Xi offers answers to development problems

Xi's "socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era," as unveiled at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, offers a few answers to some of these traps.

HISTORY shows that the road to prosperity is not easy. Intellectuals have outlined a series of “traps,” which often hold back developing countries as they try to become so-called first world countries.

As China moves toward becoming a “great modern socialist country,” will it be able to sidestep these traps?

Xi Jinping’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era,” as unveiled at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, offers a few answers to some of these traps:

Poverty trap

It means structural poverty becomes reinforced over several generations.

Xi: “Decisive progress has been made in the fight against poverty.”

“We must ensure that by the year 2020, all rural residents living below the current poverty line will have been out of poverty.”

Thucydides trap

It suggests war is inevitable when a new power rises to challenge an existing one.

Xi: “No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion.”

“China pursues a national defense policy that is in nature defensive.”

“We call on the people of all countries to work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”

Middle income trap

It means an economy reaches a certain level of income, but is unable to sustain the growth needed to become rich.

Xi: “We have adopted the right approach to development.”

“We should pursue supply-side structural reform as our main task, and work hard for better quality, higher efficiency and more robust drivers of economic growth through reform.”

Tacitus trap

This warns that when a government loses credibility, whether it tells the truth or a lie, it will be considered a lie.

Xi: “We must focus on maintaining the Party’s close bond with the people, keep them firmly in mind, develop a closer affinity with them, and keep working to foster stronger public support for the Party’s governance.”

Rise-and-fall cycle

“‘The rise of something may be fast, but its downfall is equally swift.’ Has any person, family, community, place, or even nation ever managed to break free of this cycle?” Educator Huang Yanpei reportedly once asked Chairman Mao.

Xi: “The people resent corruption most; and corruption is the greatest threat our Party faces.”

“Only by intensifying efforts to address both the symptoms and root causes of corruption ... can we avoid history’s cycle of rise and fall and ensure the long-term stability of the Party and the country.”

End-of-history hypothesis

American political scientist Francis Fukuyama presumed an inevitable triumph of Western liberal democracy and the “collapse of China.”

The end of the Cold War meant a world order combining liberal democracy and the free market had permanently prevailed, he said.

Xi: “As history has shown and will continue to bear witness to, without the leadership of the Communist Party of China, national rejuvenation would be just wishful thinking.”

Sun Zhaoxia, a professor at Guizhou Minzu University, said she had confidence in the CPC steering China clear of these pitfalls.

“In Western democracy, political parties spend much of their energy focusing on campaigns to win and stay in power,” she said. “The immediate concern is the election or the tenure, so long-term strategies such as poverty relief are poorly implemented.”

Peking University professor and former World Bank chief economist Justin Lin Yifu said the main reason developing economies became trapped in middle income or low income status was that they followed Western mainstream economic theories — either structuralism or neoliberalism.

“The secret of China’s success is its use of both the ‘invisible hand’ and ‘visible hand,’” Lin said. “Only when the market and the government play their respective roles can technological innovation and industrial upgrading proceed smoothly.”

Cai Songtao, a congress delegate from Henan Province, said Xi warned against the Tacitus trap on an inspection tour to the province. Cai said grassroots Party officials work very hard to maintain close contact with the people.

Zhang Xixian, professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said the Party has always upheld the “mass line.” “The CPC comes from the people, relies on the people and works for the people,” he said.

Sun Zhaoxia said historically dynasties could not escape the cycle of rise and fall because the interests of the ruling class were against the public, but as the CPC serves the masses, it has the people’s backing and will stay in power.

Zhang said another reason the CPC thrives is its insistence on strict discipline of its members. “Errors made by past leaders, including Chairman Mao in his later life, were pointed out and corrected,” he said.

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