The communiqué from this Sixth Plenary Session is momentous since it passed a “Third Historic Resolution” to cement the achievements of the CPC with President Xi Jinping at the core to celebrate the centenary milestones party. File picture: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
The communiqué from this Sixth Plenary Session is momentous since it passed a “Third Historic Resolution” to cement the achievements of the CPC with President Xi Jinping at the core to celebrate the centenary milestones party. File picture: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Historic significance of the Sixth CPC Plenary Session

By Time of article published Nov 17, 2021

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Paul Zilungisele Tembe

The Communist Party of China (CPC) recently held a historic plenary session to review the its past 100 years of existence and chart a future direction towards the Second Centenary Celebrations, in 2049, of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The communiqué from this Sixth Plenary Session, held from November 8 to 11, is momentous since it passed a “Third Historic Resolution” to cement the achievements of the CPC with President Xi Jinping at the core to celebrate the centenary milestones party.

The first historic resolution, adopted in 1945, was relayed by Chairman Mao Zedong to assess the lessons learnt from fighting, effectively so, internal and external enemies. The second historic resolution, critiquing governance successes from 1949 to 1981, paved the way to the opening up and reform period led by Deng Xixian Xiaoping.

President Xi’s resolution can, arguably, be read as a policy-praxis statement, continuously building from his predecessors to respond to two interrelated questions: Which objective factors account for China’s success? And what conditions will influence China’s future success story?

The unprecedented achievements, in total human history, of China in the last four decades are a matter of public record. In the past decades, it has become the world’s second largest economy and has graduated to being a sizeable contender in tertiary industries such as science, technology and finance. In the midst of the Covid-19 health and economic pandemic, China foreign trade volumes have grown steadily. It remains the world’s largest exporter as it shifts to high-end beneficiation in the value chains.

In terms of international patent applications, China is ahead in filing in 2020 to the World Intellectual Property Organization more than 68 000 applications. Its spending on research and development in the past year exceeded 2.4 trillion yuan.

The benefits of its economic fruits are shared widely and its medical health insurance covers more than 95% of the 1.4 billion general population. More than 700 million people have been uplifted from absolute poverty, thereby meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals well ahead of the timetable.

These Human Development Index (HDI) figures comprise what President Xi calls the celebratory first CPC centenary, attained in July 2021, of a “realisation of a moderately prosperous society in all respects” or xiaokang shehui.

As such, China has legitimate cause to revel in its struggle against poverty and attainment of social stability. It is no coincidence that the political integrity of the Chinese system of governance is reasonably revered worldwide since there is a common national vision shared in its execution in a consistent manner.

There is reason to identify a historical policy continuity from Chairman Mao to end China’s inherited past as a “semi-colonial, semi-feudal society” and transitioning to Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform era premised on “freeing minds and seeking truth from facts”.

Looking backwards on the PRC’s 100-year milestones, the Party draws focused strength to reach the 2049 goal of a “fully developed, rich and powerful” country.

What does this mean in practice? It is centred on driving the state and society towards realising “common prosperity” whereby the economic gains are shared. The role of business and corporate sectors is crucial beyond symbolic delivery of, for instance, meagre corporate social responsibility. Instead, technology giants like Alibaba and Tencent have recently volunteered to contribute to this shared prosperity through sizeable material donations of $15.5 billion and $7.7bn, respectively. This is in marked contrast to countries in the West, where the liberal market is expected to self-correct and lift all other boats even when it is obvious during the Covid-19 pandemic that wealth inequality in largely Western countries has reached astronomical levels.

Common prosperity is non-negotiable in China since it is incontestable that economic polarity leads to anomie and social and political instability. Whereas implementing state-driven measures, as the CPC is doing, is an instrument to empower the marginalised and poor to graduate to become middle class and have a disposable income to contribute as consumers and producers to the greater economy.

For us in South Africa, there are plenty of lessons for serious consideration. Firstly, the consistent execution of a national vision and policy blueprint, such as the National Development (NDP) and the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP), should be beyond dispute. It should be immaterial which political party or faction thereof is in political power to realise that these policy pronouncements find expression and wide cross-sector support, the failure of which only contributes to state illegitimacy and lack of belief in public institutions to deliver common goods.

It is not a coincidence or exaggeration that the CPC communiqué from the Sixth Plenary characterises the achievements of China in the last four decades as having “developed whole-process people’s democracy” where human living standards are acceptable to the general population and admired for making the people to “live and work in peace and contentment and social stability and order prevail”.

Second, decisive leadership is critical in proving fearless direction, marshalling consensus across society, and troubleshooting negative dissension. It should be an indictment that the NDP and ERRP, which received wide endorsement, are still being debated ad infinitum when there is urgency to implement even as changes are made to these blueprints.

Such decisive individual and party leadership in China has subsequently enabled it to speak of building, beyond its national borders, a “Community with Shared Future for Mankind” and, more recently, to demonstrate global leadership in managing and dealing decisively with Covid-19. This has resulted in China’s international reputation having immeasurable “influence, appeal, and power to shape” the global discourse and direction.

Policy implementation and leadership decisiveness in China, as articulated in China’s 14th Five Year Plan (2021–2025), is worthy of study and emulation since it was attained in one human generation and there is no reason a developing country like South Africa cannot do the same, factoring its own individual country context.

* Prof Tembe is a Sinologist and founder of SELE Encounters.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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