GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 678, 23 October 2022

China: President Xi seeks 'socialist modern' state through the 20th Party Congress
Avishka Ashok

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 also highlighted that the party had achieved an overwhelming victory over its fight against corruption in the country and said that the CPC would continue to offend a few thousands rather than failing its population of 1.4 billion people.

On its 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 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.

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 stressed on improving the ‘one country, two systems’ policy and supporting regions like Hong Kong and Macao in growing economically.

What is the background?
First, the National Congress. The political gathering convenes to decide on new promotions, key positions and their appointments, and amendments. The conference of approximately 2000 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 fields. The minorities make for 11.5 per cent of the Congress and while women make 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.
Second, the previous congresses and its achievements. The goal to make China a “moderately prosperous society” was coined by Deng Xiaoping in 1979. The goal was achieved gradually through the 16th, 17th, and 18th Party Congress as the administration reformed the economy by doubling the GDP, reaching an urbanization rate of 50 per cent, increasing university enrollment by 20 per cent, and pulling up the disposable income of urban residents. In 2021, before the centenary celebration of the CPC, China claimed that the country had eradicated poverty. The Party Congress, therefore, plays a crucial role in identifying China’s future path and preparing a plan to achieve the goals.
Third, the current Congress and its aims. One of the most reformative statements made during the current congress 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 country’s agenda for long, the current congress used strong words on the reunification of Taiwan. In the furtherance of this goal, Xi also seeks to modernize the military technology and called for greater encouragement to innovation and research. The current congress is also important as Xi Jinping finally takes on a third term as the President, for the first time in China’s political history. 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. 

What does it mean?
The 20th Party Congress primarily focused on the Chinese economy, the post COVID recovery, and the Taiwan question. Unlike the US and the UK who have been targeting China through their national strategy documents, China has barely even mentioned the countries; showing the indifference in China’s political circles regarding the external perspective on China. However, the heightened focus on economic recovery also shows that the country is concerned about the slow economic growth and realizes the urgency to lift up the economy as quickly as they can in the coming years.