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2017-10-26 17:10
By Son Dae-kwon


During a three-and-a-half hour marathon speech at the Chinese Communist Party 19th National Congress on October 18, President Xi Jinping heralded the dawn of a “new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” By adding the words “new era,” he not only recalled “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” but also differentiated his policies from former leaders. It is well-known that the idea of socialism with Chinese characteristics was one of the most remarkable creations of Deng Xiaoping. Deng, by adopting a market economy to China’s own conditions, successfully achieved unprecedented economic success. Now Xi signals a modified application of Deng’s policies. This article attempts to forecast Xi’s policies during his next term by comparing them with Deng’s original ideas.


First, Xi will pursue more balanced economic growth. Deng put forward the idea of “early and common prosperity,” meaning “prosperity for some so as to achieve prosperity for all.” Opening the door to uneven development, Deng’s policies focused mainly on coastal regions in the east. In turn, the coastal regions transformed into today’s major cities and enjoyed a massive foreign direct investment influx. Yet, it also caused phenomenal economic inequality illustrated by China’s Gini coefficient, which has been as high as 46.5. In recognition of this, President Xi yesterday reiterated the significance of balanced economic growth. To achieve the goal of a “moderately prosperous society” by 2020 and to accomplish a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he will promote more balanced economic growth with a special focus on long-marginalized regions in western and central China.

Second, China will promote industrial innovation in an active way. During Deng’s era, China’s growth was heavily reliant on inexpensive but low-quality commodities based on cheap labor. This strategy will continue to some extent, but at the same time China will also actively promote industrial innovation. In his speech, Xi repeatedly emphasized the need for economic reforms and innovation to bolster the economy. “Innovation is the primary force driving development, and [it is] the strategic foundation for building a modern society,” he stressed. Xi will further open China’s door to international society and lower barriers for foreign investors, while strengthening domestic innovative capabilities in the digital, engineering, generic, aerospace, cyberspace, and smart technologies sectors.

Third, Xi will stress the rule of law during his second term. Rules were applied somewhat arbitrarily during the Deng era, and such practices have continued even until today. Yesterday, Xi announced the breaking of this long tradition, by establishing a “central leading group for full rule of law.” He will persist in a fierce anti-corruption campaign, while attempting to instill the rule of law. Yet, considering that he concurrently stressed the leading role of the Communist Party, his version of rule of law may be different from western concepts. Instead, it may be more like a “rule of law with Chinese characteristics,” in which the Communist Party serves as the main enforcer of the law, and challenging its authority will never be tolerated.

Fourth, China will actively participate in the international affairs. Deng left a maxim that has underpinned China’s foreign strategy: “taoguang yanghui,” meaning “keep a low profile and bide your time.” He also said that by no means should China take the lead.” Nevertheless, President Xi appears convinced that China has now bided enough time. During the Party Congress, he stated that an amicable external environment has been shaped during the last five years, and that China will take an active role as “constructor of global peace, a contributor to the development of global governance, and a protector of the international order.” We will witness China’s more active participation with a louder voice in international society during Xi’s second term.

 

Son Dae-kwon (www.sondaekwon.com) is a Ph.D. candidate at Peking University.

 

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