CHINAMacroReporter

The 20th Party Congress with All Eyes are on Xi Jinping

The attention to Mr. Xi is in large part because he will exit the Party Congress with even greater power, no discernible opposition, and a new five-year term (with more likely to follow). And many of the constraints that may have been in place not to jeopardize his reappointment will be gone.
by

Malcolm Riddell

|

CHINADebate

October 10, 2022
The 20th Party Congress with All Eyes are on Xi Jinping

‘All eyes are on Xi Jinping at the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress that begins on Oct. 16,’ says The Washington Post.

  • The Congress itself has largely a ‘symbolic function given that nothing will be seriously debated during its week-long passage,’ writes Harvard’s Tony Saich in ‘What To Expect from the Twentieth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.’
  • ‘This year’s gathering of some 3,000 delegates in Beijing will be special in that it will likely see Xi Jinping confirmed for a third term as leader of the CCP.’
  • Hence all eyes are on Mr. Xi; the Congress itself not so much, besides the also important appointment or reappointment of other senior leaders.

The attention to Mr. Xi is in large part because he will exit the Party Congress with even greater power, no discernible opposition, and a new five-year term (with more likely to follow).

  • And many of the constraints that may have been in place not to jeopardize his reappointment will be gone.

With this in mind, here are two things to watch for after the Congress adjourns:

  • Will Mr. Xi, as one commentator put it, be ‘unleashed’ on some issues?
  • Will he hold steady with his current policy directions on others?

In considering these questions – and there will be many more fine analyses to come – there is a constant theme at play both before and after the Congress:

  • Mr. Xi’s commitment to Marxist ideology.

And this is key to understanding Mr. Xi’s policies and actions after the Congress.

  • If you think Mr. Xi is just paying lip service to communism, think again.

Regular readers here know this recurring theme:

  • Xi Jinping is and always has been a Marxist – a true believer.
  • He aims to put China back on the socialist road after a few decades of using Deng-inspired capitalist tools to create ‘overwhelming abundance.’
  • Whenever he takes an action that looks irrational to us, check first to see if it’s rational in Mr. Xi’s Marxist ideology.

And that theme recurs in today’s issue.Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society, former Australian Prime Minister, and astute China expert has just published a terrific analysis in Foreign Affairs:

Here are a few excerpts plus a real-world example of Xi the ideologue at work.

1 | An understandable omission

‘In the run-up to the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Western analysts have sought to decode the worldview that drives him and his ambitions for China,’ writes Kevin Rudd.‘One important body of thought has been largely absent from this search for understanding, however:’

  • ‘Marxism-Leninism.’

‘The omission is understandable.’

  • ‘Most Western thinkers long ago came to see communist ideology as effectively dead.’
  • ‘In China, too, where, in the late 1970s, the CCP leader Deng Xiaoping set aside the Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy of his predecessor, Mao Zedong, in favor of something more akin to state capitalism.’

‘Xi has brought that era of pragmatic, nonideological governance to a crashing halt.'

  • ‘In its place, he has developed a new form of Marxist nationalism that now shapes the presentation and substance of China’s politics, economy, and foreign policy.’

‘In doing so, Xi is not constructing theoretical castles in the air to rationalize decisions that the CCP has made for other, more practical reasons.’

2 | Ideology drives policy

Under Xi, ideology drives policy more often than the other way around.’

  • ‘Xi has pushed politics to the Leninist left, economics to the Marxist left, and foreign policy to the nationalist right.’
  • ‘He has reasserted the influence and control the CCP exerts over all domains of public policy and private life, reinvigorated state-owned enterprises, and placed new restrictions on the private sector.’
  • ‘Meanwhile, he has stoked nationalism by pursuing an increasingly assertive foreign policy, turbocharged by a Marxist-inspired belief that history is irreversibly on China’s side and that a world anchored in Chinese power would produce a more just international order.’

3 | Back to the future

For a real-world example, consider how shocked institutional investors were when they lost a trillion+ dollars in China’s tech ‘crackdown’ last year.

  • It spawned some of my favorite reporting. Here are a few.

1 | 'Shocked Investors Scour Xi’s Old Speeches to Find Next Target' | August 4, 2021

‘As $1 trillion evaporated from Chinese stocks last week, some investors realized they hadn’t paid enough attention to the country’s most important man:’

  • ‘President Xi Jinping.’

‘Traders began scouring Xi’s speeches to find clues about which industries might be next after his administration abruptly smashed the country’s $100 billion for-profit education sector.’

2 | ‘Is Capitalism Just a Phase?’ | August 4, 2021

‘Global investors are shocked to have discovered that China is run by Communists.’

  • ‘Beijing is using the market economy to evolve toward an ideal Marxist society.’
  • ‘But lots of things (like Big Tech) get broken on the way to communism.’

‘The most lucid and logically coherent explanation also happens to be the simplest:’

  • ‘Take China’s Communist Party at its word.’

‘For decades, foreign investors have told themselves a comforting story.'

  • ‘China was no longer truly Communist, after late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping embraced markets in the late 1970s and kicked off the country’s spectacular economic rise.’
  • ‘The wealth and growth generated by capitalist techniques had converted the government and people.’
  • ‘While the ruling party continued to wrap itself in the rhetoric of Communism, its members knew they were paying lip service to a bankrupt ideology, or so the thinking ran.’

‘The era of such creative ambiguity is over.’

  • ‘With a true believer holding the reins of power, there can be no doubt that China’s rulers mean what they say.’

3 | ‘Wall Street Gets a Chinese Education’ | July 27, 2021

‘The big surprise from this week’s slump in Chinese company stocks is that people are claiming to be surprised.’

  • 'President Xi Jinping has made plain for years that he intends to bring ever greater swathes of China’s private economy under the state’s control.'

‘Guess what, Wall Street:’

  • ‘He meant it.’

4 | The right side of history

More from Kevin Rudd: ‘Like all Marxist-Leninists, Xi bases his thinking on:'

  • ‘historical materialism (an approach to history focused on the inevitability of progress through ongoing class struggle) and’
  • ‘dialectical materialism (an approach to politics that focuses on how change occurs when contradictory forces collide and are resolved).’

‘These concepts may seem abstruse and arcane to those outside China.'

  • ‘But they are taken seriously by elites in the CCP, senior Chinese officials, and many of the international relations scholars who advise the government.’

Historical materialism. ‘In his published writings, Xi deploys historical materialism to position the Chinese revolution in world history in a context in which China’s move to a more advanced stage of socialism necessarily accompanies the decline of capitalist systems.’Dialectical materialism. ‘Through the lens of dialectical materialism, he portrays his agenda as a step forward in an ever-intensifying contest between the CCP and reactionary forces at home (an arrogant private sector, Western-influenced nongovernmental organizations, religious movements) and abroad (the United States and its allies).’‘Marxism-Leninism still serves as the ideological headwaters of a world view that places China on the right side of history and portrays the United States as struggling in the throes of inevitable capitalist decline, consumed by its own internal political contradictions and destined to fall by the wayside.’

  • ‘That, in Xi’s view, will be the real end of history.’

5 | Ignore at your peril

‘Xi’s pronouncements about history, power, and justice might strike Western audiences as impenetrable or irrelevant,’ says Mr. Rudd.

  • ‘But the West ignores Xi’s ideological messaging at its own peril.’

‘No matter how abstract and unfamiliar his ideas might be, they are having profound effects on the real-world content of Chinese politics and foreign policy.’

  • ‘And thus, as China’s rise continues, on the rest of the world.’

6 | Read Qiushi!

‘Xi’s ideological pronouncements shape how the CCP and its nearly 100 million members understand their country and its role in the world.’

  • ‘They take such texts seriously; the rest of the world should, too.’

Going back to China’s tech ‘crackdown’ in 2021, institutional investors got this message.

  • Again, some of my favorite reporting.

1 | 'Shocked Investors Scour Xi’s Old Speeches to Find Next Target' | August 4, 2021

‘Traders began scouring Xi’s speeches to find clues about which industries might be next after his administration abruptly smashed the country’s $100 billion for-profit education sector.’

2 | 'Shocked Investors Scour Xi’s Old Speeches to Find Next Target' | August 4, 2021

‘ “Investors and analysts have tended to dismiss party-speak, usually because it’s so impenetrable,” said Dan Wang, a technology analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Shanghai, who regularly reads the Qiushi Journal, a bi-monthly Communist Party publication.’

  • ‘ “But much of it is perfectly readable.” ’

‘ “And we should know at this point that Xi usually follows through on what he says.” ’

3 | ‘The Real Reason China Is Cracking Down on Its Tech Giants’ | July 31, 2021

‘When politics are in command, the markets-based models Western financiers use to calculate China risk aren’t much use.’

  • 'This explains why some of China’s savviest investors spend their time studying Xi’s speeches on the economy.’

‘Eric X. Li, a Shanghai-based venture capitalist, says he adopted his entire investment thesis from recent copies of Qiu Shi—literally “Seeking Truth”—the Chinese Communist Party’s leading theoretical journal.’‘Li’s advice:

  • “We should read Seeking Truth seriously, roll up our sleeves and work hard.” ’

These are from the investment world.

  • But the lessons apply across the board.

To get you started, here’s the link to the English version of Qiushi.

And keep an eye out for speeches by Mr. Xi and other leaders.

  • Remember: ‘With a true believer holding the reins of power, there can be no doubt that China’s rulers mean what they say.’

Ignore at your peril.

  • And never more so than after the 20th Party Congress.

More

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