Several “degrees” to be grasped in the deepening of reform
Reform is fundamentally determined by basic contradictions in a socialist society. In this sense, reform is the direct driving force and runs through development in a socialist society. The purpose of reform is, in essence, to achieve self-development and improvement of the socialist system, instead of changing its fundamental character or destroying it.
In deepening reform, we must profoundly and soberly comprehend China’s historical tradition and conditions, know the laws of social development, enhance top-level design and overall planning from the historical height of the overall situation of the socialist cause and the great undertaking of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and grasp the “degrees” of comprehensively deepening reform. “Degree” is here taken to mean the critical point between the upper and lower limits of existence and development of things. A thing can exist and develop if it is maintained within the scope of “degree” between upper and lower limits, or otherwise it will undergo qualitative changes. In comprehensively deepening reform, we must grasp several crucial “degrees”, which are of vital significance for present and future reform and development as well as for the whole cause of socialism.
I. We should allow private ownership but not privatisation and must guarantee the principal status of the public economy.
The huge gap resulting from primary distribution of non-public economy easily leads to polarisation of the rich and the poor and sharp social contradictions; while venality, the nature of capital, easily causes the breeding and spread of various social evils, such as fraud and the existence of counterfeit and inferior products, as well as unsustainable development at the cost of resources and the environment. The income gap between general employees and employers in a private business is legal polarisation. In a society with private ownership, the control of the means of production provides the conditions and possibility of exploitation. The development of human history from slave society to capitalist society has fully proven that a social system based on an economy of private ownership must correspond to a society featuring exploitation of man by man, where a minority of people are rich and a majority of people are poor; besides, the exploitative nature of private ownership has reached its zenith in capitalist societies, when not only people of their own countries but also people all over the world are exploited. Marx profoundly revealed the essence and inner contradictions of capitalism and pointed out that “capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt”. The Communist Manifesto indicates that private ownership is the root of all evils. Communists can summarise their own theory as elimination of private ownership. Fundamental defects of private ownership that must exist and cannot be overcome by it, include exploitation, unfairness, polarisation of the rich and the poor and conflict with socialised mass production determine its fate of ultimate demise.
In this paper, “Privitisation” is taken to have two levels of meaning: firstly, making use of public power to seek personal gains and turning public assets and resources into private ones by various means such as embezzling public property and abusing power; secondly, allowing non-public economy to play a leading and principal role in the national economy by encouraging and supporting the non-public economy, and suppressing, impeding and undermining the development of the public economy, so that the public economy, especially the state-owned sector, loses its control over economic and social development. At present, we should soberly understand various theses such as “inefficiency of public economy”, “unclear property rights”, “monopoly of state-owned economy” and the ulterior purpose of attempts by some interest groups at home and abroad to embezzle public property and abuse power by privatising state-owned enterprises thus destroying the socialist economic base. In important industries and sectors concerning national interest and people’s livelihood, the economic lifeline of the country and national security, it is clear that public economy should play a principal role and the state-owned economy should control lifelines of the national economy. Whether the economic lifeline of the country can rest with the Party and the people is key to the survival or extinction of the Party and the country. If the economic lifeline of the country is controlled by individuals and private consortiums or even by foreign capital, China will move toward the extremity of thorough privatisation and “the Communist Party” will be renamed “the Privatisation Party”, which would be equivalent to destroying the Great Wall or digging our own graves; if this were the case, not only would the Party and the government have to take orders from these consortiums and foreign capital, but the Chinese nation and the Chinese people would suffer disastrous consequences. The abandonment of the public economy equals the abandonment of socialism and changes the socialist nature of our country and society. This is a crucial issue of principle, which allows for no ambiguity. On June 5, 2015, the 13th meeting of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms deliberated and passed the Several Opinions on Adherence to the Leadership of the CPC and Reinforcement of CPC Construction in Efforts to Deepen Reform of State-owned Enterprises and Opinions on Strengthening and Improving Supervision of State-owned Assets in Enterprises to Prevent Loss of State-owned Assets, which established clear principles for the CPC on the management of state-owned enterprises.
II. We should implement market economy but not allow marketisation and must guarantee the socialist nature of the market economy.
Planning and market, as means of economic regulation, each have their own advantages and strengths. Neither a totally planned economy nor laissez-faire market economy is good. Under the circumstances of socialised mass production and the existence of complicated economic relationships, a market economy has stronger adaptability, more significant advantages and higher efficiency. Following the law of value and making use of price mechanisms, competition mechanisms and supply-demand mechanisms can help effectively regulate surplus and deficiency, increase efficiency and vitality of economic operations, and satisfy diverse social demands.
However, markets are not almighty and cannot be “deified”. Markets have defects such as being spontaneous and blind, and the laissez-faire market economy lacks integrity, regulation and morals easily causing various problems, including vicious competition, short-term behaviours, moral deficiency, economic instability, the existence of counterfeit and inferior products, soaring prices, environmental pollution and resource exhaustion, further aggravating selfishness and extreme development of fetishism, causing people to suffer a loss of belief, values confusion and to become selfish and indifferent. It also fills people’s minds with individualism, hedonism, money worship and extreme egoism, turning them into slaves of material, carnal and sensual desires, bringing about serious consequences for human society and nature. Markets cannot solve the problems of those who are old, weak, ill and disabled and “malfunction” when addressing different public problems. China has had no lack of rich people since ancient times, but the Chinese nation has great wisdom and has realised early the adverse effects of markets on economic and social development, and thus sticks to a “restraining commerce” policy using governmental regulation. We have profoundly experienced the consequences of markets lacking supervision and regulation and the adverse effects of markets on social development and public morality from resulting phenomena such as “ruthless garlic”, “checking ginger”, “mad beans”, “arrogant apples”, “zombie meat” and “laughing at poverty but not prostitution” .
“Marketisation”, means to “deify” markets, implement an allegedly “pure” market economy, hold that markets, guided by the “invisible hand”, can automatically maintain economic balance without government intervention and advocate non-intervention in free competition of the market. Markets follow the law of the jungle which advocates preying on the weak, so non-intervention in markets is equivalent to letting the strong grow stronger while the weak become weaker. Such a seemingly equal and free market is in essence a means and tool to protect the interests of large capital, strong market players and the capitalist class and capitalist system, providing protection and support for developed countries and large capital to plunder and exploit working people and the developing countries at will.
III. We should carry out reform of the political system but not engage in bureaucratisation or granting privileges, and must guarantee the essential requirement of people being the masters of the country.
Socialism cannot be built solely on the foundation of a public economy. The economic base of public economy and the superstructure of people’s democratic dictatorship supplement each other, forming an organic unity and an integral whole. Without sound socialist public economy, there is no material base for people’s democratic dictatorship; without a sound superstructure of people’s democratic dictatorship, concentration of power and bureaucratism easily occur in the organism of public economy, together with abuse of power and embezzlement of public property, turning public ownership into “official ownership” and public economy into “cadre economy”.
Improvement and development of socialism mean building socialism not only at a material level, but also at corresponding political, spiritual, ideological and cultural levels. It is not easy to establish public ownership and achieve a with private ownership, let alone stick to socialist ideals and beliefs, establish a sound socialist superstructure of people’s democratic dictatorship and achieve a break with the private ownership mentality. If the socialist superstructure of people’s democratic dictatorship suitable for the economic base of public ownership cannot be built, problems such as public servants becoming lords and masters, bureaucratic cadres and privilege-oriented development of cadres, and the degradation and deterioration of the Party and state power cannot be addressed. Privilege and corruption, occurring as a result of a lack of supervision by the masses, will lead to degradation and deterioration of the Party’s leading group which will evolve into a decayed bureaucratic bloc, divorced from the people, losing popular support and eventually causing the death of the country and Party. The history of tremendous changes in Eastern Europe has provided some lessons. Therefore, without democracy, there is no socialism or socialist modernisation. People’s democracy is the life of socialism.
The biggest difference of socialist democracy from capitalist one is that, based on socialist public ownership, it belongs to most people and is characterised by consistency between political procedures and the nature of the state. It features coordination between the economic base and superstructure; it is extensive and real democracy that the broad working masses are entitled to. Capitalist democracy, based on private ownership of the means of production, is procedural democracy supposedly of “the minority subordinated to the majority” and attempts to cover the essence of the capitalist class in aid of exploiting and oppressing working people in a well-developed form. Deng Xiaoping stressed again and again that reform of the political system must adhere to the direction of socialism and proceed from China’s reality. “We must not apply indiscriminately democracy as presented by the West, Western separation of three branches or capitalist system; we should carry out socialist democracy.”
IV. We should carry out opening-up but not allow dependency or comprador status, and must guarantee independence, sovereignty and the interests of national development.
Opening to the outside world is a basic national policy that has long been adhered to, and China has now formed an all-dimensional, multi-layered and wide-ranging opening pattern. However, we should correctly handle the relationship between opening-up and independence and self-reliance. Independence and self-reliance are the basis for opening-up while opening-up aims at strengthening independence and self-reliance. In opening-up, efforts must be made to protect our political, economic, cultural, environmental, ecological and ideological safety, maintain our sovereignty independence and territorial integrity, and strengthen independence and self-reliance while seeking mutual benefit and win-win results with international partners. An important goal of opening-up and absorption of the achievements of human civilisation is to give full play to socialist superiority and construct a socialism that is superior to capitalism.
Deng Xiaoping regularly emphasised that the invigoration of the national economy and opening to the outside world were carried out under the principle of adherence to socialism. We implement the opening-up policy and absorb something beneficial from capitalist societies for the purpose of providing a supplement to the development of productive forces in a socialist society . China’s modern history has repeatedly proven that it is impossible for China to take the capitalist road which, if taken forcibly, would be an abyss set by dependent and bureaucratic comprador capitalism, as not only would the efforts of numerous revolutionary martyrs have been in vain, but the Chinese nation and the Chinese people would be caught in an unprecedented disaster. How to improve the ability to prevent and resolve various risks and practically maintain all types of national security in the course of opening-up is a major task before the Party and people of all nationalities across the country.
V. We should carry out diversified distribution but not allow polarisation, and must grasp the “degree” of wealth gap.
Polarisation and the huge wealth gap are issues threatening social security, stability, fairness and justice. They are the cause of difficult social problems that China must confront in order to overcome the “middle-income trap”. In order to realise common prosperity, in addition to the problem of how to release and develop the productive forces and of increasing social material wealth, in terms of productive relations, there is also the problem of eliminating exploitation and removing polarisation to allow all the people to enjoy the fruits of development of social productive forces. This cannot be solved unless we adhere to the principal status of socialist public ownership and distribution according to work . Deng Xiaoping wrote that the principal status of public economy and common prosperity are fundamental socialist principles we must adhere to. The principal status of public economy is the material base for common prosperity while common prosperity is the development goal and value orientation of public economy. Talking about common prosperity without the public economy holding primary status, is impossible. A public economy that stresses public ownership unilaterally without paying attention to common prosperity is abnormal.
VI. We should deepen the reform but not allow wholesale westernisation, and must grasp the “degree” of invigorating reform.
The policy of reform and opening-up will lead to a powerful nation. In the face of new circumstances and tasks, we must spare no efforts to solve a series of prominent contradictions and problems and constantly promote self-improvement and development of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics through comprehensive deepening of reform. Comprehensively deepening reform should take promoting social fairness and justice and increasing people’s wellbeing as the starting point and ultimate objective. Further emancipate the mind, release and development social productive forces, and liberate and enhance social vitality. We should invigorate the reform, instead of being distracted from it.
 Each of these terms relates to a specific scandal in Chinese society, for example: “Arrogant apples” refers to the “organic” apples sold in layers of packaging for 100 yuan ($20) each. “Zombie meat” refers to meat that is sold in supermarkets despite having spent years in a freezer.
“Emancipate the mind” is a phrase originally used by Mao Zedong and later by Deng Xiaoping meaning to cast away doctrinarism. It is often coupled with the phrase “seek truth from facts”.