China, the world’s second largest economy and military power after the United States, held the 19thParty Congress of its ruling party, the Communist Party of China, from October 18-25, 2017. It was held, as usual, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
The Party Congress is an event held twice every decade to set the Communist Party’s national policies and elect its top leadership.
During the Congress, a new ideology, labelled ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’, was added into the party’s constitution.
Since Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949, no other leader except Mao himself has been honoured by name in the constitution while alive. Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic revival, was honoured posthumously.
The trend before Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 was that of the highest leader being first among equals. However, after the 18th Party Congress (in 2012), this process began to erode. Thus Xi Jinping, in the middle of his 10-year term, not only got his name in the party charter but also got himself elevated to a sort of a ‘living legend’, forget about his hold on the Communist Party and the armed forces of the country. It needs to be mentioned that Mr. Xi heads the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the People’s Liberation Army and he is the only civilian in the 11-member body.
Xi Jinping is a leader with an ambitious vision for China, a vision that has both domestic and foreign elements.
He called China a ‘great power’ or ‘strong power’ 26 times in his opening speech last week. At the foreign front, he has ramped up the construction and militarization of islands in the South China Sea, an aspect which troubles US and its regional allies. He also opened China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti, Africa. His signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—a kind of modern Silk Route—running across Eurasia and Africa was also added to the constitution. It is basically a trade and infrastructure network. Incidentally, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and ends at Gwadar, happens to be a part of the BRI. That’s why New Delhi feels that both (CPEC and BRI) violate India’s sovereignty and have the potential to create future problems. It needs to be reminded that India was the only major country to openly boycott the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing in May this year. Pakistan was a prominent country at the Forum. It remains to be seen how this tussle between the dragon and the elephant plays out in the future.
One other issue which deserves mention is corruption. Since coming to power Mr. Xi has run a tight anti-corruption campaign. Chinese media have been promoting the country’s top 10 achievements under Xi, and, needless to say, anti-corruption finds a place in that.
Let’s wait for another five years to see if Mr. Xi really turns out to be the next Mao, who at least won wars for China.
Sarim Ahmed is a trainee journalist associated with ‘The Morning Chronicle’. International affairs is his one of the favourite subjects. If you like this piece, do not hesitate to appreciate Sarim at firstname.lastname@example.org.