The Guardian • Issue #1976

China’s common prosperity – the next step in the building of socialism

President Xi Jinping has announced the next steps in resolving inequality in China following the monumental achievement of eradicating extreme poverty and reaching a moderately prosperous society. In a recent public meeting, it was announced that the next long-term goal would be to work towards “common prosperity” for all Chinese citizens by confronting income distribution, preventing financial risks, and strengthening the socialist market economy. The accomplishments of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have been celebrated throughout the Global South and have put Western governments, including Australia and the US, to shame in terms of their ability to achieve long-term prosperity goals. As conditions for Chinese citizens are predicted to surpass those in the West, considerations for a socialist future must be examined thoughtfully and earnestly.


Although Western media prefer to portray Xi’s announcement as some kind of strategy to boost consumer demand, or a ramping up of “authoritarian” measures, the Chinese government are essentially addressing the next primary contradiction in their society; that being income inequality. This is only now possible given that previous primary contradictions have been resolved, that of the need to eradicate extreme poverty, achieved through the liberation of productive forces unleashed at the beginning of the Reform and Opening Up period embarked on four decades ago. While Cong Yi, Professor at the School of Economics at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics described “common prosperity” as “written in the genes” of the CPC, additional details and methods for achieving it have just been revealed.

Of note at the meeting was the distinction to achieve “common prosperity” – affluence shared by everyone (which may still have elements of wealth inequality), as opposed to egalitarianism – which creates a level of equality, but pays insufficient regard to how prosperous the society is; a reference to the tumultuous cultural revolution in the late ’60s and early ’70s.


Top officials of the CPC including Xi discussed strategies to fend off major risks to people-centred development and stable financial development in the first stages of achieving “common prosperity.” A major focus will be on income distribution, concentrating on four main areas: increasing earnings for low-income earners, expanding middle-income earners, adjusting excessive incomes, and prohibiting illicit incomes or monopolistic practices. Morgan Stanley Investment Research analysts have affirmed China’s “effort to rebalance the economy toward labour, tackling social inequality with redistribution, social welfare, taxes and inclusive education to increase the middle-income group’s share of the economy.”

A clear example of the implementation of this policy has been the crackdown on privately-owned tutoring industries, which have been ordered to remove previously acceptable foreign investment. Additionally, some private tech companies such as the Didi ride hailing app, Boss Zhipin search app, and Full Truck Alliance freight app have been suspended on the same grounds. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma received international attention following the cancellation of Ant Group’s $37 bil Initial Public Offering (IPO) after the risks it would have exposed to their financial markets.


In addition to income distribution, the top leaders at the meeting announced aims to strengthen the socialist market economy. Yue Su, principal economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit described how “privatisation will likely slow in public services such as education, care for the elderly or medical care, with authorities at the very least becoming more strict in monitoring prices and affordability.” Affordable housing, protection of intellectual rights, and exploring more ways to earn incomes legally were also high on the list of priorities in achieving this goal.


Black Agenda Report journalist and co-author of American Exceptionalism and American Innocence Danny Haiphong recently highlighted how the so-called “progressives” in the US Democratic Party talk about wealth inequality, whereas government officials in China actually do something about it.

Haiphong compared the standards of the US with China by emphasising how “political leaders such as Bernie Sanders and the ‘Squad’ (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib) […] do little to challenge their colleagues and the corporate executives who control DC politics. Hard-hitting statements replace real political action. Loyalty to the Democratic Party stands in place of loyalty to the people. Poverty and hardship has grown, yet these ‘progressive’ politicians have not met the moment. The millions who support them are being led into the graveyard of social movements, the Democratic Party, rather than the struggle for socialism – a movement that must be led by the ideas and actions of the people themselves free of control from the capitalist parties.” There is no doubt the Republican Party holds back real progress, but it is essential to understand that the opposing party also offers little to nothing in terms of economic prosperity for the US working class, while claiming to represent them.


The same can be said of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) when looking at their track record. Continued privatisation of public assets, union busting, and poorer work conditions, as well as rhetoric without action have all happened under their watch. They do not represent a truly liberatory government, and in fact, create a predicament where the working class feel stuck in choosing between bad or worse. Even if the Australian Greens were able to acquire more power through the electoral system, at best they promise to ‘make billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax to tackle income inequality.’ Rarely is it mentioned the impact that private monopolies have on reinforcing class society in perpetuity.

Without a people-centred government, Australia’s unemployment and insecure employment rate continues to grow, while the rich and elite continue to get away with tax evasion and ripping off workers. In addition, the Liberal Party spends as much time acting as a puppet government for the United States as it does representing the interests of our own bourgeoisie, and sometimes at their expense. This is why the Australian working class should support the move towards independence, both from the Commonwealth as well as the US alliance. At this stage, Australia’s ability to achieve adequate wealth distribution and improved prosperity for the working class is not possible under the current capitalist system.


As living conditions improve for the working class in China and deteriorate in the West, it is becoming somewhat absurd to describe Western nations as “free” and “democratic,” while describing China as “authoritarian.” The ability to participate in the building of your nation, the option to make things better for your children’s futures, and a government built on years of kept promises create happier, more collaborative and proud people. This allows them to be political – to be empowered and to be influential. In comparison, with poor and worsening living conditions, coupled with a stalemate government, the people in Australia barely sense empowerment for change. A democratic nation is more than the ability to tick a box every three years.


As Haiphong expressed about the US in response to Xi’s new reforms, “The socialist Left must build a political force, an organisation that can lead the people in this historic and correct struggle for wealth redistribution. In this, they would have a friend in China. Solidarity should thus be extended with China against US aggression. The Democratic Party’s leadership over progressive politics is the thing that should come under harsh condemnation and criticism.” The government should not be a servant to business interests, but should require businesses to sacrifice profits in order to meet development goals, as they do in China. Therefore, Australian workers should also turn their attention away from condemning China, to condemning their own government, and seriously consider the many benefits of working towards a socialist society to genuinely improve prosperity for all people.

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