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China rising for 2050

China rising for 2050

The Middle Kingdom has had a coronation of its paramount leader, Xi Jinping, at its quinquennial, 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) recently. In a world where the capitalist nations of the West and the large swathe of democracies across the universe suffer from their own foibles of increasing inequality and growth glitches, the Chinese model of market socialism has been a sui generis brand. This is all the more because the other, once a socialist superpower and erstwhile USSR, now known in the nomenclature of simply Russia, has not evoked as much awe and envy as China undoubtedly has.

Having posted three decades of hypertrophic growth after Deng Xiaoping took over the reins from Mao Zedong in the late 1970s, China of today is the only country where the party's theoretical underpinning of Leninist/Marxist communism with the stark reality of pragmatic market forces got nicely meshed, posing no contradictions but throwing challenges to the potential adoption of either one for development. Nowhere in the world can China's economic paradigm be replicated as it would be difficult to prepare the whole population to subordinate their mundane liberty for reaping the reward of a gilded life of high growth and mind-boggling development, whilst sustaining them withal.
Be that as it may, it would be relevant to highlight the quintessence of the CPC conclave, where President Xi saw his own apotheosis even as he is just into his second term. Interestingly, at the conclusion of the six-day 19th National Congress, the roughly 2,200 delegates resolved to append "Xi Jinping Thought on the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" to the CPC's Constitution. It needs to be recalled that in the Communist China pantheon, only two erstwhile top leaders, Mao and Deng, had the privilege of their names etched to any ideological doctrine, much less elevated to such an exalted status within the CPC. With this, the message is loud and clear, that, henceforth, Xi's authority now equals that of the CPC's heaviest heavyweights, according to Chinese scholar Minxin Pei, author of China's crony capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Change.
Observers conversant with the CPC deliberations contend that the 19th congress served a chance to Xi to successfully stall the designation of a successor, thereby broaching the possibility that Xi himself could serve a third term as Chinese President. Yet another major triumph that Xi secured, according to observers, was the elevation of two close chums to the Politburo Standing Committee. Accordingly, the extant Chief of Staff, Li Zhanshu, would take over the leadership of the National People's Congress. The NPC, which normally endorses party decisions, will now have its legislative agenda guided by Xi himself. It is further noted that Li's leadership of the NPC could unravel a key obstacle to Xi's political ambitions: the two-term limit for Presidents, established in the Constitution. With Li in command, amending the Constitution if Xi seeks to remain China's head of state for the third term, might sail through the NPC.
With his power consolidated and paramount position in the party hierarchy secured, Xi would not hum and haw to bare his muscles and dare his adversaries both from within and without. Deng's memorable dictum, "hide your strength, bide your time and never take a lead" was buried long ago. Since the advent of Xi on the global scene in 2012, the profile of China as a robust power to the wantonly self-harming stance of the United States and Europe in the geopolitical theatre and the losing sheen of Moscow in the global power equations because of its misadventure and domestic woes, had only helped the Middle Kingdom to project itself as a major global force to be reckoned with.
In fact, after the 18th National Congress of CPC in 2012, Xi's remarks to the Central Work Conference on Foreign Affairs in November 2014, pointed to the contours of his strategic vision. Not only did the vision outline a geopolitical parity between the US, the world's leading economy and only superpower and China. Xi also hinted at Beijing's ardent ambition to shape not only the rules governing the new global system that encompasses the United Nations and the twin Bretton Woods institutions, but also China's own institutional innovations in the new genre of the Belt and Road Initiative, the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Conscious of its growing clout and heft, China had been assiduously and sedulously taking up investment opportunities in far corners of the world, stretching Africa, South America and Latin America and not to speak of its massive infrastructure one belt, one road bid to link Europe and China, linking as many as more than 60 nations in the process. Here, Beijing brings its vast experience and capacity in infrastructure-led economic development to a great number of developed and developing countries alike.
Although the party congress maps out a five-year blueprint, the 19th Congress of the CPC went far into the future to offer a template of how China is going to emerge in the global economy. It set the timeline for Beijing through 2050 from 2017 as the starting point for a comprehensive national renaissance. Already, the CPC at its 18th Congress outlined a comprehensive market-based strategy to replace China's existing economic-growth model based on low-wage, labour-intensive export manufacturing, with one based on technology-driven productivity gains, high wages, and a booming services sector, driven by the swift growth of the domestic consumer market.
Xi's report embraces a plethora of parts including housing, health, science, defence, artificial intelligence and the sharing economy that is the result of disruptive technologies. The Xi plan envisages the basic realisation of socialist modernisation by 2035, resulting in a major expansion of the middle class, with continuing growth through 2050. In Chinese political parlance, this is purported to be the economic and technological equivalent of a developed nation. In GDP per capita terms, this would imply up to three times the extant level, reaching between $20,000 and $30,000. With this potential feat, China will formally surpass the United States well before 2035.
All said, President Xi is now at his zenith of power and the path to glory or infamy is in his own hands based on how dexterously he is able to harness the energy of his billion plus people and also to take over the mantle of a venerable statesman. The world will keenly watch Xi's role in the coming days as to how he conducts himself to serve humanity by keeping shy of the hubris and audacity that accompany intoxicating power, unredeemed by a passion for universal peace and well-being.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

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