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Beyond “xiaokang,” the party presents a roadmap for a new 30-year journey to realize the dream of a Chinese renaissance — the plan for a new era of Chinese socialism. The plan — let’s call it the Xi plan, for short — can be broken down into the following four main points. |
First, economics. The Xi plan projects the basic realization of socialist modernization by 2035, resulting in a major expansion of the middle class, with continuing growth through 2050. In the Chinese political lexicon, this means becoming the economic and technological equivalent of a developed nation. In GDP per capita terms, this would imply up to three times the current level, to between $20,000 and $30,000. With this performance, China will formally surpass the U.S. well before 2035.
Second, sustainability. Xi pointedly said that the primary contradiction of Chinese society has now shifted from underdevelopment to imbalanced development and sustainability. The Xi plan calls for a concentrated drive to eradicate poverty, as the increasing wealth gap resulting from rapid development is the enemy of long-term sustainability. In the five years since the 18th Party Congress, at least 60 million people were lifted out of poverty. If such a rate is sustained, the tens of millions currently living below the poverty line will all be lifted out of poverty in only a few years.
The environment is, of course, the other threat to sustainability. The Xi plan maps out major structural changes to the economy and energy usage and envisions a substantially cleaner environment in two decades.
Third, expansion. For the rest of the world, China is coming to a theater near you. With the Belt and Road Initiative, which is larger than the Marshall Plan both in size and geography, China brings its considerable experience and capacity in infrastructure-led economic development to a vast number of developing and developed countries alike.
China’s active engagement with the world is based on a qualitatively different proposition than the one championed by the West in the recent past. Instead of a universalist approach seeking to standardize the world with the same set of neoliberal economic and political rules and values, Xi advocates a new version of globalization under which increased interconnectedness does not come at the expense of national sovereignty. He calls for a global “community of common destiny” but one that fosters a competition of ideas, which — given the trouble globalization is in — makes sense.
And last but not least, identity. With the 19th Party Congress, Xi is formally launching a project to provide a new narrative to current events. The prevailing theories that have guided the world’s thinking about the rise and fall of nations no longer make sense. If elections and privatization are the prerequisites to development, why has China succeeded without them, while so many others have failed after taking these prescriptions? In the past 30 years, China has effectively combined socialism and the market economy. In other words, what The Economist called an “oxymoron” has become an extraordinary success.