2022: The World This Year

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2022: The World This Year
China: 20th Party Congress and Xi Jinping's consolidation

  Avishka Ashok

TWTW#196, 31 December 2022, Vol. 4, No. 45

 

What happened?

On 16 October, President Xi Jinping inaugurated the 20th Communist Party of China’s National Party Congress and addressed the 2,296 delegates, and released a comprehensive report on the party’s previous achievements and the road map for the coming five years and more. Xi Jinping highlighted that the party had achieved an overwhelming victory in its fight against corruption in the country and the CPC would continue to offend a few thousand rather than failing its population of 1.4 billion people.

On internal affairs, China will be focused on safeguarding national security and social stability. Xi 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.

On foreign policy, Xi said that China would not seek hegemony or engage in any kind of expansionism. However, on the Taiwan question, Xi reiterated that it was an internal matter and called for a complete reunification of the island with the rest of China. He also emphasized improving the ‘one country, two systems’ policy and supporting regions like Hong Kong and Macao in growing economically.

What is the background?

First, the consolidation of power by Xi Jinping. He highlighted that the party had achieved an overwhelming victory in its fight against corruption in the country. In 2018, he 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. After Xi abolished the law that prevents leaders from continuing for more than two terms, this is the first congress that would have otherwise elected a new President.

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”. 

Second, politics within the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC). The Congress appointed the Standing Committee of the Politburo, a seven-member powerful decision-making body. Although Premier Li Keqiang was expected to continue in the committee due to his position, Li Qiang, the party secretary in Shanghai, is most likely to replace him as the Premier and the second-highest official in the country. 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 are 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.

Third, 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. However, the policy was relaxed in December, after month-long protests spread across the country. The Party Congress promised that 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. 

Fourth, climate change. On climate change, Xi announced that China would work effectively to achieve carbon neutrality and reach peak carbon emissions. He promised an energy revolution that 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. 

Fifth, 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 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 at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.

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