The “Eight Definites” (八个明确), the precursor to the “Ten Definites” (十个明确), was first introduced in Xi Jinping’s political report to the 19th National Congress of the CCP in October 2017, the same document in which Xi’s banner term, or qizhiyu (旗帜语), the term marking his power and legacy, was introduced as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era.” Xi’s repeated use of “New Era” in the political report emphasized the sense that his period of leadership marked a significant departure from the administrations of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Xi’s full banner term, with his own name leading the 16-character phrase, was not included in the political report itself – for such would be vanity in light of Xi’s personal delivery of the report – but was written into the Party Charter, and was widely feted by Party-state media in the wake of the Congress.
The initial “Eight Definites” were meant to clarify a complex set of positions and objectives that require understanding of other related specialized terms. They clarified definitively that:
- the most essential feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is the leadership of the CCP, the greatest advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the CCP, the Party being the supreme political force.
- the overall task of adhering to and developing Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is to achieve socialist modernization and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and to build a rich, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful modern socialist power in two steps by the middle of this century on the basis of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects;
- the main contradiction in China’s society in the New Era is the contradiction between the people’s growing need for a better life and unbalanced and inadequate development, and that it is necessary to adhere to the people-centered development ideology;
- the overall layout of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics emphasizes a “five in one” (五位一体) approach – meaning economic, political, cultural, social and ecological development together – and the strategic political goals are the “Four Comprehensives” (四个全面) – comprehensive building of a moderately prosperous nation, comprehensive deepening of reform, comprehensive governance of the nation according to law, and comprehensive strict governance of the CCP with an emphasis on the “Four Confidences” (四个自信), namely confidence in the path of socialism, confidence in the CCP’s theories, confidence in the system and confidence in China’s culture;
- the overall goal of comprehensively deepening reform is to improve and develop the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and to promote the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity.
- the overall goal of comprehensively promoting the rule of law is to build a socialist rule of law system with Chinese characteristics and a socialist rule of law state.
- the CCP’s goal of strengthening the military (强军) in the New Era is to build a people’s army that listens to the commands of the CCP, is capable of winning battles and has excellent style of work, and to build the people’s army into a world-class army;
- great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics (中国特色大国外交) should promote the building of a new type of international relations and the building of a community of common destiny for mankind (人类命运共同体).
During the Sixth Plenum in November 2021, the “Eight Definites” were updated to include a new specification (listed as number 7) that “we must adhere to and improve the basic socialist economic system, so that the market plays a decisive role in the allocation of resources and the government can better play its role.” The new 7th “definite” also specified adherence to “the new development concept of innovation” as well as the so-called “dual circulation” strategy that prioritized rebalancing China’s economy toward domestic consumption.
The new 10th “definite,” meant to balance with the chief priority in the 1st definite of the CCP’s rule, was clear adherence to “the strategic policy of comprehensive strict governance of the Party,” which involved “comprehensively promoting the Party’s political construction, ideological construction, organizational construction, style construction and discipline construction.” This “definite” specified the “in-depth promotion of the fight against corruption,” and essentially made definite the principle that the CCP’s continued legitimacy would depend upon its image as a clean political party prioritizing the needs of the people.