On 23 July, Hu Jintao gave a speech at a training seminar for high-level provincial officials, on the importance of continuing the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. He evaluated the Party’s work over the last ten years, his period in office, and set out a number of goalposts and principles for the future. According to Bill Bishop, Hu Jintao spoke for many hours, clearly outlining the problems and challenges facing China. The full text of the speech has not been made public, but since then, the Party magazine Qiushi has published a number of articles drawing from this speech and the People’s Daily has opened an entire website dedicated to it, with commentaries from Xi Jinping and a number of experts from different fields. Also, this website contains a summary of the speech, which is available in translated form hereunder.
This speech sets the stage for the 18th Party Congress and outlines the agenda for the new leadership generation, although, in this acrimonious transition, it is not completely certain this speech reflects a consensus between the different factions. Nonetheless, there are some things we can learn from the summary, which consists of two parts. The first part takes stock of the experience of the last few years, while the second part lists plans for the future. In evaluating the last ten years, Hu indicated that China had a bumpy ride, but that generally, the government managed to successfully fend off domestic and foreign issues. Hu unsurprisingly attributes that success to his own theoretical innovation, the scientific development concept, while paying the necessary dues to the policies of Mao, Deng and Jiang, as well as Marxism-Leninism. As a result, China is still on track to complete the objective of building a relatively well-off society (xiaokang shehui) by 2020, and complete Socialist modernization by 2050. In order to do so, the core requirement is persisting in Socialism with Chinese characteristics. Conveniently, Hu provides few details about what this may mean, but it does signal that no basic political change is on the agenda.
In setting out ideas on the future, Hu subsequently lists a number of policy areas, which may reflect the order of priority they have on the CCP agenda. In order of appearance, these are transforming economic development methods, political structural reform, building a strong Socialist culture country, improving the people’s livelihood and providing social services, and protecting the environment. On the economy, Hu Jintao reiterates that shifting development methods remains the first priority. However, thus far, little rebalancing seems to happen. On political structural reform, Hu continues the line established by Deng Xiaoping that the Party’s leadership position may not change, but that under this condition, the people are to manage their own affairs. While he also pays lip service to democratic election, decision-making, management and supervision, these refer to intra-Party structures and do not indicate that the Chinese franchise will be broadened. On culture, which may take the central space accorded to Zhou Yongkang’s coercive internal stability apparatus, Hu repeats the line established at the Plenary meeting in October last year. On ensuring the people’s livelihood, Hu indicates that it is necessary to expand China’s social services. Lastly, Hu argues that environmental protection should become an integral part of China’s economic, political, cultural and social policy in all areas.
In short, this speech avoids any contentious statement in the run-up to the 18th Party Congress, and provides a relatively blank space on which Xi can begin to establish his leadership. At the end, Hu does pay special attention to the necessity of improving Party building and fighting abuses. In the wake of the Bo scandal, and the different incidents that have battered the CCP over the last few years, and in the fact of corruption, the Party must embark on a new round of Party building. However, Hu does not go beyond calling for the strengthening of existing measures, including internal organization and supervision, campaigns and political education. Without the full text of the speech, it is difficult to assess to what extent Hu aims to push appointments or policy in a certain direction, but at least according to this speech, it seems that the key objective the Party pursues, is not to pursue any clear objective at all.
Valiantly Forge Ahead Following the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
Hu Jintao pointed out that Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the banner for the development and progress of the China of today, and is the banner for the united struggle of the entire party and the people of all ethnicities in the entire country, we must unwaveringly take Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important “Three Represents” thoughts as guidance, deeply implement the scientific development view, persist in and develop Socialism with Chinese characteristics. We must grasp work, grasp implementation, and in the next five years, lay a decisive basis to completely realize the objective of a relatively well-off society, on time, by 2020, and after that, basically realize Socialist modernization by the middle of this century. We must unwaveringly march the correct path opened up by the Party and the people through a long time of practice, not fear any risk, and not be mislead by any interference. Liberating thoughts is a strong ideological weapon to promote the development of the undertaking of the Party and the people from beginning to end, reform and opening up is a strong force promoting the development of the undertaking of the Party and the people from beginning to end, we must unwaveringly move reform and opening up forward, never become fossilized, never stagnate, unite all forces that can be united, muster all vigorous factors that can be mustered, and with unbounded confidence, overcome all difficulties and risks on the path ahead.
Hu Jintao pointed out that, comprehensively analyzing present trends inside and outside the country, we face unprecedented opportunities, and also face unprecedented challenges, our country’s development is still in an important strategic period of opportunity with great potential. Whether we will be able to grasp the opportunities or calmly meet challenges, crucially depends on our ideological understanding, depends on our work strength, depends on our moving the pace of reform and development forward. We must completely examine development trends of the present world and the present China, completely grasp the new requirements for our country’s development and the new expectations of the popular masses, scientifically formulate action plans and major policies adapted to the requirements of the times and the aspirations of the people, press on more enthusiastically, work cautiously and conscientiously, continue to promote scientific development, stimulate social harmony, continue to improve the people’s lives, enhance the people’s happiness, and do all we can to complete the glorious and formidable tasks entrusted to us in these times.
Hu Jintao stressed that, since the 16th Party Congress, we have walked a very uneven path. Looking at these ten years overall, the international situation has constantly changed, the domestic tasks of reform, development and stability were grave, we have closely grasped and used our country’s important strategic period for development well, overcome a series of severe challenges, spared no effort to move the undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics towards a new development phase. The reason that we are able to achieve such historical accomplishments and progress, most importantly is that we have persisted in taking Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important “Three Represents” thought as guidance, have dared to move the practical and basic theoretical innovation forward, have formed and implemented the scientific development view, and have provided powerful theoretical guidance for completely constructing a relatively well-off society and accelerating the pace of Socialist modernization. Deeply implementing the scientific development view still is a long-term, arduous task, facing a series of extremely challenging contradictions and difficulties. We must implement the scientific development view with even firmer determination, even more powerful measures and even more perfect systems, and truly make the scientific development view into a strong force promoting both strong and good development in the economy and society.
Hu Jintao stressed that, through a long period of efforts, our persisting in and developing Socialism with Chinese characteristics has obtained great theoretical and practical results, the most important one is that the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics has been opened up, a theoretical structure for Socialism with Chinese characteristics has been formed, and a system of Socialism with Chinese characteristics established. This is the basic achievement of ninety years of struggle, production and accumulation by the Party and people, and must be utterly treasured, completely persisted in, and incessantly developed. Under new historical conditions, to continue to move Socialism with Chinese characteristics forward, we must incessantly enrich the practical characteristics, theoretical characteristics, ethnic characteristics and characteristics of the time, of Socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Hu Jintao pointed out that, the comrades in the entire Party must keep firmly in mind that the rapid development of our country over the last thirty years relied on reform and opening up, and our country’s development in the future must also resolutely rely on reform and opening up. Only through reform and opening up is it possible to develop China, develop Socialism and develop Marxism. We absolutely must persist in the line, principles and policies of the Party since the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress, persist in implementing the spirit of reform and opening up in all parts of governing the country, move reform and opening up forward even more consciously and even more firmly, incessantly stride forward in a new pace in areas of constructing and innovating systems, and do all we can to push reform and opening up forward.”
When discussing accelerating the transformation of economic development methods, Hu Jintao stressed that, having economic construction at the core is what is needed to rejuvenate the nation, development still is the key to resolve all problems of our country. In the China of today, the basic requirement that persisting in development is a hard principle is persisting in scientific development. Taking scientific development at the core, and taking accelerating the transformation of economic development methods as the main line, is the strategic decision of the overall picture of our country’s development. The comrades in the entire Party absolutely must unify thoughts, raise understanding and firmly implement the major policy deployments of the Centre on accelerating the transformation of economic development methods, shift the foothold of promoting development to raising quality and efficiency, firmly grasp the implementation of the strategy to have innovation drive development, move strategic readjustment of economic structures forward, promote the integration of urban and rural development, completely raise economic openness levels and other strategic tasks, strive to arouse all sorts of market subjects to develop new vitality, promote the synchronous development of industrialization, informatization, urbanization, and agricultural modernization, completely deepen economic structural reform, incessantly strengthen long-term development aftereffects.
When discussing moving political structural reform forward, Hu Jintao stressed that, since reform and opening up, we have always put political structural reform in an important position in the entire picture of reform and development, have unwaveringly moved it forward, have obtained major progress, successfully opened up and persisted in the political development path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. To move political structural reform forward, we must persist in organically unifying the leadership of the Party, letting the people master their own affairs, and governing the country according to the law, develop people’s democracy even more broadly and even more fully, guarantee that the people conduct democratic elections, democratic decision-making, democratic management and democratic supervision according to the law, pay even more attention to giving rein to the important function of the rule of law in governing the State and society, safeguard the unity, dignity and authority of the national legal system, and guarantee that the people enjoy broad rights and freedoms according to the law.
When discussing the construction of a strong Socialist culture country, Hu Jintao stressed that, constructing a strong Socialist culture country is a major strategic policy decision in our Party’s grasping the developments and changes in the times and the trends, and vigorously responding to the spiritual and cultural requirements of the people of all ethnicities. We must unwaveringly march the culture development path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, persist in the orientation of serving the people and serving Socialism, persist in the policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools contend, persist in the principle of sticking close to reality, sticking close to life, sticking close to the masses, establish high levels of cultural consciousness and cultural self-consciousness, promote the complete development of a Socialist spiritual civilization and material civilization, and construct a ethnic, scientific Socialist culture facing modernization, facing the world, facing the future, of the masses.
When discussing the improving of the people’s livelihood and strengthening social construction, Hu Jintao pointed out that progressively raising the people’s material and cultural life levels on the basis of economic development, is the basic objective of reform and opening up, and Socialist modernization construction. Since reform and opening up, and especially in the last few years, we have exerted extremely large efforts obtained clear achievements in the area of improving the people’s livelihood. At the same time, we also must consider that the popular masses’ requirements to live an even better life are also strengthening, and their expectations concerning resolving prominent problems in the area of the people’s livelihood are also rising. We must continue to strengthen work, seek the benefit of the people’s livelihood more, resolve the worries on the people’s livelihood more, resolve the problems of interests that are of the most concern, are the most direct and the most real for the people, continue to gain new progress in ensuring that there are matters to learn, there are jobs to do, there is medicine for the ill, there is care for the elderly, and there are houses in which to live, ensure that the gains of reform and development are extended to the whole body of the people even better and even more fairly, and guarantee that the people lead an even better life.”
When discussing moving the ecological civilization construction forward, Hu Jintao pointed out that, moving the construction of an ecological civilization forward, is a strategic tasks involving fundamental change production methods and life methods, we must profoundly merge and implement ecological civilization construction concepts, principles and objectives, etc., into all aspects and the complete process of our country’s economic, political, culture and social construction, persist in the basic national policy of saving energy and protecting the environment, strive to move green development, recycling development and low-carbon development forward, and create a fine production and life environment for the people.
Hu Jintao stressed that, since reform and opening up, we closely revolved around the magnificent undertaking of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, completely moved the new magnificent project of Party building forward, and have gained great achievements. Under new trends, major changes have occurred in the historical bearing and governance conditions of the Party, and the composition and structuring of Party member teams, the risks coming from outside are unprecedented, the aspect of Party building and especially in Party members and cadre teams, many prominent problems that urgently need to be resolved have emerged. The entire party must strengthen a sense of urgency and a sense of responsibility, persist in the fact that the Party must manage the Party, and governing the Party strictly, completely strengthen the Party’s ideological building, organizational building, work style building, anti-corruption and clean government building, system construction, guarantee that the Party becomes a strong leading core of Socialism with Chinese characteristics from beginning to end. We must continue to move the new magnificent project of Party building forward, persist in ideals and convictions, preserve the blood-and-flesh relationship of the Party with the popular masses, vigorously develop intra-Party democracy, deepen cadres’ personnel system reform, tamp down an organizational basis for Party governance, unwaveringly oppose corruption, consciously safeguard the concentration and unity of the Party.
Lastly, Hu Jintao pointed out that, all levels’ Party Committees and government must, with a spirit of high responsibility, enthusiasm and accomplishment, do all work matters on reform, stability and development well, continue to be earnest and down to earth, firmly grasp implementation, earnestly implement the general fundamental key of seeking progress in stability, preserve the tendency of smooth and relatively rapid economic development, and establish a solid basis for the stability of the larger picture. We must realistically do well the work of caring for the masses’ production and lives, always keep the masses’ safety, danger and daily life in our hearts, and especially must do the work well to care for masses in difficulty, in all manners assist them in getting rid of worries and overcoming difficulty. We must strengthen propaganda and public opinion work, forcefully propagate our Party’s magnificent achievements in leading the people to move reform and opening up, and Socialist modernization construction forward since reform and opening up and especially since the 16th Party Congress, and strengthen the confidence of the entire Party and the people of all ethnicities in the entire country in unwaveringly marching the path of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. The entire Party must even more closely unite around the Party Centre, firmly do work in all areas well, and welcome the victorious convocation of the 18th Party Congress with magnificent achievements.