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Key Takeaways from the 20th National Congress of China; By Dr. Priya Suresh


Image Courtesy: Radio Free Asia



Article 47/2022


Chinese President Xi at the opening of the Communist Party summit laid a vision for the next five years. Xi presented a vision of continuity of aggression abroad and control at home. A visible departure from his predecessors Jiang and Hu who took forward Deng’s collective leadership. Xi affirmed overwhelming control over the Party and the nation. Socialism with Chinese characteristics no longer appears to be the dictum shaping economic development but to make China different from the rest of the world. The 20th Party Congress is important and has come at a critical juncture as the entire country embarks under Xi on a new journey to build a modern socialist country.


The most significant outcome of the 20th Party Congress is Xi has been adorned as the most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping. There is a clear focus on China’s internal challenges. In the past, the Party was beset with challenges, Xi called on the Party cadres to carry forward the mantle of achieving the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. Reiterating the contradiction facing Chinese society between development and people’s needs for a better life. He lauded the Party for tackling the challenges through “common prosperity” which has been incorporated into the Party constitution. The Party has played and will continue to play a critical role in meeting the ever-growing demand for the people’s well-grounded political, economic, and social needs. The Party supported the needs of the people and secured great accomplishments. Party leadership has been strengthened in all aspects making the Party Central Committee the “highest political principle”. Party cadres to maintain greater integrity in tune with the Party leadership. A “Five-sphere Integrated Plan and a Four-Pronged Comprehensive Strategy” has been worked to ensure development and safeguarding security. A well-conceived strategic plan for advancing the Party and the country has been laid.


The theme of the Congress is holding high the banner of Socialism with Chinese characteristics. The idea no longer remains just a hallmark of economic development. The thought of Socialism with Chinese characteristics aims at making China different from the rest and a model to be imbibed by the rest of the world. Xi called on the cadres to cultivate unshakeable confidence and maturity to ensure Socialism with Chinese Characteristics displays great vitality.


Marxism remains the key guiding philosophy. The new theory has been embraced by the people. Xi reinvigorated core socialist values and reinvigorated the relevance and importance of history in the development of the country. Adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and development remains the core. With the changing domestic and global landscape, ever since the 18th National Congress, there has been a pressing need to deliver a theoretical and practical answer to the “Party’s governance of China”. Xi has been like his predecessors’ keen to integrate the tents of Marxism with Chinese reality, seeking Truth from facts and taking a more pragmatic approach. Upholding Marxism is only possible if it is imbibed with the traditional culture, called the Party cadres to consciously learn Chinese history its contributions, and tribulations. Xi emphasised on “people-centred approach” as an important attribute of Marxism. Party shall continue to uphold the interest of the people.


The Major Takeaways from the Speech


Hongkong and Taiwan

The most assertive section of Xi’s speech was on Hong Kong and Taiwan. Xi applauded the role of the CCP’s intervention in Hong Kong followed by the crackdown on the pro-democracy advocates in the region. Hong Kong saw a major transition from turmoil to an orderly state making the country a better region. Further progress has been made in developing the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and supporting in growth of their economies, improving living standards, and safeguarding the stability of the region.

Xi spoke on Taiwan much earlier in the speech, placing Taiwan under greater scrutiny. Beijing’s long-term stand on Taiwan remained the same but did not rule out the possibility of the use of force when needed. The question of Taiwan remained an integral part of China’s sovereignty and it will be resolved by the Chinese. Xi’s dream mentioned the reunification of Taiwan and the hope to complete it by 2049. Xi warned about the interference of external and separatist forces and demonstrated a resolve to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and oppose Taiwan’s independence. Xi has strengthened the strategic initiative for China’s complete reunification and its commitment to a ‘One-China Policy’ among the community of nations.


No COVID-19 mantra

Xi appreciated China’s approach to COVID-19 pandemic. Xi reiterated a zero-Covid-19 policy was necessary for the benefit of the economy. The pandemic prevention measures were very effective and sent a message that the policy will continue to stay. China’s dynamic “zero-COVID-19” policy considerably kept the infection and fatality rate low. Xi said that China’s control and prevention strategy will be more accurate and scientific. China was subjected to economic disruption and lockdowns. Sun Yeli, the Party Congress spokesperson added that China’s pandemic prevention is a “persistent victory”.


Foreign Policy

Xi stated China’s international influence, charm, and power to shape the world has increased considerably. Confronted with the changing global landscape, China has maintained an assertive stand on issues of importance. Xi also warned other countries against interfering in issues that it considers internal- Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan etc. Xi reiterated the policy of ‘One Country Two Systems’. Xi’s support of Russia’s Ukraine War, China’s support to Pyongyang, and countering exclusive cliques such as the Indo-Pacific. Confronted with challenges from outside, prioritized national interests, and maintained strategic resolve. Xi exhibited a fighting spirit and firm determination not to yield to any bullying and reiterated China’s commitment to safeguarding its core interest. Since China’s international influence has increased considerably, we will see a more assertive China in the years to come.


Economy

Xi acknowledged the slowing of China’s economy due to structural and institutional challenges. China shows an imbalance in development and the traditional model no longer might be relevant. The lack of effective implementation of institutional values and ethos has been the key reason for the disorder and had impacted the modernization of not only the economy but also defense and the military. Xi called for stringent implementation of rules and regulations. A new development philosophy to foster development has been charted. China has entered unexplored domains and has broken barriers and pursued a proactive strategy.


Strategic Advantage

China considers itself in a period of strategic opportunity and risks. The Changing international landscape has put China under maximum pressure. Xi prioritized national interests first and focused on domestic concerns and “maintained firm strategic resolve”. China has shown a fighting spirit and will continue to exhibit firm determination and continued to oppose hegemony. China shall continue to uphold its dignity and core interest and pursue development and safeguard security. Therefore, building a strong military remains the key focus of the Party. Xi reiterated the modernization of national defense and capable fighting force to counter any threat unfavorable to Chinese interests.


Conclusion

China continues to grapple in key areas – ideological domain, development-rural and urban, ecological conservation and protection remain formidable tasks. Xi did not rule out any unforeseen challenges and claimed there are various “black swan and grey rhino” events that can occur at any time. Upholding and strengthening the Party leadership shall only help in accelerating the development of the country. China will continue to pursue independent foreign policy and shall pursue a “defensive national policy”. China shall continue to follow “wolf warrior tactics” and assertive diplomatic tactics as and when needed. Xi’s claim to supremacy and consolidation of power can see a more aggressive and assertive China.


(Dr. Priya Suresh is Associate Professor at Department of International Studies, Stella Maris College, India. The views expressed are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)

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