China is aiming to achieve the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, or Xiaokang society, by the end of the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) period and such a target is scheduled to be achieved by eliminating absolute poverty in the country within the same timeframe.
In spite of many daunting challenges and strong headwinds such as downward domestic economic pressure, international business uncertainties, rising global protectionism, intensifying confrontations with some major countries and the continuous spread of the pandemic all over the world, China is determined to overcome challenges and unexpected difficulties, so as to achieve the purpose of Xiaokang on time.
Actually, with the arduous efforts of all the Chinese people, the Chinese economy has already recovered from the pandemic at a comparatively early time and the country has enabled its economy to be back on the right track and achieved positive economic growth in recent months despite the global pandemic fallout. China also witnessed gradual tourism recovery during the past eight-day holiday. According to figures released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Oct. 9, China saw over 637 million domestic trips to tourist attractions during the holiday, compared with 782 million visits during the seven-day holiday in 2019. As the Chinese city hit hardest by the pandemic, Wuhan was also recovering quickly. The Yellow Crane Tower, a famous scenic spot in the provincial capital city of Hubei Province, ranked first nationwide in terms of popularity during the holiday.
Deeply rooted in ancient Chinese culture, Xiaokang has been the dream of Chinese people for thousands of years. Xiaokang was first recorded in "Shi Jing" ("The Book of Poetry"), China's earliest collection of poems and songs that was dated back to the 11th century B.C. In Confucian philosophy, Xiaokang means a society where people can work for their own benefit and for their own families. Meanwhile, they can also strive to accumulate certain amounts of wealth and property. Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that such a harmonious and prosperous society could be attained by moral education and ethical self-restraint.
From the historical perspective, the term Xiaokang was somewhat vague in ancient times. However, the concept has been evolving with China's people-centered modernization process under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. It has gradually evolved and become clearer as an essential target and a fundamental goal for China on the country's development blueprint, especially since the late 1970s when China kicked off reforms and opened its door to the outside world. Actually, Xiaokang has turned out to be the cornerstone of modern China's reform and opening up to the outside world.
GDP growth and rising incomes of the people are surely important indicators for measuring a moderately well-off society. According to official statistics, China's GDP per capita was only US$250 in 1984. The country's GDP reached 99.1 trillion yuan (US$14.52 trillion) in 2019 and its GDP per capita surpassed US$10,000 for the first time last year, 40 times the figure in 1984.
Frankly speaking, Xiaokang goes far beyond economic strength. Xiaokang is a multi-dimensional term and limiting Xiaokang only to GDP and income increases may oversimplify poverty alleviation in China. Our target includes not only a quantitative indicator of GDP performance, but more importantly, many quality-oriented indicators such as industrial structural upgrading, coordinated development in different regions, more sustainable resource allocation, innovation-driven growth, sharing of social benefits, access to education and medical services, and especially breakthroughs in the "three tough battles" of preventing financial risks, reducing poverty and tackling pollution.
Being a moderately prosperous society does not mean that China has become a rich country. Frankly speaking, with its gigantic population and its greatly unbalanced development between eastern and western regions, there is still a long way for China to become a really rich, strong and advanced country. We know that excessively widening income gaps are dangerous for a country, but a moderately prosperous society does not necessarily mean that every person should lead the same life and have the same living standard as we did during the period of the planned economy. In my point of view, richer people in China should be encouraged to consume more and have better lives. What the government should do is to spread the benefits of economic growth among different regions and people for more balanced development, and make sure that everyone can escape poverty and the poor and needy people can also have a decent life.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)