I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here’s what I’m watching... a New Primary Contradiction in Chinese society. It’s really important; I’ll explain why.
“Contradiction” is a Marxist term expressing a kind of political analysis – “dialectical materialism” – which identifies “dynamic opposing forces” in society, and seeks to resolve tensions by applying correct political theories.
In Deng Xiaoping’s Era, the principal contradiction was "the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people versus backward social production” – a change most-welcome from the prior contradiction during Mao Zedong’s Era of "proletariat versus bourgeoisie", which catalyzed severe, widespread and prolonged chaos and destruction during the political mass movements in the 1950s and 60s, especially the ruinous Cultural Revolution.
Now, even as China achieves its goal of becoming a moderately prosperous society, successfully fulfilling basic needs through economic growth, there is growing dissatisfaction with social conditions.
This trend is entirely normal as countries develop; still, it breeds trouble. Thus, in Xi Jinping’s “New Era”, the principal contradiction is “between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life."
As Xi said, "The needs to be met for the people to live a better life are increasingly broad. Not only have their material and cultural needs grown; their demands for democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security, and a better environment are increasing.”
This “New-Era Contradiction” replaces quantitative GDP growth with qualitative quality-of-life improvement, and it is what will, from now on, drive policy.
For example, it is not that people cannot afford medical care, it’s that they must wait for hours at over-crowded hospitals – and, even then, they get only five minutes with a doctor.
It’s not that people do not have good homes; it’s that they cannot breath clean air. After more than three decades of rapid growth, China's economy is transitioning to slower but higher-quality growth.
Success will be measured more by the satisfaction of the people than by the growth rates of the economy. Will "satisfaction" be harder to judge? Chinese people are not shy.