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by Dominique Bari

19th Congress of the CPC Xi Jinping wants to strengthen ties between party and society

Translated Wednesday 15 November 2017, by Hervé Fuyet

Delegates to the congress will elect the new leadership team of the Chinese Communist Party.

More than 2,200 delegates from the Chinese Communist Party meet today in Beijing to define the political, economic, social and diplomatic orientations of the People’s Republic.

Because China is the second largest economy in the world and its position in the field of contemporary international relations is the highlight of the past five years, the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is both national and global. The decisions that will be made will affect both the country and the rest of the world. Beijing has taken note of this and for the first time Congress documents officially position China as "a great international power", an ambition developed by President Xi Jinping when he speaks of "the rebirth of the Chinese nation", with the corollary of effective participation in "global governance" that it wishes to regenerate. This is what he said last January at the Davos Forum, where he openly questioned the failed international order of the Second World War. All the infrastructure that has been in place for the past five years, such as the Asian Investment Bank and the new silk roads, aimed at all continents, calls for the emergence of a new concept of geopolitical equilibrium and a new era of economic exchange in an "inclusive globalization".

The delicate economic transition of the country

In order to establish its new international authority, China has to face major internal challenges: the congress presents itself as "a key meeting at a crucial moment of Chinese development," as Xi Jinping pointed out at the recent Central Committee meeting last week, and the official Xinhua agency referred to this moment as "a new historical starting point". The new management team, which will come out of the congress and will support Xi Jinping with a second mandate, will have to take the delicate economic transition of the country and achieve its main objectives: pursuing modernization by driving growth through domestic consumption and high-tech production, reaching a more equal society by 2020, and eradicating poverty by allowing more than 10 million people to emerge from it every year - a project that implies a political continuity that the congress must ensure.

The 2,270 congressional delegates who have been scrutinized by the new Party rules will have to endorse the new leadership: five of the seven seats on the standing committee are vacant, as well as more than half of the 25 member political bureau, and five on eleven of those of the Central Military Commission. The majority of those who leave their function quit because of age limit. The congress will see the emergence of a new generation of leaders that it is difficult to identify today as the selection criteria are unknown. Last July, one of the most likely candidates in the standing committee, Sun Zhengcai, the CPC leader in the Chongqing metropolis (36 million people), was sacked to the general surprise because of "serious violation of the discipline of Party ", a formula commonly used for corruption.

And it is precisely the fight against corruption that was a highlight of the first mandate of Xi Jinping. A work carried out at full speed in response to the deep concerns expressed by the predecessors of Xi, including the former prime minister Wen Jiabao, affirming that this "scourge was a threat to the coherence of the overall modernization project and the survival of the regime itself ". From this point of view, the campaign which followed has surprised more by its scope and duration than by a justification of its necessity. More than 1 million core executives have been investigated for corruption since 2013, according to recent figures. More than 120,000 have been indicted by the courts, including 198 "tigers" (senior civilian or military officials). By shaking the Party apparatus, Xi Jinping undoubtedly assured his authority by posing as the "core" of the CCP leadership. But this anti-corruption struggle, which has become an essential tool for "reframing" elites, has other aims. The time is for ideological reinforcement, for centralization, and above all for reaffirming the predominance of the Party and its leader in the governance of the country. It is a real takeover. "In reaffirming the role of controls, procedures and hierarchy, Xi Jinping ultimately only recalls that nothing should be placed above party loyalty and that decision-making should be as collective as possible", believes the sinologist Jean-Louis Rocca.

Xi Jinping’s second mandate

For Xi, it is urgent to return to the "virtues of the revolutionary spirit", indispensable to maintain the cohesion and legitimacy of the CCP in a China that for thirty years has been in a liberal globalization whose ideological fallout is evident in gravitating environments around power. The restoration of order in the Party, its strengthening and its survival -this is the substance of innumerable panels deployed in the streets of Peking. To this end, a compilation of 260 CCP regulations, introduced between October 1949 and December 2016, has recently been published. "This is the first time that the CCP has systematically compiled its regulatory documents to the public since the founding of the People’s Republic of China," Xinhua said. For civil servants, executives, businessmen, or ordinary citizens, the message is clear: the principle of loyalty to the Party and the country must be applied to all to maintain social and political stability and to achieve the objectives of development. This is an end which, in the eyes of the current leadership, justifies the means: those of a greater and more severe control over a civil society still in its infancy, but who know how to be heard on the occasion - against pollution, for a rise in wages - if the claims remain targeted and do not call into question the supreme authority. What will happen next?

The other major issue in Xi Jinping’s second mandate is the relationship of power to the private sector, which accounts for half of GDP. If this sector is cited as an engine of the Chinese economy, the business community is also severely called to the Party’s order, reflecting in what state of mind the new economic reforms announced will take place. "China no longer believes in liberalism," as was said to l’Humanité by a slightly provocative economist belonging to a think tank listened to by the Council of State. The globalization of multinationals as we know it cannot continue. Today, stronger interventions by the State are needed. You cannot let the private sector decide. "This is the meaning of the government directive of September 25, defining the place of private entrepreneurship in a rapidly changing economy and recalling that its primary interest is not its own but that of the country.

Dominique Bari

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