China’s Coming Clash with Economic Reality
As expected, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been given an unprecedented third five-year term. More surprising was the absence of any sign that Xi intends to revise the policies that have done so much economic damage in recent years.
LONDON – Judging by the reporting from the Communist Party of China’s 20th National Congress, Xi Jinping, newly anointed to an unprecedented third term as president, is tightening his political grip and strengthening the CPC’s control over society. Can successful economic development continue in this environment?
I have been thinking for many months now that one day, I would wake up to read that China was revisiting its zero-COVID strategy, overhauling the CPC’s interaction with domestic private business, truly reforming the country’s hukou system of residence permits, and rethinking crucial aspects of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its recent tactical stance on international governance. It is proving to be a very long wait.
At a meeting with a senior Chinese official a few months ago, I jokingly said that my 30-plus years of “understanding” China may have been a fluke, because I couldn’t comprehend some policies the country had adopted in recent years. The only way I could rationalize them was to conclude that they must be part of some tactical maneuver to neutralize factions within the CPC’s upper echelons ahead of the Congress. Judging by who the Congress has chosen to be next to Xi in the new leadership, there have certainly been further purges of opponents – and very few signs of a reversal of the policies of recent years.
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