The Communist Party of China has elevated its leader Xi Jinping to the stature which was held by the founding father of the country, Mao Zedong. It is one of the most important global events in recent times with repercussions for many countries. Xi’s thought on ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics for the New Era’ has been enshrined in the Party’s constitution. It means that his thoughts would be the guiding principles for governing the country. This shows his command over the party.
Xi’s address to the 19th National Congress of the party defines the New Era. It asserts that China has to become “great again” and it has to become the number one power in the world by the middle of the century. He has set two goals for the nation. The first goal which is to be achieved by 2021 will make the country “moderately prosperous” and the second goal will achieve the status of a “developed socialist country” by 2050. The first goal coincides with the centenary of the founding of the Party and second with the centenary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
“The Chinese nation has stood up, grown rich, and become strong — and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation. It will be an era that sees China moving closer to the centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” Xi said in his address.
Xi has not only given himself a stature comparable to the founding father of the country, but also has decided to postpone naming his successor. It hints at his ambition to continue even after 2022 when he completes his second term in office. The seven-member Standing Committee of the Polit Bureau has all 60-plus members and none of them would be able to make claim for the position of General Secretary because, by then, they would have completed 68 years of age at which it is mandatory for party leaders to retire.
It is easy to discover the ramifications of China going back to the era of one-man rule. Deng, a liberal who was termed by Mao supporters as “the capitalist roader”, was the last leader who had the power to decide the fate of the country. Before him, only Mao had enjoyed this status. After acquiring the status, Xi would be trying to assert more at national and international levels. Xi’s anti-corruption tirade will get a new momentum and more leaders are likely to get hounded. His tirade has already resulted in long-term sentences for high-profile leaders such as Bo Xilai.
What is the ideological meaning of this ‘new era socialism’? Does it have anything to do with the socialist dream of Maoist-era of making an equal and exploitation-free society? The answer is clear that it has nothing to do with the great communist dream of freeing the world from oppression. The message is loud and clear that China will become a great nation with all the economic and military powers. Of course, it would be done with the expansion of market and the Communist Party would be leading the transition.
Analysts have noted how for the first time the CPC has sought to talk of such a mundane thing as the One Belt, One Road initiative. This project signifies the economic prowess of China. It is not a simple infrastructure project aimed at linking the country to neighbouring and remote regions. In reality, it shows China’s strategic ambitions. China is ready to do anything to go ahead with the project. It has been seen how the country has ignored India’s concern about the interference in the disputed territory of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The new era socialism of Xi has all the ruthlessness of an authoritarian concept. Xi has been reiterating his faith in the greatness of race and culture of China in a manner which hardly suits the ideological traditions of communism. His socialism is a market socialism which does not believe in the internationalism of the past. It actually believes in open markets and party control over it.
Will this market socialism change Chinese society? Will it change its relations with the outside world? Experts are analyzing the economic path under Xi. He is considered to be a conservative in the sense that he relies on state control of business and commerce. He prefers state enterprises against private ones. This makes things difficult for the world because a private enterprise is only guided by economic considerations and hardly by any other issues, but the same is not true for the state enterprises. It is true that they use state power or support it to further their economic interests. A giant economy under state control can take decisions which are not guided by economic considerations. Xi’s declaration to overhaul the military shows the direction in which his country is heading.
No one can question the ability of China to make it to the top as it is the second largest economy of the world and has made the rest of the world heavily dependent on its growth. But, will this be easy for the country to achieve it without confrontation? The US has already made its intention clear of curbing the strategic ambitions of China. The world may witness fresh hostility on the South China Sea. The clash may accelerate militarism in the world. China’s rise is already prompting Japan to equip militarily.
India, too, has a lot to worry about. The political changes in Chinese politics are likely to directly affect the strategic interests of the country. Xi has already given a signal by promoting the official who was looking after border talks on Doklam. Another official, who was supervising the issue during the stand-off between the two countries has retained his position in the recent reshuffle in the Party. China has been trying to isolate India in the region. The process may get accelerated.
Xi has many challenges on the domestic front too. Experts say his new era economic reforms are likely to harm small state owned enterprises (SOEs). The change may destroy the status quo he has been maintaining during his first term. The SOEs have been the backbone of the Chinese economy since the early days of communist China.
Another bigger problem he would be facing is from the forces unleashed by the market. His capitalism is state-driven and it will hardly allow people to make free choices which are possible in a free economy. However, it is unlikely that the state will be able to curb it for long. The uneasiness over the latest curbs on internet services is an example. The new era will result on more curbs on pro-democracy forces. Those who are fighting for the autonomy of Tibet may face a harder state. i’s solutions have obvious flaws!