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All About "Xiaokang"

The report Jiang Zemin delivered at the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on November 8 is titled "Build a Well-off Society in an All-round Way and Create a New Situation in Building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics." In the Chinese version, the original one, the equivalent of "a well-off society" is "a xiaokang society." Scholars agree there is not an exact English equivalent to xiaokang and that xiaokang is less affluent than "well-off" but better off than freedom from want.

xiaokang literally means "Small Well-Being." The term has a long history. In the Book of Songs, a collection of ancient songs that is believed to come into being 2,000 years ago, xiaokang was first mentioned as a social state in which people led a fairly comfortable life. The "Book of Rites," another ancient classic, contains a systematic description of xiaokang, visualizing it as asocial mode that comes next to Great Harmony (Da Tong), or a perfect society.

After China adopted reform and open policies, the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping used xiaokang, a household term in China, to describe Chinese-style modernization and referred to it as a goal to be attained by the Chinese nation by the end of the 20th century. The xiaokang goal has since inspired the Chinese people with great enthusiasm in their march toward modernization.

When he met with Ohira Masayoshi, the late prime minister of Japan, on December 6, 1979, Deng Xiaoping used xiaokang to describe Chinese-style modernization. He said, "The Four Modernizations we are striving for are Chinese-style modernization.Our concept of Four Modernizations is not like your concept of modernization. Our concept is (the life) of a 'xiaokang family.' By the end of this century, even if we have achieved certain goals in our modernization drive, our per-capita GDP will remain quite low. To reach the level found in more prosperous countries of the Third World, say a per-capita GDP of 1,000 US dollars, we still need to make great efforts. China by then is still in a state of xiaokang."

In 1984, Deng further elaborated on his concept of xiaokang, saying "xiaokang means that, by the end of this century, our per-capita GDP reaches 800 US dollars."

By the end of the 20th century, the Chinese people had on the whole reached a xiaokang standard of living.

xiaokang remains the goal of China's modernization drive but it denotes a life of greater affluence than it is today. In his report, Jiang Zemin said, "We need to concentrate on building a xiaokang society of a higher standard in an all-round way." How higher is the standard? The Jiang report gives ample clues. It proposes having China's GDP of the year 2000 quadrupled by 2020. That is to say, by the year 2020, China's xiaokang society is expected to feature a per-capita GDP of more than 2,000 US dollars.

(Xinhua News Agency November 10, 2002)