Chinese-style modernization

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Chinese-style modernization

The author is the director of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo and the head of China Lab.

It only makes sense to put new wine in a new bottle. What is the vision of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who successfully secured his third consecutive term last month? Ten years ago, he advocated the “Chinese Dream” in the first term, and “New Era” in the second term, in 2017. There is no doubt that the keywords for his third term is “Chinese-style modernization,” as emphasized by Xi himself in the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Oct. 16. If you plan to do business or anything in China over the next five years, it will be impossible without knowing Chinese-style modernization.

The term is unfamiliar, but it actually appeared quite a long time ago. In March 1979, Deng Xiaoping first used the term “Chinese-style modernization.” Since then, it was rarely used until Xi Jinping mentioned it again last year. “The CPC will make a new contribution to humanity’s search for a modernization path through Chinese-style modernization,” Xi declared after inviting more than 500 party leaders from 160 countries to Beijing last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC.

During the last party congress, Xi proposed Chinese-style modernization as the vision for the next five years, elaborating its significance in detail. According to Xi, five more Chinese characteristics have been added to the conventional concept: modernization of the huge population; modernization of common prosperity of all; modernization of harmony between material and spiritual civilizations; modernization of people and nature in harmony; and modernization of peace and development. The language is smooth, but what matters is their implications.

Chinese search engine Baidu explained that Chinese-style modernization refers to “providing a completely new choice for countries and people who want to promote development while maintaining their independence.” So far, modernization has often been equated with westernization. But China now claims that modernization does not mean westernization. It wants to create a new model of modernization on its own and spread it to the rest of the world.

In short, China would engage in system rivalry against the West, including America. Xi has already begun the work. When Samia Suluhu Hassan, president of Tanzania, visited China on Nov. 3, Xi told him, “Modernization is not a synonym for westernization.” On Oct. 25, China’s first institute devoted to studying Chinese-style modernization opened at Xiamen University in Fujian Province. It reminds me of all the One Belt One Road research institutes that sprang up across China after Xi came up with the slogan. We will soon see the ongoing U.S.-China contest over trade and technology will be headed to a battle over system and ideology.
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