The Great Changes in the First Decade of the New Era
After the 18th National Congress of the
Communist Party of China (CPC) in
2012, socialism with Chinese characteristics
entered a new era, marking a new chapter
in the two great miracles of China—rapid
economic growth and enduring social
stability. In the Report to the 20th National
Congress of the CPC, General Secretary Xi
Jinping summarized the great changes of the
past decade in one profound statement: The
CPC Central Committee brought together
the entire Party, the military, and the Chinese
people and led them in “adopting a number
of strategic measures, developing a range of
transformative practices, and making a series
of breakthroughs and landmark advances.
We have withstood risks, challenges, and
trials in the political, economic, ideological,
and natural domains, secured historic
achievements and seen historic changes
in the cause of the Party and the country,
and taken China on a new journey toward
building a modern socialist country in all
I. Historic changes in the first decade of the new era
The historic changes in the first decade of the new era from 2012 to 2022 have been comprehensive, fundamental, and structural in nature, covering the fields of reform, development, and stability, domestic affairs, foreign affairs, and national defense, and governance of the Party, the country, and the military. The most momentous achievements include the following six areas.
First, we secured the political achievement of affirming Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole as well as affirming the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi has demonstrated vision, foresight, and resolve as a Marxist statesman, thinker, and strategist. Taking extraordinary measures in extraordinary times, he has led our Party, the military, and all the Chinese people in forging ahead against the odds to secure outstanding achievements and break new ground. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has provided answers to the questions concerning the present and future of China, its people, and the wider world. In doing so, it has opened a new frontier in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of our times. It serves as a beacon for development in the new era. With General Secretary Xi taking the helm, we have had a mainstay for the whole Party and a strong pillar for more than 1.4 billion people to rely on. Thanks to the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the whole Party, the entire military, and all the Chinese people have had an anchor to underpin their thinking and a compass for taking action. Affirming Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole as well as affirming the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era represents an important political choice made by our Party following its 18th National Congress. It constitutes the most important political achievement of the first decade of the new era and the fundamental reason for the great changes that occurred during this period of time. It has been wholly endorsed by all Party members, service personnel, and Chinese people and has become a source of confidence and the most effective tool for our Party in dealing with various risks and challenges.
The Jiangdu Water Conservancy Hub in Jiangsu Province on the Eastern Route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, China has accelerated the implementation of several major projects to divert water and protect key water sources, thus optimizing the allocation of water resources nationwide. PEOPLE VISUAL
Second, the Party has grown stronger through revolutionary tempering.
China’s success hinges on the CPC and on full and rigorous self-governance of the Party. The CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping at the core has firmly held that to govern the country well, we must first govern the Party well, and that efforts to strengthen the country must start with strengthening the Party. It has unequivocally called for strengthening the Party’s overall leadership, taken systematic steps to improve the Party’s leadership systems, and enforced strict political discipline and rules. It has demanded that all Party members heighten their consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central Party leadership; stay confident in the path, theory, system, and culture of Chinese socialism; and uphold Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the whole Party and uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership. Under the guiding principle of reinforcing the Party’s political foundations, the Central Committee has advanced all aspects of Party development, and institution building has been integrated into every aspect of this process. It has made consistent efforts to tackle pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance, devoted greater efforts than ever to combating and punishing corruption, and taken concerted steps to ensure that officials dare not, cannot, and will not engage in corruption. With momentous effort and determination, the problem of lax and weak self-governance in Party organizations has been addressed at the root, serious potential dangers in the Party, the country, and the military have been eliminated, and the Party’s ties with the people are closer than before. As the Party has grown stronger through revolutionary tempering, the look and conduct of the Party have been profoundly transformed. This is of great and far-reaching significance for ensuring that our Party will never change its nature, conviction, or character and will always remain the strong leadership core for Chinese socialism.
Beipanjiang Bridge in Guizhou Province, which opened to traffic at the end of 2016, is the world’s highest bridge. In the past decade of the new era, China built the world’s largest networks of high-speed railways and expressways and made major achievements in building airports, ports, and water conservancy, energy, information, and other infrastructure. PEOPLE VISUAL / PHOTO BY GONG XIAOYONG
Third, we achieved the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
Over the past 10 years, we have implemented the five-sphere integrated plan and the “Four Comprehensives” strategy, with a focus on the strategic task of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and systematically advancing all aspects of economic and social development. By pooling nationwide resources, we brought about a milestone resolution to the problem of absolute poverty in China, creating a miracle in poverty reduction. We have acted on the idea that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets and carried out a critical battle against pollution. This has led to comprehensive changes that are historic and transformative in ecological and environmental protection. Putting the people and their lives above all else, we worked to prevent both inbound cases and domestic resurgences of Covid-19, tenaciously pursued a dynamic zero-Covid policy, and coordinated the epidemic response with economic and social development. We successively won battles to defend Wuhan and Shanghai. By using the most scientific and efficient methods possible, China has achieved the world’s best record in fighting Covid-19. Grounding our work in a new stage of development, we have applied the new development philosophy, fostered a new development dynamic, and pursued a path of high-quality development. The size of China’s economy has doubled, and its per capita GDP is approaching the threshold for high-income countries. China’s economic might, scientific and technological capabilities, composite national strength, and international influence have reached new heights. By achieving the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects on schedule, we have ushered in an unprecedented era of economic and social progress, as well as common benefit for all Chinese people, and laid a more solid material foundation for achieving the Second Centenary Goal and realizing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Fourth, our capacity for safeguarding national security has been significantly reinforced.
Over the past 10 years, we have applied a holistic approach to national security, worked to both pursue development and safeguard security, and improved the national security system. No backward step has been taken on issues relating to China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests. We have strengthened our ability to defend national sovereignty in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait and carried out regular patrols of the Diaoyu Islands. We have resolutely opposed separatist activities aimed at “Taiwan independence” and effectively counteracted provocations from external forces such as the United States seeking to interfere in Taiwan affairs. We have thus firmly maintained the initiative and the ability to steer in cross-Strait relations. We have adhered to the principle of ensuring Hong Kong and Macao are administered by patriots, fought off attempts by the US and other Western countries to instigate a color revolution in Hong Kong, and helped to restore order in Hong Kong and ensure a turn for the better in the region. Long-term stability and development have been maintained in both Hong Kong and Macao, and the policy of One Country, Two Systems has delivered great success. In implementing Xi Jinping thought on strengthening the military, we have resolutely pursued our Party’s goal of building a strong military in the new era and carried out bold reforms in national defense and the armed forces. With a new system, structure, configuration, and look, the armed forces have bolstered their ability to defend our national sovereignty and security. We have effectively curbed separatist, extremist, and violent terrorist forces, strengthened social governance, and ushered the Peaceful China Initiative into a new stage. Today, China is widely recognized as one of the safest countries in the world.
Fifth, there has been a marked increase in China’s international standing.
We have vigorously pursued major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, promoting the building of a global community of shared future, firmly upholding international justice and equity, advocating and practicing true multilateralism, and unequivocally opposing hegemony and power politics. We have opposed unilateralism, protectionism, and hegemonic actions in all their forms and safeguarded China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests as well as the interests of all developing countries. We have improved China’s overall diplomatic agenda, worked actively to build a global network of partnerships, and promoted a new type of international relations. Acting as a responsible major country, China has participated in the reform and development of the global governance system and engaged in all-around international cooperation in the fight against Covid-19. Through these efforts, China has won widespread international recognition, and its international influence, appeal, and strength to act have risen markedly.
Sixth, our country’s institutional strengths have become more evident.
Strong and stable institutions make a strong and stable nation. Competition between countries is ultimately a competition of systems. Over the past decade, the CPC Central Committee has carried out comprehensive institutional reform with tremendous political courage. It has heightened top-level design for reform, braved through uncharted waters, taken on tough challenges, navigated potential dangers, and removed institutional obstacles wherever they existed. These efforts have enabled us to basically establish foundational institutional frameworks in all sectors and effect historic, systemic, and holistic transformations in many fields. We have conducted a review of the fundamental, basic, and important systems of Chinese socialism and worked to make all our systems more mature and well-defined. Law-based governance has been exercised across the board, and the system of China’s socialist rule of law has been further improved. Whether it is the practices applied in the battle against poverty and the fight against Covid-19, or the overall political harmony and long-term stability enjoyed by China, all have served to highlight our country’s institutional strengths and governance effectiveness. As the contrast between the effective governance of China and the disarray of the West has become more pronounced, the American democratic system has been weakened, and the strengths of China’s system have been further underscored. All this has provided a stronger institutional guarantee for ensuring the enduring stability of the Party and the country and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
II. The great changes in the first decade of the new era are the result of our great endeavor.
These great changes were hard-won. Here, “hard-won” can be understood from two perspectives. First, although great achievements had been made in reform, opening up, and socialist modernization, many prominent issues and problems—some of which had been building for years and others which were just emerging—required urgent action in this period. Second, we must also tackle the changes and new challenges that arose on both the domestic and international fronts during these 10 years.
During this period, the international situation was in a state of flux, as momentous change on a scale not seen in a century unfolded at an accelerated pace and the world entered a new period of turbulence and change. The sudden outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic had a huge effect on global economic development, social life, and international relations. The global economy was sluggish, and the Ukraine crisis further added to the uncertainty. Worried that China’s development would threaten their core position and hegemony, Western countries like the United States scrambled to fully suppress and contain China on a global scale and provoked trouble in all quarters, creating grave national security challenges for our country. At home, the economy was beset by structural and institutional problems, creating a complex situation in which we needed to manage a slowdown in economic growth, painful structural adjustments, and the effects of past stimulus policies all at once. Development was simultaneously imbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable, and our traditional development model could no longer be sustained. Many goals for improving the people’s wellbeing remained unfulfilled, and shortcomings in social management demanded attention. Environmental pollution was pronounced, and national security risks were prevalent.
In a word, the past decade was truly momentous and extraordinary, as we faced more risks, challenges, and problems than ever before, unprecedented tasks in making fundamental changes and tackling issues at their roots, and long-standing problems of unparalleled difficulty.
For the past 10 years, the CPC Central Committee led by Xi Jinping, demonstrating great historic vision, has fully assessed the situation, made resolute decisions, and taken firm steps. It has led the people in navigating dangers, moving forward, and surmounting obstacles. As a result, many important tasks of long-term significance have been accomplished to turn the tide in the face of great adversity, and many great changes have been realized.
First, great changes were achieved by tackling prominent problems within the Party.
The great changes of the new era began with our Party’s self-reform, that is, strengthening the Party’s overall leadership and full and rigorous self-governance. At the start of the new era, pronounced problems abounded within the Party. There were numerous instances of weak, hollow, and watered-down Party leadership. Problems with pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance persisted despite repeated prohibitions, and some deeply shocking cases of corruption had been uncovered. Misguided ways of thinking such as money worship, hedonism, egocentricity, and historical nihilism were also common.
In response to these issues, the CPC Central Committee made great efforts to ensure full and rigorous Party self-governance. By defining the CPC’s leadership as the most essential feature and the greatest strength of China’s socialist system, and the Party as the highest force of political leadership, General Secretary Xi raised our Party’s understanding of its leadership to a new theoretical level. The CPC Central Committee implemented and refined systems, regulations, mechanisms, and measures to embody the overall leadership of the Party and the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee, thus ensuring the Party’s leadership was exercised across the board. It began by establishing and implementing the eight-point decision on improving conduct, refining the Party’s internal system of rules and regulations, and taking persistent steps to rectify pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance, and to address violations of the law and Party discipline. Setting new standards for judging competent officials in the new era, the Central Committee refrained from selecting officials solely based on votes, examination scores, GDP growth rates, or age. Instead, it encouraged officials to make pioneering efforts, and conducted thorough investigations into cases of nonfeasance and misconduct.
The Central Committee introduced and implemented a responsibility system for work in the realm of ideology, carried out thoroughgoing reforms, upheld fundamental principles, and broke new ground, and took strong steps to consolidate the domain of public opinion and address the disorder in online discourse in particular. Political activities within the CPC were conducted in earnest, and the political atmosphere in the Party was rectified. Most notably, corruption was severely punished, thus eliminating a serious political risk. Coordinated steps were also taken to see that officials dare not, cannot, and will not engage in corruption, and an overwhelming victory was achieved over corruption, one which has since been further consolidated. In applying a combination of measures to ensure full and rigorous self-governance, the Party has resolved a host of problems that had long gone unresolved and charted the correct path of relying on self-reform to escape the historical cycle of rise and fall. The leadership of the Party is now stronger and more vigorous, and the political atmosphere within the Party has been revitalized. All of this has helped provide a fundamental political guarantee for the great changes of the past decade.
Second, great changes were realized by resolving pronounced problems in economic and social development.
At the start of the new era in 2012, problems in economic and social development that had been building for a long time became more pronounced, and a series of new problems emerged as a result of changes both in and outside China. The most notable of these was increased downward pressure on the economy.
In responding to these issues, General Secretary Xi and the CPC Central Committee put forward a series of new ideas, concepts, and measures to steer and lead the country toward high-quality economic and social development. The CPC Central Committee pointed out that China had entered a new normal in economic development and was transitioning from high-speed growth to high-quality development. China thus needed to adopt a new development philosophy, take supply-side structural reform as the main task, carry out a thorough transition to green energy resources, modes of production, and ways of living, and address shortcomings in meeting people’s basic needs, most especially by winning the battle against extreme poverty and implementing the rural revitalization strategy.
In the years after the 19th CPC National Congress held in 2017, in light of emerging events such as the US trade war against China, the global spread of Covid-19, and the Ukraine crisis, China faced a more severe external environment and a trio of pressures in the form of contracting demand, supply shocks, and weakening expectations, as well as risks from bottlenecks in high-end technologies and attempts at economic and technological “decoupling.”
Faced with these circumstances, General Secretary Xi and the CPC Central Committee made far-sighted and decisive decisions. On one hand, to anchor economic foundations, they adopted measures to stabilize the six fronts (employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment, and expectations) and guarantee the six priorities (job security, basic living needs, operations of market entities, food and energy security, stable industrial and supply chains, and the normal functioning of primary-level governments). On the other hand, they took steps in response to “decoupling” actions by the US and other Western countries in order to secure China’s industrial chains and overseas supply chains. Most notably, the strategic decision to foster a new development dynamic not only enabled China to cope with the current situation but also laid the foundations for stable and secure economic development into the future.
A drone shot of Xiajiang Village, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, June 13, 2022. Over the past decade, quality of life has improved continuously in China, providing ordinary people with a stronger sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security. XINHUA / PHOTO BY WANG JIANCAI
Third, great changes were achieved in responding to external risks and challenges.
In the first decade of the new era, the international landscape changed dramatically as the US and other Western countries continually challenged China’s bottom line. China faced an extremely severe and complex external environment. In particular, the US, which regarded China as a primary strategic competitor, became even more brazen in its attempts to suppress, contain, and restrict China, using a variety of methods such as infiltration, sanctions, cutting off supplies, decoupling, and defamation, while also waging cognitive warfare against China through the Internet. On many issues like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Xizang, and the South China Sea, the US resorted to every means possible to provoke China and failed to square its actions with its words. In particular, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan seriously challenged China’s bottom line.
The goal of the US in all of this has been to overthrow the leadership of the CPC and the socialist system, disrupt China’s modernization process, and prevent China’s national rejuvenation. Faced with these challenges, the CPC Central Committee under the leadership of Xi Jinping has led the Chinese people in waging a decisive struggle to defend China’s national security, and refused to be swayed by fallacies, deterred by intimidation, or cowed by pressure. We effectively thwarted attempts by Western countries to instigate a “color revolution” in Hong Kong by passing a law on safeguarding national security in the region and improving the electoral system. Such measures have firmly safeguarded the stability of Hong Kong. We have effectively responded to challenges to China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea by the US and other Western countries by reinforcing constructions on the islands there, establishing Sansha City, and conducting regular patrols and drills of military forces. Through diplomatic, military, and economic means, we have effectively responded to attempts by the US and other Western countries to instigate and support “Taiwan independence” and other separatist activities on the island of Taiwan. With these steps, the situation across the Taiwan Strait has taken a favorable turn for the realization of China’s reunification.
In short, the great changes in the first decade of the new era did not come easy, but were achieved by overcoming various risks, challenges, and even dangers. They were the result of the unity and resolute endeavor of the entire Party and the Chinese people.
III. The great changes in the first decade of the new era are of milestone significance.
These great changes are of milestone significance in the history of the Party, the People’s Republic of China, reform and opening up, the development of socialism and that of the Chinese nation. This is mainly reflected in the following five respects.
First, a strong core of leadership has been forged for the great undertaking of national rejuvenation.
Through full and rigorous self-governance in the new era, the CPC has found a further answer to the question of how to escape the cycle of rise and fall. This has made our Party stronger, more united, and more vibrant. Our Party’s political leadership, ideological guidance, mass organization, and social appeal have all increased significantly, and the bond between the Party and the people has grown stronger. In particular, a strong collective leadership with Xi Jinping at the core has been formed and become the pillar that the Chinese people can lean on in times of difficulty. The entire Party and all the Chinese people have great trust in General Secretary Xi and the CPC Central Committee. They firmly support affirming Xi’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole as well as affirming the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. They have upheld General Secretary Xi’s core position and the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized, unified leadership. This has provided a fundamental political guarantee for achieving the Second Centenary Goal and realizing national rejuvenation.
Second, the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is now on an irreversible historical course.
Our Party’s endeavors over the past century have opened up the right path for realizing national rejuvenation and enabled the Chinese nation to transition from standing up and becoming prosperous to growing strong. In the first decade of the new era, we have not only realized the First Centenary Goal, but also successfully advanced and expanded the path of Chinese modernization. Our socialist system has become more mature and well-defined. This has provided a more solid material basis, a stronger institutional guarantee, and more powerful inspiration for achieving national rejuvenation, which is now on an irreversible course.
Third, the Chinese people have demonstrated greater self-confidence, self-reliance, and strength.
Our Party’s endeavors over the past century have fundamentally changed the future of the Chinese people. Thanks to the achievements of the past decade, especially the building of a moderately prosperous society on schedule to realize a millennia-old dream of the Chinese nation, our national self-confidence and pride have been greatly increased. The Chinese people are also much more confident in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, have a firmer sense of purpose, fortitude, and self-belief, and are united in heart and mind as never before. Brimming with the confidence to face the world, they have a stronger sense of motivation, spirit of hard work, and belief in victory. They are showing greater enthusiasm and a stronger desire to create history. All this has provided an ironclad guarantee for realizing national rejuvenation.
Fourth, China has provided strong positivity for world peace and development.
Our Party’s endeavors over the past century have had a profound impact on the course of world history. In the first decade of the new era, China moved closer to the center of the world stage. It contributed about 30 percent of annual global economic growth and accounted for over 70 percent of the reduction in global poverty. The vision of building a global community of shared future has been widely endorsed internationally, and our country has become a primary engine driving global conservation. Public goods such as the Belt and Road Initiative have provided strong support for global development. China has promoted and practiced the shared values of humanity, upheld international fairness and justice, opposed hegemonism and power politics, and safeguarded the interests of developing countries. It has advanced and expanded Chinese modernization, which extends beyond the logic of Western modernization, and created a new model of human progress through coordinated material, political, cultural, social, and ecological advancement to offer a new choice for developing countries. In sum, we have offered more and better Chinese wisdom, Chinese solutions, and Chinese strength for addressing the common issues facing humanity.
Fifth, we have demonstrated the vitality of Marxism.
Looking at our Party’s achievements over the past century and the great changes of the new era, it is evident that the success of our Party and Chinese socialism are owed to the fact that Marxism works, particularly when it is adapted to the Chinese context and the needs of our times. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era combines the basic tenets of Marxism with the specific realities and the best of traditional culture of China, setting forth new ideas, new thinking, and new strategies for national governance. As the Marxism of contemporary China and the 21st century, it provides fundamental guidance for the Party and the country in the new era and has injected new vitality into Marxism in 21st-century China, opening a new frontier in the development of Marxism. All this has greatly strengthened the conviction of Party members and the Chinese people in upholding and developing Chinese socialism and increased the confidence of people of other countries in the socialist movement.
In conclusion, the great changes of the first decade of the new era have been monumental in the history of our Party, the People’s Republic of China, reform and opening up, and the development of socialism and that of the Chinese nation. They have had a strong impact on global development and laid a more solid political, theoretical, material, and institutional foundation for realizing the Second Centenary Goal and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 22, 2022)