China Leadership Monitor

Promoting the Scientific Development Concept

Friday, July 30, 2004

For the past nine months, party General Secretary Hu Jintao and other leaders have been promoting a new economic approach that they call the "scientific development concept." This approach aims to correct what they describe as an overemphasis in recent years on increasing gross domestic product (GDP), which encourages the generation of false figures and dubious construction projects while neglecting the social welfare of those left behind in the hinterland. Advertised as a "people-centered" approach to development, the scientific development concept has been extended to leadership practices in general, including the recruitment of talent and the administration of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Leaders associated with former party General Secretary Jiang Zemin, such as Secretariat head Zeng Qinghong, have endorsed the scientific development concept, but Zeng in particular has appeared to demur at some of its central notions. At a minimum, this divergence underscores the difficulty of defining "social development" as opposed to "mere" economic development; at a maximum, it suggests continuing tensions within the leadership.