By Ikenna Emewu
As the Communist Party of China (CPC) settles in to its 19th National Congress on October 18, the world is keen to know what becomes of President Xi Jinping, one of world’s most powerful leaders, commanding the second largest global economy.
He faces re-election for his final five-year tenure that is not compulsory, cast in iron, but very likely positive.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) remains the only dominant party of the world’s most populous country and second largest global economy.
It might also go for the political party in the world with the longest unbroken rule of 68 years since the Peoples Revolution of 1949.
The 96 years old party founded in Shanghai City in 1921 has trudged on seemingly unchallenged since it overpowered the Nationalist Party, Kuomingtan (KMT) after a long bloody tussle.
Today, with the benefit of a hugely populous nation, solo dominance and unaltered years of influence, the party is also the world’s most populous, with 88 million members, 7 million more than the entire citizenry of Germany.
This week in Beijing, China will test its leadership stability and tradition through the tending of the CPC still, as the party elects its leaders which translate to the leaders of the country.
At the 19th National Congress of the CPC, the president with maximum two tenures of five years apiece would be re-elected if all go well. The president also doubles as the General Secretary (GS)/Leader of the CPC. But whereas the tenure of the president has limits, that of the General Secretary doesn’t. What that means in principle is that whereas the president would cease to be the president after 10 years, he might continue as GS while another serves as president, although this hasn’t been common.
In 2012, the 18th Congress elected then Premier Xi Jinping to GS and president with effect from 2013. That tenure ends next year and should he be returned at the elections this week, then he takes up his second and final tenure for another five years.
Those to be elected
They include the Standing Committee of the Politburo. It is a team of seven members who are the highest policy making leaders of China and the party. And they include the President/GS and the premier.
Since 2002, there has been a rule that persons who would have attained 68 years at the time of election or when the tenure would commence are no longer eligible for re-election into the Politburo. By that definition, the present Politburo is going to retain only two members – President Xi who is 64 an Premier Li Keqiang, his deputy. So the Congress would elect five new members of the Politburo.
Also to be elected are over 200 members of the Central Committee of the CPC.
The structure favours that the Central Committee is elected first which would in turn elect the president, GS and leader of the party, the Politburo, the Politburo Standing Committee and lastly, the Central Military Commission.
In China, while the CPC dominates eight other parties in the leadership of the country, the individual office holder doesn’t, and that implies that there is no rule the GS or President must be returned for a second tenure. That also means that it is not compulsory that President Xi must be re-elected on October 18. His re-election by party rules is subject to the disposition and discretion of the elective body. This underscores the truism that while China is a polity dominated by one party, it doesn’t operate a dictatorship where one person remains in power in perpetuity or dictates the terms of his office by himself.
President Xi’s chances
President Xi, constitutionally is fit for re-election during this Congress since he is just on his first tenure. And although he does not enjoy a mandatory return, however, the chances favour his return for certain foreseeable reasons including his intention not to drop from the race. Already, the CPC Committee of the Guizhou Province, South West China, by their rules has nominated him a delegate at the coming congress
As a candidate and sitting president assessed on merit, Xi has got enormous political goodwill and reasons to re-contest and very likely win, even if it were the type of democracy where the contest was open to multi party contestants.
Since he came to power, although the economic potentials of China had accumulated over time, under Xi, it surged in so many ways than one.
As per GDP statistics, while China slowed down in the years of Xi, it hasn’t been a decline and also has been among the best in the world that hasn’t fully recovered from the shrink of the 2008 global meltdown. The GDP of China has been stably sustained at an average 7%. It was in Xi’s days that China climbed to the second largest global economy status and contributing about 33% of the global GDP. Much more, the steady decline in poverty eradication in China, urban expansion, job opportunities and urban renewal have been sustained. In the 2015 stocktaking, China lifted about 14.6m out of poverty and some 12 million in 2016.
For instance, the China’s State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) has maintained slimming down of cumbersome bureaucracy, smarter management process, increased profitability and more private sector inclusion with about 62% of its total assets already in private shareholding and a plan to do more. Indeed, the address itemizing the achievements of the government in 2015 made public in the first week of March 2016 at the Two Sessions in Beijing vowed targeted move of the SOEs towards massive privatization, supply oriented future and general reforms. Because of the ever improving poverty reduction, the GDP per capita of China has experienced a positive surge under Xi, an indicator of better economy at the micro level.
Even the CPC has introduced a more open regime to the world, including of course the world dialogue of the party between October 14 and 16 in Chongqing that hosted leaders of about 79 political parties from all continents of the world.
It is highly debatable if any Chinese leader did as much as Xi to position and bring China to global consciousness. No doubt, the ICT limitless and seamless communication has played a role, but Xi actually used that benefit beneficially to position China where it is today.
China’s influence has loomed large under Xi before the whole world with so many interconnecting networks with the outer world through so many platforms of friendship, economy, culture, education cooperation, media exchanges and many more.
A good instance is the China Africa relationship where China’s interest and influence in the continent has been on the increase necessitating a 40-fold growth in 20 years, according to the International Monetary Fund records this year.
Last year alone, over 1000 media practitioners from Africa trained in China in various ways. And in an unprecedented move, in 2017, a team or two of Chinese journalists visited Nigeria as part of the exchange. It has grown so seriously that in August, the Information Vice Minister of China, Guo Weimin was in Nigeria on official trip and had a robust interactive in Abuja with senior Nigerian journalists.
Under President Xi, China created and powered the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that officially commenced operation on January 17, 2016 and with over 57 state members at the end of last year and an amazing financial portfolio that assists the members and even non-members as the president, Jin Liqun revealed in an interview in November 2016 in Beijing.
That was not enough as Xi also created the One Belt One Road economic initiative that at its inaugural summit in May in Beijing had over 65 state members already signed up. In addition, all the powerful economies of the world, including the G7 members had representatives, including the US, Germany, South Korea, France, UK, Italy and many more.
Xi’s government has hosted world influential bodies like the G20 Summit in Hangzhou last year September and the BRICS in Xiamen, Fujian Province September this year.
In the first seven months of last year, China FDI (outbound) had exceeded that of the entire previous year. At last, the investments of China abroad grossed an average of $170b with spread in even sports like the purchase of the AC Milan, Manchester City by Chinese firms, in freighting and haulage like the expanded Panama Canal and the Pireaus Port in Greece, the largest seaport on the Aegean Sea.
China stretched into real estate, security systems, transports, infrastructure etc in foreign countries including aviation in Brazil where the Hainan Airline of China bought the third largest Brazilian airline.
Generally, at home, Xi’s administration has ensured the citizens get a better deal with economic expansion. Overseas, he has secured China more influence and visibility. And in global policymaking, he bought the heart of the world early this year at the Davos World Economic Forum, Switzerland where he took a definitive stand for globalization and anti-protectionism as against President Donald Trump’s hard stance for protectionism, a move that made him what the world media called the new image of global leadership.