-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
Highlights: 1. Chinese President Xi Jinping described a two-stage plan for China’s “socialist modernisation” by 2050, which would see it become more “prosperous and beautiful” through environmental and economic reforms; 2. He warned against separatism – in an apparent reference to movements in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong – and reiterated the government’s principle that Taiwan is part of China; 3. Xi made it clear that China would not close its doors to the world and promised to lower barriers for foreign investors
Chinese party congress
With thrust on a new era of Chinese power under President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party congress as China’s biggest political event, has begun in Beijing on October 18 under tight security. Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed more than 2,000 delegates in the capital for more than three hours, dwelling on the problems and prospects in China. . In his speech, Xi listed China’s recent achievements, saying that “socialism with Chinese characteristics in this new era” meant China had become a great power in the world, and the country would not copy foreign political systems. He briefly described a two-stage plan for China’s “socialist modernisation”, to be achieved by 2050. Xi also said China would further advance market economy and would not close its doors to the world, maybe an attack on Trump’s strict immigrations policy. .
Speaking in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, at the start of the week-long 19th party congress, Xi told delegates that thanks to decades of “tireless struggle” China stood “tall and firm in the east”. Now, Xi said, it was time for his nation to transform itself into “a mighty force” that could lead the world on political, economic, military and environmental issues. “This is a new historic juncture in China’s development,” China’s 64-year-old leader declared in his bold 3hr 23 minute address outlining the party’s priorities for the next five years. “The Chinese nation … has stood up, grown rich, and become strong – and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation … It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind.”
The country’s rapid progress under “socialism with Chinese characteristics” shows there is “a new choice for other countries”, he told the Communist Party congress, the country has played “an important role in the history of humankind”.. More than 2,200 delegates have poured into Beijing for the week-long gathering, bringing with them an effervescence of political tributes.
The closed-door summit, which takes place once every five years, determines who rules China and the country’s direction for the next term. The congress also decides on a roadmap for China for the next five years. Shortly after the congress ends, the party is expected to unveil the new members of China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, who will steer the country.
The Communist party of China is a great party; it has the fight and mettle to win.” “The Chinese nation is a great nation; it has been through hardships and adversity but remains indomitable. The Chinese people are a great people; they are industrious and brave and they never pause in pursuit of progress,” he said. Xi said that the Chinese model of growth and socialism under Communist rule was “flourishing”, and had given “a new choice” to other developing countries.”It is time for us to take centre stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind,” he added.
In the surprisingly long speech – titled “Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” – Xi struck an upbeat tone that contrasted with the grey skies and drizzle outside. He introduced measures to increase party discipline, and touched on his wide-reaching corruption crackdown that has punished more than a million officials, report BBC correspondents in Beijing.
Xi warned that corruption remained the greatest threat to the party’s survival despite a five-year war on graft that he claimed had been “built into a crushing tide”. “We must remain as firm as a rock … and secure sweeping victory,” he said, warning that “pleasure-seeking, inaction and sloth” were no longer acceptable. “We must … rid ourselves of any virus that erodes the party’s health.”
Xi warned that achieving what he has hailed the “China Dream” would be “no walk in the park”: “It will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there.”But our mission is a call to action, let us gets behind the strong leadership of the party and engage in a tenacious struggle.”
Jinping Xi also warned against separatism – in an apparent reference to movements in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong – and reiterated the government’s principle that Taiwan is part of China.
The summit determines who rules China and the country’s direction for the next term. Xi has been consolidating power and is expected to remain as party chief.
Commentators say Chinese President Xi Jinping has heralded the dawn of a new era of Chinese politics and power at the start of a historic Communist party congress celebrating the end of his first term in office on October 18.
Beijing is decked out in welcome banners and festive displays for the congress. However, the capital is also on high alert. Long lines were seen earlier this week at railway stations due to additional checks at transport hubs. The congress has also affected businesses, with some restaurants, gyms, nightclubs and karaoke bars reportedly shutting down due to tightened security rules. An austerity drive, instituted by Xi, has meant a more pared down congress, with Chinese reports this week of delegates’ hotels cutting back on frills such as decorations, free fruit in rooms and lavish meals.
Meanwhile, state media have said the Party is expected to rewrite its constitution to include Xi’s “work report” or political thoughts, which would elevate him to the status of previous Party giants Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Some see Xi as accruing more power than any leader since Mao, and the congress will be watched closely for clues on how much control now rests in the hands of just one man
Corruption – enemy of Socialism
China’s president, Xi Jinping, called corruption the greatest threat to the Communist party’s survival in his opening speech to the week-long congress meeting on Wednesday. However, the problem is largely a product of the one-party political system he leads. Three decades of breakneck development has produced vast wealth in China – and much of this is controlled directly or indirectly by the party. That means there are eye-watering money-making opportunities for cadres looking to supplement their modest salaries by cashing in on their positions and their contacts.
At the same time, the party’s stranglehold on the media means that independent reporting that might expose high-level corruption is all but non-existent, unless authorised by the party itself. Impunity, therefore, has traditionally been almost guaranteed. Xi now hopes to change that with his war on graft. “Great changes have occurred in China and we are so proud of it,” said Xue Rong, a delegate who had travelled to the capital from Henan province. “Xi Jinping is a great man. He is down-to-earth, too. He carries the people in his heart.”
Zhao Yongqing, the propaganda chief of the north-western region of Ningxia, said he had been inspired by Xi’s opening pitch to the congress. “I feel a big responsibility. As a delegate, I must study and understand Xi’s speech thoroughly, and publicise and implement it well when I return home.”
The event, which Xi will use to pack the Communist party’s upper ranks with allies, marks the official end of what is expected to be the first of his two five-year terms in power.
For some though it has come to represent the advent of a new political era that could extend well beyond the originally anticipated end of Xi’s second term, in 2022.
Chen Daoyin, a Shanghai-based political scientist, said he believed the congress heralded the start of China’s third great political epoch since Mao Zedong’s communists seized power in 1949.
The first epoch was Mao himself, a revolutionary standard-bearer who helped the country find its feet; then came Deng Xiaoping, the reformer who masterminded China’s economic opening and helped it grow rich. “Now it’s Xi Jinping’s turn to usher in … the Xi Jinping era,” said Chen.
He predicted Xi would be remembered as the leader who made China a strong and powerful nation: “Being strong first of all means being a global power: being a world leader and therefore leading the world. It also means that the Communist party must be strong, and that it must maintain one-party rule.”Elizabeth Economy, the director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said she also considered Xi a transformative figure who saw himself in the same tradition as Mao and Deng. “I don’t think there’s a lack of confidence in Xi Jinping,” said Economy, who is writing a book on the Communist party leader called The Third Revolution. “I think he believes that in order to reclaim China’s historic greatness, its centrality in the world, that China needs a strong leader – and he is the person for the job.”
China’s economy has continued to grow rapidly. The correspondents say the country has also become more authoritarian, with increasing censorship and arrests of lawyers and activists. Economy compared Xi’s bold political vision to a pyramid: “Xi Jinping sits on top of the Communist party, the Communist party sits on top of China, and China sits on top of the world.”
Chinese president Xi Jinping is to be given his own political theory as the Communist Party of China has created “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. The theory is likely to be incorporated into the constitution of the ruling Communist Party, which would strengthen Xi Jinping’s position at the top.He would be the first leader to lend his name to a political theory since Deng Xiaoping, who retired in 1989. The only other leader to do so was Mao Zedong.
Xi Jinping became president of China in 2012 – ushering in an era of increased assertiveness and authoritarianism. He has been front and centre of China’s push to cement its position as a global superpower, while also launching crackdowns on corruption and freedom of speech. A consummate political chess player who has cultivated an enigmatic strongman image, the leader of the ruling Chinese Communist Party is widely expected to stay at the helm until at least 2022.
Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi Jinping is the son of revolutionary veteran Xi Zhongxun, one of the Communist Party’s founding fathers and a vice-premier. Because of his illustrious roots, Mr Xi is seen as a “princeling” – a child of elite senior officials who has risen up the ranks. But his family’s fortunes took a drastic turn when his father was purged in 1962 prior to the Cultural Revolution and imprisoned. At the age of 15, the younger Xi was sent to the countryside for “re-education” and hard labour in the remote and poor village of Liangjiahe for seven years – an experience that would later figure largely in his official story.
Far from turning against the Communist Party, Mr Xi embraced it. He tried to join it several times, but was rebuffed because of who his father was. Once he was finally accepted in 1974, he worked hard to rise to the top – first as a local party secretary in Hebei province, before moving on to more senior roles in other places including party chief of Shanghai, China’s second city and financial hub. His increasing profile in the party propelled him to its top decision making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, and in 2012 he was picked as president. The Tsinghua University chemical engineering graduate is married to the glamorous singer Peng Liyuan, and the two have been heavily featured in state media as China’s First Couple. It’s a contrast from previous presidential couples, where the first lady has traditionally kept a lower profile. They have one daughter, Xi Mingze, but not much is known about her apart from the fact that she studied at Harvard University.
Xi has vigorously pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his China Dream vision. Under him, China has enacted economic reform to combat slowing growth, such as cutting down bloated state-owned industries and reducing pollution, as well as its One Belt One Road trade project. The country has become more assertive on the global stage, from its continued dominance in the South China Sea despite international protestations, to its exercise of soft power by pumping billions of dollars into Asian and African investments. This has been accompanied by a resurgence in patriotic nationalism whipped up by state media, with a particular focus on Mr Xi as China’s strongman leader, leading some to accuse him of developing a personality cult like that of former leader Mao Zedong.
Xi, who has sought to portray himself as a strong and stable international statesman since last year’s election of Donald Trump, also painted China as a responsible global power that was committed to tackling shared dangers such as climate change. “No country alone can address the many challenges facing mankind. No country can afford to retreat into self-isolation,” he said.
Since becoming president, Jinping Xi has tightened control within the Party and also in Chinese society, with increasing censorship and arrests of lawyers and activists. Under Xi, China’s modernisation and reform has also accelerated, as has its assertiveness on the world stage. He continues to enjoy widespread support among ordinary citizens in China.
Xi Jinping is a much more assertive leader than his predecessors. In a long and confident speech, he looked back on his first five years in office, saying the party had achieved miracles and China’s international standing had grown. But the most striking thing in his mission statement was ideological confidence. Recently Party media have talked of crisis and chaos in western democracies compared to strength and unity in China. Xi Jinping said he would not copy foreign political systems and that the communist party must oppose anything that would undermine its leadership of China. Xi also mentioned his wide-reaching corruption crackdown within the Party that has punished more than a million officials, report BBC correspondents in Beijing.
Xi became the Communist party’s general secretary – and thus China’s leader – at the last party congress in 2012, and has since emerged as one of China’s most dominant rulers since Mao Zedong. Xi has been consolidating power and is expected to remain as party chief. Since Xi took power in 2012,
Xi Jinping is a much more assertive leader than his recent predecessors. In a long and confident speech, he looked back on his first five years in office, saying the party had achieved miracles and China’s international standing had grown. But the most striking thing in his mission statement was ideological confidence. Recently Party media have talked of crisis and chaos in western democracies compared to strength and unity in China.
Today Xi Jinping said he would not copy foreign political systems and that the Communist Party must oppose anything that would undermine its leadership of China.
At home, Xi has waged a ruthless war on corruption which has punished more than a million “tigers and flies”- a reference to both high and low-ranking party officials. Some observers believe that the campaign is aimed at rooting out opponents, and is part of a series of political manoeuvres by Xi aimed at consolidating his power. Meanwhile China has seen increasing clampdowns on freedoms, from rising online censorship to arrests of dissidents and human rights lawyers, leading some to describe Xi as “the most authoritarian leader since Chairman Mao”. Despite this, Xi is still thought to enjoy reasonably widespread support among ordinary Chinese citizens – and is expected to keep shaping the country for the next few years.
Xi was similarly uncompromising on China’s overall political model, offering no hint that democratic reform was on the horizon or that the party was considering loosening its grip on power. “No one political system should be regarded as the only choice and we should not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries,” said Xi, who has overseen one of the most severe political chills in recent Chinese history. “The political system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is a great creation.”
Xi insisted China did “not pose a threat to any other country” but his speech chimed with the increasingly assertive – some say domineering – foreign policy that has emerged on his watch. He cited Beijing’s highly controversial island-building campaign as one of the key accomplishments of his first term. “Construction on islands and reefs in the South China Sea has seen steady progress.”
Without directly mentioning Trump, he noted how China had “taken a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change”. He added: “Only by observing the laws of nature can mankind avoid costly blunders in its exploitation. Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us. This is a reality we have to face.”
Xi took a harder line on Hong Kong, which witnessed an unprecedented 79-day pro-democracy occupation and the birth of a nascent independence movement during his first term. He vowed that Beijing would not allow the “one country, two systems” model, under which the former British colony has operated with relative autonomy from the mainland since handover, to be “bent or distorted”. Nor would independence activists be tolerated. “We will never allow anyone, any organisation, or any political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China.”
Beijing did not seek global hegemony but “no one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests”.
IMF warns on China’s credit boom
President Xi Jinping government’s early pledge to enhance market forces – giving them a “decisive role” has remained just that, a pledge. Thousands of factories have been closed but that’s as much about their polluting effect than their productive inefficiency. There have been consolidations in various sectors of the myriad state-owned enterprises. The (almost all state-owned) banks have come in with debt for equity deals – something close to a bail out – for the most troubled companies. But there hasn’t been a wave of bankruptcies. Preserving social stability is likely to be the main reason for this. A wave of concentrated unemployment could see protests that could threaten order.
Debt and risk are the two things that some think will combine to produce an economic catastrophe in China but the growth is still there to be able to pay off debt. When the debt gets so large it crowds out growth because of the cost of that debt – that becomes a problem. And China’s debt is huge; it is currently about 260% of annual economic output and is predicted to rise. What makes it particularly worrisome is that the bulk of this is held by state-owned corporate entities.
Risky practice has been growing too, particularly around the so called “shadow banking” sector. So much so that Beijing cracked down on the insurance market in particular, and went after some of China’s best known private firms who were deemed too risky in the way they raised money.
Firms who owned or had stakes in New York’s Waldorf Astoria, Deutsche Bank, Club Med and Wolves FC were all targeted. It’s steadied the boat, but that appears all. Other far more significant reforms have not yet happened; financial market reforms, substantial rural land reform, changes to the internal passport-like hukou welfare system.
One thing that is happening though is a deepening of the role of “the party” at the top of China’s state firms. There were reports this summer that foreign owned firms or joint ventures have been asked to give the Communist Party equal say over their major corporate decisions.
In a new report, the IMF says there is an increasing risk of a “disruptive adjustment” and/or a marked slowdown in economic growth”. The agency calls for decisive action to deflate the credit boom smoothly. Without the boom, the report suggests, China’s recent economic expansion would have been significantly slower. Since the global financial crisis, China’s economic growth has slowed, from an average of 10% a year in the previous three decades to a rate of 6.7% last year.The Chinese government expected a slowdown, since the earlier double-digit rate was not sustainable over the long term.
China has been trying to manage a transition to slower growth with a different pattern, one that is less dependent on industry and exports and has a greater role for consumer spending at home and service industries.
But the IMF’s report says the slowdown would have been more pronounced, were it not for a boom in credit. It suggests that over the years 2012-16, a more sustainable pattern of debt and credit would have led to economic growth that was slower by two percentage points.
The IMF sets out some disturbing evidence from previous credit booms with similarities to China’s. It says that out of 43, only five were not followed by either a financial crisis or a major slowdown in economic growth. The report does set out a number of features of China’s situation that it says reduce the risks. One example is the surplus in China’s current account, which is its international trade plus some financial transactions.
That makes it less dependent on borrowing from abroad and so less susceptible to a sudden loss of confidence on the part of foreign lenders – something that happened in many emerging-market financial crises. But for each of these relatively favourable factors, the report sets out reasons why the protection they provide may be limited.
The biggest single group of debtors are state-owned enterprises (SOEs), although there have also been large increases in the debts owed by the government, other businesses and households. SOEs are a long standing issue in China. Many are what are called zombie companies that are not financially viable and are often in industries where there is excess capacity. They account for the most pressing corporate debt issues, the report says.
There is also a warning about the housing market. A sudden “correction”, or in other words, a fall in prices, could pose a risk to financial stability. The report says that decisive action is needed.
The most general recommendation the IMF makes is that China should put less emphasis on targets for economic growth (this year it’s 7.5%), as it says these “have fostered an undesirable focus on short-term, low-quality stimulus measures”. Many of the other problems reflect that feature of China’s economic strategy. The report says “government has had the tendency of boosting infrastructure spending, real estate activity and credit during economic downturns to meet growth targets.”There is also a menu of other more specific initiatives the IMF suggests, including a renewed effort to deal with the zombie companies, many of which are likely to go out of business. It says the government should consider restricting the use of unsecured loans to pay for down-payments by home buyers.
Millions of workers the Chinese government plans to lay off from failing state owned companies will be “abandoned”. China’s mountain of national debt is real worry, the possibility of bankruptcies and – ultimately – what it might mean for the thousands his multinational firm employs in China. They support reforms to overhaul China’s mammoth economy; but their stories, from three very different parts of China, reveal the consequences and anxieties associated with the changes.
The complex is home to the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric cars. BYD is a global leader in a technology that China hopes it can dominate; electric vehicles, and specifically the batteries that power them.
The big push towards electric isn’t just about industrial strategy, it’s about trying to tackle China’s immense pollution problems – the most obvious of which is dirty air.
With incentives for infrastructure and aggressive quota demands for, mostly foreign, manufacturers, this is part and parcel of Beijing’s effort to make China’s economy less focused on government investment and cheap exports – and instead to one that is technologically advanced, with a sustainable base and driven by consumer spending.
As China tries to tackle chronic over-capacity in its traditional industries it’s also moving away from dirty coal to heat homes and power its economy. Many mines are being mothballed.
Xi Jinping faces a multitude of challenges in his country’s economy as he embarks on his second term at the top. Strengthening the party’s hold on the means of production is one of Beijing’s responses.