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Where China goes from here

  • Published at 12:31 pm October 28th, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:52 pm October 28th, 2017
Where China goes from here
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party which recently concluded in Beijing has been Chinese President Xi Jinping’s big moment. This twice-a-decade meeting not only formally granted him a second five-year term as the party’s general secretary, but also anointed a new generation of senior Chinese leaders. That included the seven-strong Politburo Standing Committee, whose members effectively rule China. The congress which started on October 18 at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing, was attended by 2,287 delegates from around the country. They represented nearly 90 million party members. At stake was charting out China’s future course in a world where China’s reach is gradually extending within the global strategic paradigm. It was also a referendum on Xi’s success in positioning himself as China’s unquestioned political supremo. Xi, it needs to be remembered, has taken several important steps over the last two years. It includes the initiating of his anti-corruption drive against senior Chinese leaders, launching a crackdown on free speech for the sake of national security, and radically overhauling the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest fighting force. His crackdown on corruption has been a hallmark of his leadership. He graphically underlined that “No tolerance has been shown in the fight against corruption. We have taken firm action to take out tigers, swatted flies, and hunted down foxes.” This was a reference to efforts undertaken by state authorities against officials big and small. Consequently, China, its neighbours, as well as the rest of the world, paid attention. It needs to be noted that since 2012, Xi has carefully and boldly eschewed the cautious foreign policy that had been the hallmark of his predecessors. Instead, his period has seen the development of China’s first overseas military base, military build-up in the disputed South China Sea territorial waters and the unveiling of the grand economic and connectivity plan of the world economy as outlined within the One Belt One Road proposal. This has assumed importance particularly at a time when the world badly needs China’s assistance in tackling the North Korean issue. Some are suggesting that the first test of how this might play out will be clearer in November when Xi hosts Trump on his inaugural visit to Asia. President Xi Jinping during his three-and-a-half hour speech at the congress, on several occasions used the word “mission” to convey his views regarding modernisation. He indicated that China under his leadership would continue its quest to become a rich, strong, and powerful nation in the next two decades. This was a message that was not lost on either the domestic or the international audience. He also clarified that this required international cooperation.
Bangladesh, a friend and strategic partner of China, definitely needs China’s support in resolving the after-effects of the on-going ethnic cleansing being carried out by Myanmar
With regard to dealing with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and also matters related to the South and East China seas, Xi’s language was categorical and strong. Observers noted that there was no suggestion of compromise or pluralism. His views, it was clear, drew the particular attention of his two predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao who were also present. On issues of foreign relations, Xi appeared to focus less on specifics and more on a common humanity approach. The connotation was that China had an interest in working with the world, and the world working with China. There was also the denotation that such activity would not be at the cost of China’s sovereignty or national interests. This matrix laid out the approaches that would be undertaken in the areas of culture, ideology, and also morals. Xi also detailed China’s economic accomplishments in the last five years, including the lifting of 60 million people out of poverty, improving living standards, education, enhancing law, order, and national security. Security in Beijing, and the rest of the country, was extremely tight during the duration of the congress. There was also strict internet censorship and the widespread deletion of “sensitive content” on social media. At the congress, Xi has also been able to raise his status and cement his standing within the Chinese political historical matrix through the unveiling of his much lauded “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era.” Observers have noted that this step has elevated his stature nearer to Chairman Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It may be noted here that no other Chinese leader has had an eponymous ideology included in the Final Document while in Office other than Chairman Mao. The Communist Party gave Xi the title of “core” leader a year ago, thereby strengthening his position ahead of the congress. Party officials have now hailed him as a wise and great “lingxiu” or “a revered leader,” a title that was bestowed only on Chairman Mao and his short-lived successor Hua Guofeng. This has been another sign that Xi who came to power in 2012 has now accumulated more respect than his immediate predecessors -- Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. As a consequence, analysts are now predicting that there will be a possibility whereby Xi might be considered for staying on in some capacity beyond the end of his second term in 2022. A changing paradigm One believes that the latest congress will help China build a different kind of economy of innovation, move up the value chain, and use new kinds of technologies. President Xi, through the congress, has been able to reiterate the Chinese national priorities within the geo-strategic paradigm. His comment “China will never pursue development at the expense of others’ interests, but nor will China ever give up its legitimate rights and interests,” has, through one sentence, raised his international profile within the current evolving turbulence that characterises international relations. One can, however, only hope that the new Politburo Standing Committee, led by Xi, will now be able to focus directly on the glaring humanitarian crisis that is taking place in the Rakhine state of Myanmar with regard to the Rohingya community. Bangladesh, a friend and strategic partner of China, definitely needs China’s support in resolving the after-effects of the exodus that has resulted from the on-going criminal ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Myanmar leadership in that area. It is not only affecting the security of Bangladesh, but also creating instability and an osmotic effect that might encourage terrorism among the vulnerable masses -- something which no one can really desire. Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador and Chief Information Commissioner of the Information Commission, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at [email protected]
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