C3S Paper No. 0187/2015
A seminar on ‘China under Xi Jinping- A Midterm Review’ was held at the Chennai Centre for China Studies on October 7, 2015.
Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty, Distinguished Professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi and a renowned China scholar associated with Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, gave his views on the topic. The event was chaired by Amb. Ranganathan IFS (Retd.), Vice-President, C3S.
Amb. Ranganathan noted that Dr. Mohanty has vast experience, given his twenty-year study of a commune that lies between Nanjing and Shanghai.
Dr. Mohanty asserted that Xi Jinping has achieved personal command very well. Xi is the first leader after Deng Xiaoping who was elected, not nominated. His competitor, Bo Xilai was convicted of corruption. Xi institutionalized his central leadership, and even created an aura around himself. He is a princeling, being the son of a former vice-premier. His experience of working in the countryside was taken very seriously. Xi refers to his experience in agriculture in a positive manner. This helps to appeal to China’s rural masses.
Xi slightly has slightly revised the 8 point party code. The New Normal is a concept to be accepted by all. The crackdown on extravagance was cited as an example. Chinese officials were ordered to entertain only with “four course meals”. Liquor was not allowed to be purchased on public money; this led to officials buying alcohol from their own pockets for gatherings. Another instance of the New Normal permeating Chinese thinking was Xi’s order that the most beautiful building in every town should be dedicated for use by a school, college, museum or cultural center, and not for government purposes.
Three trends of the Chinese economy were observed. First the lower growth rate was addressed. Dr. Mohanty described how the slower growth rate was allowed to take place in China deliberately. It was part of the New Normal policy. China being a USD 8 trillion economy, cannot afford to grow at very fast pace, or else it will multiply enormously in little time, leading to a new set of challenges. Therefore, China has focused on 4-5 per cent GDP growth rate. The goal is to change from an export driven and investment driven economy to an economy that is driven by domestic demand, domestic investment, is environmentally friendly, and less causal of inequality.
The question of how this can be achieved is answered in one term: Innovation. The Chinese report ‘Industrial Policy 2020’ dictates a vision of innovation that is environmentally compatible as well as that which generates more employment.
The second trend observed was that of rapid urbanization. Dr. Mohanty’s personal view was that China wishes that big cities should become as dependant on small towns as much as the reverse. Therefore every district level is being given importance. Although rural to urban migration was earlier discouraged, it has been recognized as a necessity. Hence the rules were relaxed in the 3rd Plenum. Intermediate cities can now welcome rural migrants.
Thirdly, the New Normal directs that a healthy combination of market and state should always primarily rely on state control.
China’s anti-corruption movement was also discussed. A Chinese scholar has put forth that punishment is not enough; a moral code of conduct is needed. Dr. Mohanty asserted that Mahatma Gandhi’s inspiration can be a guide. The scholar’s statement that law is important was substantiated by Dr. Mohanty’s Indian examples such as Lokpal, CBI, etc.
Dr. Mohanty noted a profound point, that China’s corruption was impacting its economy far beyond the Indian scale. This is due to the fact that the scale of China’s economy, like its projects and deals, is huge. There is an economic basis to this corruption. This kind of economy can flourish only with corruption. But at the same time, corruption cannot succeed in this kind of economy. This is because China has made too many commitments. Both global capital and Chinese capital have a stake.
Although anti-corruption efforts have made Xi more popular with the masses, decision-making now takes more time. This is caused by the high number of new clearances to be made; these cannot involve risks.
China’s foreign policy with India was assessed. Dr. Mohanty’s view is that China’s foreign policy response towards Prime Minister Modi is primarily due to his stance which differs from that of Nehru and the Congress party. Dr. Mohanty also believes that India has a lack of confidence when it comes to dealing with China. This is demonstrated by the lack of enthusiasm for the One Belt One Road initiative. A difference of opinion exists on the issue within civil society. On one hand the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi believes that India was in the right when not endorsing China’s proposal of a Maritime Silk Route. On the other, experts including Mr. Ravi Bhootlingam and Ms. Suhasini Haidar assert that Delhi must support the initiative.
Dr. Mohanty viewed that the recent visit of President Xi to U.S.A was hyped by the media, given that there were no major achievements besides the deal on cyber-security.
The seminar was followed by an insightful question and answer session. To a query on whether China has a larger vision for the world, Dr. Mohanty replied that China definitely bears a hegemonic strand. A question was also raised on China’s relations with Myanmar. The speaker answered that it is incorrect to assume that Myanmar has a China-centric policy.
Prof. Suryanarayan, President, C3S, gave the vote of thanks.
(Compiled by Asma Masood, Research Officer, C3S.)