Before the 19th Party Congress concludes, let me brief you on some housekeeping issues that are scheduled to be affirmed.
The Double Doubling
This is an affirmation that, by 2020, China will have doubled its 2010 (1) overall GDP, and (2) average per capita GDP of the rural population. The second target is to ensure that the disparity between urban and rural areas, the coastal and inland provinces and the rich and poor, will be more balanced. Both goals seem to be easily attainable, barring any interim catastrophe.
The Two One-Hundred-Year Goals
Under Xi Jingping’s leadership, the Party adopted its dual centennial goals:
(a) By the 100th anniversary year (2021) of the founding of the CPC (1921), China will have attained a comprehensive moderately-prosperous society (or “Xiao Kang 小康”, which I prefer to translate as “general well-being” instead of “moderately prosperous”). In addition, Xi insists that the country must have completely eradicated its last trace of poverty (not a single person left behind). At which time, China will still consider itself a developing country (see (b)).
(b) By the 100th anniversary year (2049) of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (1949), the country will have built “a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious”. In terms of per capita GDP, China will have reached the level of “moderately developed countries”.
The Chinese Dream
The second centennial goal, still 32 years away, is more fuzzy. It is what I call “painting the picture of a cake”. But judging from the past twenty years, and especially the last five years, one can hardly imagine what China will be like in just a few years’ time. It is certainly no pie-in-the-sky as far as an intermediate or long-term goal goes.
Conceptually, it means that China will complete its building of the first stage of a modern nation by 2049, along the path of Socialism With Chinese Characteristics. This is far more than just a blueprint. At the policy development and research quarters, elaborate plans and detailed systems data are constantly updated under projection models, and modified along with the times. It is part of the tools that come with what Xi Jingping calls “the great revival in Chinese civilisation”.
Xi often refers to the Chinese Dream and the great revival in Chinese civilisation is its main theme. He elaborates simply: that is to see the Chinese people live good and wholesome lives, share them with the peoples of the world through peaceful co-development and friendship, and advance toward a global community with shared/common destiny. On the last point, he emphasises the Chinese philosophical root of “seeking common grounds while accomodating differences, attaining harmony among diversities (求同存異，和而不同)”.
A Moral Compass and a Renaissance
As my Harvard tutor, the well-known Australian author-professor, Ross Terrill said recently, Xi is seeking to provide the Chinese with a moral compass. Attaining the materialistic goals is no longer in question. To aspire to greatness, the civilisation must have a clear sense of direction and spiritual (not to be confused with religious) anchor. It must reach inwardly as well as outwardly to assimilate the positive energy and essence of human experience, harnessing them into sustainable fuel for the next stages of progress and liberation.
This dovetails into my study and investigation of the Renaissance process. As early as 15 years ago, I had this intuitive notion that we are living through a very special time in China. Those who know me well heard me talk about the Chinese art I was noticing. It was as if we were experiencing Florence in the early 1400s, as the period later known as the Renaissance in Europe began to unfurl. The process eventually manifested itself in all realms of human endeavours. And we are still living its consequences today.
China has a continuous civilisation, documented and now updated by archeologists, of 6,000 years. As it revives today with improved socio-economic conditions, it can afford to begin searching and exploring its massive roots. In so doing, it is continually encountering series of eureka moments, just as the Europeans did when they delved into the rediscovered Greek and ancient Latin classics and artifacts brought from Constantinople and elsewhere in the Near East. Except in today’s China, there is no need to start learning Greek. Its treasure troves can all be traced, studied and navigated through the rivers and streams that flow from the organically developed body of an integrated and unifying Chinese language.
Of course, a Renaissance is derived from a lot more than rediscovered antiquities. China’s current revival is, first and foremost, the result of having assimilated the finest elements of Western advances. For more than a century, it had done an exhaustively effective job in that regard. With the beneficial sustenance of the best in Western civilisation, combined with the discoveries of its own, China is preparing to chart its course for the future.
Oops! I think I have gone beyond the housekeeping issues of the Party Congress. I will leave those other subjects for a future date.