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Innovative development of socialist market economy

A three-dimensional flowerbed celebrating China’s accomplishment of the first centenary goal of building a moderately properous society in all respects Photo: PROVIDED TO CSST

At the CPC’s centennial, looking back on the historical contributions of the CPC-founded socialist market economic system, and its developments and changes in the new era, allows us to gain a deeper appreciation of the CPC’s greatness in forging a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. 
Theoretical development
Since its founding in 1921,the CPC has led the people to overthrow the rule of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism, and founding the PRC, which laid a political foundation for the development of socialist market economy. 
In the exploration of socialism, private ownership of the means of production was transformed to socialist public ownership under the Party’s leadership. During that period, China’s economic situation was transformed through concentrated efforts. Exploration of the socialist path led to certain achievements, but market economy factors, considered an inherent part of capitalism, were banned. 
The 30 years before reform and opening up in 1978 witnessed hardships, but it also witnessed the independent and relatively complete industrial and national economic system, which laid an institutional and material foundation for reform and opening up.
After the reform and opening up, China gradually introduced market mechanisms into the traditional socialist planned economic system. Initially, the Household Contract Responsibility System was implemented in rural areas. With gradual liberalization of prices for certain  products, the law of value was highlighted. Then, reform progressively began in cities. China expanded the scope of production and operation of state-owned enterprises through decentralization and interest concessions, setting up special economic zones, and gradually encouraging foreign investment. The 12th CPC National Congress in 1982 put forward the policy of “giving priority to planned economy and taking market regulation as a supplement” and “implementing the planned economy on the basis of public ownership.” 
However, the planned economic system failed to adapt to social productive forces as they developed, and didn’t meet requirements for socialist modernization. 
After Deng Xiaoping’s talks during his southern tour in 1992, the 14th CPC National Congress proclaimed for the first time that “the goal of China’s economic system reform is to establish a socialist market economic system” and “to make the market play a basic role in the allocation of resources under the macro-control of socialist countries”. Since then, China’s marketization has advanced rapidly, and the socialist market economic system was initially established at the end of the 20th century. After China joined the WTO in 2001, it began taking more steps to open to the outside world. The socialist market economic system has shown new opening up characteristics, and integrated into globalization. The socialist market economy now brims with vitality.
Economic miracles
Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, sounding the clarion call to comprehensively deepen reform in China. 
The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee pointed out, “Economic system reform is the focus of deepening reform comprehensively. The underlying issue is how to strike a balance between the role of the government and that of the market, and let the market play the decisive role in allocating resources and let the government play its functions better.” 
Therefore, China has continuously deepened economic system reform, closely focusing on market’s decisive role in resource allocation, which has improved the socialist market economic system. The Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee elevated “a system of distribution centered on labor-based distribution while allowing other forms of distribution to coexist” and “socialist market economic system” to the basic socialist economic system for the first time, signifying that the socialist market economic system and the basic socialist economic system, founded by the CPC, has reached a more mature and stable period.  
The socialist market economic system is vital for China to release and develop social productive forces, and has opened up broad prospects for its high-quality economic development. As the CPC actively explores, it comprehensively constructs and continuously improves the socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics, releasing social productive forces, making brilliant achievements in China’s economic development, and demonstrating the great vitality of the socialist market economy created by the CPC. 
The socialist market economic system is vital for China to release and develop social productive forces, and has opened up broad prospects for its high-quality economic development. First, China has created an economic growth miracle. The per capita GNP has consecutively exceeded US $10,000. China’s GDP accounted for 17.3% of the world’s GDP in 2020. After surpassing Japan in 2010, China has maintained the second largest economy in the world. China is now the world’s largest manufacturing and trading country, with the most complete industrial system and well-developed infrastructure. Those achievements have laid a solid material foundation for China to embark on a journey to fully build a modern socialist country.    
Second, China has worked wonders in shared development. China has raised the living standards of its people from bare subsistence, to an overall level of moderate prosperity, to moderate prosperity in all respects, ultimately moving towards common prosperity. Notably, China completed the arduous task of eradicating absolute poverty in 2020, and has achieved the poverty reduction goal set by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ten years ahead of schedule.
Third, China created stable development. In the century since the Party’s founding, faced with great challenges in social-economic development, the CPC has led the Chinese people to tackle obstacles with calm persistence, to establish social stability alongside sustainable development. Particularly, when confronted with COVID-19 and trade frictions between China and the U.S., China’s economy demonstrated considerable resilience. China was the only major economy which registered positive growth in 2020, fully reflecting the strength of the socialist market economic system. Under the conditions of a socialist market economy, the organic integration of decisive market roles in resource allocation and leveraging government roles are vital guarantees for high-quality economic development, as the “invisible hand” and “visible hand” have been efficiently coordinated.
Disciplinary innovation
Closely combining the socialist system with the market economic system is CPC’s unprecedented achievement. This pioneering undertaking not only has brought about China’s economic miracle, but also is a breakthrough in socialist theories offered by the CPC, and a major development in Marxist political economic theories.
The socialist market economic system is a major breakthrough in socialist theory, mainly manifested via the unique understanding of the essence of socialism and the theoretical interpretation of the primary stage of socialism. The essence of socialism is to release and develop productive forces. 
In 1992, Deng Xiaoping said that emancipating and developing productive forces and eliminating exploitation and polarization in order to ultimately bring about common prosperity represents the essence of socialism. Deng provided an informed answer to the primary question of socialist theory: “what is socialism and how do we develop socialism?” He not only distinguished socialism from capitalism by realizing that socialism values the goal of common prosperity, but also put forward the need to dynamically attain this goal by releasing and developing productive forces, eliminating exploitation and polarization in the process of development. 
Furthermore, the breakthrough lies in putting forward theories regarding the primary stage of socialism. In China’s first stage as a socialist society, it still had relatively low productive forces and had yet to fundamentally realize socialist modernization. In the primary stage of socialism, the country must concentrate on modernization efforts, centering the development of productive forces in all work, and adopting every means conducive to emancipating and developing productive forces.
The major leap in Marxist political economics was to creatively employ both the regulation of planning within the planned economy, and market regulation within the market economy, as instruments to facilitate economic development. Those two instruments don’t have exclusive social forms. Therefore, it is natural to suggest that a socialist market economy calls on the market to play a decisive role in resource allocation, while the government plays its role better. 
Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “We must understand theoretically that the difference between capitalism and socialism is not a market economy as opposed to a planned economy. Socialism has regulation by market forces, and capitalism has control through planning. Both a planned economy and a market economy are necessary.” 
Since differentiation between capitalism and socialism lies not in market regulation or the planned economy, both market regulation and economic planning are economic instruments which can allocate resources, and therefore the construction of socialist modernization shouldn’t constrain itself by employing only one of those two instruments. Market regulation enjoys high resource allocation efficiency and is conducive to developing socialist productive forces, therefore market forces can play a decisive role in resource allocation. Meanwhile, the government’s role in establishing a socialist market economic system should be strong.
The CPC’s socialist market economic theory has organically integrated socialism with a market economy, opening up new frontiers for contemporary Marxist political economics with Chinese characteristics. As Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, advised, “Our market economy has developed under the essential conditions of socialist system and the leadership of the CPC. The term‘socialist’is the key descriptor, and this is something that we must never lose sight of.” “Recognizing the two-sided nature of things under a dialectical approach, we must keep working to integrate the basic socialist system with the market economy, ensuring that the strengths of each are brought to bear, and devote practical efforts to solving the universal economic challenge of how to have both an efficient market and an effective government.” Currently, China is on a journey to fully build a modern socialist country, with socialist market economic theories constantly broadened and improved in practice. 
Huang Qunhui is director of the Institute of Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Edited by ZHAO YUAN


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