BEIJING • On October 25, 2017, Xi Jingping, proudly announced China’s new leadership council, one day after his name and his own political theory, the Xi Jingping Thought, was engraved into his party’s constitution. The council, made of his political allies, has had Western media calling the act as Xi’s greatest power grab to cement his grip and position as the leader of China. The event, held at the Great Hall of the People, was broadcasted across the nation, and watched by many across the globe. In doing so, Xi has officially turned away from Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of “[hiding] your capacities, [and biding] your time”. Like his own Xi Jingping Thought, it is likely he feels that China should begin to openly assert itself on the political stage of the world. It is time to make China great again.
As Xi and his party enjoy this period of political stability that no other world leader—Trump, Macron, Merkel, leaders of prominent countries, all face considerable opposition at home—seems to have been able to attain, politcal analysts speculate on what this will mean for the world. As the editor of international relations and politics at the Mulgrave Gazette, I will be giving my own perspective on this event.
The world watches
“Mao established the People’s Republic of China, Deng brought the country wealth and now Xi is going to bring power,” was a statement from Hong Kong-based commentator and expert in Chinese politics, Frank Ching. After a century of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, a mentality of needing to rise up and grow strong has bred amongst the Chinese. This is no different on the country’s politcal stage. During the congress, many note that Xi was seen to be carrying himself with a confidence never before. He expressed his political ambitions of “[shaping] the global order” to better suit the interests of China. In the future, China will take “center stage in the world […] to make a greater contribution to humankind.” The chairman of China spoke not of his plans for the next five years, but 30. China is entering a “new era”, he said, and within this new era, the country will soon be a “strong power”.
However, it is important to note that although Xi aspires to spread China’s influence, many experts agree that he does not intent to spread it like US, through “policing” the world.
In the period following Donald Trump’s inauguration, Chinese officials were extremely careful with the way foreign affair with the US was handled—but not anymore. That was only when any political crisis could mean a step back for Xi.
Although China does not intent to completely disregard their relation with the US, they will be less prone to US pressure in the future. The matter of North Korea is a particularly good example. From now on, it is more likely that China will make their move on North Korea if and should they feel that they need to—not because they are subjected to the US’ whims or some 140 word phrased criticism from Trump. Sad!
China’s military might
With his speech, Xi emphasized on China’s military might, and its combat-readiness “to defend state sovereignty and maritime interests”. The man at the helm of the largest standing army in the world, Xi has pushed hard for the modernization of China’s army. And throughout his first tenure, he has made sure to establish ties to with Russia. Although wary, Russia seems to have decided that China’s growing power and influence is inevitable, and that they might as well benefit the most they can off of their weapon sales while China has not yet found the technology necessary to develop the weapons.
The two countries demonstrated their friendship earlier in the year in August, where they staged a major joint naval drill near St. Petersburg.
A successor in the wings?
While Xi’s current age of 64 is well pass the age of retirement for many, it is the most common age of the men and women in politics. As of now, Xi seems to have no intention of stepping down at the end of his next five years, or even the term after that. Also, his adding of his Xi Jingping Thoughts to the party’s constitution further cements his position—Xi has deftly made sure that no one can challenge him without challenging the party.
As China analyst Bill Bishop states, “Xi is the party, and the party is Xi.”
What the future holds
So how does Xi intend to shape the world? How will China fare on its journey to become a global superpower? Political experts can debate and make educational guesses, but only the future will give the answers. Stayed tuned. The politics department at the Mulgrave Gazette will make sure to keep you updated in the upcoming months!