The Chinese government released the White Paper on China's Peaceful Development Tuesday, redefining the scope of China's core interests.
For the first time, China's political system and ensuring sustainable economic and social development have been officially declared as being among China's core interests.
This redefinition is timely. Other items included in the core interests are state sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity and national reunification, which remain the same as before. China has been familiar with foreign challenges aimed at the four latter interests and has experience in dealing with them. However, the country lacks knowledge in how to protect these newly defined core interests in the process of reform and opening-up.
People hold different opinions on the influence of reform on China's political system at home and abroad. There are also questions over whether reform should come at the cost of social stability, but defining these controversial topics as being among the nation's core interests shows China's decisive attitude.
Implementing reform is difficult, and so is controlling its direction. It is as risky to make a breakthrough as restricting the areas in which reform can operate. China needs to learn lessons from those socially unstable cases to enhance its awareness of social stability. China must continue to advance its political reform, as its goal is not to subvert the country's basic political system, but to make the system more effective.
Blindly advocating change within China's political system is irresponsible. Social unrest is inevitable if a political system is rapidly replaced or abolished in a big power like China. It is unknown whether there is a political system more suitable for China. Several generations have taken over six decades to change the country's fate. China cannot pursue an illusory "political paradise" at the cost of their efforts and broader peace.
As China has increasingly become a competitor to Western countries, weakening China by disrupting its reform has become an open policy in the West. China is facing a worsening reform environment as compared to the 1980s, but it should accelerate the pace of reform according to its own needs and prevent the West from making the country deviate from this path.
Chinese society should reach a consensus on the direction of China's reform and core interests. However, China is confronted with many obstacles in reaching a consensus. Newly emerging communication platforms seemingly provide more opportunities to divide opinion.
The new expression of core interests Tuesday provided political support for society to find agreement. Such a clear official statement is helpful in eliminating some social confusion. The cohesion of Chinese society direly needs the help of the government.