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UPDATED: March 25, 2011
Hold High the Great Banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory for an All-round Advancement of the Cause of Building Socialism With Chinese Characteristics’ Into the 21st Century
Report Delivered at the 15th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on September 12, 1997

IV. The Basic Line and Program for the Primary Stage of Socialism

Since the Third Plenary Session of the llth Party Central Committee, the Party has correctly analyzed China's conditions and formulated the scientific thesis that China is still in the primary stage of socialism. When we talk about the need to proceed from reality in everything we do, the biggest reality is that China is currently in the primary stage of socialism and will remain in this stage for a long time to come. When we say we must be clear about what socialism is and how to build it, we must acquire a clear understanding of what socialism in the primary stage is and how to build it. One of the fundamental reasons for our failings in building socialism prior to the convocation of the Third Plenary Session of the 1lth Party Central Committee is that some of our tasks and policies overstepped the primary stage of socialism. One of the basic reasons for the achievements in the reform, opening up and the modernization drive over the past two decades is that we corrected the erroneous concepts and policies transcending the primary stage of socialism and rejected the erroneous proposition that we should give up the basic system of socialism. By so doing, instead of deviating from it, we are building socialism in a down-to-earth manner, so that it is full of vigor and flourishing in China, and the people, thanks to their personal experiences, have become all the more enthusiastic in supporting socialism.

The reason why we are laying further emphasis on this question at the current congress is that, in the face of the arduous tasks of tackling hard issues in the reform and creating a new situation, the key to resolving various contradictions, dispelling doubts and understanding why we must carry out the existing line and policies and not any other line or policies lies in our unified, correct understanding of the basic conditions in China today in the primary stage of socialism.

Socialism is the primary stage of communism and China is in the primary stage of socialism, that is, the stage of underdevelopment. In this large Eastern country, it is a great victory for us to take the socialist road after a period of New Democracy. But, at the time when China entered socialism, it lagged far behind developed countries in terms of the level of development of the productive forces. We are, therefore, destined to go through a rather long primary stage of socialism. During this stage, we shall accomplish industrialization and the socialization, market orientation and modernization of the economy. This is a historical stage we cannot jump over.

It is the first time in the history of Marxism that the scientific concept of the primary stage of socialism is specified in a party's program. When talking about building socialism in the primary stage, Deng Xiaoping especially emphasized, "Ours is an entirely new endeavor, one that was never mentioned by Marx, never undertaken by our predecessors and never attempted by any other socialist country. So there are no precedents for us to learn from. We can only learn from practice, feeling our way as we go." That is to say, if we really want to build socialism in China, we should proceed in everything we do only from the actual situation of the primary stage of socialism, and not from our subjective desires, nor from this or that kind of foreign models, nor from the dogmatic interpretations of some theses in Marxist works, nor from certain erroneous viewpoints imposed on Marxism.

The primary stage of socialism is a historical stage in which we shall gradually put an end to underdevelopment and realize socialist modernization by and large. It is a stage in which an agricultural country, where people engaged in agriculture take up a very large proportion of the population and mainly rely on manual labor, will gradually turn into an industrial country where non-agricultural people constitute the majority and which embraces modem agriculture and service trade. It is a stage in which a society with a natural and semi-natural economy making up a very large proportion of the whole will gradually turn into one with a fairly developed market-oriented economy. It is a stage in which a society with illiterate and semi-literate people making up a very large proportion of the population and with backward science, technology, education and culture will turn step by step into one with fairly developed science, technology, education and culture. It is a stage in which a society with poverty-stricken people making up a very large proportion of the population and people having a low standard of living will gradually become one where all people are well-off. It is a stage in which a society with very uneven economic and cultural development among regions will become one in which the gap will be gradually narrowed, with some regions becoming developed first. It is a stage in which, by introducing reforms and exploring new ways, we will establish and improve a socialist market economy, a political system of socialist democracy and other systems that are relatively mature and full of vitality. It is a stage in which the great number of people will firmly foster the common ideal of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, and will make unremitting efforts to overcome difficulties, build the country with industry and thrift, and promote cultural and ethical progress as well as material progress. It is a stage in which we will narrow the gap between our level and the advanced world standards and bring about a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on the basis of socialism. It will take at least a century to complete this historical process. It will take a much longer period of time to consolidate and develop the socialist system, and it will require persistent struggle by many generations, a dozen or even several dozens.

In the four decades and more since the mid-1950s when China entered the primary stage of socialism, and especially in the past two decades, China has greatly developed its productive forces and made much headway in all its undertakings. In general, however, due to a large population and a poor foundation to begin with, China has seen uneven regional development, and its underdeveloped productive forces have yet to be fundamentally improved. The socialist system still needs to be perfected, the socialist market economy is immature, the socialist democracy and legal system still have to be strengthened, and decadent feudal and capitalist ideas and the small-producers' force of habit still have widespread influence in society. All this shows that the socialist society in China still remains in the primary stage.

The fundamental task of socialism is to develop the productive forces. During the primary stage, it is all the more necessary to give first priority to concentrating on their development. Different contradictions exist in China's economy, politics, culture, social activities and other areas, and class contradictions, due to international and domestic factors, will still exist within a certain scope for a long time to come. But the principal contradiction in society is the one between the growing material and cultural needs of the people and the backward production. This principal contradiction will remain throughout the process of China's primary stage of socialism and in all activities of society. Hence we are destined to make economic development the central task of the entire Party and the whole country and make sure that all other work is subordinated to and serves this task. Only by focusing on this principal contradiction and the central task can we soberly observe and control all social contradictions and effectively promote their resolution. Development is the absolute principle. The key to the solution of all China's problems lies in our own development.

In the primary stage of socialism, focusing on the fundamental task of developing the productive forces, we should take reform as the motive force for promoting all the work in building socialism with Chinese characteristics. Ours is a comprehensive reform which means, on the premise of upholding the basic system of socialism, we conscientiously readjust all the aspects and links of the relations of production and the superstructure so as to suit the level of development of the productive forces in the primary stage and the historical requirement for modernization. It is a great pioneering undertaking to combine socialism with the market economy. To do this, it is necessary to make active explorations and bold experiments and respect the pioneering initiative of the masses. It is necessary to deepen the reform and resolve the deep-rooted contradictions and crucial problems that may arise during structural transformation. It is necessary to open China wider to the outside world and absorb and use for reference the advanced technology and managerial expertise of other countries including developed capitalist countries.

In the primary stage of socialism, it is of the utmost importance to balance reform, development and stability and to maintain a stable political environment and public order. Without stability, nothing could be achieved. We must uphold the leadership by the Party and the people's democratic dictatorship. We should promote material progress and cultural and ethical progress, attaching equal importance to both. We must eliminate all factors jeopardizing stability, oppose bourgeois liberalization and guard against the infiltrating, subversive and splittist activities of international and domestic hostile forces. We must balance the intensity of reform, the speed of development and people's ability to sustain them, promoting reform and development amid social and political stability and securing social and political stability through reform and development.

At this historical moment when we are advancing our cause to the 21st century in an all-round way, we must solemnly point out that the whole Party must firmly adhere to the Party's basic line for the primary stage of socialism and, in the great practice of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, combine the central task of economic development with the two basic points-adherence to the four cardinal principles (keeping to the socialist road, upholding the people's democratic dictatorship, leadership by the Communist Party, and Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought-Tr.), and the reform and opening up. This is the most valuable experience our Party has gained in the past two decades and the most reliable guarantee for the victorious advance of our cause. We should maintain vigilance against the "Right" tendencies, but primarily against the "Left." We should remain sober-minded, overcome all interference and firmly adhere to Deng Xiaoping Theory and the basic line. In accordance with this theory and the basic line and with a focus on the goal of building a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and modern socialist country, it is necessary to acquire a better understanding of what the socialist economy, politics and culture with Chinese characteristics in the primary stage of socialism are and how to build them.

* Building a socialist economy with Chinese characteristics means developing a market economy under socialism and constantly emancipating and developing the productive forces. To be more specific, we should uphold and improve the basic economic system in which the socialist public ownership is dominant and different types of ownership develop side by side. We should uphold and improve the socialist market economic structure so that the market will play a basic role in the allocation of resources under state macro-control. We should uphold and improve different modes of distribution with distribution according to work remaining dominant, allowing some people and some areas to become prosperous first so that they can help others to become well-off and achieving common prosperity step by step. We should uphold and improve opening up and take an active part in international economic cooperation and competition. We should ensure that the national economy will develop in a sustained, rapid and sound way and that the people will share the fruits of economic prosperity.

* Building socialist politics with Chinese characteristics means managing state affairs according to law and developing socialist democracy under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and with the people as the masters of the country. To do this, we should uphold and improve the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance. We should uphold and improve the system of people's congresses, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party and the system of regional autonomy in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. We should promote democracy, improve the legal system and build a socialist country ruled by law. We should create a political situation in which we have social stability, a clean and efficient government and unity, harmony and liveliness among the people of all our nationalities.

* Building a socialist culture with Chinese characteristics means taking Marxism as guidance, aiming at training people so that they have high ideals, moral integrity, a good education and a strong sense of discipline, and developing a national, scientific and popular socialist culture geared to the needs of modernization, of the world and of the future. To do this, we should persist in arming the whole Party and educating the people with Deng Xiaoping Theory. We should strive to raise the ideological and ethical standards and the educational, scientific and cultural levels of the whole nation. We should adhere to the orientation of serving the people and socialism and the principle of letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend, laying emphasis on progress and boosting academic activities, art and literature. We should foster socialist ideology and ethics by basing ourselves on China's reality, carrying on the fine cultural traditions handed down from history and assimilating the advances of foreign culture.

The aforementioned basic targets and basic policies for building a socialist economy, politics and culture with Chinese characteristics are well integrated and inseparable. They constitute the basic program of the Party for the primary stage of socialism. This program is an important part of Deng Xiaoping Theory, and elaboration of the Party's basic line in the economic, political and cultural fields and a summary of the major experience gained over the years.

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