China’s new era is all about Xi
The meaning of the new era is tied to Xi, rooted in China’s achievements of the last five years, and cemented in the party constitution.
China is changing: its domestic policy is drifting from authoritarianism to totalitarianism, and its foreign policy is steadily becoming more assertive, according to a new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations. The 19th congress of the Chinese Communist Party will be seen as a defining moment which signalled a new era for China.
In this ECFR China Analysis, the authors look at the historic congress to offer their insights on the meaning of this new era in terms of ideology and domestic and foreign policy. It represents a shift that should not be underestimated, according to Mittelstaedt, and will have a significant impact on China’s policymaking.
It begins with China’s leadership. The congress revealed that leader Xi Jinping is central to the new era. In a clear demonstration of his power, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was enshrined in the party’s constitution.
His “ideological tightening” campaigns over the last 5 years have sought to revive Maoist and Marxist principles throughout society and strengthen support for the CCP. His latest bid takes a more personal turn, as in a bid to bring the younger generation into line with the party’s ideology, dedicated study of “Xi Jinping Thought” will become part of Chinese education.
But is Xi’s ideology truly so embedded across Chinese society? Increased control seems to be silencing the population, but whether this is the product of trust in the party and its leadership or fear is unclear, says Angela Stanzel.
Xi’s ascent to a platform of absolute political authority domestically could also translate into Chinese power in the international sphere. Heike Holbig explains China’s ambitious agenda to shape the global order according to its national interests. There is growing confidence that a leader able to achieve historic changes domestically and willing to embrace globalisation indicates that China can assume a leading global role. Particularly given the reverse trend in the US, and Chinese criticisms of the West in the times of Trump and Brexit.
How much of the rhetoric of a “new type of great power approach” will translate into policy is questioned by Sautin, who says that apart from the introduction of buzzwords about respect, the approach to Sino-American relations looks a lot like the 19th century one.