Crossing the river by feeling the stones – a Chinese wisdom
Crossing the river by feeling the stones is an approach to reform that is full of Chinese characteristics and wisdom and suits the national conditions of China.
It means trying to figure out the rules and laws in doing something. When a breakthrough is required in the country’s development but people are not sure how to make it happen, the country starts out by conducting trials, respects praxis and creativity, encourages people to boldly explore and break new ground. Then, when the country has gained experience and is completely clear about how things work, it carries out the reforms across the board.
This is how China’s reform and opening up has proceeded in over three decades that have passed. It has been a cumulative process of first experimenting, then interpreting the outcomes and widely adopting practices the country finds to be successful. It has been an ever-deepening process from the countryside to the cities, from coastal areas to the interior, and from individual parts to the whole.
This kind of incremental reform avoids the social upheaval that can be caused by a lack of clear understanding of the circumstances and the resulting adoption of inappropriate measures. It provides a safeguard for steadily carrying out reform and smoothly achieving our objectives.
Crossing the river by feeling the stones accords with the way people come to understand objective laws and with the dialectical law of quantitative change turning into qualitative change.
This approach was suitable not only at the beginning of the reform and opening up but is also suitable now when China is comprehensively driving the reform to a deeper level.
Of course, there is a right way to cross the river by feeling the stones. China needs to proceed on the basis of principles it has become familiar with, and further deepen its understanding of them through practice. It also needs to make bold breakthroughs on the basis of practical explorations; it should not just feel the stones without crossing the river.