Transforming China’s Institutional Advantages into Effective State Governance
(Elucidating the “Decision” adopted at the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee)
The fourth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing from October 28 to 31, 2019. Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made an important speech at the session, which was presided over by the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. The session reviewed and adopted the “Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Major Issues Concerning Upholding and Improving Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Modernizing the State Governance System and Capacity.” Reflecting a systematic thinking on the state governance system and capacity, the decision is a guiding document for upholding and improving socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernizing state governance system and capacity in the new era. Chinese socialism is a sound system developed by the CPC and the Chinese people through prolonged practices and explorations; it forms the basis for state governance in every field, and is fully represented in the state governance system and capacity.
The overall objectives of upholding and improving socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernizing the state governance system and capacity are as follows: Accomplishing notable achievements in making the systems in all fields more mature and better-defined by CPC’s centenary mark (2021); further refining the systems in all fields and basically achieving the goal of modernizing the state governance system and capacity by 2035; and fully realizing the goal of modernizing the state governance system and capacity, hence further consolidating Chinese socialism with its strength in full play by the centenary of the People’s Republic of China (2049).
Since its establishment, the CPC has united and led the Chinese people to combine the basic principles of Marxism with China’s practical realities to achieve victory in the Chinese revolution. It has also thoroughly reflected on the successes and failures from home and abroad, kept exploring new practices, embarked on reform and innovation, and established and improved the socialist system. By forming and developing the systems for Party leadership, the economy, political affairs, culture, social development, ecological progress, national defense, and foreign affairs, the CPC has strengthened and improved its state governance and made historic achievements. This fully demonstrates the strengths of China’s state systems and governance that are manifested in many ways, as listed below:
Upholding the CPC’s centralized and unified leadership, maintaining the CPC’s scientific theories, guaranteeing political stability, and ensuring that the country follows the socialist path;
Respecting the people’s status as masters of the country, promoting people’s democracy, maintaining close ties with the people, and relying on the people to drive national development;
Pursuing law-based governance in all respects in a socialist country that fallows the rule of law, ensures social fairness and justice, and guarantees the rights of the people;
Motivating all sectors, pooling all resources, and coordinating all our efforts to complete key national undertakings;
Upholding equality between all ethnic groups, fostering a strong sense of national identity, and working together for common prosperity;
Maintaining the dominant role of public ownership while developing other forms of ownership, and implementing multiple modes of distribution with “to each according to their work” as the principal form; this structure represents an effective combination of the socialist system and the market economy and helps create and unlock additional productive forces;
Upholding common ideals, values and morals, promoting the best of Chinese traditions, socialist culture and revolutionary heritage, and uniting the nation in shared beliefs and convictions;
Pursuing a people-centered approach to development that improves quality of life and achieves prosperity for all;
Implementing further reform and innovation, keeping pace with the times, and pursuing constant self-development, leading to a more vibrant and dynamic society;
Selecting the best minds across the land based on their integrity and expertise, and preparing talent for the country’s future needs;
Maintaining CPC leadership over the people’s armed forces, and ensuring their absolute loyalty to the Party and the people and their ability to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and national interests;
Upholding the principle of “one country, two systems” to maintain lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao and promote the peaceful reunification of China;
Maintaining independence and self-reliance while opening to the outside world, with more active participation in global governance and a greater contribution to the building of a global community of shared future.
The fourth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee summed up the strengths of Chinese socialism and the governance system as “13 upholds,” which are the basis for fostering stronger confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of Chinese socialism. They are also strong guarantees for strengthening the implementation of China’s state and governance systems, turning China’s institutional advantages into efficient state governance, and thereby achieving the Two Centennial Goals and realizing the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. The strong vitality and great superiority of Chinese socialism and the state governance system are shown through five basic characteristics as listed below.
I. Unwavering strategic direction. Achieving modernization and the high ideal of communism is the ultimate goal of the Chinese communists, generation after generation. In order to reach this target, China has been persistently upholding the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC, followed the CPC’s scientific theories, maintained political stability, and ensured that the country keeps advancing along the socialist path while developing and improving Chinese socialist system. The defining feature of Chinese socialism is the leadership of the CPC, and the greatest strength of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is also the leadership of the CPC. The modern state governance with Chinese characteristics is a complex system, composed of economic, political, societal, and other sub-systems, with the CPC as its axis. As Chinese socialism enters a new era, we must count on the leadership of the CPC for advancing and completing our great cause. The founding of the PRC has made it clear that the CPC is capable of winning in the battlefield, and its successful reform and opening up has proved that the Chinese communists are capable of carrying out economic construction and social development. Now, facing increasingly complicated international and domestic environments, the next generations of Chinese communists must show whether they are capable of upholding the Party’s leadership, adhering to and improving socialism with Chinese characteristics.
II. Extensive and systematic coverage. As a scientific system, Chinese socialism covers many fields, including the economy, politics, culture, social and ecological progress, military affairs, and foreign affairs, with clear-defined priorities and distinctive features for each.
On the economic front, it maintains the dominant role of public ownership while developing other forms of ownership, and implements multiple modes of distribution with “to each according to their work” as the principal form. This structure represents an effective combination of the socialist system and the market economy and helps create and unlock additional productive forces.
In the political arena, it respects the people’s status as masters of the country, promotes people’s democracy, maintains close ties with the people, and relies on the people to drive national development; it pursues law-based governance in all respects to build a socialist country under the rule of law, ensures social fairness and justice, and guarantees the rights of the people; it upholds equality between all ethnic groups, fosters a strong sense of national identity and work jointly for common prosperity and development; it upholds the principle of “one country, two systems” to maintain lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, and promotes the peaceful reunification of China.
In terms of culture, it advocates common ideals, values, and morals, promotes the best of Chinese traditions, socialist culture and revolutionary heritage, and unites the nation in shared beliefs and convictions.
On the social front, it pursues a people-centered approach to development that improves quality of life and achieves prosperity for all.
In foreign and military affairs, it maintains independence and self-reliance while opening to the outside world, with more active participation in global governance and a greater contribution to the building of a global community of shared future; it ensures the absolute loyalty of the armed forces to the Party and the people and their ability to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and national interests.
Facing the complex and fast-changing new situation of governing the country, Chinese socialism has been expanded to include a system for eco-environmental conservation and restoration and an accountability system for eco-environmental protection by implementing the most stringent eco-environmental protection mechanism and enabling efficient utilization of resources in an all-round way.
III. Comprehensive interconnectivity and synergy. Chinese socialism and China’s state governance system is composed of a set of interconnected fundamental, basic, and important systems covering economic, political, cultural, social development and more. The various parts of the system are not isolated from one another but all interconnected with a high degree of synergy. As Deng Xiaoping pointed out, “Compared with capitalism, the advantage of socialism lies in the fact that the whole country can work together to concentrate strength on priority tasks.” This advantage has become more and more prominent for two reasons.
First, the core leadership role of the CPC ensures a recognized authority in decision-making, thus avoiding decentralization. As Xi Jinping pointed out, “The CPC’s history and the PRC’s course of development have proved that to govern this political party and this vast country, we must ensure solidarity, centralization, and unity of the CPC, and safeguard the authority of the CPC Central Committee. When the CPC Central Committee has authority, the Party has strength. If the CPC Central Committee had no authority, the Party’s theories, guidelines and policies could not have been implemented, the Party would have become fragmented and become a ‘private club’, turning the Party’s leadership into empty voices.”
Second, in the process of improving China’s state and governance systems, the CPC has upheld democratic centralism and combined the Party’s centralized and unified leadership with the enthusiasm and initiative of the people. It is one of the many pioneering undertakings of the CPC to centralize on the basis of fully promoting democracy, to pull together all the wisdom and embody the will of the whole Party. In doing so, it is not only conducive to well-informed, democratic, and law-based decision-making while avoiding major or even subversive mistakes, it is also conducive to overcoming fragmentation and a silo mentality, averting discussions without decisions and decisions without actions, and forming a powerful joint force for the development of the Party and the state.
IV. Proactive adaptability in development. Implementing further reform and innovation, keeping pace with the times, and pursuing constant self-development to bring about a more vibrant and dynamic society are some of the strengths of China’s state and governance systems. Socialism with Chinese characteristics and the governance system are not institutionalized overnight; they are established through a lasting process of development and improvement in line with the changes of the internal and external environment. With seeking truth from facts as the ideological guidance and democratic centralism as the institutional guarantee in this process, Chinese socialist system and the state governance system have successfully revamped themselves through exchange and interaction of internal and external resources and information, and the replacement of outdated institutional mechanisms that no longer respond to changing circumstances with new ones. This adaptability not only makes China’s state and governance systems more dynamic and vigorous, but also enriches the theory of Marxism. Blazing the trail in the cause of developing Chinese socialism would not be a smooth undertaking. With further development and reform, more unknown situations and problems will arise, along with more risks, challenges, and unforeseeable happenings. Therefore, the CPC must adhere to the Marxist vision of development, give full play to people’s initiative and creativity that would shape history, forge ahead with a daring mind, and make constant discoveries, innovations and advances. To further reform in an all-around way, the Party should not only maintain stability and continuity of the socialist system and state governance, it also needs to speed up the process of formulating and improving institutions that are urgently needed for modernizing the nation’s governance system and capacity, and meet people’s new expectations for a better life. By doing so, it will push the Chinese socialist system to continue to improve and develop with lasting vigor and vitality.
V. Openness and inclusiveness. Institutions essentially exist to shape a stable order and structure for human social relations, and facilitate the movement of people, resources and other elements in society across its various strata. China’s state and governance systems select the best minds across the land based on their integrity and expertise, and prepares talent for the country’s future needs. It also maintains independence and self-reliance while opening to the outside world, with more active participation in global governance and a greater contribution to the building of a global community of shared future. Today, against the backdrop of economic globalization, a new round of technological and industrial revolution is unfolding, the system of global governance is being profoundly reshaped, and the international landscape is evolving at a faster pace. However, peace and development remain the irreversible trend of our times. Human exchanges are more profound and extensive than ever before, while countries are more frequently and closely connected and interdependent than at any time in the past. Peace, development and win-win cooperation have become the trend of the times. Marx and Engels point out that the more the original isolation of the separate nationalities is destroyed by the developed mode of production and intercourse and the division of labor between various nations naturally brought forth by these, the more history becomes world history. History and current reality have attested to the scientific value of this inference. Socialism with Chinese characteristics and the state governance system are the results of the integration of Marxism and China’s reform and opening up. The open and inclusive nature has remained their prominent feature over the course of development and improvement. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Chinese people have unwaveringly followed the path of peace and development, promoted international cooperation along the Belt and Road, created a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation, and actively participated in the reform and development of the global governance system. Thanks to its open and inclusive nature, socialism with Chinese characteristics can draw extensively on the achievements of human civilization, in particular ancient Chinese civilization, and learn from and reflect on the lessons of foreign countries in modernizing their governance as well as the lessons of the international communist movement. Therefore, the formation and development of the Chinese socialist system and the state governance system do not stay unchanged. They constantly keep evolving.
Upholding and improving socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernizing the state governance system and capacity is an important strategic task for the CPC. The fourth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee explicitly puts forward 13 aspects that we must uphold and improve to guide us to fulfill the task. The 13 aspects include:
- Upholding and improving socialism with Chinese characteristics and modernizing the state governance system and capacity.
- Upholding and improving the systems and institutions for CPC leadership, with enhanced capacity for the CPC to exercise power based on informed decisions, democratic process and the rule of law.
- Upholding and improving the systems and institutions that ensure the people are masters of their own country, with continuous progress in socialist democracy.
- Upholding and improving the rule of law under socialism with Chinese characteristics, and enhancing the CPC’s capacity as the ruling party to pursue law-based governance.
- Upholding and improving the administrative system under socialism with Chinese characteristics, in a structure that ensures clearly defined duties and responsibilities and law-based administration.
- Upholding and improving the basic socialist economic system with the focus on quality growth.
- Upholding and improving the systems that promote the best of socialist culture so that the whole nation is united under shared beliefs and goals.
- Upholding and improving social systems for urban and rural residents to satisfy the growing expectations for a better life.
- Upholding and improving social governance based on collaboration and broad participation, with the goal of benefiting all and ensuring social stability and national security.
- Upholding and improving the systems to promote eco-civilization so that humanity can live in harmony with nature.
- Upholding and improving the CPC’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces so that they can fulfill their mission in the new era.
- Upholding and improving “one country, two systems” to promote peaceful reunification of the Chinese nation.
- Upholding and improving the independent foreign policy of peace and promoting a global community of shared future.
CPC’s leadership in upholding and improving Chinese socialism and modernizing the state governance system and capacity is a strong political guarantee for consolidating and continuously improving China’s state and governance systems. Only by sound planning, meticulous organization, the combination of long-term and short-term policies, and pushing ahead on all fronts under the unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, can all the goals and tasks set by the fourth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee be fully implemented and accomplished. Party committees, governments at all levels and their leading officials must have a stronger awareness of the systems, lead by example in safeguarding the authority of and enforcing the systems, and call upon the whole Party and the society to honor, enforce and safeguard the systems. The Party should strengthen theoretical research and education of the systems, guide the whole Party and the society to fully understand the defining feature and strengths of Chinese socialism, and remain highly confident in our systems. The CPC should urge all Party members to strictly act in line with the systems to fulfill their duties, exercise the power of office, and carry out their tasks, thus enhancing their capacities and standards in implementing the “Five-sphere Integrated Plan” and the “Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy”.