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What’s Really at Stake at the CCP Congress?

Whenever the Chinese Communist Party holds its quinquennial National Congress, pundits revel in speculating about the behind-the-scenes political dynamics driving what is invariably a carefully choreographed event. But they should really be focusing on whether China's leaders will signal continuity or change regarding the country's economic and trade policies.

LONDON – This month, international media are understandably focused on the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress, a carefully choreographed event that will reveal who’s “in” and who’s “out” with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But while it is important to know who Xi’s favorites are, I do not find the theater and intrigue of the event to be as interesting as it is made out to be. Far more important is whether China’s leadership is acting in accordance with what the CCP has promised the country’s 1.3 billion people.

Just before the last congress, in 2012, Xi’s two-week absence from public view raised concerns. In the unlikely event that the same thing happened again this year, alarm bells would have rung. Moreover, if the agenda that Xi presents for the next five years suggests that he and the rest of the CCP leadership are losing credibility and struggling to maintain the party’s economic and social contract with the people, the 19th Congress will be very relevant. But I doubt we should worry too much.

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