Webinar examines common prosperity in non-material sense

By BAN XIAOYUE / 08-25-2022 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

Villagers paint at a local folklore gallery in Xiuzhou District, Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. The province has been designated as a demonstration zone for achieving common prosperity. Photo: CFP

With material living standards constantly improving, people’s cultural-ethical needs are also growing. In this context, a webinar titled “Art Revitalization and Common Prosperity in Non-Material Sense,” sponsored by Peking University, was convened on Aug. 13, when academics held in-depth exchanges on issues related to people’s cultural-ethical life and common prosperity. 

Significance and implications
Common prosperity is an essential requirement of socialism and a key feature of uniquely Chinese modernization. In his article titled “Making Solid Progress Toward Common Prosperity,” General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping pointed out that: “The common prosperity we are working to achieve is for everyone, and covers enrichment of people’s lives in both the material and non-material sense.” 
Fu Caiwu, director of the National Institute of Cultural Development at Wuhan University, said the extension from “common prosperity” to “enrichment of people’s lives in both the material and non-material sense” reflects China’s deepening understanding of the nature of a socialist country and modernization with Chinese characteristics. From the value goal level to top-level design, and further to policy pathways, there are both profound theoretical explanations and practical methodological guidance.
Fan Yugang, a professor from the Teaching and Research Department of Literature and History at the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC (National Academy of Governance), believes that the new proposition of “promoting common prosperity in the non-material sense” demonstrates the value orientation toward a new model for human advancement, with attention paid to people’s aspiration for inner freedom and well-rounded development.
Common prosperity in the non-material sense has both internal and external value implications. Xiang Yong, director of the Institute for Cultural Industries at Peking University, said that the internal value connotation includes individual, organizational, societal, and governmental levels. Individually it points to the general state of personal mental health, learning and growth, aesthetic and entertainment activities, and other aspects of cultural-ethical life. On the organizational level, it indicates the adherence to organizational values and the general improvement of cultural qualities. The societal level demonstrates social groups’ degree of education and a basic state of collective harmony; and the governmental level is manifested in how rich cultural-ethical products provided by the government and how developed public welfare and cultural undertakings are, and how mature the public cultural service system is. The external value connotation includes individuals’ intellectual life status, and how well a nation’s cultural-ethical standards are communicated, understood, and treated overseas.
Promoting common prosperity in the non-material sense is the basic way to achieve high-quality national development. Fu said it requires that people should obtain equal access to cultural-ethical resources and cultural development opportunities in supplies of public culture and from the cultural market, which is reflected in an abundance and equality of opportunities for people’s cultural acquisition, participation, enjoyment, and development. The coordinated development of common prosperity in both the material and non-material sense is the only path to achieve common prosperity for the whole nation.
Material and non-material common prosperity is just like the two sides of a coin, which together constitute an important feature of uniquely Chinese modernization. Fan Zhou, a professor from the School of Cultural Industries Management at the Communication University of China, noted that common prosperity in the non-material sense is a part of China’s push for developing a great socialist culture. The process of meeting the people’s cultural-ethical needs and enriching their mental world is also a process of fostering a Chinese ethos and strengthening confidence in our own culture. 
Whether common prosperity is in the material or non-material sense, “common” is the key and the focus. Fan Yugang suggested not understanding “common” mechanically as the total number of people, and instead, paying attention to the common value pursuit of all people, so that the whole society’s high-spirited public opinion atmosphere and the whole nation’s vigorous state constitute the country’s cultural and intellectual community.
Building demonstration zone
At present, the problem of unbalanced and inadequate development is still prominent in China, with huge gaps between urban and rural development and in income distribution. As such, the foundation and conditions for promoting common prosperity vary from region to region. Bringing common prosperity for all is a long-term and arduous task, and it is necessary to select pilot and demonstration regions.
In June 2021, China’s central authorities issued a guideline on building the eastern province of Zhejiang into a demonstration zone for achieving common prosperity. The guideline, jointly released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, rolled out multiple measures to guide the province in setting an example for promoting common prosperity.
As a pilot in sharing high-quality public services, Ningbo City in the province has created a model of “one person, one art form” to promote common prosperity in the non-material sense, aiming to let every citizen know or master at least one art form. Currently, the art popularization work is forming a project system covering all age groups, full time, and multiple art categories for selection. Citizens’ cultural-ethical life has been enriched, with artistic accomplishment improved, and the city’s overall level of civilization significantly enhanced.