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CWA # 828, 23 November 2022
Research Associate | National Institute of Advanced Studies
20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China: Major takaways
On 16 October, China inaugurated the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The political gathering convenes every five years to decide on new promotions, key positions and their appointments, and amendments. The conference of approximately 2500 delegates represents the 96-million-member communist party. The delegates are chosen from the 36 regions within China and from different traditional and non-traditional economic occupations. Minorities make up 11.5 per cent of the Congress and while women make up 27 per cent. The National Congress is of particular significance as the Central Committee chooses the 25-member Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee, where all the legislative and executive power is concentrated.
The rise of Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping highlighted that the party had achieved an overwhelming victory in its fight against corruption in the country and said that the CPC would continue to offend a few thousand rather than failing its population of 1.4 billion people. In 2018, Xi Jinping abolished the limit on a leader’s term as the President of the country. If the law was not amended, the country would have welcomed a new leader in the 20th Party Congress. However, Xi Jinping successfully took on a third term at the latest Party Congress for the first time in China’s political history since Mao Zedong.
Xi’s third term comes after a year of incessant political purges, often carried out through anti-corruption campaigns. In 2021, China punished more than 6,27,000 officials for violating party discipline. During the Party Congress, former President Hu Jintao was removed mid-way from an ongoing session due to “health reasons”.
Politics within the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC)
The Congress appointed the Standing Committee of the Politburo, a seven-member powerful decision-making body. Although, former Premier Li Keqiang was expected to continue in the committee due to his position. However, Li Qiang, the party secretary in Shanghai, is most likely to replace Keqiang as the Premier and the second-highest official in the country. Other officials within the newly formed PBSC include Zhao Liji, Wang Huning, Cai Xi, Ding Xuexing and Li Xi. The six leaders other than Xi will now hold positions such as the Premier, the head of the National People’s Congress, head of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the first vice-premier of the National People’s Congress, and more. The new PBSC also shows a remarkable and probable end to the influence of the Communist Youth League, as none of the newly appointed members is associated with the body. On the other hand, Hu Jintao and Li Keqiang, both of whom have been associated with the Youth League, were removed from power this year.
Focus on the Chinese economy and society
On its internal affairs, Xi said that China will be focused on safeguarding national security and social stability. He appreciated the Zero-COVID strategy for its effectiveness in preventing further outbreaks within the county. Political, economic, military, technological, cultural and social security will be the ultimate goal for the CPC in the coming years. The Chinese administration is aware of the economic difficulties facing the country in the present times and is concerned about the pace of economic growth. While Xi promised to double the economy by 2035, and increase the size of the middle class and the income of the middle class, many economists within and outside China doubt the feasibility of these plans. For the Chinese, the property sector is the biggest obstacle in achieving economic progress as it tatters on dangerously since before the pandemic. The National Bureau of Statistics also delayed the release of the report and later revealed that the GDP grew by 3.9 per cent in the third quarter, much lower than the previously aimed annual target of 5.5 per cent.
For the first time in 25 years, China’s PBSC does not include a single woman. Much before the congress, Western political analysts predicted that Chinese women would not have much to look forward to in the Party Congress. The all-male PBSC was criticized for not being gender inclusive. On a different note, however, the country has submitted the amendment to the Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law after nearly 30 years. The law had been criticized for creating a setback for modern Chinese women who were forced to adhere to the traditional ideas of a Chinese woman. The new amendment will aim to protect women against gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.
On climate change, Xi announced that China would work effectively to achieve carbon neutrality and reach peak carbon emissions. He promised an energy revolution which will use coal in a cleaner and more efficient way. Climate action has been a crucial part of Xi’s leadership in the international order. Being the biggest polluter, China also has the biggest responsibility in bringing down its emissions. Xi reflected on this pressure at the Party Congress and reiterated China’s pledge to tackle climate change.
The focus on Taiwan
Xi said that China would not seek hegemony or engage in any kind of expansionism. On the Taiwan question, he reiterated that it was an internal matter and called for a complete reunification of the island with the rest of China. He also stressed on improving the ‘one country, two systems’ policy and supporting regions like Hong Kong and Macao in growing economically. One of the most reformative statements made was on Taiwan and its reunification with mainland China.
For the first time, China announced that it would not give up its right to use force on Taiwan in its goal of reunification. Although, peaceful reunification has been on the agenda for a long, congress used strong words to portray its stand. In the furtherance of this goal, Xi also seeks to modernize military technology and call for greater encouragement to innovation and research.
About the Author:
Avishka Ashok is a Research Associate in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Her areas of interest are China, East Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.
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