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Crossing the River by Feeling for Stones March 16, 2018

Crossing the River by Feeling for Stones

Crossing the river by feeling for stones is a distinctly Chinese approach to reform, one that embodies Chinese wisdom in addressing issues specific to contemporary China. It calls for prudence in feeling our way forward in unfamiliar territory, and testing the waters before a major course of action aiming at achieving breakthroughs is launched. It encourages innovation, exploration, and trailblazing efforts, while at the same time emphasizing the importance of identifying and promoting best practices on the basis of lessons learned. This is how China’s reform and opening up has proceeded in the past three decades. It has been a gradual process, starting with pilot programs, followed by larger campaigns to copy the successful experience to other places after a careful analysis of their outcomes. The process has spread from the countryside to the cities, from coastal areas to the interior, and from localized projects to nationwide implementation. Such an incremental approach could help prevent potential social upheaval that could accompany an inappropriate major move resulting from lack of understanding of its implications. It ensures steady progress in moving ahead with our reform and in achieving our objectives. Not only was this approach applicable to the initial phases of reform and opening up, it is also relevant in today’s context when China is driving the reform to a deeper level. It should be applied judiciously, though. We should pursue our reform by taking into account what we have learnt from our past initiatives, and further deepen our understanding of what works and what does not, and blaze new trails on the basis of our new experience. Instead of simply feeling for stones, we should keep on moving forward to cross the river.


摸着石头过河, 是富有中国特色、中国 智慧、符合中国国情的改革方法。摸着石头过河就是摸规律。对于必须取得突破但一时还不那么有把握的改革,就先行试点,尊重实践、尊重创造, 鼓励大胆探索、勇于开拓,取得经验、看得准了再推开。中国改革开放30多年来就是这样走过来的,是先试验、后总结、再推广不断积累的过程,是从农村到城市、从沿海到内地、从局部到整体不断深化的过程。这种渐进式改革,避免了因改革情况不明、举措不当而引起的社会动荡,为稳步推进改革、顺利实现目标提供了保证。摸着石头过河,符合人们对客观规律的认识过程,符合事物从量变到质变的辩证法。不仅改革开放初期要摸着石头过河,现在全面深化改革同样还要摸着石头过河。当然,摸着石头过河也是有规则的,要按照已经认识到的规律来办,在实践中加深对规律的认识,也要在实践探索的基础上大胆突破,不能光摸石头不过河。