ICS Occasional Papers

CPC’s 20th National Congress, ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’, and Xi Jinping’s Third Term

An added significance about the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last fall was that the year 2022 was the 40th anniversary of the theoretical phrase “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” (SCC). The understudied political phrase was first introduced by the “paramount” Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, also known as the chief architect of China’s reform and opening up policy. At the 20th Congress of the CPC, Xi Jinping pledged to hold high the banner of SCC. Despite claims by China watchers around the world that Xi Jinping had abandoned the mantra of “economy in command” laid down by Deng after Mao’s death in 1976, the CPC under Xi has reaffirmed its commitment to uphold the party line of SCC. Four decades ago, Deng Xiaoping had ingeniously invented the slogan to silence the “left” within the Party to garner legitimacy for introducing market capitalism. Yet in Marxist theory, especially when viewed from the ideological lens of MarxismLeninism (and Mao Zedong Thought, if you wish), how does one define “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”? Is it to preserve institutions of socialism and public ownership while importing sophisticated management experience and advanced market mechanisms from developed countries as the Chinese would have us believe? Or as China watchers tell us, far from being Marxism or socialism, the SCC is a deliberate misnomer which is best described as the CPC’s “capitalist dogma”.


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