- Xi Jinping will get a new five-year term as general secretary of the Communist Party of China.
- During his decade in power, Xi Jinping has had considerable influence at home and abroad.
- Since Xi came to power, there have been notable changes in China, from demographics to foreign policy.
Xi Jinping will upend China’s political traditions, cementing its status as one of the world’s most powerful leaders – and conquer the United States to become the dominant superpower – when members of the country’s ruling Communist Party extend a third term as as General Secretary to the 20th National Party Congress.
The conclave begins on October 16 and lasts about a week.
Xi, 69, rose to China’s highest post in 2012. During his decade in power, he has had considerable influence at home and abroad. He centralized power and relentlessly suppressed dissent. It poured billions into international infrastructure projects and aggressively pursued the construction and militarization of islands in the South China Sea.
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- Xi is already poised to stay in power for the rest of his life after Chinese lawmakers abolished the two-term limit on the presidency, a largely ceremonial title. Xi will be reconfirmed as president next March.
- About 200 high-level Party members will be supported to join the Central Policy-Making Committee. The Central Committee, in turn, will select 25 people to join the Party’s Politburo, a kind of inner circle of this executive branch. Those 25 people will then determine who makes up the Politburo Standing Committee, a group of seven elite Party members led by Xi, in the role of general secretary.
- Geremie Barmé, an Australian academic, once called Xi the “president of everything.”
Here are several ways China has evolved since Xi took over.
China has experienced slower economic growth
When Xi became leader, China’s economy was growing at an annual rate of 7.9%, according to World Bank data. The country’s economic growth rate has declined every year since, until bottoming out with a 2.2% increase in GDP in 2020 (largely due to the coronavirus pandemic). China’s economy grew by 8.1% in 2021. Overall, the size of China’s economy in terms of GDP has doubled from about $8.5 trillion in 2012 to nearly $18 trillion dollars in 2021. The United States remains the largest economy in the world, but for how long?
Is the Chinese army powerful?
At $240 billion, China spends more on its military than any other country except the United States, which spent $801 billion in 2021, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates. China has opened its first overseas military base, in Djibouti, in 2017. At sea, the United States has 11 aircraft carriers. China has two.
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American opinion on China has changed
When Xi took office during President Barack Obama’s second term, negative American views of China were high amid trade friction and China’s land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea, where it built militarized outposts on small islands claimed by other nations. Relations improved under President Donald Trump as he praised Xi, then soured over renewed trade hostilities, China’s human rights record and global spread of COVID-19 from its alleged origins in a Chinese market. In 2012, 40% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of China, according to Research bench, a political institute in Washington. In 2022, this figure was 82%.
Population growth in China has continued to slow, maintaining a trickle
Since 2013, a year into Xi’s term, China has been in the process of ending its one-child policy limiting population growth. Currently, families can have up to three children. A decade later, it has all but stabilized, with a growth rate of 0.07% in 2021, revealing that China’s birth rate is now too low.
The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences predicts that China’s population will soon begin to decline by around 1.1% each year, bringing its population down from 1.4 billion to 587 million in 2100. The researchers believe that the lower population growth rate could mean higher labor costs, suppressing the Chinese economy.
China’s human rights record: Limited space for more limited dissent
Human Rights Watch reported that the limited space there was to express dissent in China ten years ago had all but disappeared, noting that since Xi came to power, “authorities have decimated Chinese civil society, imprisoned many government critics, severely curtailed free speech and deployed surveillance technology mass to monitor and control citizens”. Cultural persecution by authorities, the arbitrary detention of one million Uyghurs and other Turkish Muslims, and other abuses since 2017 constitute crimes against humanity.”
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China scored near the bottom – 9/100 – on Freedom House Think Tank 2022 Annual Political Rights and Civil Liberties Tracker in 210 countries and territories. Only a handful of countries like Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea and Syria scored lower.
China, from imitator to innovator
China believes investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates will help it become a leading technology innovator. During Xi’s reign, China has made great strides in this direction, transforming from an imitator to an innovator in biotechnology, finance, advanced computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, aerospace, cybersecurity and other high-tech areas.
Enrollment in higher education in China has risen from 30% of eligible people in 2012 to almost 60% in 2021, according to chinese ministry of education. A 2021 study by Georgetown University Center for Security and Emerging Technologies concluded that by 2025, Chinese STEM PhD graduates would outnumber their US counterparts by more than three to one, if international students are excluded from the US count.
The The Biden Administration’s National Security Strategy published on October 12 said that “removing China” would be a major challenge in the years to come.
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Long-simmering Taiwan-Hong Kong tensions simmer further
Beijing has long vowed to unite Taiwan, an island governed independently since 1949 that it considers its territory, with the Chinese mainland. Xi has not deviated from this policy. In recent years, Chinese fighter jets and warships have patrolled near Taiwan in an apparent reminder from Xi that Beijing is ready to use its rapidly modernizing military, if necessary, to make that happen. A decision by the Biden administration to continue the Trump administration’s practice of letting U.S. officials mingle more freely with Taiwanese officials, including a recent visit to the island by the Speaker of the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi, triggered a strong response from China involving cyberattacks, ballistic missile launches. and the abolition of several diplomatic channels.
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During Xi’s tenure, China gradually tightened its influence and control over Hong Kong, the business hub that returned to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997. Following a series of pro-democracy protests in the city-island in 2014 and again in 2019, Xi introduced a national security law that stifled free speech and cracked down on dissent.
China vs the West
“Nearly all rich, democratic countries – including the United States, European Union countries, Japan and South Korea – now see China as a rival and not just an economic competitor,” wrote Johnson in a blog post on the Council on Foreign Relations website. “This has led countries to pursue policies aimed at reducing their dependence on China. This is a huge change from just over a decade ago, when China was seen as a potential partner in the existing international order.”
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