The Chinese Dream and the path of modernization for China

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--Fang Songhua, Research Fellow & Managing Deputy Director of Chinese Marxism Institute Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences


The Chinese Dream, featuring national prosperity, rejuvenation and people's welfare, is actually the answer to the question of "where should China go"; a question which has been asked by the Chinese people during the past 100 years. It is the solution to the century-old problem of transforming China, the only ancient civilization that has successfully ensured its continuity in the world, into a modern nation. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, especially after the Reform and Opening up Program was initiated, the Chinese have found a unique development path for socialist modernization with remarkable achievements. On this path, China has completed the development process within the time of one generation (approx. 30 years), a process that took the West 200-300 years. Now China is the closest it has been since the beginning of the modern Chinese history, to the achievement of restoring the glory of the Chinese nation. Compared with the GDP and overall state of the economy, the development path discovered by the Chinese people is more meaningful in terms of theory and practice. This development path is different from that of any Western nation, and the implications are profound and long lasting.

On the one hand, Chinese society has been decaying since the mid 19th century due to the impact of external forces; on the other hand, the Chinese people have always fought back when bullied by foreign powers, despite the century-old history of humiliation and national struggle. Only by looking back at the Self-Strengthening Movement, the Hundred Days Reform and the 1911 Revolution during the course of the past 100 years, can one understand the historical context of the New Democratic and Socialist Revolutions and the historical inevitability of the evolution from Old Democracy to New Democracy and from New Democracy to Socialism. When looking at the path of modernization that China has taken, even after numerous modern setbacks, the history of the Chinese nation should be the angle from which to view future prosperity. Only with this background and perspective in mind may one have a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of China.

Looking back at the170-year modern history of China, we can see that from 1840 to 1949 the Chinese people fought against foreign aggressions and feudal lords to seek national independence. The modernization path aiming to achieve rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation displays the remembrance of past glories enjoyed by our nation; glories which have propped up the Chinese people when they have faced the meddling of foreign powers. But rejuvenation of the Chinese nation today does not mean going back to the Han or Tang dynasties. During the 110-year modern history of China, the Chinese people have opened their eyes when fighting against foreign invaders and come closer to the rest of the world in terms of society and politics. The Self-Strengthening Movement that began in the 1860s, the Hundred Days Reform that began in the 1890s and the Republic Revolution that began at the beginning of the 20th century have shown the resolve of the Chinese people to change ourselves in the face of fighting against foreign aggressors. This process of self change has enabled Chinese society to modernize itself. With all the Westernization movements, reforms and revolutions, the Chinese have always sought prosperity for China, and ultimately the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation. From another perspective, such movements, reforms and revolutions have transformed China from an ancient civilization to a modernized nation and from a closed nation to one opens up to the world. During this process, we have seen that the Chinese Dream has not only carried on the historical greatness of China, but has also conformed to the times. Since modernization has become part of the Chinese Dream, the dream of "egalitarianism and prosperity" of our ancestors has now gained a new meaning and become a uniting force within a Chinese nation moving from the past into the future.

The dream of the Chinese people during the past one hundred years can be summarized as the dream mentioned by Chairman Mao Zedong--the Chinese nation becoming an equal nation on the international stage. The Chinese Dream and the Chinese Modernization Path we talk about today begins right here. The Chinese dream of pursuing the rejuvenation and modernization of the great Chinese nation has transcended the South and the North, the past and the future, the rich and the poor and the localities and regions in the history of our nation; a history wrought with numerous calamities and hardships. The Chinese dream of national rise and modernity has become the greatest calling for the Chinese people during the past 110 years. During the more than 60 year of the People's Republic, the dreams of national rejuvenation, modernization and socialism have become one. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, China carried out profound and far-reaching political, economic and social reforms that have gone deep into rural and urban societies and changed the fundamental social structure in China in an unprecedented way. This mission called upon billions of peasants and workers who were passively waiting for their fate during past vicissitudes to join the cause of modernization and national rejuvenation. As a result, they have become an active and leading force in creating a full-fledged industrial system and national defense system. It is known that since the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of the Republic of China (1912-1949), reunification of China proved to be extremely difficult. The weak governments since late Qing Dynasty failed in resisting foreign aggression and dealing with domestic problems, problems which have proved the enormity of the task of governing a modern China. Therefore, a reunified China and a strong government become a prerequisite for formulating any modernization plan. The Chinese Path coined by overseas media, in essence, is to let a strong Chinese government with strong governance capabilities take a leading role during the development process. China's independence and reunification were achieved during the New Democracy Revolution. The century-old dream of the Chinese nation began during the New Democracy Revolution. Therefore, the move from New Democracy to Socialism by the Chinese people, and the weighing of history and realities, prove that China's modernization process can only be achieved under a socialist system. This is the choice and direction determined by China's history. That is the reason why we have and employ the theories and practices of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

For the Chinese people in the 21st century, the century-long path of modernization is the product of hardships and setbacks. All such achievements and transformations can be attributed to the socialist road with Chinese characteristics taken by the Chinese people. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the concept of "modernization" has been changing. But looking at its roots, the word "modernization" for China was initially proposed by Mao Zedong, with Zhou Enlai being first to come up with "four modernizations" in 1964. Beginning with this point, the concept has been developing ever since. Today, the new modernization path with Chinese characteristics, which features Industrialization, Application of Information Technology, Urbanization and Agricultural Modernization, was brought forward during the 18th National CPC Congress. During the modernization process, China will inevitably undergo many stages, setbacks, failures and successes. The Reform and Opening Program initiated in the early 1980s was closely tied with the mission of achieving "Industrialization, Application of Information Technology, Urbanization and Agricultural Modernization". As a government-led effort, the Reform and Opening-up Program is a national policy whose social aspects include industrial modernization, agricultural modernization, modernization of defense and modernization of science and technologies.

When China is pursuing the dream of modernization, many experiences and lessons require a deeper pondering. In particular, attention must be given to the aspects of the national psychology which have developed and taken root during previous disastrous events in the modern Chinese history. Kang Youwei's dream of making China a strong nation within 10 years was rushed; Sun Yat-sen's dream of achieving political and social revolutions was rushed; the goal of the May 4 Movement was rushed; the goal during the 10-year Civil War was rushed. The goal of surpassing the UK and US, and racing towards communism during the Great Leap Movement was also rushed; the preceding periods have all had an impact on China in the 20th century. As well, during the 35 years of reform and opening-up, the development of China at such a high speed has left many urgent questions unanswered. Therefore, we need to continue to reform China. Looking at the past history and modern reality, the goal today is to make the Chinese people take more initiative and follow no doctrines blindly.

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