Have you ever wondered why an opaque jamboree held once every five years called the National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CCP) gets so much media attention around the world. The 20th such event since the founding of the CPC on July 23, 1921 concluded Saturday in Beijing.
Why, like Kremlinology, has zhongnanhaiology also become an art with many hours of television, reams of newsprint and eternities of extended numeric characters trying to figure out the predilections of rather inscrutable Chinese gentlemen?
For the simple reason that what China has achieved in terms of horizontalizing its economic prosperity over the past four decades has been nothing short of a miracle. From being labeled as the sick man of Asia at the turn of the 20th century to its current status as a wolf warrior, China has indeed come a long way.
If the maxim that money runs the mare rings true, then China fits the description. For economic success not only allowed the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), but also allowed China to regurgitate its questionable historical claims in the territorial and maritime domains.
The CCP’s genius lies in how easily it became the logical heir to the many dynasties that ruled China, from the Xia dynasty in (2070-1600 BCE) to the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 CE). ).
For this unbroken series of dynasties over two millennia encompassing the Xia Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Wei, Shu, Wu, Jin, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and finally culminating in the Qing dynasty gave China two central characteristics, a strong sense of centralism that power should be vested in a strong central government as well as a sense of self in terms of the belief that China is the Middle Kingdom and all states on its periphery are tributary states. Moreover, the truism that China was ordained with divine right to rule over “Everything under Heaven” made its omniscience even more ingrained. Two contradictory impulses, Confucianism and Legalism, dating from 207-233 BCE, still shape Chinese political thought and statecraft, although they are overlaid by Marxist Maoism.
It was this strong sense of centralism that enabled the CCP, modeled after the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and even more so Mao Zedong, to concentrate all power in its own hands and use it rather disastrous way with devastating consequences. for the Chinese people after defeating Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) in 1949.
It is this same deference to central authority that enabled Deng Xiaoping to undertake transformative change and it is the same obsequiousness that again enabled Xi Jingping to dismantle the four-decade-old system of checks and balances. created and maintained by Deng Xiaoping and his successors. .
These controls included limiting the term of party apparatchiks at the top level to two five-year terms to ensure that power was not abused and that the excesses perpetrated by the notorious “Gang of Four” during the Cultural Revolution were never repeated. .
However, Xi Jinping managed to demolish all of these aforementioned elaborate mechanisms and secure an unprecedented third term. In a ruthlessness reminiscent of Mao Zedong, he purged all his rivals in what are euphemistically called “party rectification” campaigns.
Xi’s keynote speech at the week-long quinquennial congress focused incisively on the need to “clean up” the party to achieve China’s centenary goal of becoming a great modern socialist nation. . Mr. Xi does not seek accommodation with his peers, either within the party or even globally. It is a quest for total obedience to a “cult of personality” that has been carefully created and nurtured over the past decade.
The congress is only the visible rostrum of Chinese politics – a grand, choreographed extravaganza. The backstage is where the transaction happens. Apart from a possibility, everything that is played at the party congress is already pre-played. Long overdue IOUs are collected; intimidation, incitement, influence, enticement, and maneuver underlie the endgame. Confabulations between CCP movers and shakers in the coastal city of Beidaihe in August mark the grand finale of this process of fratricidal and exhaustive machinations.
Xi Jinping was appointed party general secretary at the 18th congress in 2012, then became chairman of the Central Military Commission and chairman in 2013. He has since made many changes, including inscribing “Xi Jinping Thought” in the Chinese Constitution. Ten years later, he faces decisive challenges; the economy has slowed to its lowest level in four decades, threatening to undermine the CCP’s fundamental pact with the Chinese people, that is, a better standard of living in exchange for surrender to the hegemony of the left. Its Covid-19 strategy, demanding in its design and extremely harsh in its implementation, has further increased the pressure on the economy, which is already facing unprecedented global headwinds.
In his speech on the 20e Congress, Mr Xi acknowledged that China was facing “dangerous storms” from an economy beleaguered by Covid, high energy prices and external pressures such as the war in Ukraine. What is significant, however, is that Mr. Xi’s speech and the final work report placed heavy emphasis on “security” and “stability”. First, Xi reiterated his rhetoric on Taiwan saying that China would not hesitate to use force to incorporate Taiwan into the Republic. Second, in a warning to the West, he chastised “interference by outside forces” in Taiwan, insisting that Taiwan is a Chinese matter to be solved by the Chinese. Contrast that with previous CPC sessions – in 2012 and 2017 – where economy, innovation and reform were the main swan songs.
Other than rehashing a range of old bromides, Xi’s speech had little to say about the much-vaunted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), possibly signaling a waning interest in the venture. Instead, the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and Global Development Initiative (GDI) introduced by Mr. Xi in April 2022 and September 2021, respectively, were the centerpieces.
For India, this 20th Congress and Mr. Xi’s third term means a more security-obsessed China. Evidenced by the presentation of the PLA commander, Qi Fabao, involved in the clashes in the Galwan Valley in 2020 to Congress. As China’s economy slows further, Mr. Xi could use tensions with India and its dubious maritime “historical claims” to fuel the genius of nationalism. An appearance once out of the bottle is difficult to recap. India and China’s other neighbors could be hurt.