Why we still must adhere to ‘development is the hard truth’
Published: Dec 19, 2023 05:05 PM
Lujiazui Photo:VCG

Lujiazui Photo:VCG

The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, in his 1992 southern tour speech, succinctly and forcefully stated that development is the hard truth. This understanding fully conforms to the Marxist materialist conception of history which holds that the material conditions of a society's mode of production, or in Marxist terms a society's productive forces and relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development including the political commitments, cultural ideas and values that dominate in any society. The modernization of socialist China must be achieved through the development of productive forces, forming fundamental, strong support, to meet the needs of the people for a better life and to achieve social prosperity and comprehensive achievements that are wholeheartedly supported by hundreds of millions of people. 

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been taking economic development as the central task. This task and unwaveringly adhering to the "development is the hard truth" are both guiding principles for the overall situation in China. 

It is imperative to uphold high-quality development as the unyielding principle of the new era, faithfully implement the new development philosophy on all fronts, and effectively improve the quality of our economy and promote its growth within a reasonable range - This was emphasized during the central economic work conference, held in Beijing from December 11 to 12. 

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attended the conference and delivered an important speech, in which he said that it is crucial to strengthen the endogenous driving force for development through reform and opening up, ensure the advancement of both profound reforms and high-level opening up, continuously liberate and develop social productivity, and stimulate and enhance social vitality.

This provides fundamental guidance for our economic and social development. Firmly grasping this upgraded version of the hard truth of development is related to the future and destiny of China's modernization, and it also requires us to specifically clarify some erroneous discussions and confusing statements that have appeared in society. 

Some people have proposed changing "taking economic development as the central task" to "putting the people at the center." This is puzzling and logically confusing. The philosophical basis of innovative, coordinated, open, green and shared development is "people-oriented" and is "putting the people at the center." 

Putting the people at the center requires us to firmly and unwaveringly expand and enhance the scale and level of social reproduction in practice, and to continuously enhance the well-being of the people and promote the comprehensive development of individuals through sustainable development centered on economic development. Therefore, "taking economic development as the central task" and "putting the people at the center" are essentially different expressions of the same thing from different perspectives, and they are the inherent requirements of the same development process. They should never be set against each other. 

It is a misinterpretation that some pejoratively refer to taking development as the absolute principle as a pursuit for only GDP growth. Theoretically speaking, GDP is not directly equivalent to economic development, and what we urgently need to work on is adding other indicators to improve the comprehensive evaluation of the performance of our economic construction. The fact that we don't center our work mainly around GDP does not mean that we should give up economic development as the main task and deny that development is the absolute principle.

It is also a misunderstanding to think that attaching great importance to quality and safety makes it practically inappropriate to emphasize that development is the absolute principle. There are risk factors in the development of any country such as accidents. To comprehensively strengthen the prevention of accidents, we can appropriately sacrifice speed for stability, but the positive development of seeking progress while maintaining stability and the pursuit of "catching up with the developed countries" must be unswerving. Accidents and setbacks warn us how to pay more attention to high-quality economic construction under the guidance of the implemented new development concept, but never lead to the fallacy of understanding that we should abandon the economic construction's central position.

Moreover, some people believe that improving people's livelihoods and promoting common prosperity conflict with economic construction as the center of development. Yet, sustainable improvement of people's livelihoods and moving toward common prosperity precisely require sustainable economic development as a prerequisite and foundation. Without the strength of economic construction in the integrated and coordinated development, the efforts to improve livelihood that focuses only on catering to short-term public opinion may leave the whole society in the "middle-income trap." This is also worthy of vigilance in China. To improve people's livelihoods, it is objectively necessary to vigorously improve and optimize the distribution system and mechanism, which is to closely combine "making the cake bigger" with "dividing it fairly."

It should also be pointed out that all of economic efficiency, social development and improvement of people's livelihood need and call for reform, and reform ultimately aims to promote development and improve the livelihood of the people. At the current stage, a series of problems and challenges encountered in China's economic and social contradictions in terms of quality, efficiency, and people's livelihoods are mostly due to the lack of timely reforms. Thus, to enhance quality, effectiveness and affordability, we must promote development and benefit people's livelihoods through reforms. If these are categorized as the need to "abandon the focus on economic construction," isn't it a serious logical confusion and an action of giving ourselves a wrong prescription that cuts off our own lifeblood?

The lesson we learned from not focusing on economic construction for a long time before reform and opening-up should be alarming enough. Development is inevitably and necessarily the top priority of the CPC in ruling and developing the country. It is the prerequisite and material foundation for sustainably improving people's livelihood, advancing social development, enhancing cultural-ethical advancement, and realizing the strategic goal of modernization. We should never give up taking economic development as the central task. We should seek to upgrade economic construction and development to the highest quality.

The author is the president of Huaxia New Supply-Side Economic Research Institute. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn