President of People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping headed the praesidium of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the ‘Great Hall of the People’ in Beijing, the capital of China, on October 15, 2022. The party congress of CPC is held every five years where party delegates decide future policies, and any amendments in the party constitution and announce new leadership roles. At the 20th Communist Party Congress, Xi Jinping rejigged the entire political and military leadership structure to his favour by posting his loyalist to the country’s highest decision-making bodies.
Xi Jinping created history at the 20th Party Congress by becoming the first leader of the CPC after party founder Mao Zedong as he gets re-elected for an unprecedented third term in power with the prospect of ruling China for life leaving it uncertain when or how the country would see his successor. As China has got a “forever president” in power, it seems Xi Jinping has become the most powerful leader in Chinese history after the founding president Mao Zedong. It seems he has successfully endeavoured to form a centralistic identity throughout the ever-strong 96 million cadres CPC and the entire military through the Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest body responsible for the overall charge of the PLA.
The 20th National Congress opened with the CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping delivering a work report on behalf of the 19th Central Committee which gives future direction to the party and state. The report is 72 pages long and the important takeaways from the report are given here, followed by concluding remarks for a better understanding of Xi Jinping’s vision towards the party and China’s future which can contribute to a better understanding of India’s “China challenge.”
Continued Campaign Against Corruption
The first theme of the report talks about CPC’s role in the past five years in the development of China and in realising a modestly prosperous Chinese society. The report quotes that over the past five years, we [CPC] have continued to strengthen the overall leadership of the Party and the centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee. We have devoted great energy to finishing building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. As per the report CPC eradicated absolute poverty and finished building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, thus completing the First Centenary Goal.
The report calls for increasing members of the CPC and establishing party leadership in leading SOEs and financial firms. The report also acknowledged that China faces the problem of corruption and the CPC has reportedly waged a battle against corruption on a scale unprecedented in history. The report notes that the Chinese anti-corruption agenda has been driven by the thought that “offend a few thousand rather than fail 1.4 billion” and “to clear out the party of all its ills.”
The report accepts that not everything is right in the CPC as it quotes “inside the party, there were many issues with respect to upholding the party’s leadership, including a lack of clear understanding and effective action as well as a slide toward weak, hollow, and watered-down Party leadership in practice. Some party members and officials were wavering in their political conviction. Despite repeated warnings, pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance persisted in some localities and departments. Privilege-seeking mindsets and practices posed a serious problem, and some deeply shocking cases of corruption had been uncovered.”
An anti-corruption campaign began in China following the conclusion of the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012 under the leadership of Xi Jinping. The report identifies corruption is a cancer to the vitality and ability of the party, and fighting corruption is the most thorough kind of self-reform there is. As long as the breeding grounds and conditions for corruption still exist, the report says that the party must keep sounding the bugle and never rest, not even for a minute, in our fight against corruption.
The report calls for simultaneous, coordinated, and comprehensive steps to ensure that officials do not have the audacity, opportunity, or desire to become corrupt. We must show “zero tolerance” in opposing corruption and punishing wrongdoing, and we must take more forceful action to both prevent new cases and root out existing ones, party secretary general Xi Jinping quotes from the report. At last, it says there must be no mercy for corruption.
Realising All Round Development
The report says that China is working to achieve modernization for more than 1.4 billion people, a number larger than the combined population of all developed countries in the world today but at the same time it realises the importance of sustainable development as the report mentions that the party will take steady and incremental steps to sustain country’s progress. The report calls for upholding and improving China’s basic socialist economic system.
The report focuses on realising high-quality developmental goals. It says CPC will raise total factor productivity, make China’s industrial and supply chains more resilient and secure, and promote integrated urban-rural development and coordinated regional development, so as to effectively upgrade and appropriately expand China’s economic output.
The report gives much focus on coordinated regional development and balanced economic development through better urban-rural integration. The report talks about giving equal importance towards the development of public and private sectors, urban and rural areas. It says we must unswervingly consolidate and develop the public sector and unswervingly encourage, support, and guide the development of the non-public sector. While talking about all-round development of the country the report doesn’t miss to mention the importance of the UN sustainable goals and promoting green development. It calls for accelerating the transition to a model of green development, ensure to participate in global governance in response to climate change and also stresses upon promoting narrowing down the global north-south gap – giving a sense that Xi Jinping is a leader with a global vision.
To realise balanced development the report calls for urban-rural integration in compulsory education. CPC will continue to put agricultural and rural development first, pursue integrated development of urban and rural areas, and facilitate the flows of production factors between them. We will move faster to build up China’s strength in agriculture and steadily promote the revitalization of businesses, talent, culture, ecosystems, and organizations in the countryside, the report notes. The report gives special mention to the development of border areas by making policies to boost local economies, raise local living standards, and ensure local stability.
The report talks about promoting equality of opportunity for all, it stresses on increase the incomes of low-income earners, and expanding the size of the middle-income group which played an important role in the upliftment of the Chinese economy. The report says we ·will move faster to build world hubs for talent and innovation, promote better distribution and balanced development of talent across regions, and strive to build up our comparative strengths in global competition for talent. It says the CPC will improve the system of lifelong vocational training and tackle structural unemployment and improve the system for creating jobs by encouraging business start-ups and supporting new forms of employment.
The report focuses on increasing the population of China and strengthening public health facilities.Under the Healthy China Initiative, the report says we will improve the population development strategy, establish a policy system to boost birth rates, and bring down the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing, and schooling. The people’s health is a key indicator of a prosperous nation and a strong country therefore the party must give strategic priority to ensuring the people’s health and improve policies on promoting public health, the report notes.
China’s future is bright, but it still has a long way to go the report defines that this is the new journey of the new era. It says “today, we are closer, more confident, and more capable than ever of reaching the goal of rejuvenating the Chinese nation.” The report talks about defending fundamental interests, improving well-being, and working tirelessly to ensure that development is for the people and by the people and that its fruits are shared by the people.
Although uncalled for the report also mentions that China will not tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries, the report notes.
The War Against Poverty
The report notes that a total of 832 impoverished counties and close to 100 million poor rural residents have been lifted out of poverty, and, among them, more than 9.6 million poverty-stricken people have been relocated from inhospitable areas. The report credits the CPC of having solved the problem of absolute poverty in China which the report says is a significant contribution to the cause of global poverty reduction.
It also notes that in the past decade, China’s GDP has grown from 54 trillion yuan to 114 trillion yuan to account for 18.5 per cent of the world economy, up 7.2 percentage points. China has remained the world’s second-largest economy, and its per capita GDP has risen from 39,800 Yuan to 81,000 Yuan. The report also notes that China ranks first in the world in terms of grain output, and it has ensured food and energy security for its more than 1.4 billion people. The number of permanent urban residents has grown by 11.6 percentage points to account for 64.7 per cent of the population.
The report further acknowledged the fact that China has still not become a fully-developed country and that the CPC must adopt a problem-oriented approach as problems represent the voice of the times. As a “major developing country,” China is still in the primary stage of socialism and is going through an extensive and profound social transformation, thereport notes.
Making China Research and Innovation Hub
China has the vision to dominate the science and technology sector in the world by 2050. President Xi Jinping once quoted that “if science and technology flourish, the nation will flourish, and if science and technology are strong, the country will be strong.”
Therefore, the report stresses on the importance of education, science and technology, and also identifies human resources as the foundational and strategic pillar for building a modern China. The report says that the CPC must regard science and technology as our primary productive force, talent as our primary resource, and innovation as our primary driver of growth. Invigorating China through science and education and developing a strong workforce for the modernization drive was one of the headlines of the report.
The report says that CPC wants to produce first-class innovators and attract the brightest minds from all over the world. It even talks about enabling the environment of lifelong learning in the country by promoting the digitalization of education and also calls to build a society and country of learning where lifelong learning is pursued by all. The report also mentions that number of internet users in China has reached 1.03 billion.
The report stresses improving systems for scientific and technological innovation. It says that innovation will remain at the heart of China’s modernization drive. The report says that the CPC will strengthen basic research, prioritize original innovation, and encourage researchers to engage in free exploration. The report calls to unleash the tremendous creativity of the Chinese people in their hundreds of millions.
The report calls to boost China’s strength in strategic science and technology, better allocate innovation resources, and better define the roles of national research institutes, advanced-level research universities, and leading high-tech enterprises to improve their layout.
In the report, the CPC also promises to increase investment in science and technology through diverse channels to realise the dream of self-reliance. It also stresses on strengthening the legal protection of intellectual property rights in China to establish a foundational system for all-around innovation.
We have accelerated efforts to build our self-reliance and strength in science and technology, with nationwide R&D spending rising from 1 trillion yuan to 2.8 trillion yuan, the second highest in the world. Our country is now home to the largest cohort of R&D personnel in the world, the report quotes.
Realising Democracy in the Chinese Way (Aka. People’s Democracy)
For a long period of time, the West has accused China of not having democracy but the 20th Congress of CPC tries to put forward its model of democracy. The report calls to diversify the forms of democracy in China to ensure that people participate in various ways in the management of state, economic, cultural, and social affairs.
The report identifies the “consultative democracy” as an important way to strengthen democracy in China. It says that CPC will improve the system of consultative democracy, and make coordinated efforts to promote consultations carried out by political parties, people’s congresses, and government departments. It even talks about building community-level self-governance under the leadership of primary-level party organisations. The report even calls for ensuring that the “people run the country.”
The report surprisingly calls for supporting other political parties in China as it says we will also support other political parties in improving themselves and performing their roles more effectively. The report in a way tries to make the readers understand that CPC is aware of the importance of basic democratic principles. The report ensures that the party will make full use of criticism and self-criticism and keep working to improve the political environment in the party. The report says the CPC must follow the principle of “from the people, to the people,” maintain a close bond with the people, and accept their criticism and oversight. The word “democracy” has been used more than 25 times in the report.
The report also emphasises on the betterment of the party’s internal systems and calls for improving the systems and regulations for the Party’s self-reform. It also talks about imparting leadership and research skills in the CPC’s emerging leaders as the focus remains on cultivating officials capable of shouldering the mission of national rejuvenation. The report says that CPC will continue to conduct sound, democratic, and law-based governance, practice democratic centralism, and develop new and improved ways of exercising leadership. It says we will implement the systems for intraparty democracy, protect Party members’ rights, and motivate them to become role models.
While the report also calls for all-around efforts to tighten party discipline. It says we will continue to tackle pointless formalities, bureaucratism, hedonism, and extravagance, with a focus on the first two. We will resolutely root out privilege-seeking mindsets and behaviour.
The report also stresses on the ides of strengthening the judiciary in the country as it says we will deepen comprehensive and integrated reform of the judicial system, fully and faithfully enforce judicial accountability, and accelerate the development of a fair, efficient, and authoritative socialist judicial system. The report says that we will see that the people feel justice has been served in each and every judicial case.
A Greater Push for Opening Up of the Economy
While the report calls for upholding Marxist principles of economy, it also indicates that China stands for a liberal economy which is one of the foremost principles of a capital market. The report notes that China has become a major trading partner for more than 140 countries and regions. It also notes that China’s manufacturing sector is the largest in the world, as are its foreign exchange reserves.
The report calls to promote digital trade, oppose protectionism and also focus on reducing the negative list for foreign investments. We will make appropriate reductions to the negative list for foreign investment, protect the rights and interests of foreign investors in accordance with the law, and foster a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized. The report also calls to accelerate the construction of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor in the western region. While mentioning the BRI project, it says we will promote the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Since China began to open up and reform its economy in 1978, the GDP growth has averaged over 9 per cent a year, and more than 800 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty therefore defending a liberal economy has become a necessity for China.
Modernizing China’s National Security
Too little has been said on the agenda of national security in the report which shows leadership maturity but a lot of stress has been given on setting up mechanisms against military coups. The report calls to strengthen party building across the board in the people’s armed forces to ensure that they always obey the party’s command. We will improve the institutions and mechanisms for implementing the system of ultimate responsibility resting with the chairman of the Central Military Commission. On the other hand, the report also extends full trust in its Armed Forces as it quotes that our people’s armed forces are a heroic fighting force that enjoys the full trust of the party and the people. They have the confidence and the ability to safeguard China’s sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity.
The report says that CPC will continue integrated development of the military through mechanization, informatization, and the application of smart technologies and work faster to modernize military theory, organizational forms, personnel, and weaponry and equipment. The focus will also be on intensifying troop training and enhancing combat preparedness. Improving the command system for joint operations and enhancing systems and capacity for reconnaissance and early warning, joint strikes, battlefield support, and integrated logistics support has been given special focus in the report.
The policy of One Country, Two Systems and Taiwan
The report says that the policy of One Country, Two Systems is a great innovation of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The idea of “one country, two systems” originated in 1979, when China offered to allow Taiwan to keep its economic and social systems, government, and even military in return for acknowledging that it was part of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan rejected that proposal.
The reports say that resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is, for the party, a historic mission and an unshakable commitment. Although the report calls to take resolute steps to oppose “Taiwan independence” and promote reunification, the report also put forward the idea of peaceful reunification. It says we will conduct extensive and in-depth consultations on cross-Strait relations and national reunification with people from all political parties, sectors, and social strata in Taiwan, and we will work with them to promote peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and advance the process of China’s peaceful reunification.
Given the western slogan of “Taiwan is real China”, the report tries to put forward the idea that “Taiwan is China’s Taiwan” and in dramatical expression, the report says that the fellow Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family bound by blood. The report calls to support Hong Kong and Macao in growing their economies, improving their people’s lives, and resolving deep-seated issues and problems in economic and social development.
The Chinese leadership understand that this is the era of “strategic opportunity” where China can realise its dream of becoming a superpower surpassing the U.S. and for this, it has put the agenda of national development at the centre of all affairs. It has ensured the idea of all-round development and at last, has resorted to promoting the “Chinese way of governance” through this report which is not less than a “propaganda machine” as such reports are in a way a tool of propaganda for the Chinese leadership to legitimise their outlook towards the country and the world affairs.
The good ideas of promoting peace around the world, and having better relations with other countries are contrary to the ground realities. The continued reports of oppression of minorities in China, the illegitimate claims over the LAC and the SCS, the undertaking of strategic port-building projects for power projection overseas especially in the Indian Ocean Region, and the deepening support to countries like Pakistan and North Korea are some of the examples which suggest that China has to mend its way in promoting global peace in a major way.
The report out of nowhere quotes that no matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansionism. On the other hand, China continues to claim almost all of the SCS and has been recently showing a war-mongering posture against Taiwan by sending several warships and aircraft into waters and airspace near Taiwan defying international criticism while the report emphasises the idea of peaceful unification.
The report focuses on the idea of balanced development but it is well-known fact that eastern China is far more developed than western China. The report also talks about strengthening opposition voices and opposing parties in China while Xi Jinping enjoys all-around unprecedented clout over the party, the CMC and the politburo – the highest decision-making body in China. The opposition parties are almost non-existent in China so for whom these democratic principles are highlighted in the report cannot be understood.
The report also shows the egoistic and self-centered approach of Chinese leadership which is far from ground realities. The strict censorship of media and the internet, and the ongoing harsh crackdown to reduce unrest within China, in such conditions the democracy could nowhere survive while the all-strong anti-corruption drive of Xi Jinping may or may not help the public but it is understood as a better way to yield power by eliminating opposite voices and possible competition within the CPC.
The policy brief first appeared in IADN Strategic Focus magazine, November-December 2022 Issue.