China has opted for a middle path between an orthodox closed-door policy and abandoning socialism.
General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Hu Jintao's report, placed before the ongoing 18th National Congress, is anything to go by, China has unswervingly chosen to pursue socialism even as it further opens up its robust economy to the world at large.
“Over the past 30-plus years of continuous reforms and opening-up, we have held high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and rejected the old and closed-door policy and any attempt to abandon socialism and take an erroneous path,” Hu Jintao, who is also President of China, told the Congress while presenting a 46-page report at the Great Hall in Beijing on Thursday.
China's once-in-a-decade leadership changes are underway through this 18th National Congress of the CPC, the world's largest political organization with over 82 million members. The Congress, which began on Thursday with the participation of 2268 delegates, will go on till November 14.
In the sequential scheme of politics, after Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, the CPC leadership for the next decade is all but set to pass to Xi Jinping, a Politburo member of the CPC and currently vice president of the country.
As Hu underpinned the need for China's continuous pursuance of socialism through blending Marxism-Leninism and Mao's Thoughts with a socialist market economy, people in China fondly recall the visionary leadership of the great reformist Deng Xiaoping. It was his visits to some of the then smaller but vibrant economies in the Southeast Asian region that influenced China's reform era in 1978.
Now that China has unequivocally said goodbye to past rigidity and orthodoxy and remains on guard against any sudden surge in Western influence, the biggest challenge it considers is establishing social justice.
“We must safeguard social fairness and justice…………………we must strive for social harmony,” said Hu Jintao.
Hu's ten-year rule saw China growing from the sixth biggest to the second biggest economy of the world. The Chinese foreign ministry's Asian department head Luo Zhaohui told The Daily Star on Friday that China's GDP size stood at 7.5 trillion US dollars now with the country holding in its possession the highest amount of foreign currencies in the world – 3.2 trillion US dollars.
A survey that the state-run China Youth Daily undertook only last week shows that 75 percent of 11,000 respondents nationwide cited the wealth gap as their biggest concern in the upcoming decade for China's development.
China's Gini coefficient, a measurement of income disparity, stood at 0.39 in rural areas last year, almost reaching the warning threshold of 0.4 set by the United Nations. China's National Bureau of Statistics also shows the figure for urban areas reaching at 0.33.
People in China, in general, support the CPC policy of pursuing socialism with a market economy blend. But at the end of the day, as things boil down to public life, they want reforms to take place in policies concerning wealth distribution and a narrowing of the gap between the neo-rich and the poor.
Chi Fulin is President of a think tank called China Institute for Reform and Development. He is involved in charting out a reform plan on income disparity.
“Enriching the poor, enlarging the middle (class) group and restricting the rich,” is what Chi said was the focus of the draft policy which the CPC would take up for future consideration.
With the Bo Xilai and Liu Zhijun cases at the forefront of the graft debate, the CPC in its current Congress is attaching the utmost importance to curbing corruption and re-educating party cadres on the principles of Maoism.
Bo, a CPC Politburo Member, was stripped of his CPC membership on September 28 and was expelled from public services on suspected crimes of bribery and power abuse. Liu, a former Railway Minister, has been under investigation since February last year when he was removed from his post on corruption allegations.
China's struggle against corruption is now not necessarily limited to the corridors of the CPC. In fact, the people of China have started to raise their voice through increased an use of the social networks against graft practices. Thanks to Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, people can swiftly respond to the wrongdoing and misdeeds of public functionaries. Over a hundred million Weibo users are just a part of a growing number of Chinese netizens (internet-using citizens) who always find a way to raise their voices through one social network or the other, even if they are deprived of Facebook and Twitter.