On 14 April 2021, a thematic briefing on the achievements of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang was held in Hangzhou, the provincial capital.
The briefing was co-hosted by the international department of the CPC’s central committee and the CPC Zhejiang central committee, and was attended by over 400 international guests from over 71 countries, as well as by representatives from Zhejiang.
A video shown to attendees highlighted that Zhejiang province, in eastern China, has been the birthplace of three pivotal developments in Chinese history: Zhejiang was where the Wu and Yue traditional cultures of China first emerged; it was the cradle of the CPC and the location of its first national congress; finally, it is also where, in the context of China’s reform and opening up, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s ‘double-eight’ strategy has been implemented.
Implementation and success of the double-eight strategy in Zhejiang
The double-eight strategy was developed by Secretary Xi in 2003, while he was party secretary of Zhejiang, and has become the province’s overarching development guideline. The strategy identifies eight strengths possessed by Zhejiang province for its development – including economic structure, coordination of urban and rural areas, and mountain and ocean resources – as well as eight ways in which the province can take advantage of those strengths.
During the briefing, Song Tao, head of the CPC’s international department, emphasised the success with which Zhejiang had implemented this strategy over the last two decades, describing it as an epitome of the idea of ‘drawing up and following through the blueprint’.
The achievements of Zhejiang include a digital economy worth 4tn renminbi (RMB), which accounts for 55 percent of the province’s GDP. A significant strength of this digital economy was on display in response to the Covid pandemic, when a health QR code system was launched in the province in February 2020.
This code worked to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to facilitate travel, acting as a ‘digital wall’ against infection. Its development out of Zhejiang and implementation across China exemplifies the pursuit of innovative development in ‘digital Zhejiang’, as well as President Xi Jinping’s exhortation to ‘dare to be first’.
Furthermore, Zhejiang has seen a continuing increase in both urban and rural incomes – whilst the disparity between the two has decreased – that ranks first among all provinces in China. The reduction of inequality in urban and rural development is a crucial aspect of the 14th five-year plan and China’s 2035 vision of socialist modernisation.
Secretary of the Zhejiang CPC provincial committee Yuan Jiajun added that, with this kind of coordinated development, villages in China were applying increasing amounts of technology and capital and were seeing more young people – known as fanxiang qingnian – reversing the process of brain-drain by returning to make useful contributions to village life.
Lessons learned from the Zhejiang experience
Song Tao went on to share four main principles that had been reinforced by the implementation of the double-eight strategy in Zhejiang.
The first of these is the importance of the party’s guidance to the development of the nation. Ever since the CPC’s first congress, held in Zhejiang in 1921, the principle of guidance has been embedded in the genetics of the party.
As the CPC has led the nation in the realisation of the Chinese dream, and onward to the great renewal of the Chinese nation, it is clear that this focus on the future of the country and nation continues to achieve real results.
A second defining feature of the CPC is that it has consistently put people first. This is evident as it delivers on the promise of the 18th congress to build a moderately prosperous (xiaokang) society – a fundamental aspect of which has been the elimination of extreme poverty.
On average, more than ten million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty annually since the 18th congress – meeting targets set by the United Nations ten years ahead of schedule. This is a shining example of development for the people, by the people.
Examples of this shared development in Zhejiang were described by Yuan Jiajun – these included the laying out of universal compulsory education including public kindergartens, the establishment of ‘food safety counties’, and advances in outpatient healthcare.
It is also clear that not only should there be a sound development vision – which will determine the final result – but that the implementation must match this vision. The 14 successive five-year plans outlined and implemented by the CPC are a testament to selfless perseverance – pursued not for the purpose of claiming credit, but from a dedication to the cause.
Yuan Jiajun added that, in terms of development, one significant advance was in development “outside the confines of geography”. There are 8.7 million businessmen currently doing business outside of the province, of which two million are doing business overseas.
Collective decision-making in local party branches
During the briefing, attendees were given a glimpse of collective decision-making in action, as cameras gave us access to a vote on the implementation of a park project in Lujia village. The meeting dealt with the queries of local residents on issues such as housing relocation and valuation; ultimately the project was passed with the necessary two-thirds supermajority.
In response to questions on local party functioning from Friedrich Stift, Austrian ambassador in Beijing, the Lujia village representative explained that there were monthly meetings of village representatives, and that village party officials served five-year terms.
In order to maintain the trust of the people, transparency is important in village, party and financial affairs. At the end of their five-year term, officials will give a full report to the village, after which they can be assessed on the quality of their work.
In a briefing entitled ‘Stories of the CPC’, the experiences of individuals in Zhejiang were an essential aspect. One of the most impressive of these stories was told by Zhang Guojin, the ninth party secretary of the province’s Chengxi village.
He took delegates through some of the pivotal moments contained in the 35 notebooks of minutes that have been carefully kept and maintained by the local party – from becoming ‘food production champion’ in 1963, a title for which they won an ox, to later years when the party was an enthusiastic promoter of local industry.
Now, the focus of the local party is on elderly care and cultural life – including provision of apartments for villagers, as well as dancing, Taiji, and table tennis. In a particularly moving moment, attendees at the briefing were shown the former local secretaries of Chengxi village seated together, all present at the conference, forming an unbroken chain back to the beginnings of the local party.
In addition to this, Zhang Xiaohong, secretary of a CPC community-level organisation, gave a moving description of the Covid response effort of party members and volunteers in the community. This included performing regular temperature checks and delivering daily necessities to those in quarantine in the community. Volunteers had survived, she explained, on instant noodles, and infrequent naps on desks when exhausted.
Foreign speakers reflect on Zhejiang’s successes
A wide range of foreign guests were present to add their thoughts on the achievements of the CPC.
Vlad Batrincea of Moldova’s Party of Socialists highlighted the success of China in maintaining economic growth during a period of global recession and in promoting harmony between man and nature. He highlighted the discipline and responsibility shown in the control of Covid-19, which far exceeded most other countries.
Essam Abdel-Aziz Sharaf, former prime minister of Egypt, saluted Xi Jinping and the success and continuing relevance of Xi Jinping Thought, which had germinated in Zhejiang with the double-eight strategy.
Manuel Pedro Chavez, of Angola’s MPLA, praised China’s friendship with Angola, which had begun in the 1960s and persisted throughout the periods of national-liberation struggle and post-war reconstruction. The friendship between the two countries has included cooperation in areas as diverse as energy provision and cadre training.
Artem Semenov of United Russia spoke of the achievements of the CPC’s 14th five-year plan and its successful response to the challenge of Covid-19, noting that China was the only country to record positive economic growth in 2021.
Jacques Cheminade, of France’s Solidarity and Progress, also urged attendees to reject all aggressive postures against China, since they represent a danger to world peace.
Finally, Qian Hongshan, vice-minister of the CPC international department, closed the briefing with remarks that highlighted once again the spectacular achievement of over 800 million people lifted out of poverty under the leadership of the CPC central committee with Xi Jinping at its core.
He also emphasised the financial services that China is providing to its Belt and Road partners – countries that had been marginalised by globalisation. China’s new development paradigm, rather than shutting the country off, is helping the world with its economic recovery, and is also helping many countries to find their own independent way of development in accordance with their particular conditions.
In this way, the CPC shared the flourishing in Zhejiang of 8,000 years of Chinese culture, 100 years of the Chinese communist party, 70 years of socialist development and two decades of the successful practice of Xi Jinping’s double-eight strategy.
We join the Chinese people in joyfully greeting the 100th anniversary of their party’s founding and saluting its huge achievements. Long may it continue to serve the people!