What did Xi actually say the 19th Congress? 2/5

Salvatore Esquibel Analysis Leave a Comment

Given the vast length of President Xi Jinping’s address to the 19th national congress and the necessity for news networks to summarize hours worth of speech into digestible sound bites, there remain some important aspects of his report that have yet to be examined. Part 2 focuses on the final half of the first hour and aims to interpret the deeper implication of Xi’s words.

The second half of the first hour starts with President Xi shifting from a synopsis of the past five years to an introspective analysis of his own party and its role. Xi is perhaps China’s most self-conscious leader considering that he claims that the CPC is “committed to examining [itself] in a mirror, taking a bath, and treating [its] ailments.” This may be comparable to Mao’s style but Xi distinguishes himself by actually citing specific problems with the party and its conduct.

He identifies bureaucratism, extravagism, and hedonism as the three aspects of bad conduct that make nation building difficult and intra-party unity weak. They are the fundamental components of corruption. Feudalism, imperialism, and bureaucratic capitalism are the backbone of these behaviours. Each ism represents an era in Chinese political history, replete with its own set of political and social instabilities. Each is a “mountain” that the CPC must topple, and the first two are already down.But one problem is that new social tensions are built on older ones so, while feudalism and imperialism are kaput, the problems have carried over to the 21st century. Stability is always threatened. National rejuvenation, cited innumerable times in his report, is possible only if these 3 mountains fall.

It follows, then, that Xi recognizes that reforming behaviour is essential for maintaining stability. The threat to party stability has been a recurring point of criticism not only of Xi’s administration but of preceding governments as well. The eight-point regulation, passed in 2012, is emphasized as the set of tenets that party officials must adopt in order to improve. Mr. Xi is not particular about who gets punished if this mandate is not followed. He promises to “take out tigers, swat flies, and hunt down foxes” to create a deterrent against corruption. This means that 关系 (guanxi), the principal social mechanism by which party members climb the hierarchical ladder, is no longer sufficient to curry favours or insulate oneself from investigation.

Corruption is so ingrained in Chinese political culture that Xi mainly attributes regional instability to its effect. He argues that corruption threatens the stability of the political “ecosystem” within and over which the Party exercises its power. Xi Jinping then declares that, as a result of a concerted effort, the anti-corruption campaign has been “built and consolidated”, with effects so significant that it caused an “historical” shift. The shift is historical in that Xi anticipates that he has started to break from China’s tumultuous history.  The history to which President Xi refers is the Warring States period, where corruption was rampant and regional fragmentation universal. This, he continues, is what prevents China from truly flourishing.

It is after Xi announces the success of his anti-corruption campaign that he transitions to his failures. The principle factor underlying his failure is the “inadequate” development affecting different sectors of society. There is an “imbalance” in how problems of environmental protection, poverty alleviation, societal tensions, ideological struggles are addressed. Put simply, it is evident that Xi wishes to have a proportionate response to the multiplicity of issues that confront his government, but the level of corruption and bureaucracy limit the scope of his power.

President Xi, despite his setbacks, states that Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has entered a new era. The introduction of this new era necessitates adjustments to China’s domestic and foreign policy.

President Xi highlights inadequate development as the “principle contradiction” of Chinese domestic policy. In the face of overwhelming progress that has determined China as the biggest developing nation in the world, there are still ever growing demands that prevent the CPC from satisfying all the needs of its citizens. In developing a moderately prosperous society, Mr. Xi cites justice, rule of law, democracy, and fairness as the societal tools that can satisfy the people’s needs.

Xi digresses from domestic policy to foreign policy. He maintains that China is a model of development for the rest of the world. He argues that China’s “unprecedented” rise is an alternative source of inspiration for other developing countries. The idea is that China, operating under its own distinct system of Socialism, has blazed a “new” trail for other developing nations to modernize while “preserving their independence.” Citing the Opium wars of 1840, Xi maintains that preserving a country’s sovereignty is important because he, as well as all of China, believe that the source of disorderly behaviour and bad conduct is due largely in part to imperialism. With respect to its Belt and Road initiative, this indicates how China wishes to avoid being classified as a traditional colonial power. China does not want to put countries like Zimbabwe in the same precarious position where pre-existing social structures deteriorate as a result of foreign financial investment.

The approach to domestic and foreign policy is best summarized by the 4 cardinal principles. Opening up, being self reliant, hardworking, and enterprising are essential for China to be “prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and beautiful.” President Xi maintains, heavily, that these principles are essential for completing the Chinese people’s transition from passive to active. This transition allowed the end of a “millennial old autocracy” to a people’s democracy, a cause which he envisions his party advancing. He furthers this statement by claiming that it is the prerogative of his current administration to complete China’s 5,000 history, continue the development of Socialism, secure economic prosperity, and ensconce national rejuvenation.

Xi Jinping has provided the theoretical underpinnings of his campaign and the necessity for the entrenchment of his Thought. The main worry, it appears, is that the full effect of his initiative will be felt long after his mandate is finished.

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