Notwithstanding all the self-congratulatory flourishes in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s political report to the 19th National Congress, there is good reason to believe that the Chinese economy is only in the early stages of its long-heralded structural transformation. To reach its goal, China will have to resolve three contradictions.
NEW HAVEN – China’s quinquennial Communist Party congresses are that rare event where ritual and dogma combine with introspection and strategy. The 19th National Congress, which began on October 18, is no exception.
Notwithstanding the suspense over potential changes in Party leadership, which typically occur at the end of the meeting, President Xi Jinping’s political report, delivered on the opening day, was a high-impact event. Significantly, it says as much about the Party as it does about Xi. As Alice Miller, a leading Sinologist at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, emphasizes, the report was carefully crafted over a one-year period to convey the consensus of the Party’s highest organ, the 205-member Central Committee.
Three conclusions from Xi’s address are particularly important. For starters, the ideological underpinnings of “Xi Jinping Thought” have been raised to the same lofty level as those of “Mao Zedong Thought,” effectively elevating Xi over his three predecessors – Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin, and even the revered Deng Xiaoping. Much has been written about Xi’s consolidation of power since he was appointed General Secretary in November 2012. But this elevation makes it official. After only five years in office, the Party leadership has anointed Xi as one of modern China’s two greatest historic figures.