2022 will be a big year for Xi Jinping – but he must fix China’s economic slide
When showing China’s economic achievements and using them to denigrate democracy, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has often asserted that “democracy cannot be eaten.” Chinese leader Xi Jinping recently described the Chinese political system under his rule as “a people’s democracy as a whole” – more democratic, the CCP claimed, than any other democracy in the world. But many in China, perhaps including Xi himself, have realized that Xi’s entire People’s Democracy process cannot be eaten either.
It is true that China competes with the United States for the world’s largest economy, even surpassing the United States in terms of purchasing power-adjusted gross domestic product. But China’s worsening issues within the CCP threaten to unbalance the country’s economy and this could affect Xi’s goal of indefinite rule as he is about to begin his rule. third term.
This month, the policy formulation of “keeping economic development as a central task”, which had all but disappeared from China’s policies in recent years, suddenly resurfaced at its Central Economic Work Conference. This formulation permeated China’s policies for nearly three decades after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and held a dominant position until China entered the “Xi Jinping New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” . Tiananmen broke the ideology of the CCP, and it almost lost its legitimacy in power. Rapid economic development had become one of the two saving factors. The other is nationalism, but its importance is much less than the first, especially at the beginning.
The Central Economic Work Conference, which is held at the end of each year, summarizes the economic situation for the year and sets the tone and tasks for the deployment of economic policy for the following year. It is an important event for Chinese observers. “Keeping economic development as a central task” was re-established as the party’s baseline at this year’s meeting. In fact, his ad mentions the word “stable” dozens of times. The meeting called for economic work in 2022 to be stable and seek progress while maintaining stability. All regions and departments should take responsibility for stabilizing the macroeconomy, and governments at all levels should actively introduce policies conducive to economic stability. There are up to 20 areas where stability is sought.
The Central Economic Work Conference thus revealed at least three things. First, Xi’s policies have not focused on economic development in recent years; second, China’s economic situation is serious; third, Xi Jinping strives to ensure economic stability and prosperity next year.
About 10 years ago, China’s economic growth rate began to decline. After 30 years of rapid development, a slowdown is normal, but the overlap with Xi’s governance may indicate that the decline in economic growth is related to Xi’s policies. Especially in recent years – whether it’s fighting corruption, building a cult of personality, strengthening control over ideology and speech, strengthening party control over the economy and society or the removal of capital – all of this may have come at the expense of economic growth. . The recent Central Economic Labor Conference recognized that the Chinese economy faces three pressures: shrinking demand, shocking supply and weakening expectations.
The emphasis on the Chinese economy has been an unwritten rule since Deng Xiaoping initiated the reforms. However, in recent years, government officials have placed less emphasis on economic development, and economic performance has not been a criterion for promotion. Xi’s anti-corruption campaign and the political assessment of officials freaked out some officials. As a result, they devote time and energy to political studies, political struggles, managing tasks from above, and protecting against rivals. In such an atmosphere, many do not want to work. This inevitably resulted in a loosening of the bureaucratic system, which had a negative impact on the economy. It has become evident that people cannot eat Xi’s “whole process of people’s democracy”.
Of course, the Chinese economy is going through difficult times. However, 2022 could be a special year for Xi. He could enter his third leadership term and strive to stay in power after the 20th National Party Congress, due in October. In light of Xi’s current control over the CCP and the Chinese military, perhaps no one can stop him from remaining the top party leader, unless something unusual and unexpected happens. in the coming year. Xi probably knows that although no one in the CCP makes noise, many privately wonder why he wants to change the decades-old system of orderly succession of top leaders.
Considering the harsh external environment and the difficulties and challenges facing the Chinese economy, Xi Jinping must do everything in his power to stabilize the Chinese economy, and quickly.
Jianli Yang is founder and chairman of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and author of “For Us, The Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on Truth”.