Society problems

Striving to build a modern society – Opinion

The Beijing Skyline. [Photo/VCG]

For a country with a population of over 1.4 billion, more than the population of all developed countries combined, it was never going to be easy to achieve modernization.

Perhaps that’s why, when former leader Deng Xiaoping proposed that China strive for Chinese modernization in the late 1970s, no one imagined what China’s modernization would look like 40 years later. late. And when Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, predicted that urbanization in China would be one of the most influential global events of the 21st century, some Western observers ignored him.

Modernization refers to the gradual transition from a “pre-modern” or “traditional” society to a “modern” society. In today’s world, modernization includes industrialization, urbanization and globalization. And China, as the world’s second-largest economy with a GDP of nearly $18 trillion, has not only eradicated absolute poverty and built a moderately prosperous society in all respects, but is also striving to achieve the goal of second centenary of building a modern socialist country.

At the opening session of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on October 16, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, explained the roadmap for building a strong modern socialist country by the middle of this century, emphasizing that improving people’s lives is the very basis of this enterprise.

A modern society is characterized by advanced industry and technology and a high degree of urbanization, which propel economic development. Although not a widely accepted concept in the Western world, building society is imperative for modernization in China, which includes improving people’s livelihoods and maintaining the social stability. Three characteristics of Chinese modernization are closely related to the construction of society, namely a large population, common prosperity, and material, cultural and ethical progress.

The past decade has seen China achieve remarkable achievements in building society, including eradicating absolute poverty, developing a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, China has achieved sustainable economic growth, with a stable society further boosting development. These “two miracles” prove Western political scientists such as Samuel Huntington wrong, who argue that modernity is synonymous with stability while the process of modernization creates unrest.

How did the miracles happen and how can they help the modernization process?

In Western democracy, a political party acts as a link between civil society and the state; it defends and protects certain vested interests and groups and mobilizes resources to participate in elections. In China, the situation is different, as the CCP’s policies are deeply rooted in Chinese society and aim to benefit everyone. The Party plays the main role in governance and, by avoiding conflicts or partisan interests, can implement long-term policies and strategies. In recent years, in particular, social policies have helped create more jobs and improve health care and housing despite rapid urbanization.

How to balance the economy and society has been a major concern for most governments since the industrial revolution. This is still the main concern of modern states. Karl Marx said that capitalism breeds inequality that eventually engulfs all of society. Karl Polanyi held a similar view, claiming that the “double movement” was the cause of the collapse of Western economies in the 1930s.

As for welfare states, they believe that the movement of labor eases tensions between capital and the working class, but they have encountered many challenges, including rapidly aging societies, which require huge investments to ensure the well-being of all. Consequently, such well-being is hardly sustainable in the long term.

“Developing states” such as Japan and the Republic of Korea have taken a different path to development. These countries with a strong state tradition tried to balance growth and stability when their economies took off. However, due to the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, social protection systems in these countries began to malfunction. As a result, many have embraced an inclusive welfare system as a post-crisis remedy.

Modern society faces many risks and uncertainties, which can only be overcome through joint efforts. And given the different perceptions of fairness, justice and order, the construction of society cannot be measured using economic indices.

China’s rapid development also faces various kinds of risks and challenges. That is why the Party encourages all stakeholders to work together to solve serious problems, including improving health care, public safety and community development. In fact, a community of social governance is essential to building society, and better collaboration leads to better performance in social sectors.

A more harmonious society will certainly help make China a great modern socialist country by the middle of this century, which is the goal of the country’s second centenary.

However, to build a harmonious society, certain basic principles must be respected.

To begin with, society as a whole should follow the Party’s leadership and advance socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must also realize that high-quality development and comprehensive people’s democracy will not only help China achieve the second centenary goal, but also provide economic and political support to accomplish this task. And we should always keep in mind that common prosperity is one of China’s ultimate political goals.

The author is a professor and conducts research on social governance at the China National Academy of Governance. Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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