Will an unchanged Xi JInping change China?text_fields
There was hardly any expectation of miracles at the Chinese Communist Party Congress, which concluded last Sunday. However, observers were keenly watching who all would be elected to the steering committee of the party Politburo, that constitutes the leadership panel of the new regime. Notably, while Xi Jinping remains the current party general secretary, and thanks to that office also the president of the country, he has been given an unprecedented third term under a constitutional amendment passed in 2018 - a first since the era of Mao Zedong, who remained at the helm until his death. Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao had introduced the provision limiting the term to ten years. Deng's two successors, Jian Zeming and Hu Jintao, retired accordingly. At the Chinese Party Congress, that assembled after five years as prescribed, the world was mainly watching whether there would be dissenting voices in the apex body that would correct Xi Jinping.. Although the CCP is a behemoth with 90 million members, only 2,300 delegates attend the Congress and elect the Politburo. The seven-member Politburo Standing Committee chaired by Xi Jinping takes decisions on critical issues. After the election, it turned out that the six members elected are all known loyalists of Xi. There are several factors in the geo-political equation that makes China's role critical. Russian invasion of Ukraine, US-China relations, trade restrictions, and persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang in China's northwest are all matters that vex the world with China at the centre. Also, China's claim that Taiwan is part of their country and the US military defence against it pose question marks. But since Xi's earlier stances were evident, dissent in the top committee is unlikely. Therefore, China's attitude is quite unlikely to change.
All but two members of the new team are newcomers. The incumbent Prime Minister Li Keqiang, second in the hierarchy of authority, is among those out. The new second in command, Li Qiang is expected to take office as the new premier next year. It is not only within the party that Xi is silencing dissenting voices. Just before the Congress, a man made a scene on the Sitong bridge in the Haidian district in Beijing with protest banners calling for the removal of Xi Jinping. The incident went viral on social media, but soon reports came that it was all censored. And then the news disappeared. People are asked to watch the government's statements on the state media which is viewed by billions of viewers. That included repeated announcements that Xi Jinping's much-controversial strict Covid restrictions would remain unchanged, a question that was top on the minds of the Chinese population.
All in all, one must assume that China will remain the same, not just the leader, but the policies as well. It cannot be assumed that there will be any fundamental changes in the domestic and international policies that have been in place now. China does not dare to engage in serious confrontations with the United States now because of its economic ramifications. And so is America in return. Even on the issue of Ukraine, China abstained from voting on UN resolutions against Russia. But the United States also sees that China is intent on weakening the hegemony of the United States by increasing its role in global economic development. In addition to areas such as computer chip manufacturing, China has been making forays into space exploration, arms manufacturing, and even passenger aircraft manufacturing, all aimed at Chinese self-sufficiency and global dominance. China is also making long-term investments to establish a foothold in underdeveloped and mineral-rich African and Central American countries and also in the Asian region, including Afghanistan. If Russia is an immediate threat to America, China is thought to pose long-term challenges. Therefore, if China shows seriousness in its policies, it means that the world will be in for more conflicts in the current global equations. This third term of Xi thus attracts even more global attention because any move by him could redefine the political future not just of China, but of the region itself.