Oct. 21, 2017 -- Xi Jinping delivers a report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on behalf of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 18, 2017. The CPC opened the 19th National Congress at the Great Hall of the People Wednesday morning. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)
BEIJING, Oct. 21，2017 -- Everyone who followed Xi Jinping's speech at the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) got the message loud and clear: A new era has begun.
Central to Xi's declaration that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, was his statement that the "principal contradiction" facing Chinese society, a maxim that has stood for 36 years, has changed. It is a shift that "affects the whole landscape."
The "principal contradiction" is a term most Chinese are familiar with from grade school, but only a tiny number of foreigners, experts in sinicized Marxism will know this seemingly obscure piece of political jargon.
Marxists interpret the world through dialectical materialism. Contradictions -- or "dynamic opposing forces" -- are omnipresent in society and drive social change. The "principal contradiction" is what defines a society. By identifying and solving it, society develops peacefully. Left unsolved, it can lead to chaos and eventually, as Marx predicted, to revolution.
Since coming to power in 1949, the CPC has identified the principal contradiction, and, as the times changed and contradictions changed, crafted new policies in response.
Soon after 1949, it was "the people versus imperialism, feudalism and the remnants of Kuomintang forces" which evolved into "proletariat versus bourgeoisie," a mentality which led to prolonged social turmoil across the country.