While Pakistanis were busy witnessing political mudslinging and hosting Rex Tillerson in Islamabad; our Iron Brother China was going through a hectic congress of Communist Party of China (CPC) to elect the next set of leaders and laying the future roadmap for next decade in the Great Hall of People at Beijing. With President Xi Jinping becoming the first living leader to be mentioned in the Chinese Communist Party’s charter since Chairman Mao, the 19th CPC is an epoch-making event, which should be analysed and followed by friends and foes of China alike. The communiqué of CPC highlighted that the constitution would incorporate Chinese President’s theory of governance of modern China and called to deepen socialism with Chinese characteristics in responding to contemporary realities and needs.
Before deliberating upon the proceedings and the broader message emanating from the 19th CPC, it may be interesting to mention about how CPC works in a cycle of five years congress and what changes have been brought by President Xi.
With 90 million members, CPC is probably the largest political party in the world. After becoming a member of CPC through a screening system of probation of one year and initial ideological grooming, the sky could be the limit for men and women forming part of this brotherhood. Party committees exist at local and district levels, and a member is elevated on merit and experience to rise into higher echelons.
The journey of president Xi can be an excellent way to analyse how an ordinary member of CPC can rise to prominence in Chinese political system based on merit and hard work.
Xi Jinping rose from the ranks in Chinese coastal provinces and became the party secretary in a small Zhengding county of South Western Hebei province in 1983. Represented the delegates in one of the CPC congresses in 1998 and became the governor of Fujian province in 1999. Rising subsequently he was picked up by the CPC under Hu Jintao as his probable successor when he joined Politburo Standing Committee and Central Secretariat in 2007.He saw a further rise as vice president from 2008 to 2013 and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission from 2010 to 2012.
President Xi at present wears multiple hats; other than the office of the President, he is General Secretary of CPC, and Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission and head of many incubation teams called Leading Small Groups (LSGs). Labeled as the most powerful man in the world by leading journals across the globe, President Xi has brought innovation and new spirit into an assertive leadership of the CPC. He has already paved the way for China to take center stage in the world; no wonder the Chinese call him the Paramount leader as well as Uncle Xi.
The concept of Leading Small Groups (LSGs) has existed in Chinese politics however their usage and efficacy depended on the top leadership; President Xi has made it more formal and placed some of the best brains in China to create these powerful incubation centers of ideas. These LSGs comprise the country’s most influential, innovative, and influential leaders and cover almost all aspects, from economics and foreign relations to perception management and strategic initiatives like OBOR and CPEC. Out of the dozen or so LSGs, President Xi has given more attention to the two LSGs dealing with Comprehensive Deepening of Reforms and National Security. This is natural as China consolidates her economic power and exerts her global influence through economic and military diplomacy.
The pyramid of CPC has a broad base and steep slope at the top. The 2000 delegates throw up the Central Committee, comprising 200 plus full members and 170 alternate members as well as 127 representatives of Central Commission for Discipline, this, in turn, morphs into the selected 12 members of Central Military Commission and six members of Secretariat. On top we find the 25 members Politburo peaked by seven members Politburo Standing Committee and the Presidium. The advice of sitting and retired elders is always given due weight in the selection of top leadership.
Xi’s, through a system of neng-shang neng-xia (can go up, can go down), has tried to break the shackles of party elevation based on the index of age and seniority. This system has also introduced fresh blood into the party higher ranks; however upper and lower age limit remains one of the major factors determining party positions in Central Committee upwards to the Politburo Standing Committee. In any case, you cannot be parachuted into top echelons of CPC; one has to go through a rigorous regimen of at least 30 years membership without scandals and scars of corruption.
President Xi, who according to Time magazine joins Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the pantheon of modern China’s most influential leaders, hailed the progress and international stature of China amongst the comity of nations. He said, “Our party shows strong, firm and vibrant leadership. Our socialist system demonstrates great strength and vitality, the Chinese people and Chinese nation embrace brilliant prospects.”
Chinese trajectory under Chairman Xi is projected to propel China from a developing nation to a Superpower. Domestically the CPC has endorsed his vision of anti-corruption campaign (also considered as the biggest threat to China’s internal polity and cohesion) as well as of economic reform. China would even look at diversifying her mammoth state-owned enterprises while balancing it with people-friendly economic growth and inclusive prosperity.
In the international arena, President Xi has focused on stronger power commensurate with Chinese economic clout, global trade and infrastructure initiatives like OBOR and CPEC connecting large parts of Eurasia and Africa and quest for leadership in innovation and science and technology, where China could become a leading light in research and development at global level.
For Pakistan, a more vibrant and strong China next door is a good omen, contrasted against a bullying and omnipresent west lead by Uncle Sam, who would keep the allies on tenterhooks. Chinese OBOR initiative was highlighted in the 19th CPC as a cornerstone for Chinese global connectivity and shared dreams; with CPEC as the flagship of the concept of OBOR, Pak-China relations are going to grow stronger with every single day. It’s time that Pakistan and China announce a hundred years of strategic partnership, a partnership that is based on mutual respect and aspirations of people of both countries. We would wish president Xi the best of luck in his stewardship of CPC and China with a hope that Pak China friendship would reach new heights.
The writer is a freelance columnist.