Uncertainties at the top in China plans
All eyes were on Beijing last week. The occasion was the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the much-awaited meeting that would set up the Chinese leadership for the next five years.
As one would expect, security within the country and around Beijing in particular was tight.
My arrival in Beijing was welcomed by a blue sky and freeflowing traffic that is usually altogether elusive in the city.
The congress went as smoothly as my trip to Beijing.
Five new members were instated on the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee.
The congress passed various amendments to the CPC constitution, which regulates the party.
Of particular note is the inclusion in the constitution of ‘Xi Jinping’s Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’.
Significantly, this puts President Xi Jinping in the same league as Mao Zedong, the founder of new China in 1949. Mao was the Paramount Leader of the CPC from 1949 through to 1976.
This does highlight the possibility that Xi might stay beyond the 20th congress, given there is also no apparent heir being put in place.
The Party Report also charted the broad plans for the next 33 years until 2050, when the new China will celebrate its centenary.
China will seek to generate a moderately prosperous society by 2020, then to realise socialist modernisation by 2035, and finally to become a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful.
There are also working plans for promoting socialist economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological advancement in China. This is labelled as a five-sphere integrated plan.
Alongside the five-sphere integrated plan is a four-pronged comprehensive strategy. This strategy hopes to make comprehensive moves towards building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, deepening reforms, advancing law-based governance, and strengthening party self-governance.
Quality will be set as a priority, and this will apply to supply-side structural reforms and to innovation.
Although this is not new, it is set to become more prominent under the umbrellas of the Made in China 2025 Strategy and the One Belt One Road Initiative.
Incidentally, the One Belt One Road Initiative is now being written into the constitution.
So, we now have an answer to the speculation around the medium to long-term existence of the One Belt One Road Initiative.
China will be pushing harder on this strategy now that the constitution does require some results to be reported in five years’ time.
In the grand scheme of things, the Party Report and the new leadership settings and amendments to the constitution do not present new challenges to foreign players.
China’s many strategies in the international arena remain. The amended constitution just strengthens the imperative for China to go deeper into these strategies.
Do expect more push around innovation, quality products and services, the Made in China 2025 Strategy, the One Belt One Road,
China will become an even tougher market to crack.
and all Chinese outward investments.
The congress’ focus on strengthening China from within is a good sign for the nation and also for the rest of the world.
It is surprising that the world is expecting China to grow faster this year than last year, but with a stronger focus on services, it may just happen.
Nonetheless, as we start to see results from the four-pronged comprehensive strategy, China will become an even tougher market to crack. ❚ Siah Hwee Ang is the BNZ chair in business in Asia and also chairs the enabling our Asia-Pacific trading nation distinctiveness theme at Victoria University.
The Communist Party Congress amended the party constitution but the absence of an obvious heir to the president was notable.