A Vision of Moderate Prosperity in Suzhou
Suzhou in Jiangsu Province is a place that bears special significance, since it was here that the great vision of moderate prosperity and the grand blueprint of modernization began to take shape. In 1983, Deng Xiaoping visited Suzhou, where he saw examples of the bright prospects for bringing about moderate prosperity. In 2009, Xi Jinping visited Jiangsu, and said that in places like Suzhou, there is a clear outline of the path toward modernization.
We visited Suzhou recently, and what we witnessed there was a bright illustration of high-quality development, and a true and vivid model of all-round moderate prosperity.
Unmatched natural beauty
Xi Jinping has stressed that achieving moderate prosperity is contingent on the quality of the ecological environment. A society that enjoys moderate prosperity in all respects is undoubtedly one in which the environment is more pristine, with bluer skies, clearer waters, and more verdant mountains, and in which the people are close to nature and reminded themselves of their hometown environment.
On March 23, 2020, the Zhongzhangjia Alley Canal in Suzhou's Pingjiang Historical and Cultural Quarter was reborn after a nearly half-century-long absence, and the area once again exhibited the characteristic charm of the water towns of the Yangtze River Delta.
Restoration of this roughly 600 meter-long waterway was a costly project, taking 15 years, costing more than 110 million yuan, and requiring the relocation of dozens of families, but through meticulous efforts, Suzhou was able to recapture its timeless beauty and nostalgic feel.
Strolling along the alley's flagstone streets, one is surrounded by history and culture. Whether listening to a rendition of Shen Fu's Six Records of a Floating Life at the opera museum by the canal, or enjoying a performance at the museum of Pingtan, an ancient art form combining music and storytelling, one is completely absorbed in the area's southern Chinese charm. The creative and innovative incorporation of traditional culture has greatly enhanced the substance of efforts to boost Suzhou's nighttime economy.
Zhigu, a "smart town" in Kunshan , Suzhou is a place full of passion for science and creation. It is striving to build a spirit of innovation for guiding the transformation and development of Kunshan to become an open gateway for international cooperation, and to serve as a wellspring of vitality for creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE KUNSHAN HI-TECH ZONE
Xi Jinping cherishes vivid memories of Suzhou and its surrounding area, saying that it lives up to its age-old reputation as a "heaven on earth" not only because of its thriving economy and serene society, but also because of its breathtaking natural scenery. He has also noted that the appeal of this "heaven on earth" is rooted in the majestic Taihu Lake, and expressed his hopes that Suzhou would make greater conservation efforts to bring out the lake's beauty.
Song Yongkang is an expert crab farmer who works on the edge of the lake. He got into this work in 1998, raising the crustaceans in netted enclosures. At the time, these pens were so densely packed together that they almost completely covered the surface of eastern Taihu Lake, with just narrow strips of water space between them. Then in 2018, all aquaculture installations were removed from the lake, thanks to which the entire eastern section turned crystal clear by the fall of 2019. Meanwhile, crab farming ponds along the edge of the lake went through renovation. Upon seeing the freshly-dug ponds that were laid out evenly like squares on a chocolate bar, Song Yongkang could barely contain his excitement. He immediately leased 216 mu (about 14.4 hectares) of ponds, and found himself filled with fresh enthusiasm.
Streets filled with smiling faces
When it comes to the wellbeing of the public, there is no such thing as a trivial matter. China is following a five-pronged plan to ensure that overall progress is achieved in the push toward moderate prosperity and that all the people benefit as a result.
At 10:45 in the morning, Wu Siqin, an elderly resident of Loufeng Subdistrict in the Suzhou Industrial Park, heard a familiar knock at his door: "Uncle Wu, your food is here!" As per usual, the meal delivered by a volunteer from the local community off ice arrived at Mr. Wu's doorstep right on time.
In September 2019, the government of Loufeng made painstaking efforts to set up a closed-loop model for at-home eldercare services. Under the system, elderly residents of urban communities like Mr. Wu that meet the requirements can get tasty and nutritious meals for just 9 yuan without stepping foot out of their homes. Grinning from ear to ear, Mr. Wu and his wife told us, "It is because of the Party and government that we have a prosperous life!"
Speaking with warmth and genuine concern, Xi Jinping said, "We must ensure that all of our elderly citizens have the care and support that they need and feel happy and secure." On June 20, 2020, Loufeng Subdistrict set up a public benefit program for elderly residents including a call center and services providing meals, emergency assistance, hospital drop off, house cleaning, and emotional support, thus taking the first historic steps in exploring a new model of community-based at-home eldercare.
Moderate prosperity must cover all regions, and extend across both urban and rural areas. Xi Jinping has said that implementation of the rural vitalization strategy must focus on both material and non-material factors, with particular emphasis placed on developing the character of rural residents.
On June 15, 2020, Meng Kunxiang's home in Jiannong Village, Nanfeng Township of Zhang jiagang in Suzhou was buzzing with activity. His home, which regularly serves as a volunteer station for environmental protection activities, offers local residents the opportunity to exchange set amounts of recyclable waste like cardboard and cans for daily goods such as soy sauce, vinegar, and toilet paper.
Environmental protection stations such as this are just one category of the volunteer stations set up to promote rural social development. Since November 2018, Jiannong Village has established eight main types of volunteer stations for teaching political theory, publicizing government policies, fostering the core values of socialism, providing assistance to the needy, broadening cultural horizons through reading and the arts, and promoting socially responsible and environmentally-friendly lifestyles. These have been set up in close proximity to the local community, and tailored to local conditions. They have already garnered recognition as an innovative approach to strengthening governance and fostering social-mindedness in the countryside, and have removed key final hurdles for efforts to reach out to, educate, support, and serve the public. With every passing day, these stations each play their part in promoting progress, and are therefore a vivid reflection of how the area is working to advance the cause of social development in the new era.
An atmosphere abuzz with innovation
How are we to reach moderate prosperity? Xi Jinping has said that must follow a new path, and use the engine of innovation to drive us forward. Innovation is the prime mover of development, and therefore to be a leader in development one must remain on the cutting edge of innovation.
In recent years, blockchain technology has gradually come on to the scene, and has quickly spread into numerous fields including finance, government, and everyday life. Xi Jinping has said that China should seize this important opportunity for independently driven innovation, accelerating innovation and development on both the technology and business sides of blockchain. Suzhou took the lead in 2018, establishing China's first testing ground for the technology in an effort to turn itself into an international blockchain hub.
Ma Xiaofeng is Director of the Tongji Blockchain Research Institute in Suzhou's Xiangcheng District. He put his faith in Xiangcheng, and has seen this faith pay off as the blockchain testing ground has been launched, attracted personnel and resources, and seen projects get off the ground. The institute has continued to grow and expand in strides, and produced findings from independent research projects that are spreading across a wide array of industries.
After over two years of work, the institute produced Wutong Chain, the first technologically mature blockchain platform independently developed in China. Asked why he chose the name Wutong, Mr. Ma explained that the wu character represents the Eastern Wu, the ancient state that encompassed most of eastern China, including Suzhou, while the tong character stands for tongji, the name of the institute. Furthermore, wutong (parasol) trees are said in legend to serve as ideal nests for phoenixes. Mr. Wu said that he hopes the institute can do solid research on the basic technology of blockchain, and attract more innovative blockchain companies, which are like the phoenixes of the field, to set up business in Suzhou.
In May 2020, Xiangcheng District was chosen as the site for the establishment of the Jiangsu Blockchain Industry Development Cluster, and with that, Blockchain Valley, representing an effort to learn from the Silicon Valley, has gradually begun to take shape.
Later on, we took a visit to Kunshan's "Smart Town," where the words "momentum" and "innovation" were on the tips of everyone's tongues. The "mayor" of the town Chang Xiaolin told us that the creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial ecosystem created in the area has drawn in talent, projects, funding, and services like a magnet, allowing the town to pump out huge amounts of energy and know-how.
Wang Yang, President of Kunpeng Communication (Kunshan) Co., Ltd., told us that the "Smart Town" has given his company room to spread its wings, saying, "At first I had misgivings about setting up here, but Kunshan has greatly surprised me." Through nine years of innovation and entrepreneurship, Kunpeng Communication has leapt up to become one of China's leading producers of smart terminals for the Internet of Things. In Wang Yang's eyes, every day in Kunshan is full of optimism and opportunities to make a fresh start.
Through our visit to Suzhou, we experienced the city's burning passion for innovation, and its eagerness to pursue enterprising endeavors in the new era.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 13, 2020)