase” (Xi 2022, p. 133). To mitigate these risks, China needed to “integrate the planning of security and development” [统筹发展和安全]. 

In April 2020 Xi Jinping laid out what a “secure” development pattern must look like. Chinese development can no longer take the  “large-scale international cycle” as its foundation. Instead, the Party must construct a “large-scale domestic cycle” [国内大循环] to serve as the mainstay of future growth, with the “international cycle” [国际循环] serving as a supplement. As much as possible, planners should locate both the materials used as inputs for Chinese manufacturing and the consumers of China’s manufactured goods (the “two ends extending abroad” in the old slogan) within China’s own borders.

This development strategy has both macroeconomic and security rationales. Chinese observers note that from a macroeconomic standpoint, raising domestic consumption promises to right an economy that has long been described as “unbalanced.” As Chinese wages rise and the labor supply shrinks, China can no longer maintain a growth model premised on low-end manufacturing for the global market. Intentional investment in emerging technologies and key strategic industries is one route around the feared “middle income trap.” It is also a way to escape technological dependence on hostile foreign powers. Xi Jinping describes the drive for technological self-sufficiency as “vital to the survival and development of [the] nation” (Xi 2021, p. 204). By reshoring technological supply chains, as well as key economic inputs like food and energy, the new development pattern promises to secure China against sanction or blockade.

However, the new development pattern is less a bid for autarky than a plan for “hedged integration” with the global economy (Blanchette and Polk 2020). Chinese economists expect that rising Chinese consumer demand will fuel economic growth for exporters across the globe; if China successfully pushes forward the technological frontier, Chinese firms expect to export their new products to every corner of the earth. As one manual designed to teach cadres about the strategy concludes: “Constructing a new development pattern is... a forward-looking gambit for seizing the initiative of future growth.” The ultimate goal of self-reliance is not to cut China off from the world, but to make China more central to it. If realized, the new development pattern will “allow us to attract essential resources from across the globe, become powerful competitors in a fierce international competition, and become a powerful driving force in the allocation of the world’s natural resources” (Office of the Central National Security Commission 2023). 

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; NEW DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT; SOCIALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM;

Sources

Blanchette, Jude and Andrew Polk. 2020. “Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged Integration Strategy.” CSIS; DiPippo, Gerard. June 2023. “Chinese Economy After COVID-19.” China Leadership Monitor; Gerwitz, Julian. 2021. Never Turn Back: China and the Forbidden History of the 1980s. Cambridge: Belknap Press; Kroeber, Arthur. 2016. China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press; Naughton, Barry, Siwen Xiao and Yaosheng Xu. June 2023. “The Trajectory of China’s Industrial Policies.” IGCC Working Paper. University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Naughton, Barry. 2018. The Chinese Economy: Adoption and Growth. Second Ed. The MIT Press; Office of the Central National Security Commission and Central Propaganda Department. July 2023. “Chapter Five: Uphold the Integration of Development and Security: On the Necessary Requirements of National Security in the New Era.” Translated by Ethan Franz. San Francisco: Center for Strategic Translation; Wang, Howard. 2022. “Security is the Prerequisite for Development: Consensus Building Toward a New Top Priority in the Chinese Communist Party.” Journal of Contemporary China; Tran, Hung. 2021. “Decoupling/reshoring versus Dual Circulation: Competing Strategies for Security and Influences.” Atlantic Council; Wang Jian. 1988. “Xuanze Zhengque de Chang Qi Fazhan Zhanlüe ──Guanyu ‘Guoji Da Xunhuan’ Jingji Fazhan Zhanlüe de Gouxiang 选择正确的长期发展战略──关于“国际大循环”经济发展战略的构想 [Choose the Right Long-term Development Strategy–On the Large-Scale International Cycle Strategy].” January 5. 经济日报 [Economic Daily]; Wang Jian and Wu Lihua. 2020. Sanshisan Nian Qian Chuangxiangle ‘Guoji Da Xunhuan Zhanlue Gouxiang’de Ta, Ru Jin Zhe Yang Xixie ‘Shuang Xunhuan’” 33年前创想了“国际大循环战略构想”的他,如今这样细解“双循环. [The Man Who Invented the "Strategic Conception of the Large Scale International Cycle" 33 Years Ago Now Explains the "Double Cycle" in Detail]. Ai Sixiang 爱思想; Xi Jinping. 2022. Governance of China Vol 4. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2020. Governance of China Vol 3. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping, January 2017. “Full Text of Xi Jinping keynote at the World Economic Forum.” CGTN; Xinhua News Agency. March 2021. “Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035.” Translated by Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Yu Yongding. 2020. “Zenyang Shixian Cong ‘Guoji Daxunhuan’ Dao ‘Shuangxunhuan’ De Zhuanbian 怎样实现从 ‘国际大循环’到 ‘双循环’的转变? [How to Achieve the Change from ‘International Big Circulation’ to ‘Dual Circulation’?].” Xinlang 新浪; Yu Yongding. 2022. “Shuang Xunhuan he Zhongguo Zengzhang Moshi de Tiaozheng 双循环和中国增长模式的调整 [Dual Cycles and Adjustment of China's Growth Model].” Ai Sixiang 爱思想.

Mentioned in
Peace and Development are the Theme of the Times
Hépíng Yǔ Fāzhǎn Shì Dāngjīn Shídài de Zhǔtí
和平与发展是当今时代的主题

The Communist Party of China claims that it discerns the “laws governing the development of the history of human society” (Constitution of the Communist Party of China 2022). In line with this claim, Party leaders orient both policy and strategy around official assessments of the material laws and historical trends at work in the world. The Maoist political program was ostensibly grounded in Mao’s judgment that “war and revolution” were the defining geopolitical trends of the 20th century; to reorient the Party towards a new focus on economic development Deng Xiaoping needed to revise this judgment. Thus in 1985 Deng Xiaoping declared that “peace and development are the theme of the times.” This assessment, restated by countless Chinese strategists and statesmen in the decades that followed, takes globalization as the defining feature of modern history. Implicit in the slogan is an injunction to treat harnessing the forces of globalization for China’s development as the CENTRAL TASK of the Party.

From Mao’s declaration that the Party “had to take the possibility of coming under attack as the starting point of all work” flowed many of the defining policies of Mao’s last decade in power (Meyskens 2020, 50). These included diplomatic estrangement from the West, aid for revolutionary movements across the developing world, and the the concentration of heavy industry deep in the mountain provinces of inland China. Though these policies did not long outlive Mao’s death, the extent to which China should open its economy remained a hotly contested issue throughout the 1980s.

In the midst of debates over economic reform Deng Xiaoping informed a delegation from the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry that “peace and development are the two outstanding issues in the world today.” “Although there is still the danger of war,” he confided to the Japanese, “the forces that can deter it are growing, and we find that encouraging.” In the same address, he indicated that peace and development are “issues of global strategic significance.” Matters of peace concern “East-West relations” while matters of development concern “North-South relations.” As a war between the East and West was unlikely, prudent nations in the Global South should focus on catching up to the Global North in economic development – and such would be China’s objective in the reform and opening era (Deng 1985). 

Two months later Deng proceeded to free up resources for economic development by reducing the People’s Liberation Army to one million men. If previously his peace and development assessment had been associated with international trade and investment, it now carried a second connotation: Deng’s belief that military spending must be subordinate to the development of the larger economy.

These conclusions were codified as party dogma when Jiang Zemin described “peace and development are the main theme of the times” as a major component of Deng Xiaoping Theory [邓小平理论] in his 1997 report to the 15th Congress. That year’s National Defense Law would reiterate this stance, stating that China’s policy was to “strengthen national defense while focusing on economic development” (China National People’s Congress 1997). Both Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao would restate these ideas, including the line “peace and development are the main themes of the times” in every Party Congress political report they delivered in the two decades that followed Jiang’s 1997 codification of the phrase.  

Over these two decades there was only one serious challenge to the judgment that peace and development were the defining features of international politics. This occurred in 1999 after the American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Over that summer the Party allowed a widespread debate among intellectuals, academics, and party theorists over whether Deng’s sunny pronouncements still described China’s international environment. The pro-globalization forces won this argument. Their victory was codified in Jiang Zemin’s declaration that “A new world war is unlikely in the foreseeable future” and “it is realistic to bring about a fairly long period of peace in the world and a favorable climate in areas around China.” To Deng’s “peace and development” line Jiang added his own theoretical formulation, urging the Party to seize the “first two decades of the 21st century” as “an important PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY” for China’s development (Jiang 2002). With these slogans first Jiang, and then Hu and Xi after him, endorsed the idea that globalization was the surest guarantee of China’s rise.

By Xi Jinping’s second term this no longer seemed so safe a guarantee. Setbacks in the BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE, unfavorable election results in Taiwan, a trade war with the United States, and mounting tensions in China’s bilateral relationship with numerous democratic nations seemed to challenge rosy assessments that development remained the theme of the times. Xi did not include “peace and development” line in his 2022 political report. The closely related “period of strategic opportunity” phrasing was replaced with references to a “a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising” (Xi 2022).

 The practical relevance of the changed assessment is perhaps best seen in the PRC’s defense budget. In 2023 this budget grew by more than 7%—even though China’s economy was only projected to grow by 5%. The Party can no longer claim that it is “strengthening national defense while focusing on economic development.” That was a strategy of a past era, an era when peace and development were the theme of the times.  

See also: GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; PERIOD OF STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY; PATH OF PEACEFUL DEVELOPMENT; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS

Sources

2022. “Constitution of the Communist Party of China.” Xinhua; China National People’s Congress. 1997. “People’s Republic of China National Defense Law”; Deng Xiaoping. 1985. “Peace and Development Are the Two Outstanding Issues In the World Today.” Online Marxist Archive; Erdhal, Brock and Daid Gitter. 2022. “China’s Uncertain Times and Fading Opportunities,” CACR Occasional Report. Washington DC: Center for Advanced China Research; Finkelstein, David M. 2000. “China Reconsiders Its National Security: “The Great Peace and Development Debate of 1999,” Report No. D0014464.A1. CNA Corportation; Garver, John W. China’s Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China. New York: Oxford University Press; He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge; Jiang Zemin. 2002. “Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress.” China.org.cn; Meyskens, Covell F. 2020. Mao’s Third Front: The Militarization of Cold War China. London: Cambridge University Press; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Full Text of Xi Jinping’s Speech at China’s Party Congress.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

Mentioned in
Peaceful Evolution
Hépíng Yǎnbiàn
和平演变

For several decades the phrase “peaceful evolution” has been used by Chinese leaders and propagandists to describe their belief that the United States seeks to overthrow the Communist Party of China by peaceful means. Descriptions of the “peaceful evolution” threat have changed over time, but the phrase generally describes an intentional strategy of economic pressure, ideological subversion, and active support of disaffected Chinese to trigger a revolution capable of dissolving China’s communist regime.

The phrase has its roots in the pronouncements made by John Foster Dulles when he served as Secretary of State under the Eisenhower administration. Dulles rejected arguments that America was obligated to use its military power to roll back the communist advance. He told his fellow Americans that “liberation” from Soviet rule could occur through a “process short of war” (Dulles 1953), for “internal pressures are bound to alter the character of the communist regimes,” and thus American foreign policy should seek to “accelerate [this] evolution within the Sino-Soviet bloc” through peaceful means (Dulles 1958, 10-11).

Dulles’ statements had a powerful effect on communist leaders in Beijing, who were searching for an intellectual framework that might explain the source of threatening “revisionist”  trends then roiling the communist bloc. As the USSR de-Stalinized and political turmoil struck both Poland and Hungary, Mao began to intensively study Dulles’ words. At a senior leadership meeting convened in 1959 to discuss the threat of “peaceful evolution” Mao concluded:

The United States not only has no intention to give up its policy of force, but also wants, as an addition to its policy of force, to pursue a ‘peaceful evolution’ strategy of infiltration and subversion in orderto avoid the prospect of its ‘being surrounded.’ The US desires to achieve the ambition of preserving itself (capitalism) and gradually defeating the enemy(socialism)” (Qian 1995).

The concept would survive Mao’s death. It would undergo a significant renaissance after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the massacre on Tiananmen Square, events that conclusively proved that there were forces far more dangerous to communist rule than American military might. Shortly after those events Deng Xiaoping would declare that the United States and its allies “engage in peaceful evolution…[and thereby] wage a world war without smoke or gunpowder” (Deng 1994).

Though party leaders and state affiliated thinkers now often frame the threat of peaceful evolution in terms of “color revolutions” or warnings that HOSTILE FORCES pose a threat to the “political security” of the standing regime, the danger they believe the United States poses to the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION has remained remarkably consistent over time. Both in Mao's day and our own, party leaders have argued that Western powers are constitutionally averse to any great power that is not part of the liberal capitalist fold. As long as this is so, party members must remain on guard against the perils of peaceful evolution.

See also:  HEGEMONISM; HOSTILE FORCES; SOFT BONE DISEASE; TOTAL NATIONAL SECURITY PARADIGM

Sources

Deng Xiaoping. 1994. Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping, Vol. 3. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Dulles, John Foster. 1953. U.S. Senate Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations; Dulles, John Foster. 1958. Policy for the Far East. Washington: U.S. Government Print Office; Johnson, Matthew. 2020. “Safeguarding Socialism: The Origins, Evolution and Expansion of China’s Total Security Paradigm.” Sinoposis; Ong, Russel. 2007, “‘Peaceful Evolution’, ‘Regime Change’ and China's Political Security.” Journal of Contemporary China 16 (53): 717-727; Qiang Zhai. 1995. “Mao Zedong and Dulles’s ‘Peaceful Evolution’ Strategy: Revelations from Bo Yibo’s Memories.” Cold War International History Project Bulletin (6/7): 228-232.

Mentioned in
Period of Strategic Opportunity
Zhànlüè Jīyù Qī
战略机遇期

The concept of a “period of strategic opportunity” was first introduced by Jiang Zemin in 2002. In his political report to the 16th Party Congress, Jiang identified “the first two decades of the twenty-first century” as “an important period of strategic opportunity that must be grasped tightly.” In Jiang’s telling, the turn of the 21st century introduced a rare window of time in which China could focus all of its efforts on economic development. By embracing the forces of globalization during this window, the Party had the opportunity to build Chinese power through peaceful means, thereby laying the foundation for “a strong, prosperous, democratic and culturally advanced socialist country by the middle of this century” (Jiang 2002).

Jiang’s slogan was born out of the foreign policy debates that racked the Communist Party of China in the late 1990s. A decade before Deng Xiaoping had declared that PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT WERE THE THEME OF THE TIMES; a suite of reform era policies—including China’s opening to outside investment, Deng’s pursuit of market reforms, and the decision to terminate support for Maoist guerillas in the developing world—flowed from this assessment. A world trending towards peace and economic integration was a world where it was safe to focus the work of the Chinese party-state on economic reform.

The annual debates over China’s trading status in Washington, the 1997 Taiwan Straits crisis, and America’s 1999 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade all put Deng’s assessment of the international scene to question. Many in China believed that it had been a mistake to prioritize economic growth over military power or confrontation with the United States. China’s ascension to the WTO and the 9/11 attacks—which diverted American hostility away from the PRC and towards the Middle East—put an end to their worries. By 2002 it was clear that globalization would not only power China’s economic ascent but would also temper opposition to China’s growing material might.

Jiang’s conception of the period of strategic opportunity was endorsed by the two men who governed China during the remainder of this window of opportunity. Both Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping repeated Jiang’s phrase verbatim; both paired it with fulsome depictions of globalization as an unstoppable historical force. Yet as Xi Jinping’s second term came to a close, economic integration seemed a far less powerful trend than it had seemed at the start of tenure. By that point the BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE had met with numerous setbacks; China was engaged in an unforgiving trade war with the United States, and anti-China sentiment was rising across the globe. Two decades after Jiang’s introduction of the period of strategic opportunity, Xi would offer a new assessment of the times:

Our country has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising… We must therefore be more mindful of potential dangers, be prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms (Xi 2022).

 Xi’s new formula does not predict imminent war. It does suggest, however, that the Party can no longer rely on globalization and economic integration to shepherd the REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION. In an international environment defined by risk and danger, the strategies of the reform era are no longer sufficient to secure the Party CENTER’s desired future.

See also: ADVANCING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE WORLD STAGE; GREAT CHANGES UNSEEN IN A CENTURY; PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT ARE THE THEME OF THE TIMES; COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER; PATH OF PEACEFUL DEVELOPMENT

Sources

2002. “Full Text of Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress.” China.org.cn; Dessein, Alex. 2019. “Identifying Windows of Opportunity within China’s Rise: Problematizing China’s Hundred-Year Strategy toward Great-Power Status,” Military Review; Erdhal, Brock and Daid Gitter. 2022. “China’s Uncertain Times and Fading Opportunities,” CACR Occasional Report. Washington DC: Center for Advanced China Research; Garver, John W. China’s Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China. New York: Oxford University Press; He, Henry Yuhuai. 2015. Dictionary of the Political Thought of the People’s Republic of China. London: Routledge; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Song Wenlong. 2022. “Seizing the Window of Strategic Opportunity: A Study of China’s Macro–Strategic Narrative since the 21st Century,” Social Sciences 11, iss. 10; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Full Text of Xi Jinping’s Speech at China’s Party Congress.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China; Yong Deng. 2022. China’s Strategic Opportunity: Change and Revisionism in Chinese Foreign Policy. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mentioned in
Plenary Session
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

See PLENUM.

Sources

Mentioned in
No items found.
Plenum
Quántǐ Huìyì
全体会议

A plenum, or more formally, a Plenary Session of a Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is a gathering of all full and alternate members of the CENTRAL COMMITTEE  held to review and approve policies proposed by the POLITBURO. In the post-Mao era it is customary for each CENTRAL COMMITTEE to hold seven plenums in its five year term. These closed door meetings are usually the most important political events of any given year. The topics discussed in the plenary sessions range from revisions to the constitution to realignments of development strategy. Deliberations are secret. The General Secretary delivers a speech to the CENTRAL COMMITTEE, but this speech is usually not published until long after the plenum has concluded.  

In the post-Mao era the topics addressed in the seven plenums tend to follow a pattern: the first plenum is held to select the POLITBURO and CENTRAL COMMITTEE membership, the second confirms the leadership of important government posts, the third is devoted to economic development and reform, the fourth focuses on initiatives in law or party building, the fifth lays the groundwork for the next FIVE YEAR PLAN, the sixth addresses problems of ideology, culture, or intra-party rules, and the seventh prepares the CENTRAL COMMITTEE for the upcoming PARTY CONGRESS.

Documents drafted during plenums are among the most authoritative in the Chinese policy process; each compacts the various guidelines, policies, and tasks issued since the previous plenum into a baseline directive for the entire party. At select points in modern Chinese history–such as the 3rd and 5th plenums of the 11th Party Congress–meetings of the Central Committee have served as forums for substantive intra-party debates. More often the Central Committee simply makes small adjustments to plans already agreed on by the Politburo ahead of time. 

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE; POLITBURO; PARTY CONGRESS; FIVE YEAR PLAN

Sources

Blanchette, Jude. 2019. “Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum Delayed?” Center for Strategic and International Studies; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Heilman, Sebastian. 2017. China’s Political System. Lanham, Maryland: Rowan and Littlefield.

Mentioned in
Politburo
Zhōngyāng Zhèngzhì Jú
中央政治局

The Political Bureau, or Politburo, is the command headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party. The Politburo is composed of twenty-four senior leaders who can be placed in two tiers: a small core of leading generalists serving on the STANDING COMMITTEE, and a broader group of officials serving as leaders at the provincial or ministerial level. While day to day decision making authority for the Communist Party rests with the Standing Committee, Politburo members possess considerable influence over both national policy and personnel selection. The composition of the Politburo is therefore a key concern of any General Secretary; the number of loyalists he is able to elevate into the Politburo is a rough measure of his effective power.

Nominally, Politburo members are elected by the CENTRAL COMMITTEE, the body from which its members are drawn and its decision making authority is delegated. In practice, the composition of the Politburo is decided internally by the General Secretary, the Standing Committee, retired grandees, and the incumbent members of the Politburo. The rotation of Politburo seats is aided by a set of guiding retirement norms introduced in the Jiang Zemin era. In 1997 Jiang forced all members aged 70 or over to retire at the end of their five-year term; at subsequent Congresses the retirement age was lowered to 68. Though not officially codified in any party document, this norm has, with a few recent exceptions, governed the composition of the Politburo and functioned as an effective shield against gerontocracy. 

Since 2002, the Politburo has regularly held “Politburo collective study sessions” [中央政治局集体学习] and more standard “Politburo meetings” [中央政治局会议]. During its standard meetings the Politburo discusses new policy directives, provides feedback on policy implementation, and prepares for future work conferences, plenums, or congresses. These meetings are about coordination, information exchange, and practical planning at the highest levels of the party. 

Study sessions, in contrast, play a more educational role. These sessions take place shortly after the standard Politburo meetings–usually on the same day or the day after. Professors, think tank scholars, or other experts are invited to lecture the Politburo members on a topic chosen by the General Secretary. Their lectures often end with “work recommendations” [工作建议] for the Politburo to consider. The sessions typically conclude with a speech by the General Secretary on the topic of study. In contrast to the meetings of the Standing Committee, whose agendas are rarely discussed in public, the subject of Politburo meetings and study sessions are often publicized with some fanfare. Collective study session topics are not chosen simply to educate Politburo members but to signal policy priorities to the cadres across the country. Thus even when passively listening to lectures, the Politburo fulfills its role as a bridge between the Standing Committee and the rest of the Party.  

See also: CENTER, THE; CENTRAL COMMITTEE; PLENUM; POLITICAL BUREAU STANDING COMMITTEE (PBSC)

Sources

Fewsmith, Joseph. 2019. Rethinking Chinese Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Hart, Brian. 2021. “The CCP’s Shifting Priorities: An Analysis of Politburo Group Study Sessions.” China Brief. Jamestown Foundation; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Lawrence, Susan and Mari Y. Lee. 2021. “China’s Political System in Charts: A Snapshot Before the 20th Party Congress.” Congressional Research Service; Lieberthal, Kenneth. 2003. Governing China: From Revolution Through Reform. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.; Ling Li. 2022. “The Hidden Significance and Resilience of the Age-Limit Norm of the Chinese Communist Party,” Asia Pacific Journal 20 (19).

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Political Bureau Standing Committee (PBSC)
Zhōngyāng Zhèngzhì Jú Chángwěihuì
中央政治局常委会

The Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) is the most senior decision making body of the Chinese party-state. On a day to day basis the PBSC has ultimate responsibility for and administrative authority over all policy domains, and its members approve personnel appointments across China. The composition of the PBSC is thereby one of the most important indicators of the power of a General Secretary: the more loyalists he is able to place in the PBSC, the more powerful his position.

The PBSC's members are all drawn from the membership of the POLITBURO; but unlike the other members of that body, who are geographically distributed across China, the officials of the more select Standing Committee are all located in Beijing. In theory, the PBSC is subordinate to the CENTRAL COMMITTEE. Article 23 of the CPC Constitution provides that the members of the Standing Committee are elected at the plenary sessions of the Central Committee and that the PBSC shall exercise the functions and power of the Central Committee when the latter is not in session. In reality, the PBSC holds de facto power over the CENTRAL COMMITTEE, whose members usually meet only once a year and whose own membership is largely decided by negotiations between Standing Committee members and retired grandees.   

The role of the Standing Committee has evolved over time. During the Mao era, the Standing Committee held little power. But its status was elevated under Deng Xiaoping, who institutionalized party structures and began concentrating administrative authority in the Standing Committee. Its functions were fully institutionalized in the tenure of Jiang Zemin when the PBSC was transformed into the all-powerful body we know today. 

The number of PBSC members has also varied over time. Xi Jinping reduced the number of the Standing Committee’s members from nine to seven. In the pre-pandemic era the PBSC typically met once a week. During the pandemic this slowed to around 14 meetings a year. The agenda of these meetings is not available to the public and can only be guessed at by examining subsequent party directives.

As with other members of the POLITBURO, PBSC members are given dual responsibilities in both the party and state apparatuses. After the 20th Party Congress, the membership of the PBSC consisted of General Secretary Xi Jinping, Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Deng Xuexiang, and Li Xi. All of these men are devoted Xi Jinping loyalists; securing their position in the Standing Committee was a political victory with no precedent in the Hu or Jiang eras.

See also: CENTRAL COMMITTEE; POLITBURO; THE CENTER

Sources

Fewsmith, Joseph. 2019. Rethinking Chinese Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Heath, Timothy. 2014. China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation. New York: Routledge; Lawrence, Susan and Mari Y. Lee. 2021. “China’s Political System in Charts: A Snapshot Before the 20th Party Congress.” Congressional Research Service.

Mentioned in
Red and Expert
Yòu Hóng Yòu Zhuān
又红又专

The phrase “Red and Expert” began as a slogan in the 1957 “Anti-Rightist Campaign,” which targeted Chinese intellectuals critical of the Communist regime. The slogan communicated the imperative for those with specialized scientific or technical knowledge (“expert”) to be loyal to the Party and the socialist cause (“red”). As Mao wrote at the time:

Red is politics; expert is one's job. To be only expert and not red is to be a white expert. If one pursues politics so that one is only red and not expert, doesn't know one's job and doesn't understand practical matters, then the redness is a false redness and one is an empty-headed politician. While grasping politics, one must be thoroughly familiar with one's job; grasping technique must start with redness. If we are to overtake Britain in 15 years, then we must mold millions upon millions of intellectuals whose loyalty is to the proletariat” (MacFarquhar 1987, 28). 

Though the slogan implores specialists to be both “red and expert,” the slogan’s meaning has shifted from one era to another, sometimes emphasizing the demand for redness, at other times emphasizing the need for expertise. At the height of the Maoist era, the phrase was regularly used to bludgeon bourgeois intellectuals for their lack of proletarian consciousness, and was used later to celebrate the potential “red” laymen had to develop expertise equal to but distinct from that of the professional scientist or engineer. After the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping resuscitated the slogan to push the Party towards embracing technocratic expertise. As a set of regulations issued by the Central Committee in 1980 explained, the injunction to be red and expert then meant that “a Communist Party member who does not earnestly study expert knowledge and has been a layman for a long time in his own work cannot make a real contribution… His so-called political consciousness and advanced nature are mere empty talk” (Deng 1980). The slogan fell out of use in the late Deng era, and is only occasionally used today. 

Sources

Richard Baum,. “Red and Expert”: The Politico-Ideological Foundations of China’s Great Leap Forward,” Asian Survey 4, no. 9 (1964); Sigrid Schmalzer, “Red and Expert,” in The Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts From Mao to Xi, ed.Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere (Acton, Aus.: ANU and Verso Press, 2019), 215-221.

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Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
Zhōngguó Tèsè Shèhuì Zhǔyì
中国特色社会主义

Leaders of the Communist Party of China use the phrase “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” as the preferred moniker for the political and economic system that they govern. The now ubiquitous phrase was invented shortly after the death of Mao Zedong to describe the distinctive features of a Leninist political system retreating from a Stalinist economic model. Yet if Socialism with Chinese Characteristics was originally intended to explain CPC deviations from orthodox Marxism, in the decades following the fall of the communist bloc it has most often been used to justify China’s deviation from the liberal norms of the world’s richest nations. To invoke Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is to remind cadres that China follows a distinct path to modernity. This path not only precludes the wholesale importation of Western institutions and values, but also provides an explanation for perceived Western hostility to China’s National Rejuvenation.  

The origins of the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics concept can be traced back to Mao Zedong’s various statements on the need to develop the “Sinicization of Marxism” [马克思主义的中国化].  In his most famous proclamation on this theme, Mao declared that “the history of this great nation of ours goes back several thousand years. It has its own laws of development [and] its own national characteristics.” These characteristics must be integrated into the revolutionary programs of the Chinese communists because even though “a communist is a Marxist internationalist…. Marxism must take on a national form before it can be put into practice.” Mao thus championed a

Marxism that has taken on a national form, that is, Marxism applied to the concrete struggle in the concrete conditions prevailing in China, and not Marxism abstractly used. If a Chinese Communist, who is a part of the great Chinese people, bound to his people by his very flesh and blood, talks of Marxism apart from Chinese peculiarities, this Marxism is merely an empty abstraction. Consequently, the Sinicization of Marxism—that is to say, making certain that in all its manifestations it is imbued with Chinese characteristics, using it according to Chinese peculiarities—becomes a problem that must be understood and solved by the whole Party without delay (Schram 2004, liii).

Mao spoke these words as the leader of a guerilla revolutionary movement. Neither Marx’s writings nor the Soviet experience provided much practical guidance in this situation. Stalinist models would prove more relevant to Mao after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Using Stalin’s Short Course as a guidebook, China’s new communist regime imported Soviet economic and political structures with little alteration. The failure of these structures over the next few decades would eventually prompt the leaders of the Communist Party of China to seek a new path—and to justify that path with language that echoed Mao’s early calls for a Sinicized form of Marxism.  “We must integrate the universal truth of Marxism with the concrete realities of China,” Deng Xiaoping would report to the 12th Party Congress in 1982, “and blaze a path of our own and build a Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” (Deng 1991).

The phrase “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” has featured in the title of every subsequent Political Report given by a General Secretary to a Party Congress. In these reports Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is consistently identified as comprising a distinctive theoretical system [理论体系], a set of institutions [制度], a culture [文化], and a path [道路].  As Xi Jinping describes it, the theoretical system of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics offers intellectual “guid[ance] to the Party and people,” the institutions of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics “provide the fundamental guarantee for progress and development” of socialism, the culture of Socialism with Chinese characteristics “is a powerful source of strength and inspiration” for individual cadres, while the path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics “is the only path to socialist modernization and a better life for the people” (Xi 2020).  Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is thus defined both by the aims of China's political system and the tools cadres must use to accomplish these aims. 

The political debates of the 1980s powerfully shaped both these tools and aims. As the failings of the Chinese economy grew clearer, Party leaders concluded that “the practice of implementing orthodox socialist principles in the style of the Soviet Union was excessive for China’s level of socioeconomic development and productivity” (Zhao 2009). A country starting from such a low economic base must prioritize economic growth over class struggle—even if this required marketization of parts of the Chinese economy. In Zhao Ziyang’s 1987 Political Report this developmental stage—called the INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM—was linked to the political structures and priorities of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics:

The basic line of our Party in building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics during the initial stage of socialism is as follows: to lead the people of all our nationalities in a united, self-reliant, intensive and pioneering effort to turn China into a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and modern socialist country… The fundamental task for a socialist society is to develop its productive forces and concentrate on a drive for modernization (Zhao 1987).

Zhao and his fellow economic reformers were aware that statements like these broke from Marxist orthodoxy. “Building socialism in a big, backward, Eastern country like China is something new in the history of the development of Marxism,” Zhao told the Party. “We are not in the situation envisioned by the founders of Marxism” (Zhao 1987). Deng Xiaoping echoed this theme in an interview with a doubtful member of the Japanese socialist party: “Ours is an entirely new endeavor, one that was never mentioned by Marx, never undertaken by our predecessors and never attempted by any other socialist country. So there are no precedents for us to learn from. We can only learn from practice, feeling our way as we go” (Deng 1994).

Statements like these gave reformers the cover they needed to defeat “hidebound thinking” and introduce market mechanisms to Chinese life. The idea that China must bend Marxist-Leninism to fit its national circumstances allowed the reformists to obscure the differences between capitalism and socialism. Tolerance for market processes and an open embrace of international trade would remain a distinguishing feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the decades to come.

Yet a return to “hidebound thinking” and “leftist deviation” was never the only danger that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics sought to avert. From its origins the concept was associated with Deng Xiaoping’s FOUR CARDINAL PRINCIPLES—a set of commitments that Deng did not allow the Party to retreat from or tolerate debate over. The four items that party members must remain loyal to include: the socialist path, the rule of a dictatorship of the proletariat, the political predominance of the Communist Party of China, and Marxist and Maoist thought. In practical terms these Four Cardinal Principles were understood as a party-wide commitment to maintain communist control over Chinese politics even as the Party relinquished a measure of control over China’s economy. These political commitments remain in force. “The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” Xi Jinping instructed in his Political Report to the 20th Congress, “and [is] the greatest strength of the system of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” (Xi 2022). 

From the concept’s origin in the 1980s, the leaders of the CPC have identified liberalism as the most dangerous threat to the Party’s monopoly on power. Zhao Ziyang’s discussion of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics warns that “the tendency towards bourgeois liberalization, which rejects the socialist system in favor of capitalism… will last throughout the initial stage of socialism” (Zhao 1987). Socialism with Chinese Characteristics can thus be thought of as an attempt to ward off not only the temptations of the orthodox Marxist “left” but also the liberal-capitalist “right.” 

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the allure of leftist deviation was much diminished. In recent decades Party leaders tend to contrast the theory, institutions, culture, and path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics not with Marxist orthodoxy but liberal heresy. Thus Xi Jinping warns party cadres that

Since the end of the Cold War, some countries, affected by Western values, have been torn apart by war or afflicted with chaos. If we tailor out practices to Western capitalist values, measure our national development by means of the Western capitalist evaluation system, and regard Western standards as the sole standards for development, the consequences will be devastating—we will have to follow others slavishly at every step, or we subject ourselves to their abuse (Xi 2017, 356).

The contrast with China could not be clearer. In Xi’s home country, “[our] party has led the people in independently blazing the path to success over the past century, and the success of Marxism in China has been realized by Chinese Communists through our own endeavors.” Xi insists that as cadres “strengthen [their] confidence in the path, theoretical system, institutions, and culture of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” they will be able to “deal with China’s issues… in light of the Chinese context.” In the eyes of Xi Jinping and other senior leaders of the Communist Party of China, this is the only path by which China can become strong, wealthy, beautiful, and modern  (Xi 2022). 

See Also: DENG XIAOPING THEORY; FOUR CARDINAL PRINCIPLES; GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION; INITIAL STAGE OF SOCIALISM; MODERATELY PROSPEROUS SOCIETY; ONE CENTER, TWO BASIC TASKS.

Sources

Baum, Richard. 1996. Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Deng Xiaoping. 1991. “Opening Speech At the Twelfth National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” In Volume II: 1978-1982, vol 2 of Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Deng Xiaoping. 1994. “Two Features of the Thirteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” In Volume III: 1982-1992, Vol 3 of Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; Gerwitz, Julian. 2021. Never Turn Back: China and the Forbidden History of the 1980s. Cambridge: Belknap Press; Miller, Alice L. 2018. “Only Socialism Can Save China; Only Xi Jinping Can Save Socialism.” China Leadership Monitor (56); Schram, Stuart, ed. 1992. Volume VI: 1937-1938, Vol 6 of Mao's Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912-1949. New York: Routledge; Xi Jinping. 2017. “Uphold and Consolidate the Party’s Ideological Leadership.” In Volume II, Vol 2 of The Governance of China. Beijing: Foreign Language Press; Xi Jinping. 2020. “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” In Volume III, Vol 3 of The Governance of China. Beijing: Foreign Language Press.; Xi Jinping. 2022. “Full text of the report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” Xinhua News; Yan Sun. 1995. The Chinese Reassessment of Socialism, 1976-1992. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Zhao Ziyang. 1987. “Advance Along the Road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” Beijing Review 30, No. 45. 1-27; Zhao Ziyang. 2009. Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, trans. Adi Ignatius and Bao Pu. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Mentioned in
Soft Bone Disease
Ruǎngǔ Bìng
软骨病

For Xi Jinping, the cadres and leading officials of the Communist Party of China are prone to one devastating weakness: lack of conviction. Xi attributes both hesitation in crisis and graft in prosperity to faltering faith. He often describes emotional attachment to the party’s revolutionary heritage and sincere belief in the eventual realization of communist utopia as “spiritual calcium” that fortifies the spines of party cadres in face of hardship and sacrifice. In contrast, cadres afraid to defend the Party or its historic mission suffer from "a calcium deficiency" [缺钙] and are thus stricken with “soft bone disease.” Their pusillanimous character threatens the GREAT REJUVENATION OF THE CHINESE NATION.

Xi Jinping introduced this metaphor in one of his earliest speeches as General Secretary. In his very first address to a meeting of the POLITBURO, Xi told the senior leadership of the Party that

Belief in Marxism and a faith in socialism and communism is the political soul and spiritual pillar of a Communist, enabling them to withstand all test. To put it more vividly, ideals and convictions are the spiritual calcium of Communists, and if these ideals and convictions are missing or irresolute, then there is a lack of spiritual calcium that leads to soft bone disease. This has proved true by the cases of some Party members and officials who acted improperly due to lack of ideals and confused faith.” (Xi 2014, 16).

Xi’s comments about officials who “act improperly” came soon after the fall of Bo Xilai and just before Xi began his historic anti-corruption campaign. Soft bone disease is thus Xi’s go-to explanation for the general institutional rot he inherited. To tame corruption the Party must do more than jail the corrupt: it must rekindle belief in the old revolutionary faith.

This is not the only context where the calcium metaphor shows up: it found just as commonly in official discussions of political security. Xi Jinping’s famous judgment that the Soviet Union collapsed because there “was no one man enough to stand up and resist” [但竟无一人是男儿,没什么人出来抗争] should be read in light of Xi’s many statements on soft bone disease. From this perspective the spinelessness of the CPSU was less a problem of manly toughness and more a problem of waning faith. The Soviets faltered because they no longer received the spiritual nourishment that stiffens conviction in the face of opposition and doubt. Many of Xi’s signature concepts and policies were designed to prevent the Communist Party of China from sharing their fate.

Sources

Xi Jinping. 2014. Governance of China, vol I. Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

Mentioned in
Tell China’s Story Well
Jiǎng Hǎo Zhōngguó Gùshì
讲好中国故事

See DISCURSIVE POWER

Sources

Mentioned in
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Total National Security Paradigm
Zǒngtǐ Guójiā Ānquán Guān
总体国家安全观

The Total National Security Paradigm is a set of interlinked concepts that party sources describe as Xi Jinping’s signature contribution to Chinese security theory. Xi introduced the paradigm in a 2014 address where he instructed cadres to “pay attention to both traditional and non-traditional security, and build a national security system that integrates such elements as political, military, economic, cultural, social, science and technology, information, ecological, resource, and nuclear security” (Xi 2014, p. 221-222).  This distinction between traditional [传统] and non-traditional [非传统] security is key to Xi’s paradigm. “Traditional security” is oriented around threats to China’s territorial integrity and threats from foreign military powers. The Total National Security Paradigm guides cadres to place equal emphasis on “non-traditional security” threats which cannot be resolved with military tools, but which are potentially as dangerous as military defeat.

Variously translated as the Holistic Approach to National Security, the Comprehensive National Security Concept, or the Overall National Security Outlook, the core of Xi's security paradigm is a maximalist conception of security. This intellectual framework blurs the lines between hard and soft power, internal and external threats, and traditional distinctions between the worlds of economics, culture, and diplomacy. China’s accounting of its security must be “total” [总体].

Though the Total National Security Paradigm is the most forceful and systematic presentation of this idea, it is not new to Party thought. Mao introduced the phrase PEACEFUL EVOLUTION into the party lexicon to describe the threat posed by Western powers who hoped to overthrow communist regimes by instigating revolution from within. The collapse of the Soviet Union vividly demonstrated what happened to a party who ignored this threat. From that moment to the present day, party leaders and state intellectuals have portrayed the Communist Party of China as safeguarding a system under siege. Be they faced with economic coercion and political isolation or friendly offers to integrate into the international order, party authorities consistently describe their country as the object of hostile stratagems designed to subvert China’s domestic stability and the Party’s unquestioned rule.

Xi Jinping’s solution to this problem differs from its predecessors more in scale than concept. Officials in the Jiang and Hu eras offered regular warnings about the danger that ideological dissent, social protest, online media, and official corruption posed to the Party’s hold on power. The Total National Security Paradigm formalized these warnings into a more systematic conceptual framework. In Leninist systems theoretical frameworks like these are the necessary prerequisite of bureaucratic overhaul. If this was the concept’s purpose it seems to have accomplished its aim: by the 20th Congress, the Chinese government was spending more on its internal security budget than on military power, the state security apparatus saw fresh expansion down to lower levels of government, and new national bodies like the Central National Security Commission (CNSC) [中央国家安全委员会] were coordinating state security functions across China’s bureaucratic labyrinth.

See also: CORE INTERESTS; HOSTILE FORCES; PEACEFUL EVOLUTION; SOFT BONE DISEASE; COMPOSITE NATIONAL POWER

Sources

Blanchette, Jude. 2022. “The Edge of an Abyss: Xi Jinping’s Overall National Security Outlook,” China Leadership Monitor; Cheung, Tai Ming. 2022. Innovate to Dominate: The Rise of the Chinese Techno-Security State. Ithica: Cornell University Press; Greitens, Sheena Chesnut. “Internal Security & Chinese Strategy,” hearing on “The United States’ Strategic Competition with China” § Senate Armed Services Committee; Hoffman, Samantha. 2017. “Programming China: the Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security,” PhD diss, University of Nottingham. Wuthnow, Joel. 2022. “Transforming China’s National Security Architecture in the Xi Era” hearing on “CCP Decision-Making and the 20th Party Congress” § U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing; Xi Jinping. 2014. Governance of China, vol I. Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

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White Left
Báizuǒ
白左

The phrase “white left” first arose in prominence as a piece of Chinese internet slang around 2015. While it has not been adopted as a Party slogan, the phrase, mostly used as a pejorative, has slowly made its way into higher intellectual discourse since its internet debut.

The term  is used to distinguish the post-materialist concerns of Western leftists with the political program of the Chinese left, which frames political conflict through traditional class categories. Like Westerners, Chinese understand their politics in terms of a right-to-left spectrum. But “right” and “left” carry a very different valence in China, where the “left“ is generally associated with nostalgia for Maoism, unapologetic nationalism, disdain for limited government, and a hostility to capitalist enterprise, and the “right” is associated with market reforms, support for civil liberties, and a more cosmopolitan worldview. In a country where most political attitudes can be placed on a sliding scale between Josef Stalin and John Stewart Mill there is no easy home for the 'woke' political priorities of the Western left. While demands for justice for racial, sexual, and ethnic minorities do not resonate with either the Chinese right or the left, they usually provoke the most vitriolic response from Chinese leftists, who see identity politics as a betrayal and perversion of the international left’s traditional concern for the poor of the Earth.

Tied up in this critique of Western leftism as a political program is the stereotyped image of the Western leftist as a social type: in Chinese internet debates the Western leftist is often depicted as Pharisaical, shallow, and privileged; she makes showy gestures of solidarity and moralizes on human rights while living a comfortable, urbane life at the top of a system of privilege she has no real intention of overturning. In this sense the “white” [bái 白] in  “white left” [báizuǒ 白左] is not just a reference to the race of most social justice leftists, but also a play on two words that describe character traits that Chinese leftists associate with the social justice movement: “wasted effort/to try in vain” [báizuò 白做] and “idiocy” [báichī, 白痴]. To capture the term’s popularity as an insult, the pun-minded translator could thus fairly translate the term as the “useless left” or the “imbecile left.”

Sources

King, Dylan Levi. 2017. “‘White Left’: The Internet Insult the West Has Gotten Wrong,” Sixth Tone; Kuo, Kaiser. 2018. “Kuora: The Origin of ‘Baizuo’ (白左)—the Chinese Libtard, or ‘White Left.’” The China Project. Pan, Jennifer and Yiqing Xu. 2018. “China’s Ideological Spectrum. The Journal of Politics.” The Journal of Politics 80 (1): 254–273; Zhang Chenchen. 2017. “The Curious Rise of the ‘White Left’ as a Chinese Internet Insult.” Open Democracy;

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