I am so glad that you are interested in socialism with Chinese characteristics, as the theory is not only the guidance for China’s reform and opening up, but was created by ourselves in the course of practice. People of our generation are so lucky to have experienced in person the reform and opening up, so we have great affection for this scientific theory.
What is socialism with Chinese characteristics? Here is my own understanding:
We normally say that socialism with Chinese characteristics is a product of the integration of the fundamental tenets of scientific socialism with the actual conditions of present-day China and the features of the times. It is the latest achievement of the sinicization of Marxism.
“Is” and “is not” are common terms used in definitions. For instance, Engels said that Communism is the condition for the proletariat’s liberation. Neither…nor… is used to define his third way, by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; it is neither social democratism nor Neoliberalism. Sometimes the construction is neither… nor… but… is used.
For example, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, said that New Democracy was neither the socialism of the proletariat nor the democracy of the bourgeoisie, but a new type of bourgeois democracy led by the proletariat.
There are three ways to define socialism with Chinese characteristics. First, socialism with Chinese characteristics is neither the Soviet Union’s mode of socialism nor capitalism; second, socialism with Chinese characteristics is the integration of the fundamental tenets of scientific socialism with the actual conditions of present-day China; third, socialism with Chinese characteristics is scientific socialism with Chinese characteristics.
All of the three definitions are correct. It is right in the first definition to differentiate the subject from the Soviet Union’s mode of socialism and capitalism with the term neither…nor… But it doesn’t define what the subject in question really is, and many may think it is actually capitalism with Chinese characteristics. The second definition, with the term “is,” is a scientific summary of the subject. In order to further describe the subject, we use the third definition, with the term “is.”
Socialism with Chinese characteristics is scientific socialism with Chinese characteristics. It has the following characteristics:
First, it insists on the domination of public ownership as the foundation of socialism, attaches importance to the private and individual sectors, and develops the basic economic system with public ownership as the main form together with the joint development of diverse forms of ownership.
Second, it adheres to the socialist economic and political system and the socialist ideology while building a socialist market economy, in which the market is given full play in allocating resources.
Third, it insists on the dominating role of distribution according to work, while allowing labor, capital, technology, management and other factors of production to play their roles in distribution. The system of distribution according to work is the leading factor, but diversified distribution methods coexist.
Fourth, it acknowledges the leading role of the working class, and that workers, peasants and intellectuals are the main forces of socialist construction. But it also admits the constructive role of the founders and technicians of private science-and-technology enterprises, managers and technicians hired by foreign-invested enterprises, self-employed people, owners of private enterprises, employees of intermediary agencies, freelancers and other classes that have appeared in the course of the recent social changes. It works to create a society in which all people are well positioned, do their best and live in harmony.
Fifth, while upholding the leading role of the Party and the people’s role as masters of the country, it also stresses that we must institutionalize and give a legal framework to democracy, rule the country by law, and develop a socialist political civilization. The political system of the integration of the leading role of the Party, the role of the people as the masters of the country and rule of the country by law has been established.
Sixth, socialism with Chinese characteristics recognizes Marxism’s guiding role in the ideological sphere, while allowing differences and diversity in its ideology and culture. It also requires us to fend off incorrect and decadent ideas, and develop a national, scientific and popular socialist culture that is geared to the needs of modernization, of the world and of the future.
In a nutshell, socialism with Chinese characteristics is a product of the integration of the fundamental tenets of scientific socialism with the actual conditions of present-day China and the features of the times.
It is necessary to clarify that integration here is by no means scientific socialism plus Chinese characteristics.
Chairman Mao Zedong was the first to propose the “second combination” of Marxism and China’s reality in the course of China’s socialist construction. However, he failed to achieve his purpose because much of his understanding of Marxism was outdated, as Deng Xiaoping pointed out. For example, Marxism emphasizes class struggle in the course of revolution, but class struggle hampers socialist construction. Therefore, combination alone does not work without reexamining Marxism.
So when Deng Xiaoping combined the basic principles of scientific socialism with modern China’s reality he proposed to emancipate the mind and reexamine socialism. After that he put forward the following views: China is now in the primary stage of socialism, and will remain in this stage for a long time. Socialist countries can have market economies. The essence of socialism is the liberation and development of the productive forces, elimination of exploitation and polarization,and the ultimate achievement of prosperity for all. These new perspectives constitute the foundation of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
With the foundation laid, the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics began. At the turn of this century changing situations in China and the rest of the world required the CPC to make changes. The CPC members, represented by President Jiang Zemin, added new contents to the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics by putting forward the important thought of the “Three Represents.” In the 21st century, the CPC Central Committee, led by President Hu Jintao, further enriched the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics by putting forward the Scientific Outlook on Development.
The practice of building socialism with Chinese characteristics is not over yet, nor is the theoretical innovation. However, we have built a scientific system for the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics.
It follows that socialism with Chinese characteristics is the implementation and development of scientific socialism in China. It is by no means “scientific socialism” plus “Chinese characteristics.”