The Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held in November 2013 examined a number of important issues regarding comprehensively deepening reform. The Communiqué adopted thereafter points out that the overall goal of comprehensively deepening reform was to improve and develop the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and to promote the modernization of the national governance system.
The “governance modernization” put forward at the plenum guides China’s unwavering reform efforts. The concept of governance can be dated back to ancient times in both China and the Western world. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, was well-known for his metaphor that “govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish.” This metaphor has been quoted by President Xi Jinping on several different occasions.
Looking to the West, the English word governance derives from Latin and ancient Greek and meant steering or guidance. Today, the meaning of governance can include multiple dimensions such as that of a structure, a process, a mechanism, or a strategy. Governance reform has become an important feature of institutional reforms in many countries of the world in the 21st century.
China’s modernization of its national governance system has its own specific connotations, which should not be interpreted without considering the uniqueness of national conditions. Thanks to one of the advantages of China’s socialist system – carrying out major tasks through concerted efforts – China’s top-level design and people-centered reform measures have been quite efficient in terms of safeguarding the country’s long-term interest and reaping the benefits of synergy. Enjoying the dividends of these reforms, the people’s confidence in the path, institution, theory and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics has increased.
Realizing the modernization of governance is a dynamic process. Arguably, in this process good governance continues to expand, while bad governance gradually shrinks.
The key to promoting the modernization of the national governance system lies in the reform and innovation of the institution.
During the past five years, the reform of China’s governance modernization has been continuously enhanced, and examples of innovation in governance have increasingly emerged. In the realm of economic reform, China has done pretty well in striking a balance between the role of the government and that of the market. The supply-side structural reform was based on the idea that market played the decisive role in resource allocation while the government helped it function better. Given the complicated global economic uncertainty and unilateralism of today, the transformation of China’s economy from high-speed growth to high-quality development is on the right track.
In terms of building an eco-friendly civilization and coping with environmental backwardness, China’s practical experiments and innovative ideas have achieved remarkable fruits and been widely praised internationally. The Saihanba Afforestation Community in Hebei Province and the Green Rural Revival Program in Zhejiang Province were honored with the United Nations’ top environmental award, Champions of the Earth, in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Under the banner of comprehensively deepening reform, more importance has been attached to the systemic nature of reforms, and to coordinating political, economic, and social issues such as corruption, inequality and pollution with strategic and across-the-board thinking. The reforms have seen successful results in various fields.
For example, China vigorously developed a socialist democracy and advanced law-based governance. Public awareness of the rule of law has risen markedly and anti-corruption efforts have been an overwhelming success. The reform has further taken advantage of deliberative democracy with Chinese characteristics and broken the atmosphere of red tapes and cronyism through institutional constraints. Thus a clean and positive political ecology is taking shape.
With regard to people’s livelihoods, China has intensified its efforts to alleviate poverty and develop poverty-stricken areas. It has also introduced a series of new policies for employment, medical care, education and pensions, laying a solid foundation for the realization of a healthy society.
The reform is shaping contemporary China and being shaped by contemporary China at the same time. It’s clear that the reform and opening-up has become the idée recue of the public at large.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee has proposed 336 major reform initiatives. More than 95 percent of the initiatives have implementation plans taking shape or are already being implemented. With the reform dividend benefiting millions of families, the people’s sense that their lives have improved has continued to increase, thereby further consolidating the reform consensus.
Today, with populism and protectionism intensifying globally, China’s reform and opening-up and governance modernization practices will clearly provide insightful lessons for other developing countries in their endeavors to transition to a more prosperous and just society.
The author is an assistant professor at the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau.
(In Association with Global Times)