Founded in 1921, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the world’s biggest political party with more than 96 million members. The CCP Congress takes place every five years and the recently concluded 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was entrusted to decide the composition of the Central Committee and whether to grant Current General Secretary Xi Jinping a third mandate as well as determine the Standing Committee of the Politburo (SCPB). Commonly referred to as Èrshí Dà, the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party commenced on October 16, 2022, and closed on October 22, 2022.
Against this backdrop, we need to ponder over the following questions: What does the upcoming leadership of China look like? What did President Xi envision in his speech? And why is the 20th Congress of CCP important to the rest of the world?
On October 16, 2022, proceedings of the Congress opened with General Secretary Xi’s open address mentioning the party’s achievements over the past 5 years and giving general guidelines for the coming five years. As rightly said by David Bandurski, Xi’s speech can be termed as Zhengzhi Baogao (a political report) instead of guangzhou baogao (a work report). He highlighted China’s political, economic, technological as well as ideological accomplishments. It is clear from his address that his emphasis is on inculcating Marxist-Leninist and socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics. He further added that the ideology of a party is the only tool and hopes to break the “cycle of rise and fall.” The said significance of the party’s ideology is further reflected in the selection of leadership that stresses political commitment to be of paramount importance.
It is clear from Xi Jinping’s address that his emphasis is on inculcating Marxist-Leninist and socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics. He further added that the ideology of a party is the only tool and hopes to break the “cycle of rise and fall”
Xi Jinping emphasised State-owned enterprises and how technology has become the “main battlefield of the international strategic game.” He further made it clear and evident that China which made advances in science, technology, artificial intelligence etc should expect investment in large numbers. He also shed light on his “dual circulation” policy that puts the national economy as a priority where foreign trade and investment play a complementary role.
Speaking on the economic progress made by his country, Xi Jinping highlighted China’s success in poverty alleviation and how China sets an example for other countries.
Hu Jintao led away from meet
Former Chinese president Hu Jintao was unexpectedly escorted out of the ‘Great Hall of the People’ in Beijing during the closing ceremony of a congress of the ruling Communist Party. Hu Jintao, 79, was removed by unnamed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agents. The reason is unclear as to why the Chinese leader was removed. However, information about such incidents is rarely revealed by China. As Hu was being removed, the former leader looked at Xi Jinping and had a conversation that was not audible to the cameras that captured the moment. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was also seen next to Xi, who also remained stone-faced and did not react as the former Chinese president was being removed.
On the issue related to bilateral and multilateral relations, he neither mentioned any specific country, nor spoke about the elephant in the room- the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. However, Beijing’s focus on national security was made clear and evident throughout his speech. In addition, he reiterated his commitment to the “one China” policy and “one country, two systems” as far as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau are concerned.
It is interesting to mention that the Politburo has been reduced to 24 from the previous 25 members. When it comes to the Politburo members, there are 13 new faces in the 20th Politburo whereas 11 members have been retained from the previous Congress. It is pertinent to note that Xi Jinping has selectively used age limit criteria. For instance, Zhang Youxia (72) retained his seat despite crossing the age limit whereas Wang Yi (69) has been newly added to the list to possibly replace Yang Jiechi in CFAC. Interestingly, there is no woman representation in the 20th Politburo. Sun Chunlan (72) from the 19th Politburo has retired owing to the age limit and she has not been replaced with another woman representative, worsening the women’s representation in China’s elite politics.
The deadly ideology
Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, first published in France in 1997, was edited by noted European academician Stéphane Courtois that documented the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.
The editor states that “Communist regimes… turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government.” According to Courtois, the death toll amounts to 94 million. Courtois writes that Communist regimes are responsible for a greater number of deaths than any other political ideal or movement, including Nazism. The statistics of victims includes deaths through executions, manmade hunger, deportations, and forced labor.
The breakdown of the number of deaths given by Courtois is as follows:
- 65 million in the People’s Republic of China
- 20 million in the Soviet Union
- 2 million in Cambodia
- 2 million in North Korea
- 1.7 million in Ethiopia
- 1.5 million in Afghanistan
- 1 million in the Eastern Bloc
- 1 million in Vietnam
- 150,000 in Latin America
- 10,000 deaths in International Communist movement and where communist parties not in power
By referring to the above discussion on the composition of the leadership of both the Politburo and PBSC, it is safe to say that Xi Jinping has appointed his friends, allies, and confidants. Xi’s approach to disregarding established norms will have an impact not limited to party dynamics and domestic politics but will also likely reflect in China’s foreign policy. China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping and his newly appointed team, can be expected to be more assertive, with an evident emphasis on national security and national rejuvenation.