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Chinese modernization aims at common prosperity for all

Author  :  ZHANG YI     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2023-03-07

The report to the 20th CPC National Congress points out that Chinese modernization contains elements that are common to the modernization processes of all countries, but it is more characterized by features that are unique to the Chinese context. One feature which defines Chinese modernization is that it is the modernization of “common prosperity for all.” Socialist modernization in China, a country with a population of more than 1.4 billion, requires the implementation of a people-centered development philosophy and substantive progress in bringing prosperity to all, thereby creating a new form of human advancement continuously.

Phased, long-term cause

The 20th Party congress report maps out a two-step strategic plan for building China into a modern socialist country in all respects: basically realize socialist modernization from 2020 through 2035, and build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful from 2035 through the middle of this century.

According to the report, the next five years will be crucial for getting the efforts to build a modern socialist country in all respects off to a good start. The report sets a timetable and roadmap for the crucial period and the goal of basically realizing socialist modernization by 2035. It notes that achieving common prosperity is a defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics and involves a long historical process. 

In the long historical process, the principal task for the crucial five years is to enhance the degree of prosperity by continuing to increase residents’ income through economic and social development, narrowing gaps in consumption by granting equitable access to basic public services, perfecting income distribution systems by improving the multi-tiered social security system, and constantly raising the people’s living standards by improving living environments in urban and rural areas.

By 2035, modernization will be basically realized alongside significantly increased economic strength, scientific and technological capabilities, and composite national strength. At this time the per capita GDP and per capita disposable income will reach new heights to be on par with those of a mid-level developed country. By then the Chinese people will lead better and happier lives, the middle-income group will be substantially larger as a share of the total population, equitable access to basic public services will be guaranteed, and more notable and substantive progress will be made in promoting the people’s well-rounded development and prosperity for all. 

By the middle of this century, China will be built into a great modern socialist country that leads the world in terms of composite national strength and international influence, with common prosperity for all basically realized.

In the strategic architecture of advancing common prosperity for all across the board, China is now in a crucial period. On the national level, it is not advisable to regard future strategic goals as present tasks, or vice versa. In the modernization drive, the matter of common prosperity for all is urgent, yet we must be patient. It should be promoted in stages and over a long term, tailoring strategy to each stage to reflect the policy features of different stages, different national strengths, and different international and domestic economic and social scenarios. 

This requires us to keep improving the modernization levels of China’s system and capacity for governance in a systematic manner, strive to develop whole-process people’s democracy, maintain social fairness and justice, promote the people’s well-rounded development, tackle difficulties in fields such as education, employment, elderly care, social governance, community development, and social security. Emphasis should be laid on addressing problems related to imbalanced and inadequate development and solving the most pressing difficulties and problems that are of great concern to the people, while building a new pattern of development that is conducive to advancing common prosperity and meeting people’s growing needs for a better life.

Concerted efforts needed

China is the largest developing country in the world. Concerted efforts are essential to advancing common prosperity for all in the developing nation. Only by pooling the strength of the entire Chinese nation, maintaining a people-centered mindset, respecting the pioneering spirit of all people, and forging a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation, can we build China—which is home to a huge population of 1.4 billion—into a great socialist modern country with the defining feature of common prosperity.

Through hard work since the start of the new era, the per capita GDP has risen from 38,000 yuan ($6,100) in 2012 to 85,600 yuan ($12,600) in 2022. If $25,000 and $35,000 are the lower and upper limit of the range of mid-level developed countries’ per capita GDP, respectively, China still needs to ensure certain growth rates while maintaining high-quality development in the process of scientifically analyzing the economic growth trends of developed countries and mid-level developed countries, to attain the objective for 2035 set in the 20th Party congress. 

As such, the Chinese people should make joint efforts to achieve the goal of common prosperity. To this end, priority should be given to making the “pie” bigger. Common prosperity is not prosperity for a minority, nor is it rigid egalitarianism. Similarly, it is not prosperity at the same time or of the same degree across the nation. It is about continuously narrowing income gaps among all the people through steady income growth.

In this long-term, historical process, it is also necessary to prevent unrealistic egalitarianism and welfarism, or exclusive stress on material benefits; eliminate risks of involution, or the “rat race,” through institutional design; and try not to skate by or slack off. 

In the crucial period of Chinese modernization, efforts should be made to mobilize the people’s initiative in production, unblock channels for social mobility, and continue to encourage some people to earn wealth first to lay the social foundation for those who have become prosperous to help those still lagging.

Moreover, attention should be paid to resolving the problem of wealth polarization, shoring up weaknesses to improve the people’s income and consumption levels, and ensure that all the people share the fruits of development from reform and opening up. 

In the process of distribution, basic socialist economic systems should be unswervingly upheld. In primary distribution, it is essential to play the market’s role in distributing factors, carry forward the principle of “more pay for more work,” and inspire the people to become prosperous through hard work.

In secondary distribution, we should progressively intensify government interventions to make access to basic public services equitable and gradually narrow gaps between regions, between urban and rural areas, and in income, through project-based collaboration between eastern, central, and western regions and by public finance, taxation, transfer payment, social security, and other means. 

In tertiary distribution, importance should be attached to leveraging social regulation, building an operational mechanism to encourage those who have reached prosperity to help others catch up, support pubic welfare projects, charity deeds, and donations, expand channels for non-profit organizations to provide social services, advocate for the voluntary spirit, and optimize the environment for constructing the new social form of common prosperity.

Sci-tech innovation critical

In the changeable contemporary world characterized by increasingly fierce competition, national development and economic and social prosperity depend more and more on the development of productive forces and the speed of progress in labor productivity determined by science and technology. In this light, China’s future socialist modernization will rely heavily on scientific and technological innovation.

Against the backdrop of population aging, we must harness the internet, big data, and artificial intelligence, and boost the production efficiency of labor participants with the help of robots, thus making substantive progress in bringing about prosperity for all. 

According to the report to the 20th CPC National Congress, “education, science and technology, and human resources are the foundational and strategic pillars for building a modern socialist country in all respects. We must regard science and technology as our primary productive force, talent as our primary resource, and innovation as our primary driver of growth. We will fully implement the strategy for invigorating China through science and education, the workforce development strategy, and the innovation-driven development strategy. We will open up new areas and new arenas in development and steadily foster new growth drivers and new strengths.”

Rapid advancement of scientific and technological innovation requires adhering to the strategic guideline of prioritizing education’s development, making reforms and innovations to education models, and vigorously improving the entire nation’s human capital. It is vital to overcome difficulties regarding key and core technologies, unleash and develop productive forces, contribute to the fourth industrial revolution, and promote industrial transformations by accelerating the formation of new production capacities, new business models, and new jobs through disruptive innovation. Only in this way can we drive the transformation of employment structure through industrial transformations, raising the income level of the whole society through the enhancement of production efficiency, and improve the people’s living standards through high-quality development, thereby fostering powerful momentum to build a society of common prosperity. 

To conclude, common prosperity advanced through Chinese modernization is common prosperity for all, which is a defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The social form created out of this process will be brand new, differing from all preceding social forms in Chinse history and those currently practiced in other countries. It is a new form of human advancement that can continuously tap into the value of the times amid theoretical innovations and practical explorations.

Just as the history of China’s moderately prosperous society was a process from comprehensive construction to completion in all respects, social construction of common prosperity for all will also reflect the features of this process. In this remarkably great project, innovation in science and technology will assume a more critical role. 


Zhang Yi is a research fellow and director of the National Institute of Social Development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.





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