Since the economic reform and opening up policy in 1978, the economy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has developed tremendously and gained prominence in the world economy. Chinese socialism, implemented by five-generation Chinese leaders such as, Mao Zedong in the first generation, Deng Xiaoping in the second, Jiang Zemin in the third, Hu Jintao in the fourth, and Xi Jinping in the fifth generation, has significant ramifications for China's rapid economic development. It is, therefore, important to examine the ideologies developed by these top Chinese leaders along with their own unique means and distinctive characteristics.
Chairman Mao developed his own convictions on Bourgeois Democratic Revolution and beliefs on the development of China as well as a new style of work. Like Marx and Lenin, Mao adhered to the principle of the leadership of the proletariat but, in practice, he focused on the leadership of the peasants. Chairman Mao also insisted on war and considered it inevitable to end imperialism and capitalism. Mao emphasised on armed guerilla method to gain success in revolutions.
Mao Zedong's Thought is regarded as the theory of the beginning stage of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The theoretical aspects of socialism with Chinese characteristics were elaborated in the report of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in 2012. It mentioned the scientific features of socialism including Deng Xiaoping Theory, "Three Represents" Thought, and the scientific outlook on development. It posited that socialism with Chinese characteristics represents the CPC's adherence to the principle of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.
It is however important to mention that, the term, socialism with Chinese characteristics was first coined by Deng Xiaoping and later developed by his successors through further development of Mao Zedong Thought. Deng Xiaoping initiated new policies instead of the then Soviet model as well as brought some major changes with Mao's economic policies. According to Deng, it was not the theory of "class struggle" but "seeking truth from facts," developed by Chairman Mao during the revolutionary wars, that made the point of departure of Mao Zedong Thought. That is why the emergence of socialism with Chinese characteristics is perceived as a great ideological achievement of China.
In addition, Deng Xiaoping's abandoning of class struggle; the removal of communes; the building of town and village enterprises and special economic zones; mercerization; deeper institutionalization; professionalisation of cadres and their career structures; alternative views of modernity from the outside world, etc gave rise to an ideological change - the establishment of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Hence, Deng Xiaoping's emphasis on comprehensive reform through opening up policies; modernisation through quasi-capitalism or state-capitalism; socialist market economy instead of planned economy; stated-owned enterprises instead of state enterprises, etc established a new tenet of socialism in combination with historical thoughts and modern ideologies.
The ideologies of socialism with Chinese characteristics continued in post-Deng Xiaoping era. One of the significant aspects of socialism with Chinese characteristics in that phase was the theory of "Three Represents" initiated by Jiang Zemin, the then Chinese President and General Secretary of the CPC, in February 2000. His successor, Hu Jintao, later embraced that concept and urged CPC to "dedicate itself to the interests of the public and govern for the benefit of the people" on the basis of that theory.
The "Theory of the Three Represents" was based on the principles of the highest productivity, the foremost culture, and the overall interests of the broad masses with a view to promoting the welfare of the entire people. One of the significant aspects of the theory was to pursue "market economy" instead of Marxist and Maoist-style class struggle. Instead of emphasising on proletariats over the capitalists, Jiang-style "new thinking" primarily focused on the rule and power of the CCP to promote the welfare of all Chinese irrespective of "class origin." However, Jiang Zemin also underscored the importance on improving the teachings of Marx and Engels.
Hun Jintao's doctrines reiterated the new stage of development through applying "scientific" models for reform and development. The Scientific Outlook on Development is a scientific theory focused on building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects and to develop socialism with Chinese characteristics at new stage in adherence to Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and important thought of Jiang Zemin's Three Represents. One of the major characteristics of that theory was to meet new requirements of development in line with China's own practice and the experience of other countries in development as well.
Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China and General Secretary of CPC Central Committee, announced the new thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for new era, also known as Xi Jinping Thought, at the 19th CPC National Congress on October 18, 2017. He said it marked the advent of a "new era," a "strategic opportunity for China to reassert its greatness on the world stage as well as a role model for developing countries." In adherence to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development, the thought for new era represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context.
Xi Jinping Thought seeks to deepen reform in every field to improve and develop the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics with a view to modernising China's system and capacity for governance. Xi Jinping Thought also entails a modified implication of Deng Xiaoping's policies for China's "new era." It covers various aspects of reform, development, and stability, domestic politics, national rejuvenation and national defense, administering the party, the state, and the armed forces, ecological civilisation, as well as a new type of international relations through Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It has thus generated a new "scientific theoretical system" and made it crucially different from previous thoughts.
China has developed Chinese-style socialism with a particular focus on its economic development and overall interests of the broad masses. The country neither adopted Soviet-style bureaucratic socialism nor accepted peripheral capitalism. While Mao Zedong Thought was built in adherence to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, the post-Mao thoughts brought about some new changes. The post-Mao era inaugurated major transformation in China's economy through economic reform, open door policy, and socialist market economy to rejuvenate the Chinese nation.
Most importantly, the Xi Jinping Thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for new era accentuates comprehensive economic development of China through building a moderately prosperous society and socialist modernisation within a prescribed timeframe. Taking all the important previous thoughts proclaimed by Chinese leaders into consideration, Xi Jinping Thought brings about some new policies in order to build a strong, developed, and prosperous Chinese nation.
Sultana Yesmin is a PhD Candidate at the School of Politics and International Studies (SPIS), Central China Normal University, Wuhan, Hubei, China.
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