The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (NCCPC) started Wednesday, on October 18. “China is taking leading positions in the world”: such was a brief description of the Congress agenda.
Such media highlights closely echo they key ideas of the NCPCP key reporter, chairman (president) of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping about sooner “great victory of socialism with Chinese specifics in new era” and “Chinese dream about great revival of the Chinese nation.”
These were not just words, but a reminder for the Congress about his own theory that, if succeeds, will put him on the same level with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping into the history of China and CPC.
The Chinese Dream is one side of “Xi Jinping’s doctrine.” This is about building “middle class society” (“Xiaokang”) by 2022 i.e. by the end of his second and, so far, last term on the post of the Chinese president. The greatest part of Xi Jinping’s report at the Congress was dedicated to the first side of the theory.
The theory does not mean just middle class with “average European level incomes” but some other criteria as well. This is a “new concept of development, establishment of a modernized economic system,” first of all. Actually, the rapid development of China during the last few decades has resulted in a huge disproportion of modern economic clusters, mostly sea-based ones, and internal agricultural regions that have not felt that modernization yet.
Another challenge is that once “industrial North” and “agricultural South” have replaced each other. South is now the basis of the Chinese economic miracle, whereas metallurgy, machine building, chemical industry in the North-West need fundamental reconstruction. One can still find enterprises operating under the technologies of 1960s and pollution of Amur and Ussuri rivers from man-caused disasters in China regularly reaches Russia’s Far East.
The Chinese Dream is also about “improved and modernized social management” (settlement of such acute problems as pensions, accessible education and healthcare) and “reform of the environmental civilization system – building of Beautiful China” (China is a world leader in terms of oncology and other diseases caused by environment pollution).
The Chinese leader had to admit the need for “confidence in own culture, stimulation of social culture.” Perhaps, total control over Internet has proved insufficient. He urged “development of political order of social democracy.”
Most documents and speeches during the Congress and behind-the-scenes vowed crack-down of “tigers and flies” – high-level and low-level corrupt officials. The measures like naming of those “punished,” cutting of expenses on dinners, gifts and business trips are not enough to fight corruption. Meantime, the Chinese leader brushed over such issues as election of at least low-level officials, “healthy criticism” by mass media, “impartiality” of courts and other measures to “improve the institutional system.” However, developing what has not been ordered by the leadership is not practiced in China.
Perhaps, all these problems were behind the decision of S&P Global Ratings to cut China’s sovereign credit rating from AA- to A+ for the first time within 18 years – on September 21. The Chinese finance ministry was frustrated with the rating and called it “wrong and hard to understand” since the Chinese government is holding structural reforms and ensures economic growth.
Whether the Chinese government believes in the country’s sustainable economic growth is hard to understand as well. The congress did not specify whether the birth control policy “One family – one child” will be cancelled finally (Since January 2016, it is allowed to have two children). In case of a really healthy economy, every employable citizen is an asset that provides to the society more than consumes. Besides, how will one or two employable citizens ensure high standards of consumption and medical assistance of two pensioners in case of “average European level of pension security and health care?”
The second side of “Xi Jinping’s doctrine” sounds like “One Belt – One Way” and applies to the foreign policy.
This is an example of Chinese “play on words.” While some Central Asian and East European leaders dream to get a piece of the “Great Silk Road” from China to Europe, Beijing has renamed it into a certain nameless “Belt.”
The number of effective and potential routes of the Silk Road has increased dramatically. In Middle Ages, they had not even had an idea about many of those roads. The Belt stretches from the Northern Sea Route in the Russian Artic to Sri Lanka and Djibouti (there is already a Chinese naval base there).
They expand the Chinese Belt around the Cape of Good Hope (Vasco da Gama sought the way to India and China there) and via designed Transoceanic Canal to Nicaragua (Columbus sailed to the west to open the way to India and China).
The word ‘way’ in the doctrine “One Belt – One Way” has got a political meaning i.e. “a common way for development” of the countries of the Belt. Outside the Belt there appears to be a large “enclave” of unfriendly India, U.S. with Canada and Australia with Antarctica.
Despite its friendly relations with Russia, China did not support Russia selflessly in the period of sanction crisis in 2014. Moscow keeps a “friendly distance” too. Trans-Siberian roads are built and modernized on Russia’s funds and within the interests of Russian regions. Power of Siberia gas pipeline is being built so that it has more than one potential consumer and supplies gas to the Far East regions and removes the obstacles to their industrial growth.
Beijing presents the advantages of “One Belt – One Way” doctrine to the world in quite an attractive manner: “peaceful development,” “mutually-advantageous infrastructure project,” “China’s welfare is possible only through welfare of its neighbors and the world.” Once former ambassador of Belarus to China, now chairman of Belarus-China Friendship Society Anatoly Tozik said: “The stronger China is, the more peaceful the world is.”
It is a pity that neighboring Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia do not understand that seizure and peaceful “use” of atolls, shelves and rocks by China (it is banned by UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982) in the South-China Sea is for their own peace.
It should be recalled that it was not Vladimir Putin who “gave the islands on Amur to China.” The first and the last president of USSR signed the agreement on demarcation of the border along Argun (Ergune), Amur and Ussuri rivers in 1991.
By the way, the islands China has built in the South China Sea with territorial waters are commeasurable with Crimea in size. Neighbors blame China for “stealing those islands from them.” Meantime, no sanctions have been imposed on China. Besides, Beijing claims that under Convention on the Law of the Sea, an agreement of the riparian state in needed for foreign warships to sail not only in its territorial waters (12 miles, 22km) but also in the exclusive economic zone (200 miles, 370km). This makes Chinese almost the entire South China Sea. By the way, in 1941, war in the Pacific broke out after one side blocked oil transit via…South China Sea, though it were U.S. and Japan then.
If short, those who are not familiar with the fair, open, and peaceful policy of the Communist Party of China Political Bureau and Chinese government, may get an impression that Beijing is not trying to put an end to the unipolar world, but is trying to replace the current hegemon with itself.
Meantime, the congress talked much about “reunification of the Homeland” (amalgamation of Taiwan : One Country – Two Orders) and “strengthen the army constantly.”
China will face many trails here. The referendum in Crimea and support to Donbass resulted in criminal punitive operation of NATO and deployment of one division of troops on the Russian border, whereas the U.S. army and fleet near the Chinese shores grow every hour. Washington has drawn conclusions from the failed attempt to frighten North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, as well as from Beijing’s careless statement saying if North Korea unleashes war, China will consider itself free from commitments to Pyongyang under mutual assistance contract, but if North Korea “suffers an unsubstantiated attack,” China will support it by all means possible.
Of course, Pentagon takes measures to prevent China’s interference into the conflict. To that end, it needs to create an unprecedented since the Vietnam War, if not WWII, group of troops and security system involving at least Japan, South Korea, Taiwan (!), Philippines and South China Sea. Recall last year’s Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) of U.S. and India, which enables Washington to use military bases, ports and airports of its strategic ally India.
U.S. steps up efforts to establish ties with Vietnam. It no longer speaks of sooner withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and seeks to return “somewhere” in Central Asia, for instance, in Uzbekistan. Usually opening a temporary military base in a country, U.S. remains there for decades. In Beijing they are well aware of this.
China exports capital – builds enterprises from Kampuchea to Guinea where salaries of workers are equal to Chinese salaries 20 years ago. Recently it has become known the reason why China increases its gold reserves. Chinese yuan claims the status of the world’s reserve currency that is gold-secured, unlike dollar. (U.S. gold reserves do not cover dollar supply and the country refuses from audit of its gold reserves). Noteworthy that Russian Central Bank was also criticized for accumulating gold reserves (Russia little yields to China), but Russian ruble does not claim the status of the world currency; it seeks to become a currency of mutual settlements, which requires gold security as well.
President Donald Trump seeks to return part of the capitals and industries to U.S. and pursues tough protectionist measures, which is not good for China. One of American economists made a joke (?) saying Trump wants to launch a new war for independence, this time from Chinese communists, not from British colonists. The world is on the brink of a grand battle.
On October 25, the Central Committee of CPC will be electing its Political Bureau, which, in turn, will elect the Permanent Committee of nine people, including one or two potential successors of Xi Jinping.
Chances that XI Jinping’s “doctrine of Chinese Dream and One Belt – One Way” will be implemented will demand on who will be selected as candidate or candidates to replace him.
If those candidates prove strong and have different doctrines and ideas to develop domestic and foreign policies of China, it will mean that China is seeking a different way already now, five years prior to the expiry of Xi Jinping’s second term.
Albert Akopyan (Urumov)