Late last month CMP co-director Qian Gang wrote about the “Four Basic Principles” as a key phrase to watch at the 17th National Congress:

Concerning the Four Basic Principles, there are two possibilities for Hu Jintao’s political report to the 17th National Congress.
The first possibility is that Hu’s report will use the Four Basic Principles in the same way as previous reports, from the 12th congress through to the 16th. If this happens we can guess that Hu Jintao will not break any new ground in the area of political reform.
The second possibility is that the Four Basic Principles will not appear directly in Hu’s report, and that “one core, two focal points” will appear in its stead. While this would not be a radical shift in meaning, it would make a very different impression and could be read as a sign that Hu Jintao will focus more attention on [political] reform.

Analyzing the text of Hu Jintao’s report on the opening day of the 17th National Congress yesterday as it was made available on the Xinhua News Agency website, CMP found that Hu not only made direct use of the “Four Basic Principles” but used the term four times, a conspicuous departure from his typical avoidance of the phrase.


[ABOVE: Screenshot of China Daily Online coverage of the 17th National Congress, October 16, 2007]

In his first use, Hu Jintao reflected back on the history of economic reform and opening:

Throughout the history of economic opening and reform, our party has steadfastly linked the basic principles of Marxism with the promotion of China-style Marxism (马克思主义中国化), have linked our persevering in the Four Basic Principles with our persevering in reforms, have linked respect for the pioneering spirit of the people (人民首创精神) with strengthening and improving the party’s leadership, have linked our perseverance in the basic Socialist system with the development of the market economy …

The full passage in Chinese follows:


In another section, as he explained “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”, Hu again used the “Four Basic Principles”:

The road of Socialism with Chinese characteristics means, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, adhering to the basic national situation (立足基本国情), with economic construction as the core, persevering in the Four Basic Principles, persevering in economic reforms, unleashing and developing the productive forces of society …

The full passage in Chinese follows:


In yet another section, as he explained the relationship between the “Four Basic Principles” and his own “scientific outlook on development” (科学发展观), Hu Jintao invoked the phrase twice:

Implementing the scientific outlook on development requires that we thoroughly uphold the basic path of the ‘one core and two basic points’. The party’s basic path is the lifeline of the party and the nation and the political guarantee of the realization of scientific development … The Four Basic Principles are the foundation of the country, the political keystone of the survival and development of the party and the nation. Economic reform and opening is the path toward invigoration of the country, an important source of vitality in national development and progress. [We] must persevere in developing the great practice of Socialism with Chinese characteristics with economic development as the core and the Four Basic Principles and economic opening and reform as the basic points, and these must at no point be shaken.

The full passage in Chinese follows:


This direct and prominent usage of the “Four Basic Principles” is uncharacteristic of Hu. In his June 25 speech and the eight official People’s Daily editorials that followed, direct use of the phrase was avoided. Important Communist Party documents over the last five years have also made scant use of the phrase (SEE: “Will Hu Jintao continue to use the ‘Four Basic Principles’?“).
One possible reading of this outcome is that Hu Jintao gave the “Four Basic Principles” more prominent play when faced with strong pressure from leftists within the party on the eve of the congress.

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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