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Xi alone stands atop the CCP

Hong Kong: If any demonstration was needed of the divine leadership of Chairman Xi Jinping, it was found on the opening day of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party(CCP).
On October 16, Xi told assembled party luminaries of his grand vision for 1.4 billion Chinese. His report was entitled "Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive in Unity to Build a Modern Socialist Country in All Respects". Normal practice is for the General Secretary to read the report to congress in its entirety. At the 19th Party Congress five years ago, it took Xi three hours to read his report. This time, Xi only read a truncated version, delivering it in two hours.
It is unclear why this was so, though a few analysts said it might relate to Xi's health condition. Despite the finest of political theater at the National Congress, as Xi assumes an unprecedented third term and returns China to the pathology of the troubled Mao era, serious challenges have emerged that not even Xi's omniscience can solve.
China's economic growth is waning, tensions with the USA and other countries have risen, state repression of the populace tightens, and Beijing's reputation around the world is sharply declining. Indeed, since Xi's 19th National Congress speech, much has changed. Yet, after ten years in power, Xi's trajectory is clear and this congress will not see a course correction. Rather, Xi is doubling down on former policies and assuming what could almost be described as a one-man dictatorship.
In a third term, there will be few constraints on his personal power, with no thought given to a successor. It may be that Xi truly believes he alone can save China and guide it into the future; if that is so, then he has already succumbed to the temptations of absolute power.
President Vladimir Putin, surrounded by sycophants, remains a tragic exemplar of someone who reached the same warped conclusions about his prowess. In Xi's report, the most frequently used words were "people", "development" and "safety/security". The words "struggle" and "tech" were used a lot more than in the 19th
National Congress, but there was almost no mention about "market". Just a few days earlier, the USA released its National Security Strategy, the first under President Joe Biden, and it characterized Sino-US tensions as strategic competition.
However, Xi in his speech took a different tack. Instead of the phrase strategic competition, external threats were likened to impending storms that need to be navigated. Xi stopped well short of painting a picture of China being in a stand-off. Derek Grossman, the senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, concluded: "My top impression from 20th Party Congress is Xi's China is everything we've worried about.
It's a revisionist power that firmly believes it will ultimately prevail in strategic competition against America. We better get our own house in order and prepare."
Xi mentioned "security" some 50 times in his speech. This was five times fewer than in his 2017 speech, though, given that this report was significantly shorter than 2017 one, it added up to far greater frequency.
Bonnie Glaser, Director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, noted that Taiwan remains a central issue. Every Chinese leader has stated that reunification of Taiwan - even though it has never been a part of the People's Republic of China, and therefore cannot technically be "reunified" - is a historic mission for the CCP.
"The policies of peaceful reunification and One Country, Two Systems are the best way to realize reunification across the Taiwan Strait," Xi trumpeted. This is standard government policy, but of course "peaceful" encompasses all types of coercion. Importantly, no deadline is given for this unification.
Glaser said that carrots remain evident, with China promoting "economic and cultural exchanges and cooperation across the Strait...that contribute to the wellbeing of our Taiwan compatriots". Inevitably, there were grandiose claims such as, "Taiwan is China's Taiwan. Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese." As Glaser remarked, "In other words, all foreigners should butt out."
The threat of force hangs like the sword of Damocles though. "We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary."
A pointed remark followed: "This is directed solely at interference by outside forces and the few separatists seeking 'Taiwan independence' and their separatist activities; it is by no means targeted at our Taiwan compatriots." Xi's report triumphantly exulted: "The wheels of history are rolling on toward China's reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Complete reunification of our country must be realized, and it can, without doubt, be realized!" Glaser concluded, "In my view, this is all consistent with the new White Paper and Xi Jinping's 2 January 2019 speech. There is no new signal of greater urgency than we have seen in the past [though] somewhat greater emphasis on warning foreigners to not
interfere, perhaps." Another academic to offer comments on Xi's report was Joseph Torigian, Assistant Professor at the American University's School of International Service. He agreed that Xi "does not show any new urgency on Taiwan ... If he didn't think history was moving in the 'right' direction, that would be a much more dangerous signal."
Torigian listed Xi's main themes: "Strident language about the CCP's historic mission, and cultural confidence that's balanced with language about the need for modesty and prudence, and a fixation on the ideology that's quickly contextualized by the need for realistic, practical application."
He said Xi's speech went to great lengths to claim the banner of reform and opening up. "Xi's legitimation narrative is not that reform and opening was wrong, but that he is saving it by addressing the problems it created."
Torigian added that the speech strongly stressed economic security, but Xi surprisingly signaled continued interest in economic ties with the West, as evidenced by claims of a "more proactive strategy of opening up".
China is "still in the primary stage of socialism," but Xi's phrase "common prosperity" is mentioned once only. Some fear that "common prosperity" means the CCP will forcibly redistribute wealth, but Xi instead said that China will "promote fair opportunities, increase the income of low-income people, expand middle-income groups, standardize the order of income distribution, and standardize wealth accumulation mechanisms".
This will inevitably lead to anti-monopoly regulations on the tech sector, for Xi believes that monopolies prevent fair distribution of wealth. Economic growth and increased personal prosperity have been the basis of the CCP's domestic legitimacy since China's reforms in 1978. However, Xi insists that security interests are just as important, hence his warnings to the public to get used to a new
normal of diminished economic growth. Xi has been busy in the past couple of years making the Chinese economy more self-sufficient (e.g. the common prosperity campaign), at the cost of growth, and this has
caused internal debate within the CCP and criticism of Xi that he has abandoned past policy.
Xi has been provocatively asserting power abroad, and at the same time insulating its economy against foreign countermeasures. Senior leaders, including Premier Li Keqiang, have pushed back against Xi's stance, and the common prosperity mantra was temporarily shelved. When Xi restarted it in August, Li responded by saying, "China's reform and opening-up will continue on. The Yellow River and Yangtze River will not flow backward."
Some commentators, such as political scientist Howard Wang of the RAND Corporation, even suggest that resistance against Xi is hardening to the point that Xi's power may have peaked. However, Wang warned: "If Xi is weaker within China, that's not necessarily a good thing for the United States or any other country. Political strongmen are more prone to provocative behavior when they feel insecure at home. Communist party leaders have a history of "drawing strength from weakness" - that is to say, they deal with low domestic support by doling out harsher rhetoric and more aggressive foreign policies. And a disgruntled minority of technocrats is unlikely to restrain Xi on the most consequential decisions affecting the United States, such as a reprisal in the US-China trade war or a potential military conflict over Taiwan."
Xi also promised to "make appropriate reductions to the negative list for foreign investment, protect the rights and interests of foreign investors in accordance with the law, and foster a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized". In other words, he made all the right noises that foreign businesses would like to hear so they can continue investing in China.
With allusions to "grave, intricate international developments and a series of immense risks and challenges", Xi does sound more pessimistic than he did in 2017. Torigian pointed out: "A focus on security is unmistakable in the document. Xi said, 'National security is the bedrock of national rejuvenation, and social stability is a prerequisite for building a strong and prosperous China.' Xi's dad used to say the same
thing to people who complained about the party." That is why Xi could say Hong Kong is now "governed by patriots". It does not matter what the people want, or whether their rights have been trampled upon. All that matters is that the CCP reigns supreme and that all dissent is quashed.
This was clearly demonstrated by the singularly brave protester who unfurled a protest banner on a motorway bridge in Beijing shortly before the 20th Party Congress convened. No voice of dissent is permissible, and any challenge to Xi and the CCP is ruthlessly destroyed. The fate of the protester is unknown, and any WeChat user who shared photos of the protester are now banned from WeChat for life.
Any political discussion about Xi and his cohorts is banned on social media. For example, the Xiaohongshu social media platform banned 564 nicknames for Xi in a two-month period, including "Adolf Xi-tler". China is reaching new depths of censorship and control. In reference to COVID, Xi declared, "...We put the people and their lives above all else...and tenaciously pursued a dynamic zero-COVID policy. In launching an all-out people's war to stop the spread of the virus, we have protected the people's health and safety to the greatest extent possible..." That obviously includes forcibly locking up millions of people in their homes, shutting down businesses and asserting absolute governmental control. "We put the people and
their lives above all else," Xi said. That is debatable.
Xi also stated, "Confronted with drastic changes...we have put our national interests first, focused on internal political concerns and maintained strategic resolve. We have shown a fighting spirit and a firm determination to never yield to coercive power. Throughout these efforts, we have safeguarded China's dignity and core interests and kept ourselves well positioned for pursuing development and ensuring security."
This "dignity" obviously extends to the Chinese consul general in Manchester in the UK, who personally tore down the banners of protesters outside his consulate, and who helped Chinese security guards to drag a protester inside the grounds of the site and pummel him.
Videos of this diplomatic travesty have been trending on social media. Perhaps Xi was quite right. China has indeed put its national interests first and has shown a fighting spirit. That is precisely why the world needs to be alarmed at Xi, for he seems to care primarily for his own personal ambition and prestige, and the power of the CCP. (ANI)

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