Jorge Malena

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2017/10/30The World is Listening to What China Has to Say

First it was the speech at Davos last January. Later in May his opening words at the New Silk Road Forum. Afterwards his discourse at the BRICS Summit in September. Now the political report during the XIX National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC): the world is listening to what Xi Jinping has to say.


The partisan conclaves, carried out every five years, can be categorized into two types: those of change of cycle and those of consolidation. The first occurs every 10 years, once the two mandates that a leader can aspire are completed, giving way to a new Secretary General. The second are given when, after a first mandate, a Secretary General is reelected. Such is the case of the XIX Congress that began on Wednesday October 18, which aims to consolidate the leader’s orientation in power.


The analysis of the speech allows us to identify a series of new concepts that evidence the direction of internal politics, economy, and international action of the Asian giant.


What was thought to be anointed as the “Xi Jinping Thought”, received an official name: “Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. The leader’s name did not appear, perhaps to avoid foreign criticism on the increase of cult of personality in China.


Xi acknowledged that historical changes have been made on the cause of the CPC and the country in the last five years: GDP increased from 8.2 to 12.1 trillion dollars and more than 60 million people were taken out of poverty.


With regards to the announcement that in the West more was expected, in other words the political reform, Xi asserted that “China’s social democracy is the broadest, most genuine, and effective democracy to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people”. He added: “We should not copy mechanically the political systems of other countries”. I would like to point out that, in dialogues with Chinese scholars, Western democracy for them is fallible, being the most recent and notorious example Donald Trump’s access to power in the United States.


The speech also made reference to China’s willingness to assume a more important role in international affairs, pointing out that “no one should expect China to do anything to undermine its interests”. This could be a response to the pressure that Washington exerts on Beijing regarding the Korean crisis. 


Finally, the report presented as a novelty the objectives of the country for the next 30 years: in a first phase, between 2020 and 2035, China should be a “first-level innovative nation”, with a “mostly middle-income” population, where the gap between the rich and poor “becomes narrower”. Then, between 2035 and 2050, China should become “a global leader in terms of international influence” which would accommodate that after 2050 “China raises as a proud and active member of the community of nations” and “becomes a global leading power”.


Beyond how presumptuous this strategic vision can result in societies used to envision on short terms as ours, what is certain is that nothing escapes the Chinese technocracy and that we cannot ignore what is happening and our relations with China.


Jorge Malena is Director of Contemporary Chinese Studies at USAL.

Published on Clarín, 23 October 2017.