The author and editor of this book, Xie Chuntao, is a professor at the Communist Party of China (CPC) central party school (the National School of Administration), and the executive director and deputy secretary-general of the party’s history society. Xie has authored books such as A History of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, A Transitional China: 1976-1982; An Illustrated History of the 50 Years of the PRC; China Through the Ages—From Confucius to Deng (English edition), and other works.
Translated from the Chinese language, which originally appeared as 中国共产党如何应对挑战, the book is divided into eight interrelated chapters. The introduction forms the foundation of the entire book as it focuses on the challenges confronting the realisation of the ‘Chinese Dream.’ This is a term popularised by the president, Xi Jinping, encapsulating the prosperity and national glory of China to be attained by a collective effort and through socialism, and describing a set of personal and national ideals embraced both by the people and the government. The idea of the Chinese Dream is presented in a form of a question about sustained and continuous development carried out alongside the greater rights and freedoms of the Chinese over the years. The book acknowledges that there are challenges facing China, reflecting them in the title and presenting them in the introduction: “Steering the Nation Toward the Chinese Dream, the Communist Party of China Faces Challenges on at Least Eight Fronts” (p. iii).
The challenges presented in the eight chapters are: (1) Healthy and sustained development of the economy; (2) How to develop democracy demanded by the people; (3) How to improve the cultural soft power of the country; (4) How retain social harmony and stability; (5) How to protect China’s ecological environment; (6) How to promote the peaceful unification of the country; (7) How contribute to a stable international environment; and the eighth chapter is a critical conclusion focusing on the issue of preventing corruption and penalising offenders.
This review starts with the last chapter as fighting corruption is both a critical concern and a significant achievement for the CPC. The former president of China, Jiang Zemin, emphasised repeatedly that “resolutely combating and preventing corruption is a major political task of the whole party (p. 247).” In January 2014, the party’s general secretary, Xi Jinping, proposed once again at the third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Commission that: “we must continue to put strong pressure on corrupt practice and persist in punishing corruption with zero tolerance” (p. 256). Remarkably, while this chapter is placed as the number eight challenge, it seems crucial throughout the book. The issue of ethics is a political manifestation of China’s dream and thus the path to achieving it.
Chapters One and Two are dedicated to economic and political factors driving China’s progress. Offering the story of economic growth since 1979, the book explains “China’s miracle” by providing data that in 2013, China’s GDP reached 56,884.5 billion Yuan, “holding its position as the second largest economy in the world” (p. 3).
Chapter two examines how developing democracy hinges upon a healthy relationship between the ruling government and the people of China. This is described as a consultative democracy which is another way to describe China’s political system. “Consultative democracy is integral to and inseparable from the system of multi-party cooperation and the political consultation process under the leadership of the Communist Party of China” (p. 55). This practice, as the book observes, “prompted U.S. scholar Francis Fukuyama, father of the ‘end of history’ theory, to correct his own idea. He indicated that the ‘China model’ effectively proved that the liberty and democracy in the West was not the end of the evolution of human history. The great treasure vault of human thought needs to save a place for the Chinese tradition.” Undoubtedly, “China’s political democracy will advance the tradition of democracy itself” (p. 70).
Chapter Three is dedicated to the notion of improving China’s cultural soft power. The author narrates how “after the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution ended, the Communist Party of China started to become truly and clearly aware of the problem and to act on its own initiative” (p. 76). Therefore, to enhance Chinese cultural power, it is a task for the CPC to support and further strengthen the strategic conception of a socialist core value system where “the aim is to ensure that various forces are concentrated into the great cause of rejuvenating the Chinese nation, the prosperity of the nation and its citizenry, and the realization of the Chinese Dream” (p. 81-82). Consequently, “the important goal of cultural system reform was and is to turn some cultural institutions into enterprises, change their ownership and push them into the market so that they can satisfy evolving cultural needs” (p. 85).
The strength of this book is twofold, its structure and its argument, and logically Chapter Four alludes to the notion of social harmony and stability. Achieving cultural policies and goals requires “build[ing] a brilliant well-off society of great unity” (p. 117). Consequently, “Stability is a major policy of the Communist Party of China. It is obvious that retaining social stability is an important experience that China has learned in its modernization drive during over 30 years reform and opening up” (ibid). The CPC has enhanced its moral standing in the country by providing medical care to the masses, and by resolving the prominent problem of poverty. This process has always been part of the mission of the CPC, and it was translated to action over the years. Thus, the former paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, placed emphasis on “stability” and attached more importance to “reform and opening up” (p. 136). “Only when we adhere to reform and opening up can we seize the opportunity to move up a level” (ibid).
Chapter Five examines a far-reaching priority for the CPC, which is promoting ecological progress, which is central to Xi Jinping’s vision of modern and advanced China where he “repeatedly emphasized that economic performance should never be evaluated by GDP alone and that reforms would be made to GDP-oriented performance evaluation system” (152). Therefore, the author argues that “it is impossible for China to continue to support rapid development with high energy consumption.” The author explains that “in China, emerging power sources such as wind power, solar power, biomass energy and marine energy have developed to a level that provides several hundred million tons of standard coal each year.” Moreover, “the gap between China’s new energy utilization technology and that of foreign countries is not wide at present. In some of these areas, China has even taken the lead internationally” (p. 159).
The book, then, moves on to a vital topic to the CPC: that of promoting China’s peaceful reunification. The concept of peace and peaceful interactions between China and the world are primary examples of China’s location and standing in the world. “In 1979, the Chinese government declared that one important premise in the implementation of guidelines for peaceful reunification is that the Taiwan authority adheres to the principle that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an integral part of China” (p. 185). In 1995, Jiang Zemin proposed his ‘Eight Points’ about the relationship with Taiwan, noting that “political differences should not influence or interfere with cross-straits economic cooperation with Taiwan and sought to consolidate mutual interests” (p. 191). This shows tolerance and wisdom in Chinese political life. Therefore, the “CPC has been committed to expand cultural exchange across the Taiwan Straits and thereby strengthen spiritual ties between the two sides” pp.191-204).
To achieve peace is a major concern and mission of the CPC. Peace is achieved through multi-dimensional and various ways: “China has become the largest export market and the largest trade partner of the majority of its neighbouring countries, including South Korea, India, Mongolia and Malaysia.” The author notes that “this situation is unprecedented in terms of both the width and the depth of bilateral cooperation” (p. 230). Consequently, China has become a central player in global affairs and the “international community attaches more attention to China’s status and role and pays much more attention to development trends in China’s domestic and foreign policies and their influence on the world” (p. 237).
As mentioned above, this book is of good value for readers on academic and non-academic levels. The book analyses the structure of challenges and prospects for China’s advancements and progress. The book remarks that “its over 90-years-long history demonstrates how the CPC has already overcome numerous hardships to achieve progress unprecedented in human history” (p. iv).
Yan Na is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Theory, School of Political Science and Public Administration, Shandong University, China. She works as an associate researcher at the Institute of Culture, Shandong Academy of Social Sciences. She recently published Study on the Integration of Shandong Tourism into "One Belt and One Road" Development Strategy (Shandong People’s Publishing House, 2017). Her research area focuses on cultural policy, tourism politics, and cultural legislation. She has published more than ten articles in this field such as “Study on the Construction and Countermeasures of Urban Cultural Image in China,” [我国城市文化形象的构建与对策研究], Dongyue Tribune, 2011, and “Study on Brand Strategy of Cultural Tourism in Shandong” [山东文化旅游品牌战略研究], Theory Journal, 2011. She is currently working on a co-authored book, Introduction to Chinese Culture.