From “Xi Thought” to “Superpower”: What You Need to Know About China’s National Congress

10/22/20179 Comments

As you may have seen in the news, China’s ruling Communist Party is currently convening its twice-in-a-decade National Congress. And, as you may have also seen in the news, it’s kind of a big deal.

Xi Jinping declares China’s intent to be a ‘leading power’ by 2050,” warns Business Insider.

China’s leader Xi Jinping declares the start of a ‘new era‘,” screams The Economist.

We are obsessed with Brexit and Trump: we should be thinking about China,” chides the Guardian.

“But wait, James,” you say. “Didn’t this just happen a couple of years ago? Weren’t you just telling us about the shisanwu?”

Ah, dear reader, I’m glad you’re paying attention. Sort of. Actually, that was the 5th plenary session of its 18th Central Committee, aka the meeting where the ChiComs hammered out China’s 13th five-year plan. (But I’m not surprised you remember that catchy shisanwu song!)

This is the National Congress, where the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party becomes the 19th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. You know, the invitation-only shindig where 2,287 of the Party’s faithful (only those of “unshakable belief” and the “correct political stance,” of course) converge on Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to “appoint” the membership of the Party’s Politburo, “elect” members to the Central Committee, and “decide” on amendments to the Party’s constitution.

Of course, like everything else in the glorious socialist utopia of China, all of the outcomes have been decided beforehand and there will be no surprises whatsoever. But as a forum for formalizing China’s (pre-determined) future course, it gives those of us outside the Politburo a glimpse into what shape China will be taking in the coming years.

And, given China’s role as the rising economic dragon, rising geopolitical force, rising military threat and rising pawn in the grand plan for the powers-that-shouldn’t-be’s next “Great War,” there are some valuable things to be learned from the proceedings.

So, without further ado, here are eight things you need to know about this week’s 19th National Congress.

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