Three decades ago, when Deng Xiaoping and his Communist Party of China (CPC) comrades made up their minds to carve out a new path of development through reform and opening up, they had to "cross the river by feeling the stones".
Just like it is to all trail-blazers, the trial-and-error success approach proved instrumental and remains so for the reform-minded Chinese. The pursuit of a peculiarly Chinese path of development, officially defined as "socialism with Chinese characteristics", determines they will have to press ahead in uncharted waters.
But the 17th National Congress of the CPC reassured us the Party will be a competent guide on the nation's march toward greatness.
Writing the Scientific Outlook on Development into the Party Constitution is proof that the 86-year-old CPC has developed a better-than-ever sense of direction about nation-building. It marks a new high in the Party's understanding of its own role.
The 25-year history of the CPC's current charter is at the same time that of its learning process. The charter has been revised four times, each revision reflecting progress in thinking, and enriching the CPC's governance philosophy.
The revision at the 14th CPC National Congress in 1992 added to it the Party's new deliberations on "socialism with Chinese characteristics". The 15th National Congress of the CPC in 1997 enshrined Deng Xiaoping Theory as the Party's guiding ideology. The revision in 2002, at the 16th National Congress of the CPC, adopted "Three Represents", a blanket call for the CPC to be faithful to people's and society's fundamental interests and keep up with the times.
Incorporating the Scientific Outlook on Development into the Party Constitution means more than declaring the Party's resolve to maneuver a change in the country's approach to development concerns. The new outlook's ascend from a general appeal to part of the Party's core doctrines is conducive to enlisting support among Party members, whose roles are essential in materializing the expected change.
The 2,200 delegates voted overwhelmingly for the Scientific Outlook on Development yesterday. As they disperse and return, they will face a five-year test, a test of their faithfulness to their vote.
Let us hope they all live up to it.
(China Daily October 22, 2007)