History shapes politics. The Diplomat magazine once even put it this way, “in China, history is a religion”, which may not accurate, whereas it is true that Chinese civilization is marked by a strong historical consciousness, the place which history and philosophy have occupied in Chinese civilization has been comparable to that of religion in other civilizations. With its earliest historical record dating back to the 10th Century BC, China almost has the whole of its thousands of years of history in the books, which serve as a vast treasure trove for politicians to tap into. In Tang Dynasty, a politician clearly formulated that “taking history as a mirror, one can see the rise and fall of a nation”. Noting that learning from history is a vital characteristic in the Chinese culture, the Communist Party of China (CPC) consistently reviews its historical experience, the latest example of which is a landmark resolution on its centennial achievements and historical experience adopted in early November at the sixth plenum of the 19th CPC Central Committee.
The Historical Junctures
The first resolution adopted in 1945 summarized the experience gained and lessons learned over the previous 20-plus years since the founding of the CPC, affirmed the leadership position of Mao Zedong within the Party, and addressed practical problems concerning China’s revolution. It marked the Party's transition from infancy to maturity.
The second resolution, adopted in 1981 after the Reform and Opening-up had kicked off, intended to further liberate the mind of the Party members so that efforts would be refocused on the country's most urgent task of socialist modernization. The third resolution, adopted as the Party celebrates its 100th anniversary this year after the realization of the first centennial goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, has broader and deeper dimensions. It further expands on the major events in the CPC's history, and expounds on the great achievements of the Party and the nation over the course of reform and opening-up, especially since the 18th National Congress, which ushered in the new era for Socialism with Chinese characteristics. Therefore, by any standards, this resolution merits a systematic review and careful study by any serious China observer or political scientist in the world.
A striking feature of the latest resolution is the sense of continuity. It reaffirms the achievements under the leadership of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, and thereby strengthens the underlying continuity that has characterized the CPC's leadership. As no disagreement over fundamental issues has ever emerged within the Party over the past 40 years, this resolution, unlike the previous two, focuses on summing up the achievements instead of prescribing rectifications. It also embodies the Party’s broad and far-sighted vision, its willingness to learn from history, and its commitment to remaining firmly grounded in its own goals while setting its sights globally on the future.
The Historical Experience of the Party’s Endeavours
The resolution reiterates that the valuable experience the Party has gained on its century-long journey is intellectual treasures created through the joint efforts of the Party and the people. The historical experience of the Party is of fundamental and far-reaching significance, which can be summarized into 10 aspects: --upholding the Party’s leadership; --putting the people first; --advancing theoretical innovation; --staying independent; --following the Chinese path; --maintaining a global vision; --breaking new ground; --standing up for ourselves; --promoting the united front; and --remaining committed to self-reform.
These 10 points form a systemic, interconnected, and indivisible whole. They are critical to the continued success of the Party and the people; they are the source of the Party’s inviolable strength, and they are the very reason why the Party has always been able to seize the historical initiative. They are essential for the Party to preserve its advanced nature and integrity and always stand at the forefront of the times.
Significantly, it also reiterated that reform and opening up was a crucial move in making China what it is today, that Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the correct road that has led the country toward development and prosperity, and that China has caught up with the times in great strides. It is the right path for building Socialism in China, unleashing and developing the productive forces, lifting the people out of poverty and helping them become prosperous in the shortest time possible.
The Historical Significance of the Party’s Endeavors
The endeavours of the Party and the people over the past century represent the most magnificent chapter in the millennia-long history of the Chinese nation. Thanks to the CPC's leadership, China has scored indelible achievements toward national rejuvenation, made significant contributions to human progress, and arrived at an important position on the global stage.
The resolution elaborated the historical significance of the Party’s endeavors from a broader perspective in the following five respects:--fundamentally transforming the future of the Chinese people;--opening up the right path for achieving rejuvenation of the Chinese nation;--demonstrating the strong vitality of Marxism;--producing a profound influence on the course of world history; and--making the CPC a forerunner of the times.
This five-point summary is rooted in China’s experience. It spells out the CPC’s historic contributions to the Chinese people, the Chinese nation, the theory of Marxism, the cause of human progress, and the development of Marxist political parties. It reflects the close bond between the CPC and the Chinese people and nation, and the connections between the CPC and Marxism, global Socialism, and the development of human society. It also embodies the historical, theoretical, and practical logic of the Party’s endeavours over its century-long history.
The references in the resolution to the future almost exclusively concern China. It is a reminder that the CPC is first and foremost preoccupied with China's own development. This is the abiding priority. There is no grandstanding about China's growing influence in the world or becoming the world's major economy. Projections about the future are only about China, namely China's great rejuvenation and achieving its second centenary goal.
The New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
This Resolution is a political declaration of the Chinese communists’ adherence to their original aspiration and mission and their commitment to upholding and developing Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era. It focuses on the second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and stresses the importance of grounding our work in this new stage of development, applying the new development philosophy, fostering a new pattern of development, and pursuing high-quality development.
Most importantly, the resolution reiterates that the Party has established Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and defined the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historic process of national rejuvenation.
History offers guidance for meeting new challenges and creating a bright future. The new CPC resolution highlighted this wisdom by calling on all Party members to study its history, and it points out that one may thrive in adversity and perish in laxity. “looking back on the Party's endeavours over the past century, we can see why we were successful in the past and how we can continue to succeed in the future”. It will galvanize all Party members to do well marching towards the future, and it will go down in the annals of the Chinese nation, global Socialism, and human society.
The writer is the Ambassador of China to Bangladesh