China plays with its ancestry over the West as it sets the economic path

In recent weeks, state media have hailed Xi as a shrewd and forward-thinking leader who has fueled China’s success in eliminating poverty and anchoring the nation’s stability as the United States and other Western powers rally. reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. Xi and other officials have exaggerated perceptions that “the East is rising and the West is shrinking,” backed by what they described as the Communist Party’s superiority in tackling long-term crises and challenges.

Image building will continue during an annual legislative session that begins Friday as Xi moves from the poverty alleviation campaign to his next priority: building a modern and powerful nation by 2035.

In this “new expedition” to modernize China, the “risks and tests to be faced will be no less than in the past,” Xi told a group of mid-level party officials earlier this week. He renewed demands for loyalty to his leadership, saying that party members must show courage to endure hardships and face risks, and demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist Party through their actions.

About 3,000 lawmakers are meeting in Beijing to review a new economic plan, known as the fourteenth five-year plan, and general guidelines that would shape China’s growth model for the next decade and a half. Ahead of the party’s centennial celebrations in July, the week-long conclave also offers Xi a platform to promote the merits of his autocratic style over the weaknesses of Western democracy.

China’s legislative assembly and other political spectacles this year “will show the party’s leadership as a model of governance that is successful, resilient and capable of delivering on the promises it makes,” in contrast to the apparent chaos in the West, Nis Grünberg said. Senior Analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “In the eyes of Chinese leaders, the competition with the West has been won.”

In recent months, officials have been touting Xi’s interpretation of a rising China that overcomes global challenges that have sown chaos elsewhere. “‘The East is rising and the West is shrinking’ is a trend, and developments in the international situation are favorable for us,” Chen Yixin, a senior police official close to Mr. Xi, said at a January meeting to Spread the Vision. from the leader for China’s long-term development.

Although domestic economic imbalances and the US efforts to contain China remain serious risks, overall, there are more opportunities than challenges, said Chen, urging officials to pool their thoughts and actions around Xi’s leadership.

The opening of the session of the advisory body of the government on Thursday.


leo ramirez / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

China was the only major world economy to expand last year, after blocking its borders and central Hubei province in a largely successful attempt to contain the coronavirus. But the Chinese recovery remains fragile in some areas, including consumer spending, and regulators are increasingly concerned about rising property prices to unsustainable levels.

In the longer term, declining birth rates and a shrinking workforce, coupled with falling productivity, have caused alarm among economists about the growth trajectory of an economy that is the second largest in the world. in size, but only at the same level as Mexico and Malaysia in terms. of gross domestic product per capita.

Growth could also be limited by Xi’s promises on climate change. Last year, he promised to achieve carbon neutrality (zero net emissions of carbon dioxide) by 2060, with emissions peaking before 2030, an ambitious goal that would likely put economic pressure on China’s poorer and coal-dependent hinterland. .

Many economists expect Beijing to avoid a formal economic growth target in 2021, citing continued uncertainties. Still, Chinese provinces have set their own targets, reflecting optimism that the overall economy will rebound from last year’s weak performance.

With economists expecting growth to rebound to about 8% or more this year, Beijing is likely to shift focus to risk control and debt reduction, targeting a smaller fiscal deficit, credit growth. lower and relatively tighter monetary policy in a government annual work plan. It will premiere on Friday.

In the largest climate commitment ever made by any nation, China has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060. While it will challenge Beijing to achieve its goal, China’s plan to become a green superpower will have knock-on effects around the world. . Illustration: Crystal Tai

The conclave is set to offer more clarity on Beijing’s goals for 2035, which include recalibrating China’s economic model to ensure fairer growth and environmental sustainability. While Chinese officials have recently pointed to plans to address contentious issues such as raising the retirement age, some policy analysts say they are skeptical that Beijing will implement bold new measures.

Lawmakers are also expected to discuss plans to tighten Beijing’s grip on the former British colony of Hong Kong, where authorities have assembled around 100 pro-democracy figures under a national security law since its enactment last year. last.

The annual sessions of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, and a government advisory body of about 2,200 members are political pieces where the elite of the Communist Party portray unity and outline its priorities. Ahead of the meeting, party officials have led a publicity blitz that portrays Xi as a central figure in leading the nation toward prosperity.

State broadcaster Central China Television aired an eight-part documentary, “Shaking Off Poverty,” last month chronicling Xi’s poverty alleviation efforts over the past eight years. The party’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily, published a lengthy article, covering some 23,000 characters on more than two full pages, detailing Mr. Xi’s participation in the campaign step-by-step.

The day after Xi declared a “complete victory” in China’s war on poverty at a televised awards ceremony last month, the People’s Daily devoted almost its entire front page to a report on his remarks. It featured a large picture of Mr. Xi and a group photo showing him with about 200 people who accepted awards for achievements in alleviating poverty and whose faces were too small to be seen clearly.

Write to Chun Han Wong at [email protected]

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