Delegation report: On the path of China’s modernisation

We are pleased to republish below a detailed report by Rob Griffiths, general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, of a recent delegation to China organised by the CPC’s International Department. Rob was the leader of the delegation, which included three delegates from Friends of Socialist China.

Originally published in four parts in the Morning Star, the report is republished here in full. It adds some valuable detail to our report, elaborating in particular on the themes of common prosperity and China’s path to socialist modernisation.

Rob mentions the delegation’s field trips to KingMed Diagnostics and Guangzhou Automobile Company (GAC) in Guangzhou, and reflects on what the delegates learned in relation to people-centred development and the relationship between the private and state sectors of the economy. He notes that KingMed, although a private company, works symbiotically with the state; this was evident in the struggle against Covid-19, with KingMed establishing 670 testing facilities in remote countryside areas. GAC is focusing increasingly on the design and production of electric cars, in line with the country’s overall orientation towards sustainable development. “Its operations in China illustrate how industry is pursuing the course of socialist modernisation set by President Xi Jinping and the CPC, based on consumer-driven, high-quality and eco-friendly development.”

Rob also recalls the delegation’s visit to the National Big Data Exchange and Experience Centre in Guiyang, Guizhou – “just one of several ultra-modern, hi-tech projects that demonstrate the CPC’s commitment to balanced development across China.” Guizhou has long been one of the poorest provinces of China, but it is experiencing rapid advances since being selected to take the lead on big data and artificial intelligence. Rob writes that the centre “indicates how cutting-edge technology can be used to improve traffic flows, protect the environment, enhance the distribution of medicines and even make tax collection more efficient.”

Writing about the delegation’s exchange with the All-China Federation of Trades Unions (ACFTU), Rob describes the role played by the ACFTU in organising 300 million workers across various sectors: “its roles include collective bargaining, workers’ rights protection, lobbying, and offering financial and skill-training support to members.” He mentions that the union has successfully lobbied for a number of important policy changes, including improving rights of migrant workers and supporting those workers negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The author recalls that, at the CPC Central Committee Party School in Beijing, he asked Professor Guo Qiang a question about the absence of women in the top leadership of the CPC – “only 10 of 205 central committee members elected at the 20th party congress last October are women, although they comprise almost one-third of the CPC membership.” Professor Guo responded that this deficit is a topic of discussion inside the party. “Many in the CPC leadership are over 60 and attended university 40 years ago when there were very few female students — itself the result of bad and reactionary elements in traditional Chinese culture, he explained. Huge changes are under way in education, with women filling more than half of all university and college places.”

The delegation was hugely valuable and memorable, and served to significantly deepen delegates’ understanding of the progress of Chinese socialism in the 21st century.

On the path of China’s modernisation

Morning Star, 5 August 2023

FROM June 24 until July 4, the international department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) hosted a delegation representing 11 communist parties and a friendship society from Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the US, Canada and Australia.

I had the honour of leading the delegation at the invitation of the CPC as we visited the provinces of Guangdong and Guizhou as well as the capital city, Beijing.

Our hosts’ intention was to explain China’s path of “socialist modernisation” and demonstrate the achievements of their country’s system of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Guangdong borders Hong Kong and is China’s most populous province with more than 127 million inhabitants.

Situated at the delta of the Pearl River, the provincial capital Guangzhou was the starting point of the famous maritime “Silk Road.”

Its working class and intelligentsia played a major part in the national democratic revolution of 1911, led by Sun Yat Sen, who remains a revered figure for the Chinese people and the CPC.

Today, this city of 16 million people is a major international port and trading centre, having pioneered China’s “reform and opening up” strategy initiated by former CPC leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978.

At the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, Prof Deng Zhiping presented China’s path of socialist modernisation as one which:

– Embraces almost one-fifth (1.4 bn) of the global population and 56 nationalities over a vast territory, boosting the world’s economy, especially in the wake of Covid-19.

– Brings common prosperity to all, lifting 800 million Chinese people out of absolute poverty and enabling China to assist poorer countries, for example through the Belt and Road infrastructure investment initiative.

– Seeks harmony between humanity and nature, committing China to reduced carbon emissions in 2030 and net-zero by 2060.

– Aims for material abundance while also placing more emphasis on cultural-ethical advancement.

– Advocates peace, development, co-operation and mutual benefit to build an international community with a shared future for humanity.

“Socialism with Chinese characteristics” is a comprehensive system of theories and policies that has grown and been revised since 2012, when Xi Jinping was first elected CPC general secretary.

In the modern era, when China is defined as still being in “the primary stage of building socialism,” it means:

– People-centred, planned, balanced and integrated development economically, socially, politically, culturally and environmentally, based on an open “socialist market economy” in which the large state sector plays a vital role.

– Deeper reform in every sphere in order to enhance Chinese socialism and modernise its system and capacity for governance based on the socialist rule of law.

– A new type of international relations to build a community with a shared future for humanity.

– Enhancing CPC leadership as the defining feature and greatest strength of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, hence the rigorous requirements for Party-building and cadre development.

– Upholding the goal of China’s socialist modernisation and national rejuvenation by building a great modern socialist country by the mid-21st century: prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful.

The delegation’s first field trip was to KingMed Diagnostics. It is the leading private-sector clinical testing company in Guangdong province, with more than 700 testing and research laboratories. Welcomed to its headquarters by senior vice-president Yu Shihui, delegates witnessed its scientists hard at work.

In partnership with US corporation Illumina, KingMed is conducting ground-breaking genomic research into cancer and hereditary diseases.

The company played a valuable role in China’s all-out struggle against Covid-19, especially through their 670 testing facilities in remote countryside areas.

China’s record during the pandemic exemplifies key aspects of socialist modernisation with Chinese characteristics, namely, people-centred development, breakthrough innovations in science and technology, and the drive towards top-class provision for all in healthcare as well as in education and other services.

Covid-19 death rates per head in the US, Britain, France and Germany were two or three thousand times higher than in China and North Korea (and hundreds of times higher than in Vietnam and Cuba).

China’s radical lockdown and isolation policies were far more effective than testing and “herd immunity” strategies in the West.

Most Chinese people understood and complied with their government’s drastic measures, despite some outbursts of frustration widely publicised by the Western media.

Moreover, during the pandemic China demonstrated another characteristic of its long-term, two-stage plan to build a great modern socialist society by the middle of the 21st century. This is to spread the benefits of modernisation as part of creating a shared future for humankind based on sovereignty, mutual respect, peace and co-operation.

Thus China supplied billions of doses of its five anti-Covid vaccines and hundreds of billions of medical items to more than 165 countries and international bodies, at low or no cost. Specialist medical teams were sent to Zimbabwe, Algeria, Nigeria, Italy and elsewhere.

At the state-owned Guangzhou Automobile Company (GAC) plant, vice-president Gao Rui and other company officials outlined the company’s plans to expand production of electric vehicles from more than one third to at least two-thirds of its total output over the next few years.

Its operations in China illustrate how industry is pursuing the course of socialist modernisation set by President Xi Jinping and the CPC, based on consumer-driven, high-quality and eco-friendly development.

In partnership with foreign producers at home, the GAC Group also engages with distributors abroad to export its models to Asian, Middle East, African, Latin American and Pacific markets.

Significantly, though, the challenges to wider expansion are the same as those that face other Chinese transnational corporations, most of which, like GAC, are largely or fully state-owned.

Firstly, there has been the impact of the Covid pandemic on many capitalist economies; secondly, in the case of Russia, the war in Ukraine has impeded sales following successful motor-show appearances there; and thirdly, president Donald Trump’s huge hike in tariffs on Chinese imports from 2018 forced GAC to postpone its entry into the US market.

How technology-led governance works in modern China

Morning Star, 9 August 2023

ON June 26, an internal flight took the international delegation of 11 Communist parties from nine countries to the lush, green, mountainous province of Guizhou, south-central China.

There we stayed at the sumptuous Guizhou Provincial Party School. It comprises two buildings of residential, teaching and restaurant facilities set in spectacular grounds. With more than 300 teaching, administrative and research staff, it trains hundreds of members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for state, government and party posts.

An evening visit to the Guiyang Grand Theatre provided a lavish feast of Guizhou culture as colourful troupes of dancers, singers and musicians from the Miao, Dong, Tujia, Buyi and Shui nationalities performed their stunning tableaux.

There as elsewhere, we met with friendly faces, children asking “Hello, where are you from?” and artists eager to be filmed alongside us. This might be related to the scarcity of xenophobic and anti-Western propaganda in China’s mass media, where the emphasis is on co-operation and friendship between peoples and nations.

The National Big Data Exchange and Experience Centre is located in a digital industrial park in Guiyang City, the provincial capital. It is just one of several ultra-modern, hi-tech projects that demonstrate the CPC’s commitment to balanced development across China.

The Centre’s interactive displays and exhibitions indicate how cutting-edge technology can be used to improve traffic flows, protect the environment, enhance the distribution of medicines and even make tax collection more efficient.

The Jinyuan Community in Guiyang City is a little gem of 11,000 people and families of all ages, complete with over 200 small enterprises, a school, parks and gardens, and a community centre with library and computer rooms.

Community director Yuan Qin spends her days and evenings solving residents’ problems — some collected via QR pads dotted around the community — and organising classes for everything from computers to dancing. Recently a delegate to the CPC’s 20th congress, her enthusiasm was infectious.

When presenting her with a banner and a badge from Britain, I asked whether the CPC would give her a free temporary transfer to some of our local communities so badly in need of hope and imagination.

At a banquet hosted by Wu Gangping, vice-president of the Guizhou Party School, I said that Jinyuan offered a glimpse of the co-operative, communist future that Marx detected in the New Lanark community in Scotland, founded by Robert Owen in the early 1800s.

Like many of our Chinese hosts, comrade Wu wanted to know more about British politics and the machinations of the Conservative and Labour parties. Naturally, they were warned not to place too much credibility in the Guardian newspaper’s analysis of British, European and international politics.

“Governance” is a core concept in the Guizhou Party School’s curriculum. Based on principles of autonomy, grassroots involvement, law-based rules, virtue (echoes of Robespierre’s Republic of Virtue), the interests of the people and modernisation, Professor Qiu Zhonghui showed how socialist governance would be incompatible with rule in a class-divided society which serves the interests of a capitalist class.

Answering a question about the collective role of the organised working class in the governance of modern China, as distinct from those of the CPC and community bodies, he responded:

“The working class and the labour movement are a pioneering force in our revolutionary process and should play a major part in governance.

“The role of the trade unions is to protect workers’ rights. The interests of the working class cannot come before the interests of all; our common aim is to build a socialist society through governance.”

On the following day, a high-speed bullet train took us 86 miles (138km) in 45 minutes to the Zunyi Municipal Party School. There, Professor Yang Heying described the four defining periods in the history of the CPC since it proclaimed its supreme aim in 1921 to “realise the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

These periods are the “new democratic revolution” (1921-49); “socialist revolution and construction” (1949-78); “reform, opening-up and socialist modernisation” (1978-2012); and “socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era,” ongoing since 2012.

She also explained the significance of the Zunyi conference in January 1935. Buses took us to the historic house and courtyard where a CPC-Red Army summit changed the course of Chinese history during the Long March.

There, the young Mao Zedong successfully opposed the failed, adventurist tactics of the party leadership, assumed political command of the Red Army and secured a leading position in the CPC politburo alongside Zhou Enlai and Zhu De.

We were back in Guiyang in time for the evening dinner.

Next morning, June 29, the delegation strolled through Qingyan Ancient Town, full of lovingly preserved Ming dynasty houses, courtyards, cobbled lanes and temples going back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

Then the international delegation bade farewell to our Guizhou hosts at the provincial party school. To our great surprise, after a round of speeches, we were then revealed as the stars of a professionally produced film — set, naturally, to the strains of The Internationale — depicting our perambulations through the province.

Each delegate then received a video cassette and a large glossy 70-page book of the film in glorious technicolour, all produced in less than 24 hours.

China: meeting trade unionists and party members, young and old

Morning Star, 11 August 2023

ON the afternoon of June 29, the international delegation from Britain, Ireland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the US, Canada and Australia flew to Beijing to stay at the state-owned and splendidly refurbished Wanshou Hotel, east of the city centre.

Our first meeting on Friday morning was with a long-standing friend, director-general of the CPC international department’s North American, Oceanian and Nordic Affairs bureau, Zhou Rongguo, his deputy Wang Yingchun and younger bureau officials.

They were keen to learn more about how people in developed Western countries live, deal with their problems and fight injustices. How are our communist parties doing, what are their prospects and those for the advance to socialism?

They also welcomed suggestions about how the Communist Party of China (CPC) might counter lies and smears. How could we improve relations between our respective peoples, avoid a new cold war, and strengthen relations between our Communist parties?

Every party from the delegation had ample time to respond, although none could deny the reality of growing anti-China feeling in the West and the onset of a cold war (except for one delegate who believed that such tension could only improve the prospects for socialist revolution, whatever the risk of war).

My own response welcomed the CPC’s readiness to admit and address China’s problems, weaknesses and mistakes, which some people in the West would contrast favourably with the conduct of their own political leaders.

Of course, I outlined the cost-of-living (or “cost-of-profits”) crisis in Britain and the resistance to it, highlighting the British mass media’s distorted picture of domestic issues and their exclusion of all dissenting voices when it comes to China, the Ukraine war, Nato and nuclear weapons.

Perhaps China should challenge the world’s nuclear-armed powers to all sign up to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons together on a named date in the future?

I also pointed to the case of the Wafer Fab semiconductor plant in Newport, where up to 600 staff face redundancy if the company’s Chinese shareholding cannot be sold, as an example of how anti-China economic sanctions — introduced at the behest of the US — are directly damaging the interests of workers and the economy.

It was then an honour to speak at a ceremony where the heads of the CPC international department awarded 50-year service medals to veteran Communists and new recruits swore their oaths of loyalty to the party and the people. No foreign delegation has previously been invited to attend such an event.

I congratulated the CPC members on their half-century in a spirit of modesty, having myself served in the Communist Party of Britain for only 40 years.

Mao’s definition of a good communist seemed apposite at this point: “Someone who is unselfish, resolute, practical, far-sighted and without prejudice… Someone who subordinates personal interests to the interests of the masses.”

Then it was a meeting and lunch with international vice minister Guo Yezhou, another friendly and familiar face, who wanted to hear more about the political situation in Britain as well as other countries.

In the afternoon, the international comrades met China’s Communist Youth League (CYL) at their Beijing offices. One of its central secretaries, Shapkat Wushur — a member of China’s growing Uighur community — reported on the 19th CYL congress held earlier that month.

Women comprised 40 per cent of the 1,500 delegates representing 74 million members aged from 14 to 28 (although office-holders may continue in membership for a few years). It was also attended by Johnnie Hunter, general secretary of Britain’s Young Communist League (YCL).

The congress revised its development plan, which seeks to strengthen bodies under its control such as the National Youth Federation, the National Federation of Students and the Chinese Young Pioneers.

In the discussion that followed this report, Judith Cazorla outlined the recent growth of the YCL and the importance of combining militancy and discipline with Marxist-Leninist education.

Later, at the headquarters of the All-China Federation of Trades Unions (ACFTU), deputy chair Xiong Xuanguo outlined the very different context in which China’s unions operate.

The ACFTU organises 300 million workers in 10 industrial unions and 31 provincial and regional associations. As the only union body recognised by employers and the state, its wide range of responsibilities includes not only collective bargaining and protecting workers’ existing rights but also lobbying state bodies and the CPC about labour and social rights and assisting members with access to employment, financial support, social benefit advice and skills training.

Legislative changes have compelled foreign-owned enterprises to allow the formation of CPC cells in all workplaces, much to the dismay of some transnational corporations and the anger of US representatives at the World Trade Organisation.

Comrade Xiong insisted that workers must enjoy their full share of the “fruits of modernisation,” and that this should include migrant workers and others who need retraining to keep up with technological advances.

The Covid pandemic had a negative impact on many workers, with company losses provoking redundancies and some employers refusing or delaying the payment of wages — especially to migrant workers. Combined union and CPC pressure has usually paid off.

In recent years, hundreds of trade union service stations have been set up to provide outdoor workers in cities and the countryside with leisure, cooking, sanitation, first aid and communications facilities.

Deputy chair Xiong was unapologetic about the ACFTU policy of raising productivity and avoiding strikes wherever possible. Many millions of its members continue to benefit from China’s phenomenal economic growth, which is currently running at an annual rate above 6 per cent.

Nor did he agree with a reduction in the standard five-day, eight-hour working week — at least not yet. “There’s not enough wealth in the country to cut it, although we are not in favour of overloading workers either, although some overtime is acceptable for the appropriate pay,” he told our delegation.

I took the opportunity to brief the ACFTU deputation on Britain’s strike wave and its prospects and pointed to the desirability of sending more British and Western trade union delegations to China.

Within weeks of my return, an email invitation from the ACFTU to send such a delegation had been received.

‘Our modernisation brings hope to the young’

Morning Star, 18 August 2023

THE Museum of the Communist Party of China (CPC) opened its doors in central Beijing in July 2021, just three years after the CPC central committee commissioned it.

The magnificent displays of paintings, photographs, artefacts, moving images and the life-size reconstruction of a battle between anti-fascist soldiers and Japanese occupation forces cover almost 100,000 square metres.

When the international delegation visited the museum on July 1, the vast halls and corridors were already thronged with visitors from China and abroad, including beautifully dressed parties of schoolchildren.

I was puzzled, however, by one omission. I asked the museum’s research professor Cao Yi why no mention in the Korean war exhibition of the germ warfare allegations against the US forces occupying the north until driven out by the People’s Liberation Army.

“The veracity of those charges is under investigation and no firm conclusion has yet been reached,” she frankly replied.

A visit to Shougang Industrial Park on the outskirts of Beijing revealed how human ingenuity can preserve and utilise the relics of an industrial past.

Ultra-modern offices and exhibition spaces blend together — inside and outside — with the iron shell of enormous blast furnace number two (of five), in an attractive complex which once employed 100,000 workers but more recently hosted some events of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Over the weekend, our delegation also had the opportunity to witness some of the wonders of ancient China, including Beijing’s Imperial Palace and the Great Wall to the city’s north-west. Trekking to the hilltop battlements proved to be thirsty work for the Canadian, Irish and British and Scandinavian contingents.

The last full day of the visit began with a full, frank and hugely informative talk on the application of scientific socialism to China’s path of development.

At the CPC central committee party school, Professor Guo Qiang explained that Chinese modernisation in this new era does not contradict the country’s history and traditions: “The CPC has confidence in China’s history and culture, but this is based on Marxism not emotion.

“There are shadows on our nation’s past, negative aspects and the like, but our path of modernisation carries forward the positive aspects.”

He highlighted the most significant aspects of China’s modernisation: that “common prosperity” means sharing the material, cultural and ethical benefits of modernisation with all the people of China and internationally — not only prosperity for the few; that young people in China face the future with hope (how very different from so many of our youth in modern Britain!); green modernisation does not mean “pollute first and clean up later,” unlike so much Western capitalist industrialisation; and that China’s development is peaceful, without a history of wars, colonisation and plunder.

Guo emphasised the significance of modernisation for women. Equality has been enshrined in law since 1949, bringing the promise of emancipation after thousands of years of medieval subordination, but it was modernisation and prosperity that would enable women to participate fully in China’s economic, political and cultural life.

He outlined the next stage in the country’s socialist modernisation, which is to prioritise meeting people’s material needs through consumption-led growth, assisted by greater self-reliance and breakthroughs in science and technology.

The emphasis from 2035 will shift to realising political, democratic, social, cultural and ecological as well as economic goals by 2049 — the centenary of the People’s Republic (New China).

Following his presentation, the professor then spent almost two hours responding to questions from his audience.

The foreign guests heard about the devolution of powers and resources to local communities; how the CPC-led trade unions protect the economic rights of workers while the CPC is the political representative of the working class; the big improvements in air quality — notably in Beijing — and the rapid development of wind and solar power ahead of schedule; and about private capital’s major role in production, employment and tax generation, but under strict regulation and monitored by CPC, trade union and mass organisations.

Land and most energy, transport, banking, armaments and mass media corporations are in full or majority state ownership.

My question about the absence of women in the top leadership of the CPC appeared to strike a chord with women academics and party officials in the room.

Only 10 of 205 central committee members elected at the 20th party congress last October are women, although they comprise almost one-third of the CPC membership. All 24 members of the Politburo and its standing committee are men.

Guo said this deficit is a topic of discussion inside the party. Many in the CPC leadership are over 60 and attended university 40 years ago when there were very few female students — itself the result of bad and reactionary elements in traditional Chinese culture, he explained.

Huge changes are under way in education, with women filling more than half of all university and college places.

“Today, the younger generation has a strong sense of gender equality,” Guo declared, “although it might still take a few decades for half of China’s political leaders to be women, as we now see in the Nordic countries.”

Would quotas help? They could be to the disadvantage of women in education, he suggested.

The international’s final engagement took place at the National Archives of Publications and Culture, a modern and impressive complex on an old quarry site at the foot of the Yan mountains, north of Beijing.

There we joined the opening ceremony for two world conferences about to take place: one for friendship societies and associated academics; the other for Sinologists, those who specialise in the study of China past and present.

Australian professor Colin Mackerras delivered an impassioned speech in English and fluent Mandarin, without notes, deploring the grotesquely distorted picture of China presented by Western politicians and the mass media.

His call for friendship and understanding in place of confrontation and ignorance found a loud echo in the applause of hundreds of guests.

The keynote address by China’s vice-president Han Zheng commended his country’s Global Civilisation, Security and Development Initiatives, the last of which has now been adopted by the UN.

He added: “Chinese modernisation has enriched and developed a new form of human civilisation, opened up a new road for the development of civilisations, and brought new opportunities for closer mutual learning among civilisations.”

That seemed an appropriate note on which to end the formal proceedings of such a memorable visit to China by the Communist parties of Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the US and the Friends of Socialist China.

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