Xi as­sumes more du­ties to deepen re­forms

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

The world has al­ways been fas­ci­nated by strong lead­ers. To­day there is much in­ter­est in fig­ures such as Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump and Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte who of­fer dif­fer­ent styles of lead­er­ship.

In China the sys­tem of col­lec­tive lead­er­ship has proved re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful as the more than 88-mil­lion Com­mu­nist Party of China mem­bers have to strike a bal­ance be­tween po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic growth. The just­con­cluded Sixth Plenum of the 18th CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee has con­ferred on top lead­erXi Jin­ping the honor of “core” leader, a des­ig­na­tion that will see him as­sume more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and gain more in­flu­ence ahead of the cru­cial 19th Party Congress next year.

The honor is sig­nif­i­cant as it com­mits the Party to sup­port Xi’s poli­cies.

Any­one who tries to change the sta­tus quo runs into chal­lenges. In China there are many vested in­ter­ests op­posed to change. Xi has al­ready up­set some of­fi­cials with his mas­sive anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign. By the Party’s own es­ti­mates more than 1 mil­lion cases have been in­ves­ti­gated by the dis­ci­pline and in­spec­tion au­thor­i­ties. And the Sixth Plenum agreed to a new code of con­duct that would en­sure scru­tiny of all se­nior lead­ers, in­clud­ing the mem­bers of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Po­lit­i­cal Bureau of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. This is se­ri­ous stuff.

Although Party dis­ci­pline was a cen­tral theme of the plenum, it also reaf­firmed Xi’s top pol­icy pri­or­i­ties— ac­cel­er­at­ing eco­nomic re­forms, im­prov­ing the le­gal sys­tem and in­creas­ing mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Xi has an in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the Party’s struc­ture and has es­tab­lished lead­ing groups to dis­cuss and agree to poli­cies on is­sues such as na­tional se­cu­rity, eco­nomic pol­icy and cy­ber se­cu­rity.

Putting more qual­i­fied and clean lead­ers into key Party and gov­ern­ment posts will be help­ful for Xi to ac­cel­er­ate re­forms in his sec­ond term.

He has al­ready played a more con­spic­u­ous role than his pre­de­ces­sors as the chair­man of the Cen­tralMil­i­tary Com­mis­sion. He has up­set some by in­ves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion and pro­mot­ing of­fi­cers on merit. Yet he has re­mained pop­u­lar by build­ing up mil­i­tary and stand­ing up to the United States in the South China Sea.

Xi’s drive seems to be based on his be­lief that the Party has reached a crit­i­cal point, and that the econ­omy has to be re­formed if China is to make the jump from a mid­dle-in­come to a rel­a­tively high-in­come coun­try. He is now in a much stronger po­si­tion to tackle do­mes­tic chal­lenges such as cut­ting over­ca­pac­ity (which may face huge op­po­si­tion from some large zom­bie en­ter­prises), tack­ling pol­lu­tion, en­sur­ing the con­ti­nu­ity of for­eign in­vest­ment and deal­ing with the grow­ing in­equal­ity in so­ci­ety.

As leader of the world’s sec­ond largest econ­omy, he can also strengthen China’s po­si­tion on the global stage. At the G20 Lead­ers Sum­mit in­Hangzhou of East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince, there was a broad wel­come for China’s role as the lo­co­mo­tive of global growth and for the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21st Cen­tu­ryMar­itime Silk Road).

There is thus much at stake for Xi as he takes on more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. And we all have a stake in the out­come. The author is the di­rec­tor of the EU-Asia Cen­tre in Brus­sels.

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