“Foreign policies the world over are set to change after the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” said Muraleedharan Nair, former Indian Consul in China. “It is highly likely that General Secretary (also, the President of China) Xi Jinping will have his ideology etched into the party constitution alongside his name, an honour accorded only to Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in China’s history,” he added.

The former consul, an authority on Chinese matters, was delivering a talk on ‘Chasing the Chinese Dream: Xi Jinping at the 19th Party Congress’ organised by the Centre for Public Policy Research at its office in Kochi on October 17, 2017.

The weeklong 19th National Congress, a centre of current global attention, will reveal China’s path, at least for the next five years, and major policy decisions, including China’s global role and a shift from manufacturing to service. A second term for Jinping is also on the cards.

“China surpasses the US as the largest economy in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. However, the Chinese economy is debt-ridden, owing to huge government spending on public infrastructure. There is an excess of unnecessary bridges and huge but desolate housing complexes one would find in China,” noted Mr Nair, while pointing out that the debt to GDP ratio of the country was over 305 per cent.

“The Chinese economy registered its lowest ever growth in a quarter century in 2016 at 6.7 per cent. This is a good figure for a large economy but this is not good news for China, as it has been recording a double-digit growth for many decades. The Chinese are striving to maintain their growth above 6.5 per cent. Despite the challenges, China is predicted to become the largest economy in GDP nominal terms in another 13 years or even less,” he added.

The speaker underlined financial stability and monitoring as a major concern for China. Several ‘hawala’ transactions and black money in the banking sector were operating under the radar, he said.

“China, under Xi Jinping, is vying to be a Germany and sees itself churning out high-value exports that incorporate the latest technology. Policy reforms could involve restructuring State-owned enterprises, cutting down China’s excess capacity, strengthening national security, investing in soft power, environmental concerns, and intra-party rule,” he added.

Mr Nair highlighted that Jinping’s restructuring of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Central Military Commission (CMC) had paid off with him emerging as the ‘core leader’ of the party. The Politburo Standing Committee did not allow members, who were above the age of 67. Hence, it was likely that all members of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee would be replaced, except Wang Qishan, who heads the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

“Wang Qishan, the architect of the anti-corruption campaigns will have to exit the committee, as he is 69. However, Jinping might retain Qishan, a powerful and ideological figure in Jinping’s China,” he added.

The key development to watch out was whether Jinping would accede to precedent or rewrite the party’s internal rules, signalling the world of his unrivalled power, stressed Mr Nair.

Antony Dawson D’silva (Assistant Professor, Political Science, Maharaja’s College, Kochi) moderated the Question & Answer session that followed. Mr Nair answered questions ranging from China’s soft power to the Belt-Road initiative. The speaker concluded that most of these were speculations, as when it came to China, no one could be an expert.

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