The reform and opening up of China to the world has been part of the country’s drive for development. Additionally, China has also embraced political reforms that have facilitated its relationship with the outside world. China’s system of governance has advanced the country’s progress tremendously and further encouraged China to take a stand on the global stage. At the opening ceremony of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party in 2017, President Xi emphasised on the need for enhancing socialism with Chinese characteristics. He spoke on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a new era in China, a new type of socialism beneficial to China in all spheres. The 19th National Congress drew attention to China’s choice of governance which is often frowned upon because of its ‘one party’ rule, and the dominant word, ‘Communism,’ reminiscent of the Iron Curtain era. However, China has continued to explain its modified form of communism, and its political system with several variants that have made it appear mind boggling and complex to many.
It is essential to understand what type of political system has driven China’s economy, pushing it nearly neck and neck with the United States of America and making it attain the level of global dominance it currently has. In spite of what most regard as a disagreeable system of governance, communism, socialism continues to play a great role in China’s reform and opening up. Professor of International Studies, Renmin University, Wang Yiwei pointed out that, “The political system in China is quite typical. We learn from the West, but ‘Chinalised’ it as the Chinese own.” He pointed out that Communism in Chinese is very similar to the old, ancient mentality, ‘the earth and the heaven,’ great harmony. “It’s not the same as your understanding of communism in English…. We are not the Communism you imagine, we are very Chinese,” he said. President Xi emphasised on enhancing Socialism with Chinese characteristics for the benefit of the country, mentioning that the Party has actively developed socialist democracy and advanced law-based governance. Communism as practised by China “means development, achievement, open reform conducted by the Communist Party. So in everything, I think we should understand the Chinese achievements from the Chinese political system, particularly the Chinese Communist Party, that’s what I always emphasise on,” Professor Wang divulged. China is at present governed by the ruling party, officially called the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Communist Party membership is reportedly the largest with 90 million, and represents the people. There are in general, nine (9) political parties in China. The information gathered from experts state that the Communist Party members do not practice any religion, and China is reported as the only country that rose so quickly to development as a secular nation. The CCP or CPC, as it is also known, is said to practice an open system.
President Xi has remained committed to driving reforms and opening up on a much larger scale. This is shown in his speeches both at home and abroad. At the conference which marked the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), he said, “If we want to adhere to the beginner’s mind and never forget to move on, we must firmly hold high the banner of reform and opening up and deepen the deepening reforms, further emancipate the mind, liberate and develop the social productivity, and enhance the vitality of social liberation, push forward the reform and opening up constantly.”
China regards development as the key to solving all its problems with its reform of the economy as a principal point. China will not be what it is today without reform and opening up. In the course of these 40 years, it was also vital not to relent or lose focus of the ultimate goal, also known as ‘the Chinese Dream’. In order for this to happen, China had to stay on the course and not be distracted or lose focus. Xi had also firmly indicated that, “To reform we must adhere to the correct direction. We neither take the old path of developing a closed country in a rigid and doctrinaire way, nor take the wrong course of building China into a capitalist state. We want to improve and develop the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and promote the modernisation of national management system and management ability as the overall goal of the deepening reforms, to promote the innovation in theory, practice, system and other various aspects, making our system more mature and finalise the design, enabling more quality development, ensuring better governance ability and making people get more sense of gain.”
The Chinese Dream is all about the reform and opening up of China. The Roadmap of the 18th CPC National Congress and the Chinese Dream compiled by Huang Huaguang and Luan Jianzhang described the Chinese Dream as “…a dream about national development, not about achieving hegemony. At the beginning of the modern era, China was impoverished and weak. The Chinese people sustained a hope in their hearts that one day their country would become prosperous and powerful. The word “prosperous” here refers to a wealth that is both material and spiritual, because neither material scarcity nor a spiritual void accord with socialist principles.” The book further clarified the objectives of the reform and opening up as thus: “The Chinese Dream is a dream about national dignity, not about empire-building. The Chinese people have deep memories about the past: the gradual decline of the country, the loss of sovereignty, and the humiliations of the nation. They have always expected, and continue to expect, that the day will come when the Chinese nation is rejuvenated and reinvigorated. It means that people will live with a greater degree of fulfilment, and with more dignity. It is not a dream about “returning to the grand Tang Dynasty” or about “building a tributary system centring round China.” China is a country that strives for dignity and self-improvement. These can be attained through development. The country regards backwardness as a failure. During this period of reform and opening up, it has not lost sight of its goal as progress is continually seen in its bid to attain the Chinese Dream and international affiliation.
Huang Huaguang and Luan Jianzhang’s compilation further stressed, “How can people achieve self-improvement if they have no confidence in themselves? The 18th CPC National Congress put forward that the path, theory, and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics are the basis for China’s self-confidence and strength. The international community need not fear that China will ever seek to export its own path, theory, and system.
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