The conclusion of the four-day plenary session of the Communist Party of China indicates that the talking about social harmony is over.
Now it is time for action.
The decisions on some major issues concerning social harmony will certainly help us better appreciate the current CPC leadership's approach to practical concerns.
Reading between the lines of the just-released communique, we can glimpse the subtle changes in the Party's thinking.
The mid-term targets and tasks (from now to 2020) that the CPC has identified for improving social harmony are undoubtedly the highlights of the document.
The all-inclusive picture portrays a very near future in which every citizen enjoys his or her fair share of the benefits of progress.
It envisages genuine respect for and guarantees of civil rights under a framework of rule of law. It envisages universal increase in family assets under reasonable and orderly income distribution systems. It envisages decent job supply and a social security network that covers rural and urban residents, It envisages a knowledgeable and more civilized populace, more sophisticated public administration and services, and improved ecological conditions.
The formula distinguishes itself from previous rhetoric about harmony with a focus on systematic designs, the most imperative task facing our national leadership.
As the communique reiterates, development is a precondition to better lives. Our ability to develop is beyond doubt.
After almost three decades of continuous high growth, there is no sign our economic locomotive will slow down.
In spite of the government's expressed preference for slower growth, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences report predicted that the country's GDP growth may reach 10.5 per cent in 2006. And, if no major disruption occurs, it will hover around 10 per cent next year.
High growth has effectively eradicated hunger as a major concern in China. But the subsequent improvement in living standards has been uneven between regions, industries, and social groups.
And discontent about inadequate social security guarantees, expensive medical services, housing and education, as well as tight job supply, is undeniable.
The new leadership has presented some heart-warming proposals such as "people first," "scientific perspectives on development," and, of course, "harmonious society."
To substantiate their emphasis on the human dimensions of development, they have cancelled the agricultural tax, raised minimum wage levels and poverty relief subsidies, enlarged social security coverage, and lifted the personal income tax threshold.
The communique is a step forward because it places problems in a larger context. This is no longer a case-by-case approach that treats the symptoms but not the cause.
Do not miss the communique's mention of the consensus that social harmony is an "essential quality" of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Such wording is unprecedented and may likely be followed by modifications in the Party's way of thinking and code of conduct.
The CPC's promises to squarely face up to contradictions, resolve them, and reduce factors of disharmony, as well as to focus on problems that most directly affect public interests, give us confidence in real improvements.
That is why we see the communique as a formula of hope.
(China Daily 10/12/2006 page4)