Party Congress offers insights into China governance

By George N. Tzogopoulos Published: 2017/10/3 11:30:13

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will attract domestic attention in coming weeks. This process may be familiar in Chinese political culture but is not very well known in the West. Naturally it provides a good opportunity to better understand China. The development of socialism with Chinese characteristics is interwoven into the CPC National Congress and - if carefully studied - can offer useful insights into China's governance.

President Xi Jinping's leadership is expected to be widely endorsed. Apart from internal political developments, the Congress will monitor progress achieved in the last five years and set new priorities until 2022. The fight against corruption deserves special emphasis. There are several politicians - in different countries - who regularly talk about the need to eradicate corruption. But what distinguishes an opportunist politician from a real leader is deeds not words. 

Xi has succeeded in this aspect and this is acknowledged by almost all international media. He did not hesitate to take away the immunity and eased protection of some CPC members. And his effort goes beyond influential figures to people working in local governments, public institutions, State-owned enterprises and financial institutions irrespective of their position. Through extended investigations and inspections, Xi has managed to make his anti-corruption campaign popular with ordinary people and unpopular with the elite. The gradual transformation of the Chinese economy is an additional element of progress achieved and outlines future perspectives. It is no longer about numbers. When Xi started to govern five years ago, double-digit growth numbers were being annually monitored. This could not last forever. Chinese leadership realized that what mattered more was not necessarily quantitative but qualitative development. The "New normal" is serving this goal attaching importance to domestic consumption and some investments - especially green energy - instead of exports. Under Xi's leadership, China also overcame the stock market panic of 2015 and returned to stability. Some market reforms subsequently took place and will possibly be completed in the future. 

By supporting sustainable development, the Chinese government seeks to create prosperity for generations to come as well as to contribute to the reduction of inequality. While it never hid that China is a developing country and more work needs to be done, it has already eliminated poverty to a large extent. According to the State Council, China has lifted an average 13.9 million people out of poverty each year from 2012 to 2016, and the annual per capita income in impoverished rural areas has grown 10.7 percent every year. Xi's vision is to end poverty by 2020. 

Last but not least, the previous five years have seen China strengthen its international standing. These are two pillars on the basis of which this is realized. The first is the increasing contribution of China to world annual output, slowly paving the way for changes in world governance. And the second is the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative which makes China a catalytic investor in different geographical regions and the driving force of interconnectivity among nations. Under Xi, Beijing is also showing international responsibility - for example in respecting the Paris Agreement - in an era of increasingly unknown and unpredictable factors. 

Approaching the 19th National Congress of the CPC, the Chinese leadership is counting on tangible results to function as a beacon for the future. Without ignoring difficulties, problems and challenges, the leadership promises hard work and commitment to specific objectives and policy guidelines. And while this was an internal affair in the past, it is certainly acquiring a broader dimension with China becoming a colossus in the world sphere.

The author is a lecturer at the European Institute in Nice, France.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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