Home OPINIONS Defining Chinese modernisation and its role 

Defining Chinese modernisation and its role 

The path to modernisation that a country chooses is determined by, among other factors, its historical traditions, social systems, developmental conditions, and external environment. As countries differ in their conditions, they may take different paths to modernisation. 

Chinese modernisation has features that are common to the modernisation processes of all countries, as well as features that are unique to the Chinese context. The Report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) articulated the five distinctive features of Chinese modernisation, profoundly capturing the essence of the concept. 

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Both a theoretical summary and a guide to action, this offers a sure path for China to build itself into a great modern socialist country and achieve the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as espoused by Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

First, the modernisation of a huge population is a salient feature of Chinese modernisation. As countries differ in population size, they face different tasks which vary in magnitude and complexity, and their paths of development and ways of advancement are necessarily different. 

China is working to achieve modernisation for over 1.4 billion people, more than the combined population of the world’s developed countries. This will largely reshape the landscape of global modernisation. Chinese modernisation is unprecedented in human history in terms of both scale and difficulty.

A huge population provides ample human resources and a vast market, but it also poses many problems and challenges. Ensuring that our more than 1.4 billion people are fed is a tough challenge to begin with, and there are other issues to be resolved, such as employment, income distribution, education, health care, housing, eldercare, and childcare. 

Second, the modernisation of common prosperity is a defining feature of Chinese modernisation, which distinguishes it from Western modernisation. The biggest problem with Western modernisation is the fact that it is capital-centered rather than people-centered and that it seeks to maximise capital gains, rather than serve the interests of the vast majority of the people. This has created a huge gap between the rich and the poor and led to severe polarisation.

Chinese modernisation aims to ensure that development is for the people and by the people and that its fruits are shared by the people. China has made important progress in promoting prosperity for all. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the country has won the critical battle against poverty and lifted close to 100 million rural people out of poverty. The government has now developed a complete set of guidelines, principles, institutions, policies, and measures to deliver prosperity for all.

Thirdly, both material abundance and cultural-ethical enrichment are lofty features of Chinese modernisation. Western countries’ early pursuit of modernisation only led to the accumulation of wealth, crises of faith, and insatiable material desires. An important cause of Western countries’ predicaments today is their failure to check greed, which is the nature of capital, and to resolve their deep-seated problems of rampant materialism and spiritual impoverishment.

Chinese modernisation, in addition to creating abundant material wealth, also strives for cultural-ethical enrichment to boost the people’s confidence in Chinese values and culture. Equal importance must be attached to material progress and cultural-ethical progress, and ensure that the two reinforce each other and advance together. This will give people an intellectual foundation to strive together in unity, initiative to break new ground, and values to pursue a healthier life. 

Fourth, respecting, adapting to, and protecting nature and promoting harmony between humans and nature are distinctive features of Chinese modernisation. Since the advent of modern times, Western modernisation has typically involved a stage of wanton plundering of natural resources and destruction of the environment. Because of its severe dearth of per capita share of energy and resources, China will face growing energy, resources, and environmental constraints as its development accelerates. This means that China cannot follow the beaten path of Western modernisation.

In pursuing modernisation, China is committed to sustainable development. Guided by the policy of giving priority to resource conservation, environmental protection, and letting nature restore itself. China consistently pursues sound development featuring improved production, higher living standards, and healthy ecosystems, thus opening up broad prospects for realising the sustained development of the Chinese nation. 

Fifth, adhering to the path of peaceful development, pursuing development as she safeguards world peace and development, better safeguarding world peace and development through her own development, and promoting the building of a global community of shared future are prominent features of Chinese modernisation. 

Western modernisation was fraught with sanguineous crimes such as war, slave trade, colonisation, and plunder, which inflicted untold misery on developing countries. Having suffered from aggression, bullying, and humiliation by Western powers, China is keenly aware of the value of peace, and will never follow the beaten path of the West.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and particularly since the launch of reform and opening up in 1978, China has completed in a few decades the process of industrialisation that took developed Western countries centuries to complete. This shows that Chinese modernisation works and that it is the only correct path to building a great country and rejuvenating the Chinese nation.

Stephen Ndegwa
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