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The Path to Rejuvenation and Modernization

The 20thNational Congress of the CPC inaugurated a new leadership under Xi Jinping and maps out the blueprint for China to achieve the ambitious goals of “national rejuvenation” through “modernization with Chinese characteristics.”

By Yu Xiaodong Updated Dec.1

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee (center), and the other newly elected members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 20th CPC Central Committee Li Qiang (3rd from right), Zhao Leji (3rd from left), Wang Huning (2nd from right), Cai Qi (2nd from left), Ding Xuexiang (1st from right) and Li Xi (1st from left), meet the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 23, 2022

On October 22, the keenly watched 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) formally concluded. Attended by about 2,300 delegates elected from among more than 96 million Party members, the five-yearly event inaugurated a new CPC Central Committee, the Party’s highest policy-making body, composed of 376 members, and a new seven-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee led by General Secretary Xi Jinping for his third term. It unveiled the road map of how China will achieve its aspirations for national rejuvenation. 

‘All Respects’ 
In delivering a keynote work report on the first day of the event on October 16, Xi started with a review of the Party’s achievements in the past decade, declaring that China has achieved three major historical tasks of “great immediate importance and profound historical significance”: embracing the centenary of the CPC, ushering in a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and eradicating absolute poverty and achieving the First Centenary Goal of building a “moderately prosperous society in all respects.”  

Xi said that the CPC’s central task in the coming years will be to “lead the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization.”  

The report stresses that Chinese modernization contains elements that are common to the modernization processes of all countries, but features elements that are unique to the Chinese context, which means it will be the modernization of “a huge population,” of “common prosperity for all,” of “material and cultural-ethical advancement,” of “harmony between humanity and nature,” and of “peaceful development.”  

While “national rejuvenation” and “building a modern socialist country with Chinese characteristics” have long been iconic concepts of China’s central leadership led by Xi since he assumed the Party’s leadership 10 years ago at the 18th CPC National Congress held in late 2012, the key message conveyed at the 20th Party congress is that the achievement of these goals will be in “all respects” including ideological, political, economic, cultural and environmental developments.  

The CPC lays out a two-step strategic plan – to “basically realize socialist modernization” from 2020 through 2035, and to build China into “a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful from 2035 through the middle of this century.”  

“High-quality development” is identified as the top priority on China’s endeavor toward modernization. As Mu Hong, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, noted at a press conference on October 24, high-quality development is expected to be realized in all aspects, economically, socially, culturally and ecologically.  

According to the Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century passed in November 2021, high-quality development means “innovation is the primary driver, coordination is an endogenous trait, ecofriendly growth prevails, openness to the world is the only way, and shared growth is the ultimate goal.”  

Education, sci-tech and talent resources are located in the same section in the work report, in the first time for a CPC National Congress report. Mu said it reflects the “core” position of innovation in China’s modernization process. 

External Challenges 
Despite the triumphant and confident tone adopted by the report, it also highlighted the “difficulties and challenges on the road ahead.” In reviewing the Party’s work in the past five years, the report said China had been “confronted with drastic changes in the international landscape.”  

“We have maintained firm strategic resolve and shown a fighting spirit,” and have “safeguarded China’s dignity and core interests,” Xi told the congress. Looking into the future, the report noted that China has “entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising.”  

Given this, the report said that Party members must “be more mindful of potential dangers, be prepared to deal with worst-case scenarios, and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms.”  

With such warnings, the work report features an entire section on the concept of “national security.” Declaring that national security is “the bedrock of national rejuvenation,” the report said that the CPC will take a “holistic” approach to promoting national security in all areas and stages of the work of the Party and the country.  

“We will ensure the security of food, energy, and resources as well as key industrial and supply chains,” and “protect the lawful rights and interests of Chinese citizens and legal entities overseas,” Xi said.  

China opposes protectionism, the erection of “fences and barriers,” decoupling, disruption of industrial and supply chains, unilateral sanctions, and maximum-pressure tactics, according to the report.  

On the Taiwan question, the report largely reiterated its position stated in a white paper on Taiwan released in August 2022. China will strive for peaceful reunification “with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort,” but will “never promise to renounce the use of force, and “reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.” said the report. “This is directed solely at interference by outside forces and the few separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence’ and their separatist activities; it is by no means targeted at our Taiwan compatriots,” Xi said in the report.  

Put together, the report of the 20th Party congress injects a deeper sense of urgency and expresses stronger determination and confidence for the central leadership to lead the Party and the country to achieve its goals.  

On October 22, the congress issued a resolution, which formally adopted the work report as “a political declaration and a program of action for the Party to bring together the Chinese people of all ethnic groups and lead them in securing new success for socialism with Chinese characteristics.”  

In his speech delivered on the last day of the congress on October 22, Xi said the meeting has realized its goals of “unifying thinking, fortifying confidence, charting the course and boosting morale as the Party has embarked on a new journey to face new tests. “We are fully confident and capable of creating new and even greater miracles on the new journey of the new era,” Xi said.