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Socialism Has Not Failed China


Authoritative commentary appearing in the People’s Daily arguing that China continues to adhere to a “socialist” road.

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At the Party History Learning and Education Mobilization Meeting, General Secretary Xi Jinping made the profound point that faith in communism and belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics are the political soul of Communist Party members. They are the spiritual support that enables Communist Party members to bear any trial. He emphasized that the Party’s century-long struggle and great achievements constitute the most solid foundation upon which we can strengthen our self-confidence in our path, self-confidence in our theories, self-confidence in our system, and self-confidence in our culture. The words of the General Secretary were loud and bold, firm and heroic. They deeply revealed the inner relationship of socialism and communism with a century of striving and struggle and demonstrated the perseverance and fortitude with which the Chinese Communists advanced along the only correct path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.


Over the course of a hundred years, many people and things are still vivid in our minds and many shouts and songs still ring in our ears. After braving the wind, frost, snow, and rain and creating miracles on earth, we have the obligation to console the martyrs with victory: Socialism has not failed China! We have the responsibility to let history say to the future: Socialism will not fail China!


(I) The accidents of history often carry inevitability within them. In the 1840s, ancient China was opened up by the powerful ships and guns of the great powers, and China’s destiny subsequently entered an unprecedentedly tragic situation. In almost the same era, in Europe where capitalism was in the ascendant, Marx and Engels began their great explorations of scientific socialism and the cause of human liberation and progress.


After the Opium War, China was poor, weak, and at the mercy of others. “The tears of 400 million cry out: Oh where, oh where on this earth can we find our divine China.” Each word of this poem by Tan Sitong is full of blood, tears, and uncertainty. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the Hundred Days’ Reform of 1898, the Boxer Movement, the Revolution of 1911… The Chinese struggled in the dark to find a road to the nation’s survival and salivation. Reformism, liberalism, social Darwinism, anarchism, pragmatism… all kinds of Western theories and doctrines were introduced as prescriptions for strengthening the country and enriching the people. Every plan was tried, but one after another, they came to nothing. Every road was explored, but the explorers returned bruised and bloodied. “The countless lives and immeasurable blood paid out by those revolutionaries gained the people nothing but a fake republic.” The great powers ran rampant, warlords fought chaotically, and the people were in dire straits. The First World War pierced the beautiful illusion of capitalist civilization. Countless people with lofty ideals dedicated their lives and souls to ask again and again: Where is China’s path forward? Where is the hope of the nation?


The sound of the guns of the October Revolution gave China the gift of Marxism-Leninism. This was a great historical compact, this was a solemn historical promise! The shackles of feudal society were too tight for thousands of years. The old ways could not be replaced without a thorough social transformation. The oppression imposed by imperialism on the Chinese people was too heavy. It could not be resisted without mobilizing the mighty power of millions of toiling people.


Li Dazhao proclaimed: “The alarm bell of humanity has rung! The dawn of freedom is here! If we try to glimpse the future of the world, it must be the world of the red flag!” Chen Duxiu declared: “The revolution in France in the eighteenth century was political and the revolution in Russia in the twentieth century was social. People at that time criticized them. Later, however, historians regarded them as critical points in the change and evolution of human society.” The young Mao Zedong shouted: “The time has come! The tide of the world is rolling with even more urgency! The gate of Dongting Lake has moved. It is open! Mighty new ideas are surging on both sides of the Xiangjiang River!”


In 1920, during a spring that alternated between warm and cold, 29-year-old Chen Wangdao spent two months in a firewood shed of his hometown in Yiwu, Zhejiang forgetting to sleep and eat as he translated the complete Communist Manifesto for the first time. The first 1,000 copies sold out immediately, and by 1926, it had been reprinted 17 times. The advanced and unyielding Chinese had chosen Marxism as the way to save the country and the people after repeated comparisons and speculations. This became their unswerving ambition.


In July 1921, the Chinese Communist Party, a political party with Marxism as its guiding ideology and communism as the goal of its struggle, was born. With faith, exhortations, and dreams in our minds, we set sail resolutely in the rising sun over the Shikumen buildings of Shanghai and the blue waves of South Lake in Jiaxing. Since then, the fire of socialism has been ignited in the East, and China, once troubled and hopeless, found its direction!


(II) After the failure of the Great Revolution, the Communist Party member Xia Minghan was arrested in Hankou and wrote a farewell to his wife before he bravely went to face his fate: “Such sacrifice and shedding of blood is already routine for me. Each will do what is necessary, and the revolutionary cause will be passed on from generation to generation. The red beads are left with longing for each other, Chiyun orphans hope for success and persist. The revolution follows our will, and I vow to pass on the truth to the world!” [Translator’s note: This is taken from a poem by Xia Minghan which does not translate well into English, but the gist of it is: It does not matter what happens to me, the revolution will go on.] In those gloomy years, there were tens of thousands of martyrs like Xia Minghan who were willing to lay down their lives for the communist faith and believed that the revolutionary ideals would be realized. Once they accepted this belief and doctrine, they never hesitated or wavered, and did not hesitate to water the “blossoms of communism” with their youth and blood.


This belief and doctrine is shining with the light of the ideals in the hearts of the people. The Communist Manifesto described: “In the place of the old bourgeois society with its classes and its class antagonisms, there will be an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” In the new world of socialism, the value of human beings comes first, there is no exploitation, no oppression, labor is honored, labor is supreme, everyone is equal and prosperous, and the people are as one family… This is a new world that transcends the capitalist world. It is also the “Great Harmony of All Under Heaven” (天下大同) that the Chinese nation has longed for since ancient times, attracting countless advanced elements who are passionate, fascinated, and practiced.


This belief and doctrine reveals the law of social development and evolution. The general trend of the world is irresistible. Those who follow it will survive, and those who go against it will perish. The Chinese Communist Party is the vanguard of the working class. It represents the direction of advanced productive forces and represents the trend of historical progress. Armed with scientific theories and with a mastery of the laws of social development, the Party has the consciousness to lead social changes and advance the cause of justice as well as the power to be invincible and indomitable.


This belief and doctrine guide the revolution to victory. The Chinese Communists, with Mao Zedong as their main representative, used Marxist standpoints and methods to analyze China’s national conditions and solve China’s problems. They clearly stated that the task of the Chinese revolution was to overthrow the oppression of the “three mountains” of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism, that the path of the Chinese revolution was to encircle the cities from the countryside and seize power by armed force, that the power of the Chinese revolution was the working class, the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie under certain conditions, that the proletariat was the leading force and the people were the real heroes, that the Chinese revolution must be carried out in two stages: the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution… These scientific understandings shone everywhere with the brilliance of Marxist truth, leading the Chinese revolution to surge forward.


The revolutionary ideal is higher than the sky. It was under the torch of these ideals and beliefs that our Party extensively mobilized the workers and peasants, dared to make surprise charges, and successfully advanced the Northern Expedition. It was under the torch of these ideals and beliefs that the surviving communists buried the corpses of their companions slaughtered by the reactionaries, took up weapons, walked into the mountains and forests, and engaged in new battles. It was under the torch of these ideals and beliefs that the Red Army soldiers rushed through natural dangers, fought strong enemies, climbed snow-capped mountains, and crossed the grassy plains, “The freezing wind and rainwater penetrating through clothes make us even tougher, some wild greens that barely ease hunger only make our will stronger”, completing the 25,000-mile Long March that blazes through the annals of human history. It was under the torch of these ideals and beliefs that the party and the people used perseverance and bloody battles to write the national anthem against Japanese militarism and achieved ultimate victory against foreign aggression. It was under the torch of these ideals and beliefs that the brave People’s Liberation Army defeated the 8-million strong Kuomintang reactionary forces in only three years, demonstrating what it means to say “if the heavens had sentiments, they too would grow old; the correct path in the world of men is through the vicissitudes of life.”


“Of course, the sword of criticism cannot replace criticism by the sword. Material power can only be destroyed by material power.” After 28 years of bloody battles and 28 years of hard work, our country has changed from the “sick man of East Asia” who was humiliated by others to the “awakened lion of the East” who awes the world. Our people have changed from slaves like cattle and horses into proud masters. The victory of the Chinese revolution was the great practice of the Chinese Communists in using Marxism to save China, and the great journey of scientific truth showing its strength!


(III) On June 30, 1949, Mao Zedong published “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship,” proposing that we must pass through the People’s Republic, from an agricultural country to an industrial country, and from a new democratic society to a socialist society and a communist society. The founding of the People’s Republic of China is the historical result of the integration of the principles of scientific socialism and the reality of the Chinese revolution. It also marked the development and growth of the cause of human progress and the forces of socialism and ushered in the great era of socialism in the Global East.


This is an era of innovating and changing the world. Faced with many difficulties and tests, the Chinese Communist Party led the people to quickly heal the wounds of the war and restore the national economy. The socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts, and capitalist industry and commerce was realized in a form unique to China. We creatively completed the transition from the new democratic revolution to the socialist revolution, and successfully realized the most profound and greatest social transformation in Chinese history. The vigorous land reform enabled more than 300 million farmers to obtain 700 million mu (115,300,000 acres) of land and production materials at no cost; the 1954 Constitution fixed the principles of people’s democracy and socialism in the form of a fundamental law; adopting the system of the People’s Congress, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy, we built the “four beams and eight pillars” of the socialist system… In this ancient but youthful country, the Chinese people built the towering edifice of socialism and enjoyed the taste of a happy life.


This is an era of vigor and passion. “Every second we are working to create a socialist society.” The Chengdu-Chongqing Railway, which was planned in the late Qing Dynasty, was still a dotted line on the map for more than 40 years before the founding of New China. After the official start of construction in 1950, it took only two years to complete the line. During the “1st Five-Year Plan” period, 156 key projects and 694 construction projects were all completed, laying a solid foundation for socialist industrialization. The control of the Huai River, the Yellow River, and the Yangtze River achieved obvious results, and farmland water conservation construction began to progress rapidly throughout the country. A national urban and rural health and medical network was basically formed, and diseases such as smallpox, cholera, schistosomiasis, malaria, and plague were either eradicated or effectively prevented… The nascent authority of the people awakened tremendous productivity, and the nascent socialist system activated the people’s energy and promoted the people’s well-being.


This is an era of heroes and high morale. For the sake of peace, volunteer soldiers went abroad to fight, composing a majestic epic of the victory of “less steel, more spirit” (poor in weaponry but high in morale) over “more steel, less spirit” (advanced weaponry but poor morale). In order to get rid of the “poor in oil and little oil” (贫油少油) hat, the “Iron Man” Wang Jinxi led a drilling team in an all-out effort, “I would rather live 20 years less and give my strength to open up a major oil field.” In order to change the face of poverty and backwardness, Jiao Yulu, a model county party committee secretary, led the people in Lankao to rectify the “three evils”, “life is a sand dune, death is a sand dune, fathers and elders live and die in succession” (生也沙丘,死也沙丘,父老生死系). In order to lay a solid foundation for the country’s self-reliance and self-strengthening, Qian Xuesen, Qian Sanqiang, Deng Jiaxian, and many scientific research workers sprinkled their sweat and blood on the vast Gobi desert, creating the miracle of “Two Bombs, One Satellite” (两弹一星, early Chinese nuclear and space programs)… Countless heroes with names and heroes who have not left their names have used their flesh, blood, and strong arms to shoulder the responsibilities of the nation and the glory of the Republic.


“Driving a simple cart and wearing tattered clothes in open up the mountains and forests” (the difficulty of starting something new). Building socialism in a large Eastern country with a relatively backward economy and culture and a large population like China was like climbing an unexplored mountain. There was no straight road to walk and no ready path to follow. We rely on the power of “the people to create history” and the advantage of “concentrating our strength to accomplish great things” to achieve one miracle after another that can be recorded in the annals of the Chinese nation and human history. With the spirit of “revolution and desperation” and with the courage of “ten thousand years is too long, seize both day and night,” we painted the most beautiful picture of socialist new China on a land of more than 9.6 million square kilometers. On the road of exploration and seeking, we have suffered serious setbacks like the “Cultural Revolution.” These painful lessons are worth learning from forever.


Whether the terrain is flat or rugged, whether we are in sunshine or wind and rain, the Party leads the people ever forward in exploring the path of socialism. History has proven: “We not only are good at destroying an old world, we will also excel at building a new world!”


(IV) “What is socialism? How do we build socialism?” The Chinese Communists have never stopped answering this historical question that echoes across China. From profoundly revealing the “ten major relationships” (十大关系) between socialist construction and socialist transformation to promptly reaching the important conclusion that the main social contradiction in China has been transformed into “the contradiction between the advanced socialist system and the backward productive forces of society,” to the clear proposal of the correct ways to handle contradictions among the people, these areas all saw precious explorations and difficult progress.


The 3rd Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the CCP was a great turning point in the history of the Party and the history of New China. It stopped using “class struggle as the key focal point”, shifted the focus of the whole Party’s work to the construction of socialist modernization, and reestablished the ideological lines of emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts… In order to build socialism, the CCP led the people to advance the great new revolution and embarked on the great journey of reform and opening up.


Poverty is not socialism! Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “The essence of socialism is to liberate productive forces, develop productive forces, eliminate exploitation, eliminate polarization, and ultimately achieve common prosperity.” In order to adapt production relations to the development of productive forces, the household contract responsibility system with remuneration linked to output (家庭联产承包责任制) was widely implemented, special economic zones were opened on a pilot basis, township enterprises sprang up, the reform of the scientific and technological system was intensified, the pattern of opening-up formed at an accelerated pace, and the vitality and creativity hidden in the broad masses of the people fully burst out.


We must take our own path and build socialism with Chinese characteristics! We were deeply aware that our country was and would be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time, put forward the Party’s basic line for the primary stage of socialism, actively developed a basic economic system with public ownership as the mainstay and the common development of multiple ownership system economies, continuously improved the socialist market economic system, put forward the goal of a moderately prosperous society and a step-by-step strategy of modernization, and created and developed socialism with Chinese characteristics.


Adhere to the socialist direction of reform and opening up! Adhere to reform and opening up and adhere to the four basic principles. These two basic points are closely linked and one cannot be accomplished without the other. We adhere to the socialist material civilization and spiritual civilization by “grasping with both hands and both hands must be firm” (两手抓、两手都要硬), resolutely push forward the great new project of Party building, comprehensively promote the construction of socialist economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological civilization with Chinese characteristics, let the people share in the fruits of reform and development, and put realistic wings on the socialist ideals.


Over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China’s GDP grew to become second in the world, surpassing Italy, France, the UK, Germany, and Japan along the way. The living standards of the Chinese people continue to improve, and we have entered the ranks of high-income countries. The terrain of China is changing with each passing day, with a network of roads, dense railways, west-to-east gas transmission, south-to-north water transfer, tall dams and towering bridges, and the transformation of natural moats into thoroughfares. China has also overcome historically rare major natural disasters such as floods, rain, snow and freezing temperatures, earthquakes, and major epidemics such as SARS. It has withstood the severe test of the Asian financial crisis and the international financial crisis, becoming more calm and upright after the storm.


We advance by grasping the logic of historical progress and develop in conformity with the trend of the development of the times. The great practices surging over the face of China show: only socialism can develop China and only reform and opening up can allow China to catch up with the times in great strides and allow the people to live happy lives. The road of socialism with Chinese characteristics is getting wider and wider!


(V) The majestic and magnificent cause of socialism has condensed the efforts and dedication of generations of Communists and carries the trust and enthusiasm of many sages and heroes. The baton of history has been passed on again. General Secretary Xi Jinping’s words were sonorous and powerful: The task of our generation of Communists is to continue to write out the great essay of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics!


The 19th Party Congress solemnly declared to the entire party, the country, and the world: “After long-term efforts, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era. This is a new historical direction in China’s development.”


In the new era of China, the banner of our ideals waves bright and high. In the face of world changes unprecedented in 100 years, General Secretary Xi Jinping led the whole Party and the people of the whole country to grasp the overall situation, respond to the situation, and create a new situation. The Party and the country have made historic achievements and realized historic changes. The Chinese nation is closer to the great goal of national rejuvenation than at any time in history. The Chinese people’s belief in Marxism and Communism has become stronger, their belief in socialism with Chinese characteristics has become firmer, and their confidence in realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has never been greater.


In the new era, China has a deep and strong driving force for development. From the comprehensive deepening of reforms of the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Central Committee, to comprehensive rule of law and building a well-off society in an all-round way, to full and strict governance over the Party and promoting social revolution through revolution in the Party itself, from adhering to and improving the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, to planting ourselves in the new development stage, implementing the new development concept, building a new development pattern, and promoting high-quality development, we will build China into a modernized socialist country in an all-round way, increasingly perfect the strategic layout of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and further clarify the direction and goals of modernization.


In the new era of China, the status of the people is fully demonstrated. “The country is the people, and the people are the country,” the echo of our original intention travels through time and space. “The people’s aspiration for a better life is our goal,” is the sonorous declaration that hardened our iron into a nail. In order to realize the long-cherished wish of the Chinese people to eliminate poverty, the Party led the people to fight a tough battle against poverty, and the broad group of cadres and the masses in poverty-stricken areas worked stubbornly to this end. The first secretaries and village cadres are fully committed, the east and the west are precisely coordinated, and those from all sectors of society who have money contribute it and those with strength contribute it. Poor village households feel the warmth of the big socialist family and the silent mountains are full of vitality and hope.


In the new era of China, the strength of unity has never been greater. Faced with the peak of science and technology, we never back down. Chang’e flew into the sky, Jiaolong dove into the sea, the Eye of Heaven watches over us, and BeiDou connects us. Not long ago, the “Zhurong” Mars rover successfully landed on Mars after a 295-day journey. In the face of bullying and suppression, we have never succumbed. The whole party and the whole country have the courage to fight and win, to gather our strength, and braid ourselves into a single rope. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has closely linked the destiny of each of us with the destiny of the country and the collective. The hearts and hands of 1.4 billion Chinese people are connected to guard our homes and protect our country, creating a great miracle in the history of mankind’s fight against  epidemic diseases… The advantages of the socialist system have been greatly demonstrated.


Righteousness on the earth fills the vastness of heaven. If socialism, as the just cause of mankind and the pursuit of lofty values, has given the new era the most vivid background and the weightiest confidence. Then, the new era used its greatest practices to give scientific socialism a new ideological dimension and a new historical height.


In April 2021, General Secretary Xi Jinping made a special trip to Quanzhou, Guangxi to pay tribute at the Memorial Park of the Red Army Breaking Through Xiang River in the Long March. With emotion, he said that once the fire of ideals and convictions is ignited, great spiritual power is produced. We must remember the revolutionary martyrs, carry on the spiritual bloodline of the Communists, strengthen our ideals and convictions, and forge a revolutionary will.


Looking back 87 years, on the road of the Long March on the banks of the Xiang River, countless Red Army soldiers fought fiercely to keep the fire of the revolution alive. These fighters, who were mostly in their twenties, and some even fifteen or sixteen, were optimistic and tenacious because of their faith in the victory of the revolution and their longing for a better society under socialism and communism. This is the inextinguishable genetic material of the Party and the code that created national prosperity from decline. Today, we can use the following to comfort all our forebears and the heroic souls of the past century.


At this moment, the sunshine of socialism is shining in the shadows of strugglers and the smiling faces of children. The banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics is leading the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and presents bright prospects as never before. We will surely create even greater miracles that will earn the admiration of the world and will surely realize the loftiest and greatest ideals of the Communists!


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宣言 (Xuan Yan). "Socialism Has Not Failed China [社会主义没有辜负中国]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in People's Daily [人民日报], June 7, 2021

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