In September 2004, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the CPC decided to list “the capability of building a socialist harmonious society” as one of the five governing capabilities that the CPC endeavors to enhance.
The general requirements for building a harmonious socialist society are: democracy and law; fairness and justice; integrity and friendship; vigor and vitality; stability and order; and the harmonious coexistence of man and nature.
The Decisions by the CPC Central Committee on Several Important Questions Concerning the Building of a Socialist Harmonious Society in October 2006 proposed that a socialist harmonious society should be one that is “jointly constructed and enjoyed.”
On March 7, General Secretary Hu Jintao, at a discussion session in the CPPCC national conference, stressed that during the entire process of building a harmonious society, we must always keep constructing it together; and at the same time, enjoy the benefits together.
Chinese President Hu Jintao has instructed the country's leading officials and Party cadres to place "building a harmonious society" at the top of their agenda. Experts believe that a harmonious society is one that puts people first.
When addressing a high-level Party seminar recently in Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao instructed the country's leading officials and Party cadres to place "building a harmonious society" at the top of their agenda.
Xiao Zhuoji, professor of the School of Economics of Peking University and vice-chairman of the Social and Legal Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, believes that a harmonious society is one that puts people first. Excerpts of his comments follow:
Building a harmonious society has been placed at the top of the agenda of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the central government. The programme is based on the goal of building a well-off society and creating a new socialist situation.
Since China introduced its reform and opening-up policies in 1978, profound changes have taken place in the economy and in the domestic and international environments. It is against such a backdrop that the Chinese Government has raised the goal of building a harmonious society.
Currently, China's economy is a socialist market economy. But some drawbacks of the planned economy still remain and the market economy is neither mature nor complete. Our society has many contradictions and uncertain factors in it, such as huge gaps in income, increasingly serious problems facing rural areas, farmers and agriculture, the drainage of farmland, heavy pressure in the workplace and an incomplete social security system.
But, more than two decades of reform and opening-up have brought about tangible achievements in China's economic development. People's living standards have been greatly improved and the number of poor people has decreased by a large number. Job opportunities have increased and deep-seated problems are being solved step by step. A harmonious society featuring orderly competition and honesty is taking shape.
Currently, the per capita GDP exceeds US$1,000. Other countries have shown that when a nation enters a stage where its per capita GDP stands at US$1,000 to US$3,000, society is likely to see major changes. During this period, urbanization develops swiftly, the gap in income continues to grow and social contradictions become more complicated. Internationally, increased labour costs decrease the competitiveness of the labour market. During this period, the nation's economy can develop smoothly if dealt with correctly. Otherwise, it is likely to be disturbed by social unrest, a waste of resources, unbalanced ecological conditions and economic stagnation. The building of a harmonious society aims to co-ordinate and streamline the relationships between different sectors, to ensure the economy will develop in a sustained and fast way.
Currently, China's economy is in a golden age. Peace and development are still the main themes in the world and globalization is the world trend. But the threat of war still exists and regional conflicts occur frequently. These issues, however, are unlikely to lead to the breakout of a world war in the near future. Therefore, we can enjoy a peaceful international environment for a long period, which provides favourable conditions for building a harmonious society.
In addition, the CPC has accumulated rich experience in governing, solving domestic contradictions and various other problems and in dealing with international political relations and economic globalization. All of these are the fundamental conditions to build a harmonious society.
What are the main characteristics of a harmonious society? It will put people first and make all social activities beneficial to people's subsistence, enjoyment and development. In a harmonious society, the political environment is stable, the economy is prosperous, people live in peace and work in comfort and social welfare improves.
These goals should be demonstrated in the following areas:
As the economy grows, people's living standards should increase gradually. As the essence of a harmonious society is affluence, the development of a country should go from being moderately well-off into being well-off and affluent; from having big gaps in income to narrowing gaps; from dealing with poverty to eliminating poverty.
In a harmonious society people at all levels respect each other. Labour, knowledge, technology and capital are all factors of wealth creation, which can make profits and should be respected so long as they have made contributions to society. A harmonious society should see honest, friendly and harmonious relationships and just, fair and open competition between social members, regions and departments. In such a society, competition will optimize the distribution of resources, foster technological progress, develop social productivity and raise overall national strength.
A harmonious society advocates an overall, co-ordinated and sustainable development concept, making the interests of different sectors balanced. So long as we follow this scientific development concept, we can get rid of social unrest and the destruction of natural resources that generally occurs in developing nations. During this period, we should pay attention to the relationship between humanity and nature, properly protect natural resources, reduce pollution and make efforts to raise the quality of the environment in order to realize sustainable development.
A harmonious society should also see great improvements in morals and education. The strategy of invigorating the nation by education should be followed and elementary education and higher education universalized. Various academic theories should flourish. China has attached much importance to education, particularly compulsory education. The central government has planned fee exemptions and subsidies for students in 592 poor counties included in the national poverty-relief programme by 2007. Some experts want to extend the policy to poor families both in urban and rural areas.
In addition, a harmonious society is also manifested by the gradual improvement of the legal system and standardized social management. A harmonious society is a society with the rule of law, where there is ordered market competition, strict market management and standard market behaviour. We have much work to do in these areas.
We must be aware of the fact that building a harmonious society is a long and gradual process. Currently, we should pay attention to the following aspects:
The first and foremost is to maintain sustainable and rapid economic development. Only by constantly developing social productivity, continuously enhancing national economic strength and constantly improving people's living standards can society develop harmoniously.
Second, we should uphold the principle of governing the country by law and building a legal system for a harmonious society. In accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, it is imperative for us to firmly support, encourage and guide private economic development.
Third, we should increase employment opportunities, alleviate employment pressures and gradually establish a perfect social security system. We should also implement proactive employment policies. At the same time, we should improve the social security system, for example, in unemployment benefit, medical expenses and pensions.
Also, we must raise the income of low-wage earners and increase the size of the middle classes. To avoid polarization and social contradictions, we must gradually narrow the gap between income and living standards. Here, the key lies in the government, which has an unshirkable duty to help the poor. So, the government should enhance its poverty-relief strength and its financial investment to really improve the conditions of poor families and raise them up to become members of the middle class. This is of great significance to the building of a harmonious society.
In addition, we will crack down on various social ills, which are a poisonous tumour in a harmonious society and must be eliminated.
Last, the Party and government officials and civil servants should abide by laws and public morality, work conscientiously, and must not be corrupt.
All people should co-exist harmoniously, love and help each other, encourage each other and make an effort to contribute to the building of a harmonious society.