Working towards a common prosperity for humankind

By , People Daily Digital
Wednesday, October 6th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Pedestrians watch a screen showing a live news broadcast of Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at a ceremony marking the centenary of the Chinese Community Party. PHOTO/COURTESY

Prosperity is viewed differently by people of different nationalities across the world. In most of the Western world, prosperity is viewed through materialistic lenses. Success is basically quantified through the ownership of things rather than the quality of life regardless of the amount of money held.

But in more humane societies particularly in Asia and Africa, prosperity means equity – not to be mistaken with egalitarianism - in the sharing and distribution of resources. Prosperity is seen as the possession of a greater sense of fulfillment, happiness and security. It does not make sense for a few people to own property millions of times over the majority. The case of 20 billionaires in a sea of 20 million poor people is generally frowned upon.

China’s socialism is fast gaining credence as a classic model of how a country can ensure that everyone’s basic needs in a country are taken care of. After becoming the first country to eradicate poverty in the world, President Xi Jinping has now trained his eyes on the enjoyment of common prosperity among the country’s 1.4 billion people.

An explainer article published by Xinhua news agency on August 26 gives an insight of this principle. “Common prosperity is an essential requirement of socialism… Common prosperity is not egalitarianism. It is by no means robbing the rich to help the poor as misinterpreted by some Western media.”

At the 10th meeting of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs held on August 17, Xi reiterated that common prosperity is an essential requirement of socialism and a key plank of Chinese-style modernization. “The Communist Party of China and the Chinese Government should adhere to the people-centered and high quality development model in order to realize common prosperity.”

Xi’s philosophy states that effective governance starts with enriching the people, emphasizing that eradicating poverty, improving people’s livelihoods and achieving common prosperity are the main tenets of socialism. It entails adhering to a people-centered development philosophy and closing existing gaps between regions, urban-rural areas and incomes.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the per capita disposable income of urban residents in China was 43,834 yuan (USD 6,807) in 2020, while that of rural residents was 17,131 yuan (USD 2,660), about 40 percent of the per capita disposable income of urban residents. In the same year, Beijing's per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was about 164,909 yuan (USD 25,610), 4.6 times that of Gansu Province in northwest China, which had the lowest per capita GDP of 36,038 yuan (USD 5,597).

Common prosperity is about focusing on the people by serving them wholeheartedly and respecting their creativity. This should be done through protecting property and intellectual property rights in order to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. The announcement by Xi on September 2 that China will open a new stock exchange in Beijing to create a venue for "service-oriented" and "innovative" businesses should be seen in this light.

Further Xi says this involves taking “effective measures to implement a people-centered development philosophy, and work out coordinated solutions to issues such as employment, income distribution, education, social security, medical care, housing, elderly care. Childcare, food safety, and public security.”

But the foregoing cannot be achieved without the requisite political goodwill to fight corruption and misconduct in all sectors, something that was stressed by Xi on January 22 at the fifth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

But there should be no illusions on the magnitude of the task ahead on the road to achieving common prosperity. It is a long-term, arduous and complicated undertaking that should be promoted gradually and progressively. It is also not a one-size fits all task but one that should be cognizant of local conditions during planning and implementation.

Ultimately, the pursuance of common prosperity should not be misconstrued as a Robinhood strategy by the State to redistribute wealth among the citizenry. In the words of Han Wenxiu, a senior economic official quoted during a briefing in Beijing on August 26, “common prosperity means doing a proper job of expanding the pie and dividing the pie… We will not ‘kill the rich to help the poor.’”

The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi based research and development communication think tank.