roach145_Lintao ZhangGetty Images_xi jinping standing committee Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Xi’s Conflict-Prone China

The just-concluded 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China revealed that, for President Xi Jinping, foregone economic growth is a necessary price to pay for national security. And it is clear from who will surround him at the top of the Party in the coming years where he believes the main threat to China lies.

NEW HAVEN – China’s 20th Party Congress has come and gone. Despite all the fanfare and media hype, it was a hollow event. It revealed little we didn’t already know about China – an autocracy that maintains grandiose ambitions and ideological bluster to match, but is woefully unprepared for an uncertain future filled with risks largely of its own making. That much is evident when the results of the Congress are examined from three perspectives: leadership, strategy, and conflict.

The leadership reveal of the so-called First Plenum – the formal meeting of the Party’s newly “elected” 205-member Central Committee that immediately follows the conclusion of the National Congress – was completely in line with the power consolidation that has been underway since Xi Jinping was first appointed general secretary ten years ago. Confirmation of Xi’s third five-year term as leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was never in doubt, nor was his selection of loyalists to surround him at the top in the seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo.

There will undoubtedly be some jockeying for positions such as premier and the chairs of the two legislative bodies – the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress. But the outcomes matter little. In Xi’s China, these positions, once central to the model of consensus leadership that Deng Xiaoping wisely put in place following the death of Mao Zedong, have been marginalized.