by Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted
President Xi Jinping’s 1h45min speech at the opening of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing was an absorbing exercise of recent past informing near future. All of Asia and all of the Global South should carefully examine it.
The Great Hall was lavishly adorned with bright red banners. A giant slogan hanging in the back of the hall read, “Long Live our great, glorious and correct party”.
Another one, below, functioned like a summary of the whole report:
“Hold high the great flag of socialism with Chinese characteristics, fully implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, carry forward the great founding spirit of the party, and unite and struggle to fully build a modern socialist country and to fully promote the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
True to tradition, the report outlined the CPC’s achievements over the past 5 years and China’s strategy for the next 5 – and beyond. Xi foresees “fierce storms” ahead, domestic and foreign. The report was equally significant for what was not spelled out, or left subtly implied.
Every member of the CPC’s Central Committee had already been briefed about the report – and approved it. They will spend this week in Beijing studying the fine print and will vote to adopt it on Saturday. Then a new CPC Central Committee will be announced, and a new Politburo Standing Committee – the 7 that really rule – will be formally endorsed.
This new leadership line-up will clarify the new generation faces that will be working very close to Xi, as well as who will succeed Li Keqiang as the new Prime Minister: he has finished his two terms and, according to the constitution, must step down.
There are also 2,296 delegates present at the Great Hall representing the CPC’s over 96 million members. They are not mere spectators: at the plenary session that ended last week, they analyzed in-depth every major issue, and prepared for the National Congress. They do vote on party resolutions – even as those resolutions are decided by the top leadership, and behind closed doors.
The key takeaways
Xi contends that in these past 5 years the CPC strategically advanced China while “correctly” (Party terminology) responding to all foreign challenges. Particularly key achievements include poverty alleviation, the normalization of Hong Kong, and progress in diplomacy and national defense.
It’s quite telling that Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was sitting in the second row, behind the current Standing Committee members, never took his eyes off Xi, while others were reading a copy of the report on their desk.
Compared to the achievements, success of the Xi-ordered Zero-Covid policy remains highly debatable. Xi stressed that it has protected people’s lives. What he could not possibly say is that the premise of his policy is to treat Covid and its variants as a US bioweapon directed against China. That is, a serious matter of national security that trumps any other consideration, even the Chinese economy.
Zero-Covid hit production and the job market extremely hard, and virtually isolated China from the outside world. Just a glaring example: Shanghai’s district governments are still planning for zero-Covid on a timescale of two years. Zero-Covid will not go away anytime soon.
A serious consequence is that the Chinese economy will most certainly grow this year by less than 3% – well below the official target of “around 5,5%”.
Now let’s look at some of the Xi report’s highlights.
Taiwan: Beijing has started “a great struggle against separatism and foreign interference” on Taiwan.
Hong Kong: It is now “administered by patriots, making it a better place.” In Hong Kong there was “a major transition from chaos to order.” Correct: the 2019 color revolution nearly destroyed a major global trade/finance center.
Poverty alleviation: Xi hailed it as one of three “major events” of the past decade along with the CPC’s centenary and socialism with Chinese characteristics entering a “new era”. Poverty alleviation is the core of one of the CPC’s “two centenary goals.”
Opening up: China has become “a major trading partner and a major destination for foreign investment.” That’s Xi refuting the notion that China has grown more autarchic. China will not engage in any kind of “expansionism” while opening up to the outside world. The basic state policy remains: economic globalization. But – he didn’t say it – “with Chinese characteristics”.
“Self-revolution”: Xi introduced a new concept. “Self-revolution” will allow China to escape a historical cycle leading to a downturn. And “this ensures the party will never change.” So it’s the CPC or bust.
Marxism: definitely remains as one of the fundamental guiding principles. Xi stressed, “We owe the success of our party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to Marxism and how China has managed to adapt it.”
Risks: that was the speech’s recurrent theme. Risks will keep interfering with those crucial “two centenary goals”. Number one goal was reached last year, at the CPC’s 100th anniversary, when China reached the status of a “moderately prosperous society” in all respects (xiaokang, in Chinese). Number two goal should be reached at the centenary of the People’s Republic of China in 2049: to “build a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious.”
Development: the focus will be on “high-quality development”, including resilience of supply chains and the “dual circulation” economic strategy: expansion of domestic demand in parallel to foreign investment (mostly centered on BRI projects). That will be China’s top priority. So in theory any reforms will privilege a combination of “socialist market economy” and high-level opening, mixing the creation of more domestic demand with supply-side structural reform. Translation: “Dual-circulation” on steroids.
“Whole-process democracy”: that was the other new concept introduced by Xi. Translates as “democracy that works”, as in rejuvenating the Chinese nation under – what else – the CPC’s absolute leadership: “We need to ensure that people can exercise their powers through the People’s Congress system.”
Socialist culture: Xi said it’s absolutely essential “to influence young people”. The CPC must exercise ideological control and make sure the media fosters a generation of young people “who are influenced by traditional culture, patriotism and socialism”, thus benefitting “social stability”. The “China story” must go everywhere, presenting a China that is “credible and respectable”. That certainly applies to Chinese diplomacy, even the “Wolf Warriors”.
“Sinicise religion”: Beijing will continue its drive to “Sinicise religion”, as in “proactively” adapting “religion and the socialist society”. This campaign was introduced in 2015, meaning for instance that Islam and Christianity must be under CPC control and in line with Chinese culture.
The Taiwan pledge
Now we reach the themes that completely obsess the decaying Hegemon: the connection between China’s national interests and how they affect the civilization-state’s role in international relations.
National security: “National security is the foundation of national rejuvenation, and social stability is a prerequisite of national strength.”
The military: the PLA’s equipment, technology and strategic capability will be strengthened. It goes without saying that means total CPC control over the military.
“One country, two systems”: It has proven to be “the best institutional mechanism for Hong Kong and Macau and must be adhered to in the long term”. Both “enjoy high autonomy” and are “administered by patriots.” Xi promised to better integrate both into national strategies.
Taiwan reunification: Xi made a pledge to complete the reunification of China. Translation: return Taiwan to the motherland. That was met with a torrent of applause, leading to the key message, addressed simultaneously to the Chinese nation and “foreign interference” forces: “We will not renounce the use of force and will take all necessary measures to stop all separatist movements.” The bottom line: “The resolution of the Taiwan issue is a matter for the Chinese people themselves, to be decided by the Chinese people.”
It’s also quite telling that Xi did not even mention Xinjiang by name: only by implication, when he stressed that China must strengthen the unity of all ethnic groups. Xinjiang for Xi and the leadership mean industrialization of the Far West and a crucial node in BRI: not the object of an imperial demonization campaign. They know that the CIA destabilization tactics used in Tibet for decades did not work in Xinjiang.
Shelter from the storm
Now let’s unpack some of the variables affecting the very tough years ahead for the CPC.
When Xi mentioned “fierce storms ahead”, that’s what he thinks about 24/7: Xi is convinced the USSR collapsed because the Hegemon did everything to undermine it. He won’t allow a similar process to derail China.
In the short term, the “storm” may refer to the latest round of the no holds barred American war on Chinese technology – not to mention free trade: cutting China off from buying or manufacturing chips and components for supercomputers.
It’s fair to consider Beijing keeps the focus long-term, betting that most of the world, especially the Global South, will move away from the US high tech supply chain and prefer the Chinese market. As the Chinese increasingly become self sufficient, US tech firms will end up losing world markets, economies of scale, and competitiveness.
Xi also did not mention the US by name. Everyone in the leadership – especially the new Politburo – is aware of how Washington wants to
“decouple” from China in every possible way and will continue to provocatively deploy every possible strand of hybrid war.
Xi did not enter into details during his speech, but it’s clear the driving force going forward will be technological innovation linked to a global vision. That’s where BRI comes in, again – as the privileged field of application for these tech breakthroughs.
Only this way we can understand how Zhu Guangyao, a former vice minister of finance, may be sure that per capita GDP in China in 2035 would at least double the numbers in 2019 and reach $20,000.
The challenge for Xi and the new Politburo right away is to fix China’s structural economic imbalance. And pumping up debt-financed “investment” all over again won’t work.
So bets can be made that Xi’s third term – to be confirmed later this week – will have to concentrate on rigorous planning and monitoring of implementation, much more than during his previous bold, ambitious, abrasive but sometimes disconnected years. The Politburo will have to pay way more attention to technical considerations. Xi will have to delegate more serious policymaking autonomy to a bunch of competent technocrats.
Otherwise, we will be back to that startling observation by then Premier Wen Jiabao in 2007: China’s economy is “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated and ultimately unsustainable”. That’s exactly where the Hegemon wants it to be.
As it stands, things are far from gloomy. The National Development and Reform Commission states that compared to the rest of the world, China’s consumer inflation is only “marginal”; the job market is steady; and international payments are stable.
Xi’s work report and pledges may also be seen as turning the usual Anglo-American geopolitical suspects – Mackinder, Mahan, Spykman, Brzezinski – upside down.
The China-Russia strategic partnership has no time to lose with global hegemonic games; what drives them is that sooner rather than later they will be ruling the Heartland – the world island – and beyond, with allies from the Rimland, and from Africa to Latin America, all participating in a new form of globalization. Certainly with Chinese characteristics; but most of all, pan-Eurasian characteristics. The final countdown is already on.
Eu, sendo um brasileiro, espero, realmente, que o governo brasileiro, tomara novamente com Lula, não perca o trem da história e fortaleça a parceira já existente dos BRICS.
I, being a Brazilian, really hope that the Brazilian government, again with Lula, will not miss the train of history and strengthen the already existing BRICS partnership.
“Marxism: definitely remains as one of the fundamental guiding principles. Xi stressed, “We owe the success of our party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to Marxism and how China has managed to adapt it.”
Are we supposed to believe that’s a good thing? Pepe seems to gloss right over that statement without any comment whatsoever. How many tens of millions of people have been murdered by governments based on the Marxist ideology? The governments in the “west”, including the USA, certainly have many problems but it seems Pepe holds up the CCP as something to be emulated. IMO nothing could be further from the truth.
Kindly leave your derogatory 🇺🇲 AP history regurgitations out of the comments. Thanks.
Not sure where you get your statistics on Marxism killing millions of citizens.
Try reading the stats on the certified/verified number of multiple millions who have died at the hands of US Capitalism…..Current figures indicate, at least, 22 million + killed in the last several decades:
See: the casualty figures for:
The Middle East
Africa…..and so many more.
Going further back in time, consider the millions killed due to Western Colonialism.
” tens of millions of people have been murdered by governments based on the Marxist ideology…”
You really need to brush up on the history of capitalism, my friend.
This statement could be perfectly attenuated by saying “tens of millions of people have been murdered by governments”.
SpaceCommando, A rewrite is needed: How many tens of millions of people have been murdered by governments based on the capitalist/democratic ideology? The governments in the “west”, including the USA, certainly have many problems but it seems the “West” holds up neo-liberal predatory capitalism as something to be emulated. IMO nothing could be further from the truth.
Those who kills are pilots or soldiers. On picture below the nazis were special soldiers, killing their own relatives. Are they fighting for “capitalism” or “communism”? No.
Marxism in the West is very different than Marxism in China, which is overwhelmingly focused on the economic aspects and the function of the Party as the forum/union for all labor. It’s also been overwhelmingly successful as the transformation of China from 1979 will attest too.
Market economies absolutely can exist in Marxist frameworks – as Xi said himself, private markets place the “decisive” role in resource allocation.
The CPC is nothing like the cultural Marxists of the woke left in the Western lexicon.
Once a market economy produces wealth and allocates resources via any degree of prices, profit and private property it is by no original definition a Marxist economy, unless you wish to redefine the name, sans Marx. Chinese people are highly industrious individuals, give them an inch and they run with it. That industriousness combined with some relaxation of actual Marxism, is what has built China. Pure Marxism crippled it.
Oversimplification. China is at least ~100 years from communism in a Marxist sense. Just as capitalism was borne from feudalism. Communism is borne from capitalism. In this case, State Capitalism is the intermediary, and China/Xi has reinforced these frameworks well. Look at the recent mergers among China’s rare earth entities into CREG, or the role of SASAC and the $10T assets it manages underneath. Deng and Xi understands Engels very well on this point – that State ownership would be a penultimate form of capitalism where large scale production is coordinated by a bourgeois state.
Profit generation is not anathema to Chinese socialism, far from it. The State actively encourages it as profit generation is the reflection of market forces. There is no shortage of wealthy Chinese industrialists. The issue is the cultural impact of profit for it shapes the nation just as much as the nation shapes profit.
OnlyFans, hot tub streaming, drug use, glorified mass looting on social media – none of this would be permitted in China. Newton’s action-reaction law applies as much to societies as physical spaces.
The CPCs role is a forum to shape outlets of profit, as well as provide a supra-union of all labor interests.
My understanding is that the basic premise of Marxism is that the working class, or the 99%, will have to organize and overthrow the ruling class, or the oligarchs, and then defend a new system of justice and equal opportunity forever because the ruling class will never stop trying to take over the world to enslave it. Looking at how the world is turning, it’s fairly self-evident that Marx was right. You make a valid point – the people who have, in the past, interpreted and implemented what they called “Marxism” have semi-regularly created colossal tragedies. But that’s due to their poor understanding and terrible implementation. The theory isn’t wrong. The fact of the matter is that 800 million Chinese have been raised out of poverty by a socialist government that refused to let the ruling class rule. That’s never happened before ever, and Chinese leadership are giving credit where it’s due. My guess is that you’re a westerner who’s been propagandized into believing Marxism means something else. In the west, the zionist ruling class is promoting gender surgery and drag queen story hour while encouraging westerners to call it “Marxism without the class struggle” – or rather, “cultural Marxism”. This is yet another colossal tragedy being implemented by zionists who are blaming it on Marx, in order to delegitimize class struggle and Marxism. Perhaps the earlier colossal tragedies which you refer to are also Zionist plots to take the momentum away from the legitimacy of class struggle? Just a thought. Anyway, how many countries have suffered colossal tragedies due to capitalist imperialism?
Thank you, SpaceCommando.
We do ourselves no favors by glossing over historical realities.
The Black Book of Communism is sobering, to say the least. And let us remember, it was written by a leftist, not some right-wing reactionary.
I love this site, and I appreciate Pepe Escobar giving us a very readable summary of Xi’s speech, but the denial of communism’s horrors that I often see here is distressing.
My #1 loyalty is to truth — even when it’s not to my liking. A mature person recognizes that truth is often jarring to one’s wishes and personal preferences, but prizes truth above all else anyway.
China just needs to take Taiwan and get it over with. If the US interferes, it will only lengthen the time before chip exports can resume.
10k suicide drones should convince Taiwan to do the right thing. That is the cost of 10 HIMARS launchers and missiles for the launchers.
Once China adds Taiwan’s production capacity to it’s GDP, growth on paper solved.
Just remind Biden of the One China policy.
Just to be clear: Pepe there was NO debate to speak of at the Party Congress.
Unmentioned as well are deep vulnerabilities China faces because of failure with a) potable water supply; b) related agricultural failure caused by repeated failure with flooding/ droughts. As a result China imports about 115 million tons of food every year… an embargo could bring China to her knees.
Furthermore, China is a huge energy importer from the Middle East… another huge vulnerability… Vast resources have been wasted on useless Green energy technology.
In the case of food vulnerability and water issues Xi has taken no steps to address these issues. It was his idea to Go Green
No mention during the conference of what China is doing to initiate with other non-western nations the essence of a new financial system:
1. A new World Bank for BRIC Nations; divorced from the US’ World Bank?
2. A new balance of payments systems – an absolute necessity to ensure all trade/imports/exports stays within the boundaries of non-western currencies
3. A new IMF Loan system separated from the US-style of predatory “loans.”
Correct. The Russians and Chinese have been yapping about a new world financial order for years, but have little to show for it except limited bilateral deals. A failure for Xi. He’s a liability for China. They’re stuck with him.
Yes, China does have a problem with water for its citizens and agriculture and energy for its industry. These are two very good reasons for its friendship/partnership with Russia. A pipeline bringing water south through Mongolia already exists, food imports from Russia already exist and energy imports from Russia and other countries in Eurasia already exist. All the infrastructure for this is in place right now and can only increase and get stronger in the coming years. How exactly do you see any embargo working here?
Embargo: Simply place US warships at the Suez and Panama canals and seize any with food or hydrocarbons headed to China. China doesn’t have a blue water navy to counter such a move.
A few pipes through Mongolia won’t solve the Chinese water crisis. It will take a major deal for Siberian water. There has been no progress on that kind of project for years. Furthermore, large scale water management projects have to be undertaken, basically to channel flood waters to reservoirs and transport water to the dry North and West. Desalination is also another route. I see no progress on any of these fronts.
The Agro-industrial sector is backward and dismal and constantly ripe for mass epidemics among herds and flocks. Again, no progress. Xi simply exhorts people not to waste food. Failure across the board.
Energy is a little better. But countless billions wasted on Green tech …. China has an abundance of coal and uranium and should use both more intensively.
This is a good explanation of the Chinese economy and how it is managed by Richard David Wolff. He is a American Marxian economist. He is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
China goes back to the [failed] times of Diocletian, Turning the true Catholic Faith into a pseudo-religion of the communist party.
The communists know very well that their atheistic dogmas do not attract anyone and that the Church was expanding among millions of Chinese.
The interesting thing is that Pope Francis thinks about this and nothing is known about the secret pacts signed years ago.
First, I have to say that I’m very much a fan of Pepe Escobar, his articles, his thinking. Insightful and as far as I can determine, accurate.
This piece however leaves many of us in the dust – certainly myself – who may not have been following China’s internal politics quite so avidly. As a result, this article is a bit too esoteric with its many somewhat obscure references.
If I may make a request, Pepe, it would be most welcome if this article were unpacked in the form of a larger piece in order to more fully explain the subtle politics involved, which we in the West *DO* desperately need to understand.
I suppose it might become a book… but that would be okay..!
Pepe excels in creative writing: meaning, you can feel the power of his writing by slightly exaggerating his wit and whim for any event. :)
You can be sure, if he suddenly found himself imprisoned, he would find a way to make that humorous and dramatic. :)
We guess it’s his culture — one of the Latin American nations.
Pepe also speaks French, English, Spanish, and possibly Portuguese. :)
I read this article on a Chinese made smartphone running android. It cost me $50 brand new 2 years ago, hasn’t missed beat, and you can throw it around with no damage. The Chinese I do business with in Jamaica are the hardest workers, don’t seem to care about Xi and his 5 year plans, are super secretive and definitely care about their money. Chinese cultural industriousness has probably built China, not special Marxism, probably the only Contribution special Marxism has made to economic growth in China is lifting it’s foot of their neck just a little. There is simply no way for a centrally managed economy managed by bureaucrats to grasp the astonishing diversity and complexity of a supply chain network that can only be regulated by price, profit, and the urge to own private property, the passport to freedom. The more more politbureaucrats try to milk it is the smaller the economy gets and the deeper underground it goes. There is no way to measure it but I am confident more than half of Jamaica’s economy takes place underground and a fair chunk of that comes from our new Chinese from China citizens. They just slip right in. We’re socialist in Jamaica too, the what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is ours kind of socialism.
“There is simply no way for a centrally managed economy…”
And yet they’ve pulled millions out of poverty while at the same time the West has pushed its own into poverty and uncertainty.
“We’re socialist in Jamaica too,…”
And has that socialism been allowed to breathe? No way.
It’s no coincidence that every ME state invaded or destabilised by the West in the last 20 years has been a primitive socialist state.
China has marxist style economy under Mao
– After Mao’s death, the Gang of Four was quickly arrested by Hua Guofeng and held responsible for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Elder Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978, and instituted significant economic reforms. The CCP loosened governmental control over citizens’ personal lives, and the communes were gradually disbanded in favor of working contracted to households. This marked China’s transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open-market environment.
A mixed economy is not Marxism no matter what name Xi gives it. Glad somebody here knows the price of tea in China.
We’re socialist in Jamaica too
Yea, it’s called socialism for the oligarchs.
China is socialism for the people, and they do keep oligarchs in check.
Love the comments. Chinas energy problems. Yes they tried green certainly the world demanded it. And where are china now ? Taken solar to new efficiency level thought impossible. Building more offshore windturbines than the rest of the world combined. Imports energy, well who doesnt . Has clean water problems. Yes builds huge desal plants all over the world but cant solve a issue like that. Big picture . Lets not forget housing bubble. Yes and can be solved by one pen stroke to move a nations financials towards a solution not have stakeholders argue over how much profit they still get from creating the issue in first place. Big picture . Go z go xi
Nobody will miss any opportunity to sell food to China ! With its 1,45 Milliards population any state on earth will embrace to sell !
There have been some remarks in postings concerning Chinas’ possible lacks of more and more development concerning water supply or food and so forth.
I think many haven’t heard of developments made in China in agriculture as well as concerning water supply (cleaning waters etc.). China has had many developments however, the Western mainstream media doesn’t much report on it. Also much to my dismay neither is done when it comes to scientific developments made in China. Such information is extremely scarce to find.
At least to compare to other countries no beggar is on streets, streets are clean und transportation has a good function.
Which for example isn’t in USA whith its beggars on streets, trains and busses who have not been punctual etc.
So I wonder who has claimed about China in these postings ?
One of the dangers of laissez-faire capitalism (not fascist capitalism, which most of you confuse) is that some players do become very wealthy and use that to buy and capture the whores in government. Lasissez-faire capitalism cannot coexist with big government because it buys it out and uses excessive government power to convert it into Fascist Capitalism. You are correct that the CPC is holding the fascists at bay, for now. At some future point when Xi is gone that will change. As long as government, any kind of government, is strong enough to coerce people around they will be captured by groups of smart resourced men and used to do their bidding. An oligarchs goal is to control the free will of people via government so that they can control markets and their own power. Marx knew this, that’s why he wrote the Communist Manifesto for Zionist oligarchs to use, while himself living in the lap of luxury.
– You will own nothing and be happy
Yes, we have heard that before
Peace of Westphalia:
– Don’t mess around with others – who are sovereign – businesses
– And then we have the farmers
– Yes, what about them?
– Do we need farmers?
– Let us make them state property (nullifying property rights)