In setting the prospect vision of the year 2035, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last October solemnly called for "more tangible and substantial progress in common prosperity of all the people."
To re-emphasize the significance of the principle, the 10th meeting of the Central Committee on Finance and Economics in late August put out a systematic portfolio of policies, explicitly making common prosperity the top priority in the CPC's second centenary goal.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's inspection of Yulin City, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, in early September further highlighted the central leadership's focus on this principle in China's socioeconomic development.
As a specific category, common prosperity literally means "to get rich altogether," containing the words for "common" (gongtong) and "rich" (fuyu), thus a systemic analysis of the connotations of "common", "rich", and their relationship is of great help to grasp the essence.
To get rich - the foundation for a brighter future
As a sign revealing the level of development, wealth is usually expressed in terms of GDP per capita. According to the World Bank, economies with a per capita national income of more than $12,535 are high-income economies, or rich societies. China's GDP per capita exceeded $10,000 for the first time in 2019, labeling it among "upper-middle-income countries". According to its current rate, during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), China will be ranked among high-income countries.
On the one hand, a socialist society like China must be a society with a high level of development, meaning that the level of productivity must exceed the highest level that could be (and has been) achieved under other sorts of system.
In this sense, China's pursuit of common prosperity is a big challenge and it will take a long period of unremitting efforts to achieve that goal.
On the other hand, a socialist society must be one with more efficiency of productive forces. To fulfill this point, nowadays the key is to put innovation at the core of the overall driving force, making science and technology a strategic support for development.
Yet the current situation might not be that desirable, thus only by constructing a national innovation system, speeding up self-reliance-oriented innovation, and firmly holding key technology in its own hands, can China comprehensively shape the development of new advantages in global competition and win the initiative of development.
Therefore, China's promotion of common prosperity is bound to be a long-term arduous great project. In order to promote common prosperity more effectively, it must always adhere to the principles that economic construction is the top priority, that development be high-quality, and that the cake of common prosperity be bigger and better.
Common - defining the characteristic of richness
As the Chinese leadership always puts it, poverty is not socialism, nor is socioeconomic polarization; only common prosperity takes the essence of socialism. That is to say, "common" defines the characteristic of development.
Common prosperity, however, refers to the wealth of all people, revealing that what China wishes to achieve is not a polarized society, not the prosperity of a small section of people and certain regions, but the prosperity of all people. To meet its end, allowing some people and some regions to get rich first is the inevitable process and a temporary means to achieve the final goal.
On the other hand, common prosperity also involves all-round prosperity, meaning that it includes not only materials such as food, clothing, housing, and transportation, but also ideological progress in segments such as culture and entertainment.
It could be argued that the common prosperity that China wishes to achieve is aiming at comprehensive affluence, just tackling the contradiction in the new era between people's desire for a better life and the inadequate development in reality.
Therefore, in the process of promoting common prosperity, China will always adhere to the people-centered principle, treating the realization of the fundamental interests of the vast majority of the people as the starting point and very basis of development.
To get rich altogether - the dynamic relationship between 'common' and 'rich'
At the 10th meeting of the Central Committee on Finance and Economics, President Xi Jinping made it very clear that "common prosperity is the essential requirement of socialism and an important feature of Chinese modernization," explicitly revealing the dynamic relationship between productivity and productive relations contained in common prosperity.
As pointed out by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, "The essence of socialism is to liberate productive forces, develop productive forces, eliminate exploitation, eliminate polarization and ultimately achieve common prosperity."
Common prosperity includes advancement in both productivity and productive relations; there would be no socialism if common prosperity were left out. The issues of productive relations will be (and can only be) tackled with the further development of productivity, while leaving the issues of productive relations untouched will make more obstacles on the way to the further development of productivity. A sort of dialectical perception could be applied to grasp the dynamism in the relation.
The fact that the pursuit of common prosperity is a long-term, arduous, and complex cause should be fully respected and appreciated. China has been the world's second largest economy for more than a decade, but the status does not change the fact that it is still in and will be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time, and is still the largest developing country in the world.
China's GDP per capita will reach the standard of high-income economies in 2023, according to some scholars, but even so there is still quite a big gap compared with developed countries. To see the gap with an objective mind might be a good starting point.
The goal of common prosperity will be achieved gradually and incrementally. The development of productivity is a gradual process, according to the basic principle that the production relations must be suited to the level of productivity; so the promotion of common prosperity must also take a step-by-step approach.
Common prosperity is not uniform egalitarianism. Due to differences in their respective condition, some people might take the lead in getting rich, which has been allowed but is just a temporary step.
This approach also applies among regions. In light of huge regional differences between coastal and hinterland, east and west, urban and rural areas, common prosperity shouldn't be the simple way of getting simultaneous prosperity in all places. That's not realistic, nor is it scientific.
Undoubtedly, as President Xi said, the pursuit of common prosperity in China is an unparalleled and peerless cause, thus the challenge. Since the history of the CPC is just the process of tackling one challenge after the other, this one should be dealt with properly as well.
President Xi stressed that no textbook could be found to help China achieve its own rejuvenation; so the success of the pursuit and promotion of common prosperity will also be a contribution of the CPC to human beings.