The first use of the word "xiaokang," or a moderately prosperous society, was in the Book of Songs, China's earliest collection of poetry, showing grass-root people's longing for a peaceful and happy life. Over 2,500 years later, China included "xiaokang" as a part of its blueprint for socioeconomic development. On December 6, 1979, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping told visiting Japanese prime minister Masayoshi Ohira, "The Four Modernizations we are striving for is Chinese-style modernization. Our concept of Four Modernizations is not like your concept of modernization. Our concept is (the life) of a 'xiaokang family.'"
A Chinese saying goes, "With history as a mirror, one can understand the rise and fall of states." The building of "xiaokang" proposed by the Chinese government led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) is a commitment of both the Chinese government and the Party to Chinese people's long-standing desire for a better life since ancient times.
As China strived to achieve this goal, the connotation of "xiaokang" has been constantly enriched. It covers all-round social development, guarantee and improvement of people's livelihood, and many other aspects. This reflects the vitality of China in keeping pace with the times to adjust its own development plans. The origin of such vitality lies exactly in the advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.
Due to systematic advantages, China is able to unite its power to carry out major projects - and does so by adhering to the policies of guiding practice through theory. Take the reform and opening-up as example. It has been comprehensively implemented in places from countryside to cities and from the coast to inland, and from economic sphere to political and cultural fields. As a result, China's productivity has been greatly liberated; the country's economy has achieved substantial growth. And people's material life has been constantly improving. All these have provided unremitting impetus for the building of "xiaokang" in all respects.
The building of "xiaokang" is an important design of the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This conception hails from Chinese traditional culture and the historical rise and fall of dynasties. During China's efforts to promote the building of "xiaokang," the country managed to form its own discourse. This has seen China develop a completely different narrative from the Western capitalist society in terms of governance and national developments.
While the West emphasizes economic development, healthcare reform, and living standard improvement, it is inclined to set isolated targets. Yet these don't have internal connections among them. By contrast, the concept of "xiaokang" equally prioritizes these spheres, factoring in abundance as much as possible. Therefore, when China promotes "xiaokang," it is actually engaged in multi-dimensional development for all social areas. However in the West, isolated goals are inevitably given different priorities by governments - this leads to counterproductive scenarios, thus causing negative effects.
Consequently, Western countries' economic development and improvement of people's livelihood have been obviously sluggish - especially in recent years. In the meantime, China has been able to realize stable growth, improve living standards, and maintain a harmonious society.
There is also another reason for such drastic differences. Western governments, or their ruling parties, are more like night watchmen. This is to say, they don't proactively take measures like the Chinese government does to promote socioeconomic development. Besides, the Chinese government acts far more constantly to make plans and carry them out.
Western countries are more passive about making adjustments. In addition, due to their political systems, Western governments' commitments about economics and people's livelihood on function to serve political interests and objectives. This being the case, they may have promised to score 100 percent in their work, and they may then indeed do something. But when they reach a certain point, like 80 percent, and manage to secure their supporters and votes, they are very likely to put aside the 20 percent left over forever.
Such a political system has determined that the West will not have any long-standing policies - sometimes liberalism takes an upper hand, and sometimes conservatism does. It is difficult for Western countries to consistently adhere to certain commitments for decades. This is why China can make so many remarkable achievements - and keep doing better.
(Yu Shaoxiang, chief research fellow with the National Institute of Social Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily represent those of this platform.)