Chinese modernization: a systematic engineering process

By XIANG JIUYU / 03-02-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed at the opening of a study session at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance): “Advancing the Chinese path to modernization is a systemic project requiring coordination, systematic planning, and a holistic approach.” He said China must properly handle a series of major relationships: between top-level design and practical exploration, strategy and tactics, cultural inheritance and innovation, efficiency and equity, vitality and order, self-reliance and opening-up. 

Xi’s important remarks illuminate the connotation of Chinese modernization as a systematic project from the theoretical level, while clarifying the modes of thought and important principles of advancing Chinese modernization in all respects. They serve as a guide for helping Chinese communists to accurately understand and promote Chinese modernization. 



Guided by a clear strategic plan, the systematic program of Chinese modernization is rooted in the support of the people and guaranteed by a scientific and efficient governance system, as it draws a grand blueprint for the country to embark on a new path of building itself into a modern socialist country. 

An explicit strategic plan provides scientific navigation for Chinese modernization. Through unified leadership, systematic plans, and a strategic layout, the CPC sticks to a single blueprint to the end. The Party formulated the development plan for the next five years, while setting up strategic goals of realizing the Long-Range Objectives through the Year 2035, building China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of the century. It gave a considered answer to the fundamental question of “where should Chinese modernization go?” and highlighted Chinese modernization’s functions in guidance and stimulation. 

The support of China’s vast population is the foundation of the program. The CPC holds a people-centered philosophy, as it places the starting point and foothold of Chinese modernization on improving people’s sense of gain, happiness, and security. Thus the Party has built great support from among the masses, which further consolidates both the Party’s ruling status in the long term and the foundation of the grand blueprint of Chinese modernization. 

A scientific and efficient governance system is a strong guarantee for China’s path to modernization. The country’s governance system and governance capacity building are important factors determining whether the Party’s undertakings can flourish, the country can achieve lasting stability, and its people can achieve happiness. With 100 years of experience in revolution, construction, and reform, the CPC has adhered to and continues to improve socialism with Chinese characteristics as it continuously advances modernization of the country’s governance system and enhancing its governance ability. The Party has transferred institutional advantage into national governance efficacy, which provides a sound institutional guarantee for a more efficiently functioning systematic Chinese modernization program. 


Systematic thinking

Systematic thinking is a basic concept of Marxist epistemology and methodology. It is also a scientific way of thinking and important working method for Chinese communists. 

Advancing the systematic work of Chinese modernization also takes forward thinking. As Qing dynasty scholar Chen Danran once said: “The wise foresee omens from whatever did not happen, and the brilliant prevent harm from all hidden danger.” The Party Central Committee with comrade Xi Jinping at its core has anchored their goals in building China into a modern socialist country in all respects. They have approached the program in a forward-looking manner, grasping the strategic opportunity of driving towards Chinese modernization while cautiously avoiding myriad potential problems along the way. Chinese leaders seized the historical trend and responded to the call of the times. They’ve planned ahead, seized historical initiative, enhanced foresight when conducting strategic planning, and fully ensured that the grand blueprint of Chinese modernization can be achieved on schedule. 

Comprehensive planning is required to advance Chinese modernization. As Chen Danran said: “Without long-term strategy, short-term achievement is impossible. Without full-scale consideration, simple action is impracticable.” Making a country’s blueprint for development requires us to take a broad view. Attending to one thing and losing another makes it difficult for a country to achieve its overall targets of development and social progress, and makes it difficult to fulfill people’s growing needs of a better life. 

Hence, to promote the systematic program, China must think in terms of the big picture, look far ahead, and refuse to sacrifice the long-term, fundamental interests for the sake of the temporary interests of a limited number of people. To promote Chinese modernization in a systematic way, we must enhance scientific, overall thinking capacity, and balance the relationships between entirety and partiality, short-term and long-term, and the macroscopic and microscopic. We should excel at studying and judging the overall situation of national development based on a macroscopic dimensional analysis. At the same time, we should tackle people’s practical problems from a microscopic perspective. 

The systematic program needs to be promoted in all respects.  Chinese modernization is a highly coupled, systemically integrated program that involves close interrelation and interaction among economics, politics, culture, society, and ecological conservation. Not a single field can be overlooked. This requires us to plan at the national dimension, advancing the “five-sphere integrated plan” as a whole, while coordinating the strategic layout of the “four-pronged comprehensive strategy.” We should achieve harmonious development while making overall plans and taking all factors into consideration. We should also adopt best practices to offset our weakness so as to improve overall efficiency, and ensure that different groups of people from different districts or nationalities can enjoy the fruits of modernization in a balanced way. We should enhance the relevance and coupling of different policies and measures, promote coordinated development of the economy and the society, while sparing no effort to make progress in promoting common prosperity. 


Major relationships

In the process of promoting the Chinese path to modernization, a series of important relationships must be properly handled, as they are related to the fundamental issues of national development, social stability and people’s well-being.

First, it is necessary to properly handle the relationship between top-level design and practical exploration. To comprehensively promote the systematic project of the Chinese path to modernization, we should lead the practical exploration with the scientific top-level design informed by the lessons of practical exploration. We should strive to realize the positive interaction and organic combination of top-level design and practical exploration, and fully utilize them to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Second, it is necessary to properly handle the relationship between strategies and tactics. To comprehensively promote the systematic project of the Chinese path to modernization, we should combine the principle of strategies with the flexibility of tactics. We should carry out the strategic deployment of the CPC Central Committee while allowing for flexible adjustments according to real conditions in the process of implementation.

Third, it is necessary to properly handle the relationship between inheritance and innovation. To comprehensively promote the systematic project of the Chinese path to modernization, we should unswervingly adhere to Chinese characteristics, essential requirements and major principles of the Chinese path to modernization to guarantee the goal orientation of modernization development. We should also abide by the requirements of the times, continue proposing new ideas, strategies and initiatives, stimulate the innovativeness and creativity of the entire society, and strive to create new dynamics and strengths for modernization.

Fourth, it is necessary to properly handle the relationship between efficiency and equity. To comprehensively promote the systematic project of the Chinese path to modernization, we should uphold a people-centered mentality, guarantee social equity, and provide people with greater access to the fruits of modernization. Meanwhile, we should also work on achieving higher rates of efficiency than possible under capitalistic development to fully demonstrate the superiority of socialism with Chinese characteristics and strive for balance while unifying efficiency and equity.

Fifth, it is necessary to properly handle the relationship between order and vitality. The former represents the orderliness, stability and harmony of society, while the latter highlights the vigorous burst of social creativity and the full exploitation of individual potential. To comprehensively promote the systematic project of the Chinese path to modernization, we should deepen reforms to improve the construction of systems and mechanisms, eliminate hidden dangers and increase the harmonious factors to the greatest extent as we strive to create a social atmosphere with both order and vitality.

Sixth, it is necessary to properly handle the relationship between self-reliance and opening-up. While primarily based on China’s national conditions, the Chinese path to modernization does share common features with other countries’ modernization. To comprehensively promote the systematic project of the Chinese path to modernization, we should not only explore the path suitable for China’s national conditions independently but also maintain a high degree of openness so as to participate more in the global industrial system and expand the development space of the Chinese path to modernization with both international and domestic resources.

Xiang Jiuyu is a professor from the School of Marxism at Wuhan University. 

Edited by WENG RONG