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Society & Culture

Justice Higher Priority than Economy

Nov 11, 2013
  • Zhu Lijia

    Director, Chinese Academy of Governance

On the eve of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, some observers have produced a new bout of predictions about very big breakthroughs in the upcoming period of reform. However, many of these predictions will probably prove unrealistic.

China has been comprehensively deepening its reforms on the basis of the work of the previous three decades, especially in terms of economic reform.

In fact, the reform of the economic system is nearly complete, so the next step will be improving the details of the restructured system. Thus, continuity will remain the central theme of China’s current reform.

In recent years, China also promoted a package of reform plans concerning all walks of life, some of which have already been put into practice. Therefore, there are unlikely to be significant changes to this in future reform plans. But it can be predicted that more accurate and detailed instructions will be given on the current reform plans.

The society in transition is being exposed to various risks. The government is seeing decreasing credibility, which will lead to the ineptitude and inefficiency of government administration.

Organizational irresponsibility has become rampant in some public institutions which value the vested interests of their own organizations or even individuals highest, instead of the benefits of the whole nation. The difficulty of social governance has thus been increased.

Some social experts are losing focus both theoretically and practically. Unlike their Western counterparts, some Chinese scholars and experts are unable to produce constructive and practical thoughts to deal with social problems.

Meanwhile, individual consciousness is rising. Chinese society has developed into the phase where citizens are seeking the construction of individual identities. The traditional uniformity has shifted into diversity.

The upsurge of social media enables every individual to express their own opinions. People who were born in the 1980s and 1990s have much stronger awareness of their individual identities than those born in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the three decades since China’s reform and opening-up, Chinese society has been tremendously changed. But at the same time, social tensions are growing.

To begin with, the structure of interests has become increasingly uneven. The income gap between the rich and the poor has widened to a risky extent.

The imbalance between the social mind and individual minds makes every individual become a possible tipping point of social disorder. This is also why Chinese society is witnessing more intensified social conflicts and extreme events than before.

China’s value system is now being disturbed by the development of different kinds of values. For now, tensions are growing between Chinese traditional values, socialist values, and capitalist values. Many people have been disoriented by the conflicts between different values, which has caused the prevalence of nihilism and hedonism

There are even structural tensions in parts of the system which have greatly improved, such as politics, economics, and culture.

China has put too much emphasis on economic growth in recent decades, which has caused the “hegemony of economics,” where the economy always has the biggest say and it has become one and only solution to all social problems.

In fact, this economy-always-comes-first ideology has left many problems among the systems of politics, economy and social culture unsettled, dramatically hindering China’s socialist structural reforms from going much deeper.

In the upcoming reform, China should realize that justice must be given priority in every social sphere. Chinese reform needs to be updated, changing the current reforms, which are orientated around economic development, into justice-centered reforms.

What’s more, China needs to improve its value system. It must abandon the outdated ideologies and measures that only emphasize practical benefits. Social values must be taken into consideration in future reform.

Like the Western countries which regard the pursuit of freedom as their core value, justice should play the same role in Chinese socialism, creating a fair social system.

Zhu Lijia is director of Public Administration Studies at the Chinese Academy of Governance. 

© Global Times

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