Morning Brief

The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party was the rejuvenation of the Xi era

Why the biggest five-year event in Chinese politics confirms rather than announces the entry into a new era.
Published by
Central Office
on November 12, 2022
on November 12, 2022
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The Great Hall of the People, Beijing: President Xi Jinping greets the crowd following his speech at the 20th Congress of the Party.

The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China was truly special. Beyond the departure from Deng Xiaoping's political economic mantra of reform and opening and the entry into a new age of statism in domestic politics, the Congress confirmed what actually started no less than 10 years ago. Rather than the coronation of a new era, the Congress was more about its very rejuvenation. There are two causes for why the Congress was business as usual in the era of Xi. First of all, for Xi's China ideology matters and always did. Xi is an ideologue, he is a truly Marxist-Leninist contrary to many assumptions in the West that for an open-market socialist state like China in the era of continuous marketization and hyperglobalization which benefited the People's Republic prepare its rise, the party's ideological creed is more words than actions. The term "Marxism" was often invoked during Xi's speech at the Congress, as it was the notion of "struggle", thereby paving the assumption that Xi will approach a more conflictual policy in the new mandate. As if he hasn't already done that. His internal "struggle" with the 2012-2016 failed economic reforms, Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and the technological giants, paved the way for a more statist approach to national economics, an externally criticized harsh repression in the eastern province, and a more party-assigned path for embracing the technological revolution. His external "struggle" with the United States opened the gates of a new great power confrontation that totally alienated Washington and agitated the entire Indo-Pacific. Secondly, the Congress showed what are the true priorities of the mandate of the new leadership. Just pay attention to the words, they are usually like a political map for party cadres. During Deng's tenure, in 1992, at the 14th Party Congress, the term "economics" was uttered no less than 195 times. During the 20th Congress, it was mentioned barely 60 times. On the other hand, "national security" was present only once in 1992, far from the 27 times in the fall of 2022. This shows that Xi's new mandate will put more emphasis on security than the economy. As if this is something new. Back to early 2014 when the failures in economic reforms started to frustrate a rising reform-oriented economic figures within the party, Xi launched the new "comprehensive national security concept" by stating that China is facing "the most complicated internal and external factors in its history." But this shift from economics to security was also visible this fall through the departure of reform-minded political leaders like prime minister Li Keqiang and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Wang Yang. Both were way under the retirement age ceiling. This is not new either. In the last decade, Xi sidelined his rivals through political purges in the name of the national anti-corruption campaign. Now he sidelined the primacy of economics that has defined China's course since 1978. Hu Jintao's exit from Congress was most likely motivated by his decision not to support such a transformation, especially as he saw his economic disciples easily leave China's political scene in favour of Xi's ideological loyalists. And Xi knew that.



Daniel H. Rosen, China`s Economic Reckoning, Foreign Affairs Magazine July/August 2021, A Reckoning for the Chinese Economy | Foreign Affairs.

Jude Blanchette, Xi`s Gamble, Foreign Affairs Magazine, July/August 2021, Xi’s Gamble: The Race to Consolidate Power and Stave Off Disaster (

Kevin Rudd, The Return of Red China, Foreign Affairs Magazine, November 9th, 2022, The Return of Red China: Xi Jinping Brings Back Marxism (


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