By: William Jones Source: Beijing Review Published: 2019-11-25
The Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) received lots of attention, an event that is much smaller than the more publicized annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee or the CPC National Congress.
The session, held in late October, gathered 202 members and 169 alternate members, who discussed a work report presented by General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping, followed by review and adoption of the Central Committee's decisions contained in a draft document on upholding and improving the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and advancing the modernization of China's governance system.
While the decisions contained no dramatic developments, the plenum took place under stressful conditions for China and the world. The China-U.S. trade dispute has created some financial turmoil and political uncertainty in the world. The U.S. demands to dismantle some of the key elements of China's economic system would, if implemented, significantly affect the functioning of the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
In addition, events in Hong Kong have created a great deal of concern in the West as to the viability of the formula of "one country, two systems," which was worked out by Deng Xiaoping to integrate Hong Kong and Macao under the Central Government. Moreover, they are clearly not simply a matter of local conditions, but are being fueled by forces in the West opposed to China's entry on the world stage as a major power.
Thus, everyone was looking to the plenary to see how China would react in the face of these new pressures.
The response was quite firm and unequivocal. While China is clearly prepared to continue the process of reform and opening up with bold new measures to allow foreign capital to invest more, the country is also determined to follow the path that has allowed it to accomplish amazing progress over the course of the last 40 years.
The characteristic Chinese form of governance with the guiding role of the CPC will be modernized and made more effective. The campaign against corruption will be more rigorous, and stricter standards will be placed on officials in Party and government positions. At the same time, the Chinese system of socialist consultative democracy will be expanded with greater involvement by non-Party members of the CPPCC. In addition, the stress on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era at the plenum clearly indicated that the new direction staked out by the general secretary since being elected will continue to flourish and be instrumental in bringing China to its second centenary goal in 2049.
The guiding role of the CPC will continue to be paramount, and the role of state-owned enterprises will be made more effective. While the documents coming out of the four-day plenary did not elaborate on discussions regarding the destabilization of Hong Kong, they clearly indicated that the "one country, two systems" policy will remain in force and that China will not allow any threat to its national sovereignty.
While Western critics continue to belabor the point that China is not conducting any reform in line with some envisioned transformation to some form of "liberal democracy," it is difficult for anyone to assert the superiority of the liberal model while the Chinese model has proven so successful and "liberal democracies" are presently in the throes of a variety of crises for which they still have no solutions.
Brexit and populism are wreaking havoc on Europe, all fueled by a growing economic crisis. And in the United States, the 2020 election campaign has been hijacked by an impeachment procedure, which is bound to fail, except with its ultimate effect on voters. While Western media pundits will continue to conduct their campaigns of criticism against China's so-called "authoritarianism," China in fact serves as a model of stability in a very unsettled world. And while no country may be prepared to follow the Chinese model, many may well look at China's success in rapid economic development and unprecedented poverty reduction and utilize lessons from a country which has succeeded far better than most in resolving its problems and creating conditions of happiness for most of its people.
William Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.