China’s long term vision of greatness and strategy to achieve national goals was evident with an important article by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao entitled, “Our Historical Tasks at the Primary Stage of Socialism and Several Issues Concerning China’s Foreign Policy” which provides an overview of Chinese policy in the years ahead. Published in the Peoples Daily on 27 February before the 9th Party Congress which was convened in Beijing in March, this would have provided the delegates some food for thought, though it is unlikely that the policy enunciated would have been discussed at length at the Party Congress. Extracts of the article with annotations in brackets are as given below. The article has been downloaded from chinadaily.com.cn.
I. Our Historical Tasks at the Primary Stage of Socialism by Wen Jiabao
“A keen appreciation of China’s national conditions and its historical stage is the basis for our Party to put forward theories in a scientific way and adopt correct principles and policies. It is also a key prerequisite for ensuring the success of all our endeavours.”
“China is at the primary stage of socialism, and will remain so for a long time to come.” (This pragmatic assessment of capabilities may appear in direct contrast to the India Shining image projected by political leaders in India. Wen may not have compulsions for public proclamation of achievements and could be frank in acknowledging the actual state of Chinese economy.) “The primary stage means a stage of underdevelopment, which manifests itself, first and foremost, in the low level of the productive forces.” (The political factors incumbent in the primary stage are also denoted). “We should also recognize that the socialist system still has room for improvement and that it is not yet a mature one.”
(Pragmatism is again indicated by the remarks on China’s state of industrialization and modernisation) “When China began to build socialism, it was way behind developed countries in terms of productive forces. It will take a fairly long historical period before China can achieve industrialization and modernization.” (This has been ascribed to) “China’s huge population, weak economic base and development imbalances between urban and rural areas and among different regions, its low level of productive forces remain basically unchanged.” “While continuing economic reform, we have steadily proceeded with reform in the political system. Socialist democracy and legal system are being enhanced, and the Chinese people are playing an increasingly active role in political affairs. People’s political, economic, cultural, social and other rights are duly protected”.
(The road toward social progress is indicated as two fold). “First, we need to have a full and profound understanding of the basic conditions of China at the primary stage of socialism. – It is a historical mission that requires persistent and arduous efforts. Second, we must press ahead with reform and encourage innovation.” (The need to learn from experiences in development of other was highlighted thus), “we should also boldly draw upon all the progress of human civilization and all advanced business and managerial expertise that embody the laws governing modern social production.” “Therefore, we must unswervingly adhere to the basic lines of the Party for the primary stage of socialism for the next 100 years and persist in carrying out reform and innovation to ensure enduring vigour and vitality for socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
II. The Period of Strategic Opportunities for China’s Development
“The first 20 years of this century will be a period of important strategic opportunities for China. To embrace this period of strategic opportunities and make good use of it is of utmost importance to our goal of building a society of moderate prosperity in all respects and building socialism with Chinese characteristics.” (The Chinese leadership envisages that the international environment will be reasonably peaceful over the next two decades). Thus, “Peace and development remain the general trend of the times and no major war is likely to break out. It is fully possible for us to have a fairly long-term peaceful international environment and a favourable neighbourhood environment. – We must seize the favourable international opportunities to speed up our development.
Achieving development is the overriding principle. It is the basis for solving all problems in China and for China to conduct effective diplomacy. Competition between states is based on strength. There are major principles and secondary principles, and the latter should be subjected to the former.” (This 20 year period of strategic opportunity should be utilized to), “accomplish the central goal of socialist modernization drive. People of all walks of life in China should recognize the larger interest of the modernization drive, comply with it and work to advance it.”
III. Take the Path of Peaceful Development
“China takes the path of peaceful development. This is made necessary by its national conditions, cultural traditions and its embracing of the global trend of development.” “What is the essence of the path of peaceful development? It is to foster a peaceful international environment to develop itself and, in turn, promote world peace with its development. Taking the path of peaceful development is an initiative that has both external and domestic dimensions. Thus, we must keep firmly in mind our overall interests on two fronts, both internal and external.”
Internal development is envisaged as demand driven, “promote development by expanding the domestic demand to meet the people’s growing material and cultural needs.” The limitations of, “natural resources, energy and the environment” are being overcome by procurements from abroad. While engagement with the neighbourhood is indicated by, “As China develops itself; it will make greater contribution to both the development of its neighbourhood areas and that of the whole world.”
“Internationally, we should advocate peace, development and cooperation and pursue an independent foreign policy of peace.” “China does not enter into alliance with any country or country group.” China abides by the, “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and treat all countries, whether big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, as equals.” (The defence policy indicated during the period is), “defensive in nature and do not engage in arms race or military expansion. Since it suffered bitterly from imperialist aggression”
IV. Cultural Development and Exchanges
(On cultural development, after broadly covering the philosophy and internal measures required to be undertaken in international engagements it indicates), “We should expand cultural exchanges with other countries. Cultural exchanges are a bridge connecting the hearts and minds of people of all countries and an important way to project a country’s image.” “We should implement a “going global” cultural strategy, develop culture industry, improve the international competitiveness of Chinese cultural enterprises and products, increase the export of books, films, TV programs and other cultural products, so that these Chinese cultural products and particularly the best of them, will reach the rest of the world.” Cultural exchanges are said to be fostered by more effective public diplomacy.
The Economist in a lead article in the 29th May issue contends that, “China’s goodwill extends only so far as its interests are not affected”, therefore sceptics are wary of repeated assertions by Beijing of a peaceful rise. None the less clear identification of the first two decades up to 2020 as a period of strategic opportunity for growth by China as no major conflicts are predicated which could hinder development should provide some pointers. The Chinese plan to exploit this period for internal growth and make up intrinsic deficiencies through external acquisitions of energy and natural resources. The Chinese are fortunate to be excluded from the threat of terrorism and are perhaps the only major global power free from the same, the small scale uprising in Xingjian not withstanding. What happens after 2020 may perhaps depend on Chinese evaluation of comprehensive national power. Continued isolation or aggressive political engagement will be denoted by pragmatic evaluation by the leadership in Beijing by then.