China’s modernization is directed toward common prosperity for all

In the following article, originally written in early February 2023, our co-editor Keith Bennett argues that whilst modernization is a common aspiration of humanity, China’s course of socialist modernization, which will more than double the number of people living in modernized societies, offers a fundamentally different paradigm to that of the global minority who led the first wave of modernization beginning with the industrial revolution. China’s modernization, Keith argues, “represents something fundamentally new – something that moreover will come to be seen as a trail blazer for the only modernization that is actually comprehensive, equitable and sustainable.”

China’s modernization aims to achieve common prosperity for all whereas, in the developed capitalist countries, “even after hundreds of years, not only does the gap between rich and poor remain, does the phenomenon of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer persist, they are once again being exacerbated and becoming acute.”

And whilst the capitalist countries laid the basis for their development through what Xi Jinping has described as the, “brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others”, a process graphically described by Marx in Volume One of Capital, China is sharing the lessons and opportunities of its socialist modernization through programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative.

An abbreviated version of the article was published in the People’s Daily on May 29, 2023.

The process of modernization, as it is generally understood today, essentially began with the development of first Great Britain, and then some other countries in Western Europe, as well as the United States, in the nineteenth century with the industrial revolution. Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan became the first non-white nation to join this historical process.

In the contemporary world, the realization of modernization has become a universal aspiration of humanity. Yet it remains a goal attained by just a minority of the world’s population. It is in this context that we must begin to see the significance of Xi Jinping’s statement, in his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October that, “from this day forward, the central task” would be to lead the people towards the Second Centenary Goal of “building China into a great modern socialist in all respects”. He explained that this central task entailed:

  • The modernization of a huge population.
  • The modernization of common prosperity for all.
  • The modernization of material and cultural-ethical advancement.
  • The modernization of harmony between humanity and nature.
  • The modernization of peaceful development.

From this five-point summary, one can see that, whilst modernization is a global process and a universal aspiration, it can take and assume radically different forms. So, whilst China’s socialist modernization shares some characteristics with the path trod by western capitalist nations, it has more differences than similarities. It represents something fundamentally new – something that moreover will come to be seen as a trail blazer for the only modernization that is actually comprehensive, equitable and sustainable. The Chinese leader’s thesis on modernization is a significant component of Xi Jinping Thought and as such even a cursory study of its significance will highlight both that it is thoroughly grounded in the scientific socialist tradition and also that it constitutes Marxism for the 21st century.

As already mentioned, so far modernization has only been achieved by a minority of, overwhelmingly white, nations. In terms of scale alone, therefore, China’s modernization will more than double the percentage of the world’s population living in modernized societies. As such, it will profoundly change, and indeed revolutionize, global society and economy, and hence the prospects and possibilities for those nations and peoples still facing existential questions of development. Already, China’s elimination of extreme poverty represents by far the greatest contribution to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG). As Xi Jinping put it in his report to the 19th Party Congress in 2017, socialism with Chinese characteristics “offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”

The comprehensive and unique character of China’s socialist modernization is further illustrated in Xi’s second point – that it is modernization of common prosperity for all.

As Chinese leaders from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping made clear, common prosperity is an intrinsic requirement and essential feature of developed socialism. In the first stage of China’s reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping elucidated that some people should be allowed to get rich first. The overall effect was to very substantially raise the standard of living and quality of life for the overwhelming majority of the population. However, the inequalities generated went too far and in some instances became quite egregious. This generated problems not simply across the nation as a whole, but also, for example in terms of sometimes glaring regional disparities. Nevertheless, Deng himself was always crystal clear that the purpose of allowing some to get rich first was solely as a step towards the long-term goal of realizing common prosperity for all. And, as complex and tough as that process undoubtedly is, China is now making steady progress in that direction.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that the urban-rural wealth gap has kept narrowing ever since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012. In 2021, disposable income in urban areas was 2.5 times that in rural areas, compared with 2.88 times in 2012. This progress was registered after China successfully pulled the remaining 100 million rural residents out of the World Bank’s definition of absolute poverty over the decade since 2012. China has also managed to create the world’s largest social safety net, even if a great deal remains to be done to improve and perfect it. The basic old age insurance program, China’s pension fund system, has expanded since 2012 to cover 1.04 billion people. The coverage of unemployment benefits and work injury insurance also soared, reaching 230 million and 290 million people respectively.

On a world-wide scale, the fact that China’s modernization is modernization of peaceful development is the most fundamental point of all and provides the starkest contrast with the capitalist road to modernization. The basis for this latter was poignantly and succinctly summarized by the founder of scientific socialism in the nineteenth century. In Chapter 31 of Volume One of his most seminal work, Capital, Karl Marx wrote:

“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.”

Addressing the Oxford Union in 2015, the Indian politician and writer Shashi Tharoor noted: “India’s share of the world economy when Britain arrived on its shores was 23%. By the time the British left it was down to 4%. Why? Simply because India had been governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India. In fact, Britain’s industrial revolution was actually premised on the deindustrialization of India.”

It is this law of capitalist development uncovered by Marx that led Lenin to define as an essential feature of capitalist society the division of the world into a small handful of oppressor nations on the one hand and a great mass of oppressed nations on the other. It is precisely as a result of this division that the majority of humanity has still to achieve modernization.

Yet, the fact that the key developed nations to a great extent built their modernization on the blood and bones of the global majority does not mean that they have been able to achieve common prosperity for all at home. Even after hundreds of years, not only does the gap between rich and poor remain, does the phenomenon of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer persist, they are once again being exacerbated and becoming acute. That is why Britain is currently experiencing a wave of strikes, unprecedented in recent decades, as workers from the most diverse sectors often demand not pay increases in real terms but simply amelioration of the decline in their real wage levels as a result of years of austerity culminating in record inflation. Meanwhile, multimillionaire ministers in the Conservative government are forced to resign when their avoidance of millions of pounds in tax obligations are exposed to the light of day.

Outlining China’s line of march to modernization at the 20th Party Congress, Xi Jinping stressed: “In pursuing modernization, China will not tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries. We will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress.”

China’s realization of common prosperity for all, its more than doubling of the number of people living in modernized societies, and its contributions to global modernization through such means as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Development Initiative constitute the path to the realization of humanity’s community of shared future. It is a fundamentally different paradigm for modernization.

Qin Gang: Chinese Modernization and the World

Several hundred people from some 80 countries attended the Lanting Forum on China’s Modernization and the World, which opened in Shanghai on April 21, and was jointly organized by the China Public Diplomacy Association and the Chinese People’s Institute for Foreign Affairs, with support from the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government and others. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to the conference in which he pointed out that China, “will provide new opportunities for global development with new accomplishments in Chinese modernization, lend new impetus to humanity’s search for paths toward modernization and better social systems, and work with all countries to advance the building of a community with a shared future for humanity.”

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang delivered a keynote address at the opening session.

Stating that Shanghai was the right place to hold this meeting, he observed that: “A little over a century ago, the Communist Party of China (CPC) started its journey from here. Since then, Shanghai has witnessed not only the vicissitudes of the Chinese nation, but also the profound transformation across the country. The old Shanghai, dominated by foreign powers, is a forerunner today in China’s reform and opening-up. A bustling and prosperous metropolis has risen from devastation since 1949.” 

He went on to note that, “our success in Chinese modernization was not handed down from heaven or just emerged by itself. It has been attained step by step through determined, painstaking efforts of the Chinese people under the leadership of the CPC always staying true to its founding mission… It was not until the birth of the CPC in 1921 that China found the pillar and guidance for its modernization. It is under the CPC’s strong leadership that we have embarked on the great journey of independently building a modern country. We have turned China from an impoverished and backward land into the world’s second largest economy, top trader in goods, biggest holder of foreign exchange reserves, and biggest manufacturer. We have put in place the world’s largest compulsory education system, social security system, and medical and health system. China has realized, in a short span of several decades, industrialization that had taken developed countries several centuries.”

Pointing out that, when Comrade Xi Jinping assumed the leadership of the CPC a little over 10 years ago, at the 18th Party Congress, the “acceleration button” was pressed on China’s modernization drive, Qin Gang continued: “Absolute poverty was eradicated. A moderately prosperous society in all respects became a reality. With this, the First Centenary Goal was realized. The Chinese nation has achieved a great transformation from standing up and growing prosperous to becoming strong. National rejuvenation is now on an irreversible course…With the conviction and responsibility of ‘serving the people selflessly’, President Xi Jinping is steering Chinese modernization forward and leading us in marching on the right path toward a better future.”

Explaining that Chinese modernization is a natural outcome of the laws governing human development, Qin Gang said: “Modernization is a common cause of all humanity. Although the West enjoyed the fruits of modernization ahead of others, history will not end there. As early as 140 years ago, Karl Marx envisioned crossing the Caudine Forks of capitalism, providing a solid theoretical basis for a path of modernization different from that of the West.”

(This refers in particular to some of Marx’s later works, notably studying the Russian commune system, and exploring the potential it held for societies to transition to socialism without passing through all the horrors of the capitalist system. For a detailed consideration of Marx’s views on this matter by a prominent Chinese Marxist scholar, see ‘Leaping Over the Caudine Forks of Capitalism’ by Zhao Jiaxiang, published by Routledge.) 

Qin further noted: “Ample facts have proved that there is no fixed model of, or single solution to, modernization. Any country can achieve modernization, as long as the path suits its conditions and answers the need of its people for development. On the contrary, mechanically copying ill-fitted foreign models is counter-productive, and may even lead to catastrophic consequences.”

Turning to the international ramifications of China’s modernization drive, the Foreign Minister said that, “as a Chinese saying goes, ‘A just cause should be pursued for the common good.’ As the biggest developing country, China always keeps in mind the greater good of the whole world.”

He illustrated this with seven points, arguing that:

  • The modernization of China with such a huge population will be a stronger boost for global economic recovery. 
  • The modernization of China with common prosperity for all will open up a broader path to the common development of all countries.
  • The Global Development Initiative (GDI) is widely welcomed by the international community: “As an African leader put it, the Chinese path inspires all developing countries to believe that every country is able to achieve development even from scratch.”
  • The modernization of China with material and cultural-ethical advancement will open up bright prospects for human progress.
  • The modernization of China with harmony between humanity and nature will provide a more viable pathway to a clean and beautiful world.
  • The modernization of China on the path of peaceful development will bring more certainty to world peace and stability.
  • The Global Security Initiative (GSI) has pointed out the right direction of pursuing common and universal security. 

Qin Gang then outlined five key tasks for Chinese diplomacy following last October’s 20th Party Congress, namely:

  • China will defend the right to development of all countries with greater determination.
  • China will advance high-standard opening-up with more proactive efforts.
  • China will promote exchanges among civilizations more actively.
  • China will work more vigorously for a community of all life on earth.
  • China will safeguard the international order with greater resolve.

Finally, Qin Gang used his speech to clearly reiterate China’s firm and principled position on the question of Taiwan, noting:

“It is right and proper for China to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We would like to make it clear to those who seek to sabotage international justice in the name of international order: The Taiwan question is the core of the core interests of China, and there will be no vagueness at all in our response to any one who attempts to distort the one-China principle; we will never back down in face of any act that undermines China’s sovereignty and security. Those who play with fire on Taiwan will eventually get themselves burned.”

On the margins of the forum, Qin Gang also met with the Foreign Minister of Gambia, Mamadou Tangara, who had just visited Xinjiang, and with Dilma Rousseff, former President of Brazil and newly appointed President of the New Development Bank, which is headquartered in Shanghai.

We reprint below a report on the message from President Xi Jinping and the full text of Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s keynote address. Both were originally published on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

President Xi Jinping Sends Congratulatory Message to Lanting Forum on Chinese Modernization and the World

On 21 April, President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message to the Lanting Forum on Chinese Modernization and the World held at the Meet-the-World Lounge in Shanghai.

President Xi pointed out that realizing modernization is a relentless pursuit of the Chinese people since modern times began. It is also the common aspiration of people of all countries. In pursuing modernization, a country needs to follow certain general patterns. More importantly, it should proceed from its own realities and develop its own features. After a long and arduous quest, the Communist Party of China has led the entire Chinese nation in finding a development path that suits China’s conditions. We are now building a strong country and advancing national rejuvenation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. China will provide new opportunities for global development with new accomplishments in Chinese modernization, lend new impetus to humanity’s search for paths toward modernization and better social systems, and work with all countries to advance the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Continue reading Qin Gang: Chinese Modernization and the World

Xi Jinping’s keynote address at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting

On March 15, the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) held a High-Level Meeting under the title The CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties and with the theme Path towards modernization: The Responsibility of Political Parties, via video link. It was attended by leaders and representatives from hundreds of political parties and organizations from around the world, including a delegation of Friends of Socialist China.

The meeting was opened with a keynote address from Comrade Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and President of the People’s Republic of China.

Noting that the history of human development is full of twists and turns and that the path to modernization is also arduous, Xi said that “in today’s world, multiple challenges and crises are intertwined. The global economic recovery remains sluggish, the development gap is widening, ecological environment is deteriorating, and the Cold War mentality is lingering,” meaning that we are once again at a crossroads of history.

Sharing some of his observations, Xi noted:

  • We must put the people first and ensure modernization is people-centered. The ultimate goal of modernization is people’s free and well-rounded development. “Modernization is not only about indicators and statistics on the paper but more about the delivery of a happy and stable life for the people.”
  • We must uphold the principle of independence and explore diversified paths towards modernization. Each country must consider its own national conditions and unique features. “It is the people of a country that are in the best position to tell what kind of modernization best suits them. Developing countries have the right and ability to independently explore the modernization path with their distinctive features based on their national realities.”
  • We must uphold fundamental principles and break new ground. “We should work together to reform and develop the global governance system and make the international order more just and equitable as we advance humanity’s modernization in an environment of equal rights, equal opportunities and fair rules for all.” Xi added that we must help others to succeed while seeking our own success. “We stand firmly opposed to the practice of preserving one’s own development privilege by suppressing and containing other countries’ endeavor to achieve modernization.”

Turning to China’s experience, Xi noted that, “The journey of over 100 years that the Party has traversed to unite and lead the Chinese people in pursuing national rejuvenation is also an exploration of a path towards modernization.” And he reiterated that, “Chinese modernization is one of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of material and cultural-ethical advancement, of harmony between humanity and nature, and of peaceful development,” adding: “We will stay committed to the right direction, right theories and the right path. We will not veer off course by changing our nature or abandoning our system.”

Addressing the international context for his country’s modernization, the Chinese leader reaffirmed that: “In advancing modernization, China will neither tread the old path of colonization and plunder, nor the crooked path taken by some countries to seek hegemony once they grow strong… We firmly oppose hegemony and power politics in all their forms… The world does not need a new Cold War. The practice of stoking division and confrontation in the name of democracy is in itself a violation of the spirit of democracy… No matter what level of development China achieves, it will never seek hegemony or expansion.”

Moving towards the close of his speech, Xi Jinping proposed for the first time his concept of a Global Civilization Initiative. According to this proposal:

  • We advocate the respect for the diversity of civilizations.
  • We advocate the common values of humanity. Peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom are the common aspirations of all peoples.
  • We advocate the importance of inheritance and innovation of civilizations.
  • We advocate robust international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.

Finally, Xi observed that: “There are bound to be setbacks on humanity’s journey to modernization, but the future is bright.”

Following Xi Jinping’s address, speeches were made by:

  • Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and President of the Republic of South Africa.
  • Nicolás Maduro, President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
  • Aleksandar Vučić, President of the Serbian Progressive Party and President of the Republic of Serbia.
  • Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene, Chairman of the Mongolian People’s Party and Prime Minister of Mongolia.
  • Xie Chuntao, Executive Vice President of the CPC Central Party School.
  • James Marape, Leader of the Pangu Party and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.
  • Salva Kiir Mayardit, Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and President of South Sudan.
  • Daniel Ortega, President of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) of Nicaragua and President of Nicaragua.
  • Boris Gryzlov, Chairman of the Supreme Council of United Russia.
  • Han Wenxiu from the Financial and Economic Office of the CPC Central Committee.
  • Dickon Mitchell, Leader of the National Democratic Congress and Prime Minister of Grenada.
  • Yawa Djigbodi Tsegan, Treasurer of the National Office of Union for the Republic (UNIR) and President of the National Assembly of Togo.
  • Erlan Qoşanov, Chairman of the Amanat Party and of the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) of Kazakhstan.
  • Taur Matan Ruak, President of the People’s Liberation Party and Prime Minister of Timor Leste.
  • Cai Qi, Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

We reprint below General Secretary Xi Jinping’s speech to the meeting. It was originally carried by the Xinhua News Agency.

Join Hands on the Path Towards Modernization

Keynote Address by H.E. Xi Jinping
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
And President of the People’s Republic of China
At the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties
High-level Meeting
Beijing, 15 March 2023

Leaders of political parties from around the world,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It gives me great pleasure to join all of you for the discussion on “Path Towards Modernization: The Responsibility of Political Parties”.

The history of human development is full of twists and turns. Similarly, the journey of each country to explore the path to modernization is also arduous. In today’s world, multiple challenges and crises are intertwined. The global economic recovery remains sluggish, the development gap is widening, ecological environment is deteriorating, and the Cold War mentality is lingering. Humanity’s modernization process has once again reached a crossroads of history.

Polarization or common prosperity? Pure materialistic pursuit or coordinated material and cultural-ethical advancement? Draining the pond to catch the fish or creating harmony between man and nature? Zero-sum game or win-win cooperation? Copying other countries’ development model or achieving independent development in light of national conditions? What kind of modernization do we need and how can we achieve it? Confronted with these questions, political parties as an important force steering and driving the modernization process are duty bound to provide answers. Here, I wish to share some of my observations.

Continue reading Xi Jinping’s keynote address at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting

Chinese documentary: Navigating to the Future

Embedded below are the five parts of a new documentary called Navigating to the Future, produced by the Information Office of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, and introducing China’s path to modernization. The documentary tracks the cities and scenic sites along National Highway 318 – China’s longest national highway, running from the far east (Shanghai) to the far west (Zhangmu, on the China-Nepal border). The film includes a range of images and scenes from contemporary China, and provides a valuable insight as to the Chinese people’s journey of building a modern socialist country.

Episode 1: Stopovers at thriving markets

Episode 2: Stopovers at prosperous villages

Episode 3: Stopovers at a smart city

Episode 4: Stopovers at pristine mountains and waters

Episode 5: Stopovers at the fashionable plateau

The Chinese path to modernization provides a reference for other developing countries

The following article, which was originally carried by China Daily, was a keynote speech delivered by Justin Yifu Lin at the Third Think-Tanks Forum on National Governance in Developing Countries. Originally from Taiwan Province, Lin is one of China’s leading economists. Currently the Dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics and Honorable Dean of the National School of Development at Peking University, he was Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank, 2008-2012.

Noting how modernization was initiated by the West so as to shift from a traditional agricultural society to a modern industrial one, Lin notes that China’s modernization is a socialist modernization under the leadership of the Communist Party. It therefore combines features common to those of modernization as undertaken by the western countries along with its own unique features. These latter include the modernization of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of harmony between humanity and nature, and of peaceful development.

Having summarized the key features of Chinese-style modernization, as first elaborated by President Xi Jinping, Lin advances the idea that governments in developing countries should facilitate industrial development, based on the country’s comparative advantage. “An efficient economy,” he notes, “could create wealth rapidly, and fair income distribution could lay a solid foundation for common prosperity.”

Whilst China’s development not only generates wealth for itself, but also brings more development opportunities to other countries, thereby promoting global peaceful development, “the practices have shown that there is barely any developing country that has achieved modernization by following the Western path. The few developing countries that have realized modernization did not copy the Western model.”

“Copying the Western model of modernization is the result of a wrong perception of modernization. According to Marx’s historical materialism, what Western nations possess, what they are good at doing, and what matters to them are all determined by their economic bases… In comparison, the Chinese path to modernization provides a reference for other developing countries that are exploring their own paths to modernization.”

Modernization is an important historical process that was initiated by the West since the Age of Discovery in the 15th century, especially after the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. It features a shift from the traditional agricultural society to a modern industrial one, rapidly developing science and technology and booming the economy with increasingly improved livelihoods. The modernization which first started in a few Western countries spread all over the world, becoming the common aspiration of people in all countries. Chinese modernization is socialist modernization under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. It contains elements that are common to the modernization of Western countries, and also boasts features unique to the Chinese context.

Chinese modernization is modernization of a huge population. If China achieves modernization and becomes a high-income country, it will more than double the percentage of the world’s population living in high-income economies from the current 16 percent to 34 percent.

Chinese modernization is modernization of common prosperity for all. While Western modernization has created huge amounts of wealth after the Industrial Revolution, the process has also resulted in growing polarization between the rich and the poor.

Continue reading The Chinese path to modernization provides a reference for other developing countries

Jenny Clegg on the complex and evolving US-China relationship

On the proposal of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC), Friends of Socialist China (FoSC) and the IDCPC jointly organised two online seminars, with participation by invitation, on the theme of, ‘The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and its World Significance’, on December 10th and 17th.

A total of 36 supporters and friends of FoSC from England, Scotland, Wales and the north of Ireland, from various nationalities and walks of life, and from a broad range of progressive organisations and areas of struggle, participated, the majority of them in both events.

The first seminar focused on expert presentations, with the speakers being:

  • Liu Genfa, Deputy Director, Department of International Exchange, Training and Development of the China Executive Leadership Academy, Pudong;
  • Qu Bo, Associate Professor and Director, Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University;
  • Dr Hugh Goodacre, Managing Director of the Institute for Independence Studies and Lecturer in the History of Economic Thought at University College London(UCL);
  • Dr Jenny Clegg, China specialist and former Senior Lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN).

The second seminar concentrated more on an exchange of views and experiences, with younger comrades taking the lead. The speakers were:

  • Ms Wang Yingchun, Deputy Director General of Bureau VII of the IDCPC;
  • Ms Li Na, Communist Youth League Branch Secretary of Bureau VII of the IDCPC;
  • Eben Williams, Member of the International Committee and Chair of the Glasgow branch of the Young Communist League;
  • Fiona Sim, Organiser with Goldsmiths Anti-Imperialist Society

We plan to publish those of the papers for which we have the text on our website in the coming period and hope to organise more such joint activities with our comrades in the IDCPC in the new year.

Below is the speech given by Jenny Clegg at the session on December 10th. Jenny’s presentation explores in some detail the complex and evolving relationship between the US and China, as well as providing an overview of (and raising some questions for discussion in relation to) China’s socialist modernisation.

My contribution comes in two parts – firstly I focus on the US-China relationship with a view to making some assessment, at the current international conjuncture, of the recent Xi-Biden meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Bali summit.  Secondly I raise some issues about China’s last stages of socialist modernisation.

The US-China relationship: the background

The US China relationship has become the dominant influence on the overall dynamics of international relations.

China’s rise counters US hegemonism; it challenges the system of imperialist rule-making; at the same time China’s socialist orientation shows there is an alternative to capitalism.

These three intertwined contradictions are fundamentally antagonistic but as Mao suggested antagonistic contradictions can also be handled in a non antagonistic way – of course depending on the circumstances. Today it is amidst the increasingly complex context of polycrises – of climate change, the pandemic, debt and economic recession, and now the Ukraine war – that we see the US and China engaged in a sharpening trial of strength. 

Continue reading Jenny Clegg on the complex and evolving US-China relationship

China’s socialist modernisation is a contribution to human progress

Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez was invited by the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China to make a contribution at the thematic symposium on Chinese Governance and Multiple Paths of Modernization at the 5th Hongqiao International Economic Forum, held in Shanghai from 5 to 10 November, 2022.

What follows is the transcript of his remarks, in which he reviews the imperialist countries’ process of modernisation – characterised by colonial violence and plunder – and contrasts this with China’s evolving modernisation path, which is peaceful, sustainable, and based on common prosperity.

All countries have a right to modernisation. Modernisation is a process that enables higher living standards for the masses of the people. It enables common prosperity. With modernised industry, production technique, communication methods, transport systems, energy systems and healthcare methods, humanity has the potential to provide a healthy, meaningful and dignified life to everybody.

A life where each individual has reliable access to a healthy diet, to decent housing, to clothing, to education, to healthcare, to a vibrant cultural, social and intellectual life, to interesting work. In short, modernisation makes it possible to attend to people’s fundamental human rights.

And furthermore, these days it is possible to modernise in a way that doesn’t damage the planet, in a way that doesn’t compromise the sustainability of human existence on Earth.

What China has shown the world is that there is more than one path to modernisation.

For a long time, the predominant ideology – particularly in the West – has affirmed that the only path to modernisation is the one laid down by the imperialist powers.

And what does that path look like? Countries such as the United States and Britain claim that the secret of their success was the combination of free-market capitalism and a system of Western-style parliamentary democracy.

However, there are plenty of countries in the developing world that have attempted to apply that formula and that have achieved little more than chaos.

Indeed, the reality of the West’s path to modernisation looks profoundly different to the picture that has been painted. The industrial revolution, carried out first in Britain, was built to a significant degree on the profits of colonial plunder and the slave trade.

Britain accumulated extraordinary wealth from its colonial ventures in Ireland, India, the Caribbean, the Americas, Africa and elsewhere – not to mention the profits from forcing opium on China, a project so lucrative that Britain went to war multiple times in order to protect it.

It was British, Spanish, Portuguese and French ships that took captured African slaves to the Americas to be worked to death in the plantations, producing sugar, cotton and tobacco for the world market.

Karl Marx famously wrote in Volume 1 of Capital: “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.”

This is the ugly truth of European modernisation. And the story is not so different in the United States. The so-called founding fathers of that country were slave-owners, and they established a slave-owners’ society. They went to war against the indigenous tribes and against Mexico in order to expand their territory.

In the 20th century, having established their domination over the Americas, they constructed a neocolonial global system that is still in place to a significant degree, imposing American hegemony on the world.

A network of 800 foreign military bases. NATO. An enormous nuclear arsenal. Genocidal wars waged on Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. Systems of economic coercion and unilateral sanctions. Proxy wars, coups, regime change projects, destabilisation.

This is the global system of violence that has facilitated and accompanied imperialist modernisation.

Furthermore, the benefits of this modernisation have been distributed vastly unequally. The wealthy in the US, Britain and elsewhere live an incredibly ‘modern’ life, but there are hundreds of thousands of homeless people; tens of millions that will have to choose between heating and eating this winter; tens of millions that don’t have access to healthcare.

China has also been modernising. China’s modernisation starts in 1949 with the founding of The People’s Republic, the early construction of socialist industry, nationalisation of the land, and the provision of education and healthcare services to the whole population.

In 1963, Premier Zhou Enlai first raised the question of the Four Modernisations: of agriculture, industry, defence, and science and technology. With the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, China accelerated its pursuit of those goals, and ushered in an era of rapid development of the productive forces and improvement in the people’s living standards.

China’s journey of modernisation has evolved again in recent years with the pursuit of the second centenary goal: of building a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful by 2049.

China’s modernisation, however, is a socialist modernisation. It’s distinct from the capitalist model of in several important ways:

  1. It is built on the efforts of the Chinese people rather than on war, colonialism and slavery.
  2. Its fruits are to be shared by everybody, not dominated by the wealthy. As General Secretary Xi Jinping said in his work report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China’s modernisation is “the modernisation of common prosperity for all.”
  3. It is becoming a green modernisation, fuelled by clean energy, careful not to destroy the planet that sustains us. Again quoting Xi Jinping’s work report, “it is the modernisation of harmony between humanity and nature.”

This evolving, peaceful, sustainable and fair modernisation constitutes a valuable contribution to our collective human understanding, and shows that there is more than one path to modernisation.

But this did not come about by accident.

China’s achievements, its commitment to common prosperity, its commitment to ending poverty and underdevelopment, its commitment to preventing climate collapse and its commitment to peace are a function of China’s political system, its revolutionary history, and the leadership of the CPC.

While democracy turns out not to have been the essential ingredient in the West’s modernisation, socialist democracy is certainly an essential ingredient of China’s modernisation. Because of China’s revolution and the party’s adherence to the Four Cardinal Principles, power in China is exercised by, and on behalf of, the people – not a small group of wealthy people that own and deploy capital. As such, China’s modernisation serves the people.

China’s ongoing process of socialist modernisation is therefore an inspiration and a valuable lesson to progressive and peace-loving people the world over.

What is “new” about the new path of Chinese-style modernisation?

We are pleased to publish this paper by Hong Xiaonan, Dean of the School of Marxism at China’s Dalian University of Technology (DUT), part of our occasional series of selected presentations from the Cloud International Workshop on ‘New forms of human civilization from a world perspective’, held by the School, October 29-31, 2021.

In his paper, Professor Hong argues that Chinese-style modernization is new in five aspects. It is mega-scale; is one where the entire population enjoys common prosperity; where material and spiritual civilization are in harmony; where humanity and nature co-exist in harmony; and that follows the path of peaceful development. In a few words, it is socialist modernization and modernization for developing countries.

Professor Hong outlines the stages of modernization theory, through the paradigm of “America First”, the emergence of capitalist and socialist camps headed respectively by the United States and the Soviet Union, the wave of decolonization and national liberation movements, through to the emergence of Chinese-style modernization.

The author notes that General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that China’s modernization means that more Chinese people than the population of all developed countries combined would enter the ranks of modernization. By way of comparison, the pre-18th century rise of the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, with a combined population of about one million, was at best equivalent to the rise of a county in China today.

He compares China’s modernization, aimed at “the all-round development of human beings”, to the western model, which is “entirely oriented towards the logic of capital, with the market economy as the only driving mechanism. This inevitably leads to an ever-greater division between rich and poor… Western capitalist modernization was constructed on the foundation of primitive accumulation, in terms of blood-soaked colonial plunder external to capitalist countries and ruthless exploitation of the people within these countries. As Marx observed… ‘capital comes [into the world] dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.’… The British ‘Enclosure Movement,’ the United States’ ‘Westward Movement,’ and the criminal slave trade are all examples of the ‘original sin’ of Western capitalist modernization.”

In contrast, Professor Hong echoes Xi Jinping’s words in his report to the 19th Party Congress, in pointing out that China’s modernization, “offers a completely new option for those countries and peoples in the world that want to accelerate development while maintaining their independence.”

Once again, we are grateful to the DUT translation team and to Professor Roland Boer for their work to make this important paper available in English.

Abstract: The new path of Chinese-style modernisation is “new” in that it is different from the Western path of modernisation. The “new” characteristic has five aspects: 1) modernisation on a mega-scale; 2) modernisation in which the entire population enjoys common prosperity; 3) modernisation in which material and spiritual civilisation are in harmony; 4) modernisation in which humanity and nature coexist in harmony; 5) and modernisation that follows the path of peaceful development. Chinese-style modernisation is socialist modernisation, with unique characteristics that are different from capitalist modernisation. Chinese-style modernisation has changed the long-standing dominance of the model of Western modernisation and the power of its discourse monopoly. It has broken the stereotype and “beautiful myth” that “globalisation = Westernisation,” that “westernisation = modernisation,” and that “modernisation = marketisation.” It has overcome the inherent and innate defects of capitalist modernisation, and provided a completely new option for modernisation, thereby showing a promising prospect for the modernisation of human society. Chinese-style modernisation is a modernisation for developing countries, opening up a completely new path towards modernisation for late-developing countries.

Keywords: New path of Chinese-style modernisation; Western modernisation; new forms of human civilisation.

The new path of Chinese-style modernisation is “new” in that it is different from the Western path of modernisation

Modernisation as a world historical process reflects the tremendous changes that human society has undergone from traditional agricultural societies to modern industrial societies. This process began in Western Europe, expanded across North America and the rest of Europe, and spread to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The study of the theory of modernisation emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, with the main academic fronts in the United States, West Germany, Japan, and other countries. The object of this research concerned the newly independent post-war countries, that is, the developing countries of the Third World. The task was to examine the new paths, strategies, and models for the development of these new countries. Generally speaking, Western research on modernisation began as a sub-discipline, mainly using theories and methods from different Western disciplines such as sociology, economics, political science, and psychology to construct theoretical frameworks so as to analyse and compare the modernisation of non-Western developing countries and to conduct field research.

After the Second World War, the new scientific and technological revolution in the Western capitalist world brought about rapid development of the productive forces and rapid growth of the capitalist economy, which not only quickly healed the wounds of war in the capitalist world, but also strengthened the confidence in Western civilisation, which had for a time been lost as a result of the economic crisis and war. In particular, through the Second World War, the United States leapt ahead to become the centre and leader of the Western capitalist world. Many Western scholars, including some in the United States, were filled with a sense of novelty and admiration for the United States, creating the illusion of “America first” and arguing theoretically for the superiority and rationality of the Western capitalist system. In terms of this background, research on the emergence of modern society began to flourish in a number of universities in the United States, and from this research the so-called “modernisation theory” – or to be precise, “Western modernisation theory” – gradually took shape.

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