"Most, if not all, of China’s goals have been achieved despite the pandemic and the slowdown of the global economy."
Today, February 12, is the start of the Chinese Lunar Year otherwise known as the Spring Festival. It begins at sunset on the day of the second new moon following the winter solstice, December 21, meaning the celebrations can vary from year to year but usually anytime from January 21 to February 21. So, this year, the two-week celebration begins February 12 and will end on February 27.
Considered the most significant of all the Chinese holidays, it is usually a time for family reunions as kinsmen travel far and wide to gather around in prayer and thanksgiving ever hopeful for good health and blessings in the days ahead. In China, the two-week celebration will witness what many observers have come to describe as “the biggest human migration in the world with over 400 million people traveling from the cities and their places of work to return to their ancestral homes across the entire country.”
Almost all other countries with a significant Chinese presence have also taken to the ritual. In fact, in those countries where Chinese influence has taken roots like in the Philippines, the day (not the entire two weeks) is usually declared a public holiday in recognition of such historic ties. For most of us, it is a time to get back and rediscover such ties not just in the history books but, quite importantly specially to the foodies, our favorite Chinese cuisine a good number of which have been Filipinized no end. It is such a relief and, of course, a hearty culinary journey.
This year will be doubly significant for the People’s Republic of China (PROC) and the ruling Chinese Communist Party CPC). It will also usher celebrations of what President and CPC General Secretary, Xi Jinping, advanced during the party’s 19th National Congress in 2012 as the Two Centenaries – considered the foundation for advancing the “Chinese Dream.”
As discussed in various internal party documents and related publications, the “Two Centenaries” refer to the 100th year of the CPC’s founding in July 1921 in Shanghai and the founding of the PROC on October 1, 1949. As far as President Xi and the ruling party are concerned, these are not dates on the calendar. These are critically significant in the lives of the Chinese people. These twin centenaries are supposed to measure the progress made by the Chinese in the “fight against poverty” and the party’s central role in uplifting the vast masses of the people from a life of penury.
The 19th Party Congress in 2012 posited that by this year, 2021, under the party’s guidance, China would have already stepped up to be a Xiaokang society, meaning a moderately well off country. In hard figures, this means that per capita income as well as its gross domestic product (GDP) would double that of the 2010 figures. In addition, prior to the pandemic China’s leaders also advised that this year. It would have achieved a 60-percent urbanization rate, completed the construction of its space station, elevated itself to be an internet power, enhanced its international standing and successfully launched its “soft power” diplomatic initiatives and completed construction of its first locally manufactured aircraft carrier.
Most, if not all, of these goals have been achieved despite the pandemic and the slowing down of the global economy. The party can also claim that at this point, just as the Chinese New Year begins, it has all but conquered the dreaded COVID-19 virus and is way ahead of the US, European Union, Japan and South Korea in rolling out its vaccination program.
On the other hand, by the time China celebrates the centenary of its founding in 2049, the promise is that by that time, China will already be a “strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and modern socialist society,” joining the club of wealthy and powerful societies and adroitly playing to ensure its prime presence in the world stage.
In 2014, just two year after declaring the party’s “Two centenaries” goal, President Xi was quoted as having said that “at present, the Chinese people are striving to realize the Two Centenary Goals and the Chinese Dream of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Asserting the same in the midst of the pandemic last year, Xi added yet another dimension to the equation as he conveyed China’s pledge to assist all nations in combating COVID-19 after showing in no uncertain terms that the country has virtually conquered the deadly disease under a new normal of eased health protocols. Whether he will have the satisfaction of repeating the same again after the Chinese Lunar New Year is a huge gamble.
Nevertheless, the party leadership seems bent in fulfilling the pledge that not even the pandemic can dissuade them from doing so. Up to now, there have been no word that China is backing off from any of the goals promised under the Two Centenaries issuance. Which is, of course, understandable.
These self-proclaimed party objectives have everything to do with the continued legitimacy of the CPC. Backing off from the earlier pledge or even just a show of a missed step or simply faltering would diminish the party’s standing before the Chinese public. Any such showing would call to question the party’s claim that it is the only instrument by which China would achieve its long standing “Chinese Dream” – that of a united and prosperous China claiming its leadership role in the community of nations.