The link below is to an article that reports on persecution news from Vietnam.
China’s 19th Party Congress has elected a new leadership team that promises to bring continuity in the country’s gradual domestic reform and stronger focus on internationalism.
Proving many political observers wrong, the new leadership line-up is an A-team in terms of economic and international credentials.
New leadership team
President Xi’s “new era” of Chinese development and economic growth is defined by the reform agenda he laid out when he came to power in 2012. This vision was most clearly articulated in his personal comments on the 60-point policy document that laid out the President’s vision for the governance reform of China.
The newly elected leadership team comprises five new members, all of whom bring economic and international experience to the table that will shape the direction of Chinese policies over the next five years.
Wang Yang and Han Zheng have led China’s most successful and most internationalised province-level economies, Guangdong and Shanghai. Li Zhanshu and Zhao Leji have overseen growth and reform in China’s inland provinces before assuming central party posts. Wang Huning, the chief theoretician, speaks fluent French and has a PhD in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University.
All five newly elected members (they join the existing Premier Li Keqiang) have been groomed for the top positions by serving at least one term on the politburo. The composition of the seven-member standing committee of the politburo is evenly balanced between economic reformers and the political power base.
Premier Li Keqiang’s focus is on economic policy-making, while Wang Yang and Han Zheng have steered China’s most open economies. Together, they represent economic stability and continued globalisation. The other three new members will oversee continuity in domestic policies and the continued role of the party.
Li Zhanshu was in charge of party administration over the past five years and is seen in the role of the party “whip”. Zhao Leji, as a power broker, was running the party’s Organisation Department and served as the second in command for the Party’s discipline inspection system in charge of anti-corruption policies. Wang Huning, who formulates Xi Jinping’s political agenda, has served the previous two leadership groups in exactly the same role.
Together, these six closest associates of Xi Jinping demonstrate the continuity of policies from the first half of Xi Jinping’s five-year term into this second five-year term to a domestic as well as an international audience.
Renewed focus on internationalism
One of the key advantages of the new leadership team will be their solid international credentials.
Wang Yang, former Party secretary of Guangdong Province, has been closely involved in China’s strategic economic dialogue with the United States. At the same time, he was in charge of the internal steering committee for the Belt and Road Initiative. His appointment means that China will continue the balancing act between its own regionally focused strategy and the (western) rules-driven form of globalisation.
Han Zheng, the former Party Secretary and mayor of Shanghai, served during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and oversaw the globalisation of Shanghai with its co-existence between commercially viable state-owned enterprise sector and a growing private sector.
Moving these internationally connected decision-makers to the front line signals pragmatism in China’s economic policies and globalisation. Their experience in dealing with foreign governments and businesses, and their awareness of the interdependence of global markets, suggests that current reforms in financial industries, advanced manufacturing and overseas investment will continue.
A new leadership direction
President Xi’s governance reform is a driver behind his anti-corruption campaign that has been in place for five years. In western terminology, Xi’s contribution to socialist theory is his attempt to institute a “separation of powers” by strengthening the role of the legislative in supervising the executive.
Currently, the party has direct control over the executive through appointments of all relevant government officials and direct interference in detailed government processes. Xi Jinping’s governance reform envisages a rules-based supervision of government through the system of people’s congresses and less direct interference by the party.
The governance reform includes practical aspects, such as reform of public finance as a precondition for banking reform; further tax reform, social security and medicare reform. These reforms will open new markets and are relevant for foreign economic cooperation.
Xi’s speech to the Party Congress cited unresolved issues, including social inequality, poverty, environmental pollution, health care and food safety. These are urgent matters than affect general public support for his policies and the government.
In view of the urgent need for progress in these areas, he foreshadowed a stronger role of the market and international cooperation in areas such as health care and social services.
Implications for Australia
For Australia, continuity in China’s leadership transition means stability in long-term economic relations, from forthcoming revisions to ChAFTA to Australian involvement in China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative.
The new leadership will continue to promote regional economic integration. Australia, with its location between Southeast Asia and the Pacific, is recognised by China as an important economic hub with mature institutions that will underpin regional economic cooperation.
The most important political event of 2017, the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, has concluded. And while there was much to digest, one image above all stands out: Xi Jinping’s political dominance and his burning ambition for China.
The party congress is held every five years and has two main functions. The first is to lay out the policy program for the coming half-decade. The other is to confirm the people who will occupy the key leadership roles within the party. In short, it’s about policy and people.
The tone was set at the Xi’s opening address. Formally presenting the work report of the 18th Central Committee, he outlined the huge steps China has taken over the past five years and his vision for China over not just the next five years, but out to 2049 – the centenary of the People’s Republic of China’s foundation.
He affirmed that within a few decades, China would become a prosperous modern socialist society and the world’s most important country, both in terms of national power and international influence.
Gone is the old dictum that China has to bide its time and hide its power. Humility and caution have been replaced by confident and assertive leadership.
Xi also declared that China would remain economically open and provide leadership on climate change and other environmental concerns. The centrepiece of China’s international policy will be the Belt and Road Initiative that is now part of the party’s constitution.
But Xi was equally stern about threats and challenges, whether from within or beyond – the country would use all means to defend its interests and sovereignty. This means China’s muscular approach to disputes in the East and South China Sea, with India and elsewhere, is certain to continue.
Hard work, ongoing reform and leadership will be needed to bring all this about. The only force capable of doing this, made clear at the congress, is the Chinese Communist Party.
While nods were made toward market forces playing a more important role in resource allocation, the congress’ message was unmistakable: the key player in the economy, indeed in all aspects of Chinese life, will be the party. This is Leninism for the 21st century.
And the party will be unified around an austere vision laid out by Xi. The anti-corruption program that has been such a significant part of his first five years in office will become a permanent campaign.
Xi had launched the anti-graft measures to root out the significant problem of corruption, but also to eliminate rival centres of power. That will be a core element of party business in the future.
In his first five years, Xi focused on consolidating his power base, unifying the party and presenting a more confident face to the world. The congress made clear that the next five are about paramount leader Xi driving China to its position atop the international totem pole.
At the very start of the congress, the opening address gave a clue as to what was coming the work program presented by Xi was “for a new era”.
Xi made clear that the People’s Republic of China’s history can be divided into three eras. The first was the creation of the republic, led by Mao. The reform period, led by Deng Xiaoping was its second. Now the third era, in which the “Chinese dream of national rejuvenation” to be realised by Xi, has begun. With the Leninism of party centrality has also come a disturbing nascent cult of personality.
To formalise this on the congress’ final day, delegates unanimously voted to incorporate “Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese charactersitics” into the party constitution. His is now a core purpose of the party and marks him out as the most powerful figure within the party for so long as he remains alive.
Prior to the congress there was much speculation about whether or not he would seek to break the party norm of two five-year terms as general secretary. By this move he has rendered such questions moot.
Whether he remains in office for more than five years or whether he formally stands down has become almost immaterial: he will be the dominant figure in the country.
To reinforce this, when the new seven-man standing committee of the politburo was announced the day after the congress’ conclusion there was no obvious successor as part of the grouping. All five of the new faces – Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji and Han Zheng – will need to retire at the next congress. So while the leadership is new, it is entirely subordinate to the general secretary.
Xi now clearly sits atop the party and the party commands China. Over the coming three decades China will seek to become the world’s dominant country.
Notwithstanding Xi’s huge confidence there is a very considerable amount of work to be done to realise these ambitions. It is far from certain whether China’s economy be reformed in the ways necessary to drive the levels of growth needed to fuel this program.
Equally, the party will face continual challenges of unity and legitimacy.
Internationally, it is difficult to imagine the US acquiescing to China’s desire to supplant it at the centre of world affairs.
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The links below are to articles reporting on persecution news from Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines, particularly in reference to Montagnard Christians (the most recent are at the top).
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Of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s many achievements in his time in office – about which much will be made in the official propaganda – one of the most surprising was the more confident and assertive approach to foreign policy that he brought about.
As the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China approaches, the five-yearly meeting of the party that signals leadership transition, what will the next five years mean for the outside world?
Intended to oversee leadership change at many levels of the party, the greatest interest is on the upper echelons of the hierarchy. Of particular interest is the make-up of seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, and the 25-member Politburo.
There is a great deal to watch out for: will Xi indicate a preferred successor? Will Li Keqiang, the current premier, be pushed out, demoted, or in some other way weakened? Will he allow Wang Qishan, his closest ally and head of the massive anti-corruption program, to stay on? Wang Qishan is now over 68, the age at which one is normally put out to pasture.
Beyond these obviously important details, the bigger question is whether Xi will adhere to the norms of the party or instead break them, potentially shattering the political system.
No one knows quite how things will play out, but seasoned analysts think it most likely Xi will bend the norms of the party to allow him to place enough supporters in key posts without completely upending the system. However events unfold, it is reasonable to expect that Xi will emerge from the NPC with his domestic hand strengthened.
Internationally, this will be the most closely watched Communist Party Congress yet. In part this is because China is now of huge importance to the rest of the world. China is the most important trading partner of more than 130 countries, it is the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, and has massive and growing military capabilities.
But interest is also strong abroad because the newly confident and at time abrasive China is having a transformative effect on Asia and indeed the world.
In his first five years, Xi confounded expectation by breaking with the cautious approach to Chinese foreign policy that had been the norm since Deng’s time. Xi moved clearly away from the “bide your time and hide your strength” dictum of the past.
But China was not entirely revisionist in its behaviour. As the Brookings Institution’s Jeff Bader rightly observes Xi’s policy involved a mix of status quo adherence to international norms, grievance and a growing confidence and leadership.
Economic growth remains a priority, and interdependence has driven a pragmatic acceptance of existing rules and institutions. Whether at the WTO, the World Bank or the UN, much of China’s international policy operates within existing norms. Interestingly, it contributes more troops to UN peacekeeping operations than any other permanent member of the Security Council.
Other elements are strongly shaped by a strong sense of grievance about an international order that is perceived to constrain China’s potential. China’s behaviour in the East and South China Sea, and claim that this has been purely a reaction to the predatory forces provoking it, is redolent of the early years of the People’s Republic.
Xi has also set out to build new norms and institutions. The most notable of these are the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative, in which China sees itself as providing mutually beneficial international economic leadership.
After October 25, what mix of adherence to rules, grievance and leadership can we expect? Do not expect simple continuity with the past five years. The balance of probabilities is that China will take a more nationalistic path, with a strong party aiming to remake the international environment, where necessary, in ways that will help it achieve Xi’s stated desire to rejuvenate the Chinese nation.
This will not mean we can expect a concerted push for Chinese hegemony in the Western Pacific. Nor will Xi try to recreate the old Chinese tributary system. Rather, we can expect the odd combination of grievance and more confident leadership that produced the South China Sea policy and the Belt and Road Initiative to become more pronounced features of Chinese foreign policy.
While norm adherence will continue, there is likely to be a greater willingness to break with these norms if they conflict with the larger aims.
This Chinese posture, when combined with the trade, finance and strategic trends drawing Asia closer together, is likely to create a China-centred Asian regional order, but one that will not be Sino-centric. Xi’s next five years will make contestation the main feature of Asia’s international politics.
The link below is to an article reporting on persecution news from Vietnam.
The links below are to articles reporting on persecution news from China (the most recent are at the top).
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The link below is to an article that takes a look at Christianity in China.
The link below is to an article reporting on persecution news from Laos.