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China: The need to look to the past in order to enter the 21st century

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has always attached great importance to the synthesis of historical experience. As early as the Yanan period in 1945, Mao Zedong pointed out: “If we do not clarify the Party’s history and the path the Party has taken in history, we will not be able to do any better”.

While entering the new era of reform and opening to the market, Deng Xiaoping said: “Successful experience in history is a valuable asset, but also wrong experience and the experience of failure are a valuable asset. Policies can thus be formulated to unify the whole Party’s thought and achieve a new unity”.

In 1981, the Sixth Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee adopted the “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of our Party since the founding of the People’s Republic of China”.

Seventy-six years have elapsed since the drafting of Mao Zedong’s first historical Resolution and forty years since the drafting of the second historical Resolution. Standing on a new point, looking back to the past and looking forward to the future fully summarises the Party’s major achievements and experience in the past century, especially the major achievements of the past 40 years of reform.

The Party Central Committee believes that the important and historic juncture of the centenary of the Party’s founding – when the Party and the people achieve the first goal of the centenary and build a moderately prosperous society – means that it is making great strides towards reaching the second goal of the centenary, i.e. building a modern socialist power.

At an important historical juncture, a comprehensive synthesis of the Party’s major achievements and historical experience in a century of struggle is of great importance for promoting the further unification of the Party’s thought –  unification of will and unified action – thus uniting and leading the people of all ethnic groups across the country to achieve new victories of the Socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. Far reaching practical and historical significance.

The Party Central Committee believes that the Party’s centennial struggle has been fruitful: over a long period of time, a wide range of issues have been addressed and many more are to be studied. In accordance with the needs to summarize history, as well as grasp the meaning of laws, strengthen confidence and advance forward into the future, it is necessary to summarize the Party’s history, as well as its achievements in uniting and leading the Chinese people. In particular, it is necessary to study the centuries of revolution, construction and reform in depth.

Combining the basic principles with the specific reality of China and its excellent traditional culture, the country has continuously advanced in the sinicization of Marxism, thus deepening the understanding and mastery of the innovative theory in a new era.

The centuries-long history of the Party’s centralized and unified authority and leadership has profoundly understood the distinctive features and political advantages of the Marxist Party itself, thus strengthening political power, in a rejuvenation of both Party’s executives and the Chinese nation.

The coexistence of harmony and persistence ensures that the Party always becomes the core of a strong and young leadership in the historical process of adhesion to and development of Socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. The courage and strength to set successive goals and move vigorously towards the future.

The Party Central Committee believes that, in summing up the main achievements and historical experience of the centuries of struggle, it is necessary to adhere to the methodology of dialectical and historical materialism, and consider the Party’s history from a specific, objective, comprehensive and evolutionary viewpoint, not confusing and even less repeating the mistakes that led other Marxist parties to disappear or – even worse – to turn into servants of two masters like Harlequin: first the Kremlin and then the White House.

The Chinese believe it is necessary to accurately grasp the main theme and traditional nature of their Party’s historical development, such as how to properly deal with the mistakes and turning points experienced, learning from success and learning from defeat, and constantly pave the way for the achievement of new goals.

They therefore deem necessary to strengthen ideological guidance and theoretical analysis, as well as clarify the vague and one-sided understandings of some major historical issues, and correct themselves as best as they can.

From the founding of the Party until the beginning of reforms, the major issues of right and wrong – and the related fundamental statements and conclusions – have been fundamentally and successfully applied up to now.

In general, although there have been some problems, after the reform and opening, the progressive direction has been correct and the results have attracted the attention of the world public in many States.

From the 3rd to the 6th Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee, the results and experience of the new course of reforms and opening, as well as the drive towards Socialist modernisation, were systematically summarised. On the occasion of the 20th and 30th anniversaries of the 3rd Plenary Session, the Party Central Committee drew up summary theses. They highlighted the focus of the new era of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, and helped guide and further strengthen Chinese people’s confidence in the Party: focusing on what it is doing and entering a new path with a more vigorous attitude.

The evaluation of major events, significant meetings and prominent figures in Chinese history are sources of experience, teaching and learning. At important meetings, the Party’s history was summed up and discussed, reflecting on and understanding every decision of the Central Committee in a century of its history.

In March 2021, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee decided that the 6th Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee should focus on researching and comprehensively summarizing the major achievements and historical experience in the Party’s century of struggle, and established a study group to draft the documents.

The Party recalls its aims and original mission, as well as the strong will and determination to keep it vital. It fully embodies the profound understanding of historical development and has always promoted the initiatives and responsibilities of its mission for the cause and development of its country.

All the country’s regions and departments are aware that in the past hundred years the Party united and led the people to continue their struggle in its various historical periods of revolution, construction and reform – to the point that, looking from the outside at what China used to be a long time ago, today we can see a miracle in both the development of the country and that of world socialism and human society.

The Party has completely reversed the historical process of the Chinese nation since the days when it regarded it as a drug exporting country and hunting ground for imperialists, colonialists and capitalists, and has vividly written a magnificent national and ideological chapter on the development of Marxism.

During this long march, the Chinese Party and people have gained an extremely rich and valuable historical experience, and these are the points worthy of a systematic synthesis.

In keeping with the Central Committee’s request, the drafting committee has diligently studied the Party’s important historical documents; fully assimilated opinions and suggestions from all regions and departments of the country; investigated major issues, and diligently drafted resolutions.

On September 6, 2021, in accordance with the decision of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, the draft resolution was submitted for evaluation within the Party, including the opinions of some senior members, whose views are highly representative.

It is agreed that the most distinctive feature of the draft resolution is the search for the truth of facts and respect for history. This reflects the Party’s original mission over a century of struggle and fully conforms to historical facts.

The discussion of the draft resolution and the assessment of the main events must be in line with the Party’s historical documents and the existing narratives and conclusions must be linked.

The draft resolution will surely appear as the political manifesto of Chinese Communists in the new era, so as to keep in mind their original mission and to adhere to and develop Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

In the process of soliciting opinions, various regions and departments have made suggestions. The drafting committee has gradually analysed those opinions one by one so as to draw as much as possible from them. After repeated research and deliberations, 547 amendments and revisions have been made to the draft resolution, fully reflecting the views of each region and department.

In addition to the preamble and concluding remarks, the draft resolution consists of seven parts.

The first part explains that the main tasks facing the Party in this period are to oppose imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism, to fight for national independence and liberation, and to create basic social conditions for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It analyses the historical background from which the Party emerged. It summarises the great achievements of the Party that led the people in the revolutionary struggle starting from 1921, marking the founding of the People’s Republic of China to the present time. It highlights Mao’s thought as a key achievement in advancing the great project of national redemption: from a feudal autocracy for thousands of years to a people’s democracy currently at the top of the world. The time when the Chinese nation was slaughtered and victimized by the European and Atlantic powers is over forever, thus creating a new era.

The second part makes it clear that the main task facing the Party in this period is to complete the transition from the new economic system to Socialism, which is a fundamental political prerequisite for the Chinese nation. After the founding of New China, the people have overcome a series of tough challenges, strengthened the new production system and created a new situation in foreign affairs and international politics. A great leap forward has been made from a poor, populous and “oriental” country to a society quite different from the one left by wars and ideological, political and strategic clashes with the imperial-colonialist powers, at first, and later with the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The Chinese Party and people can solemnly declare, with their heads held high, that only through a courageous and tenacious struggle is it possible not only to destroy an old world, but first of all to build a new one. Furthermore, all this has been done by providing bold and innovative interpretations of Marxism in view of developing Socialism and China.

The third part concerns the implementation of reform, market opening and modernisation. It is made clear that the main task facing the Party during this period is to continue to explore the correct path to liberate and develop the social productive forces; to lift people out of poverty, to become wealthy as soon as possible and to provide new vigorous institutional guarantees for the achievement of these goals. The achievements that are attracting world attention are the following: responding cautiously to a series of risky tests concerning the general situation after the great reforms, in favour of the stability of the country; promoting the great cause of reunification of the Motherland and maintaining and promoting world peace.

The fourth part regards the analysis of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. It is a new historical orientation for China’s development, as it summarises the theoretical innovations of the 18th Congress. Governing the Party itself in a comprehensive and self-disciplined manner; continuing to build the country economically; deepening reforms and openings in a comprehensive manner, as well as political construction, comprehensive rule of law, cultural leadership, social leadership, respect for the environment, defence and military organisation to safeguard national security. This also means adhering to the system of “one country and two systems”. The areas of study will also include diplomatic work, focusing on original ideas, transformative practices, and historical progress and achievements over the past nine years, to provide a more comprehensive system guarantee, a more solid material foundation and a more active spiritual force.

The fifth part deals with the historical significance of the CPC’s centuries of struggle through the basis of a comprehensive review and summary of the many decades of its political activity and liberation of the country, which have radically changed the future and destiny of the Chinese people. All this has undoubtedly demonstrated the strong vitality of Marxism in China, and has profoundly influenced the process of world history through the three logics: the historical logic, the theoretical logic and the practical logic of struggle.

The sixth part deals with the historical experience of the Chinese Communist Party over a century of life. It summarises the historical experiences with a fundamental and long-term guiding significance, namely adherence to the theoretical innovation of ideology, to national independence, and to the world needs, when they call for an end to hegemonism by those who claim the right to lead the planet without being called upon by the people. These historical experiences are an organic, systematically complete and interconnected whole, which reveals the fundamental guarantee for the continued success of China’s domestic and foreign policies. They reveal the source of China’s strength and the fundamental reason why the Party has always taken the initiative in history, without desiring fathers or protectors, i.e. maintaining its advanced autonomous nature. Historical experiences are gems accumulated through long-term practice. They are the spiritual wealth created by the Party and the Chinese people – hence they must be cherished, as well as last for a long time and be continuously enriched.

The seventh part focuses on the Chinese Communist Party in the New Era. It dwells on the entry into the second centenary, for which the whole Party must work hard to achieve the goal set, with the perseverance of clinging to its country and not letting go, and for which the Party’s basic theories must be adhered to. The basic policy line and strategy of fostering high quality development and committing to the promotion of the prosperity of the people, the country and the multimillennial beauty of China. The Party must always maintain flesh and blood contact with the people and safeguard and develop the fundamental interests of China’s people and ethnic groups. For Party leaders, the principle to keep in mind, is “be born in trouble and die in happiness”. It means always having a long-term vision, being prepared for danger in times of peace and continuing to promote the new great project of national construction.

The Party urges us not to forget the sufferings of the past, so as to be worthy of today’s mission, which leads to the great dreams of the future. For the CPC, it is essential to learn from history, create and shape the future, work hard and move forward with courage. It must continue to make unremitting efforts to enter the second centenary.

Giancarlo Elia Valori