Guided by the scientific outlook of development, the whole country, from the top authorities on down, is on board for building a harmonious society.
A harmonious society, in essence, is one that respects the rights of people, sticks to the principles of human civilization and abides by the laws of nature.
With its vast territories and large population, China naturally exercises significant influence on the world politically, economically and culturally. The impact of its bid to bring about a harmonious society will also ripple across the globe, this author believes.
The concept of the harmonious Chinese society is of reference value for ushering in a harmonious world. At the core of the "harmonious world" is a shift of the political ideas for handling conflicts.
Some Western scholars believe that taking extremist means to settle social contradictions and conflicts is the hallmark of religious fundamentalist groups.
However, in the opinion of this author, in the period of industrialization, countries, especially industrially advanced ones, first differentiated between friend and foe by values, bullied others with military or economic force, and wiped out "heresies" through cutthroat struggles.
It should be remembered that this kind of mentality was closely connected to mankind's awareness of the huge potential released by industrialization. The industrial and commercial revolutions that began in the 17th century lent humans, Westerners in particular, areas of unprecedented scope for conquest.
The confidence in conquering other peoples and nature itself misled humankind's thinking model into an erroneous zone. Science and technology, which made people almost invincible in all undertakings to tap the potential of nature, also made mankind believe that social problems could simply be resolved by physical strength.
As a result, the theory of biological evolution and the principles of mechanic dynamics were applied in the realm of social management. This was multiplied by the insatiable desire to maximize profits and the lust to snatch the most possible wealth. All this set the stage for law-of-the-jungle Social Darwinism, from which racism and gunboat policy later stemmed.
We can still see today the roughshod reflections of the players in the age of industrialization in the way international corporate giants and that single superpower approach international affairs, economic or political.
The fact that the Chinese Communist Party, a party in power in a big country, now names "building a harmonious society" as its basic guiding principle suggests that it has abandoned the concept of "class struggle" as the key link and is also discarding the mentality of confrontation and turning to the ideas of harmony.
Chinese believe that humanity's ultimate goal should be a harmonious world, in which international conflicts and disputes are resolved through peaceful means and the world countries share stability and prosperity together. They also believe that building a harmonious Chinese society will contribute significantly to bringing about a harmonious world.
So, striving to see the coming of a harmonious world will constitute a new pillar for Chinese diplomacy. President Hu Jintao, for instance, first put forward the idea of "harmonious world" at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit convened in Shanghai earlier this year.
Building a harmonious society has other connotations as well, covering various fields such as narrowing the gap between rich and poor, aiding disadvantaged groups, restraining monopolies, sharing the public wealth and making the distribution of wealth fairer.
It also involves taking care of the environment and ecological system for the sake of sustainable development and diverting as much public wealth as possible into the areas of social security, health care and education. Charity projects and mutual help between individuals are also encouraged.
All this could offer a model for narrowing the world's North-South gap and helping bring about a more rational world economic order, in this author's opinion.
By the way, the government is not going in for a Utopian society that denies all differences. The Chinese recognize differences between individuals, their incomes and how they fare in society and between areas.
At the same time, however, they know well that it is dangerous when the disparities and differences become too wide to be bridged, and threaten to disrupt the social fabric.
So, it is a test for the top leadership to leave the general difference in place while reducing particular differences, especially the alarmingly gaping ones, so that the vitality of the society is maintained while its smooth operation is assured. It is also a test to protect the environment and ecological system well while meeting people's growing demand for well-being.
Some may argue that much of the content in building a harmonious Chinese society - environmental protection, social security, poverty elimination and sustainable development - could long be found in the practices of Western countries where socialist parties were in power. They may assert that "harmony," like "equality," has long embodied the aspirations of humanity.
In the opinion of this author, however, what is important is that 1.3 billion people on the earth will be moved to action by this concept of a harmonious society. Their fathers or grandfathers declared war on the earth, which meant mass campaigns that overtaxed the natural resources decades ago in order to feed themselves.
Now, the 1.3 billion Chinese have bid farewell to the out-of-date concept and have started taking care of our Mother Nature.
Having 1.3 billion people move towards the goal of a harmonious Chinese society is bound to have "effects of scale" on the world at large.
The author is a researcher with the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies
(China Daily October 13, 2006)