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China's growing confidence in its chosen path

By Swaran Singh | China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-22 07:05


Media outlets across the world have covered the landmark speech Xi Jinping, general secretary of Communist Party of China Central Committee, delivered on July 1 to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC. Some of the most prominent English language dailies, which were also the first to publish commentaries on Xi's speech, initially called it "defiant" and "belligerent" in nature, which they now blame on a few quintessential Chinese expressions lost in translation.

Since then more balanced and rounded analyses of Xi's speech have emerged.

Given that only a thin line separates pride and arrogance, the inordinately large spectrum of China watchers crystal-gazing the Party's centennial celebrations was bound to produce such initial variations.

Another important point is whether Xi's July 1 speech will replace his speech at the 19th National Congress of the CPC in October 2017 as the guiding principle of China's future course of development. This has become a new material for China watchers to read the tea leaves to forecast China's future trajectories and their wider implications.

Top of the line in the hour-long speech was Xi's noticeable use of his favored expression "rejuvenation" of the Chinese nation; he used it 24 times. But his more subtle exposition covered scores of other important points celebrating, understandably, the successes of the CPC to assert the new thesis of the inevitability of the Party's "absolute leadership" without which New China's march to become a green, beautiful, modern socialist country would come to a halt.

The speech also signals the heralding of a new era symbolized by the Chinese Dream that implies making efforts to build a world-class armed forces by 2035, and finally emerge as a developed country by 2049 (the centenary year of the founding of the People's Republic). Indeed, China has already completed its first centennial goal of eradicating absolute poverty by the end of last year-and building a moderately prosperous society in all respects-a full 10 years ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals target of 2030.

While covering the celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the CPC's founding, the world media must have noticed not one among the more than 70,000 people and top leaders of China gathered at the Tian'anmen Square to mark the main event were wearing face masks. This is being read by many as China announcing its success in containing the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its related healthcare crisis and economic slowdown.

China already emerged as an exception last year by being the only major economy to largely contain the pandemic and achieve positive economic growth (of 2.3 percent). In the first quarter of this year, China realized a stunning 18 percent growth-highest since 1992-although from a low base.

As such, a very different and more confident Xi Jinping might join the other world leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome in October and the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November. Both Italy, which hosts the G20 Summit, and the United Kingdom, which hosts the climate conference, have benefited from the Belt and Road Initiative. And the two summits, meant to discuss economic resilience and climate change mitigation, are bound to notice China's growing leverage.

China has made major investments in many fields to make its economy more resilient to external forces and fight climate change. For example, China has adopted the "dual circulation" development paradigm to boost the domestic economy. On the climate front, it has pledged to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, which are uphill tasks for a rapidly growing country of 1.4 billion people, especially because the Chinese economy is still overwhelmingly dependent on fossil fuels-with coal contributing more than 53 percent to the total power generation and crude oil imports accounting for over 72 percent its total consumption. Still, China seems determined to achieve the two goals.

Returning to Xi's speech, it seems it was not so much about future "targets" of the CPC as it was about how the 100 years of CPC should inspire and help "gain foresight into future" and about "learning from history to create a bright future". Xi also stressed that the special salience that distinguishes the CPC from other political parties is "its courage in undertaking self-reform."

July 1 incidentally also marked the 24th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China. While highlighting the "high degree of autonomy" the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region enjoys, Xi reiterated his commitment to "ensure that the central government exercises overall jurisdiction" over Hong Kong and Macao that, for him, defines the spirit of "one country, two systems".

This is where Xi welcomed "constructive criticism" but not "sanctimonious preaching", perhaps targeting the United States, which is the only country that feels entitled to impose its domestic laws on other countries and resorts to long-arm jurisdiction. Xi made it clear that China has chosen its path of development and will stick to it, and will brook no interference in its internal affairs.

The author is a professor at and chairman of the Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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