Takeaways from Xi’s Congress

Originally published at The Indian Express, 24 October 2022. p.14. Published online as ‘Xi Jinping’s Congress: What are the implications for China, the world, and India?

What are the main takeaways  from the CPC Congress? 

The CPC’s 20th Congress underlined General Secretary Xi Jinping’s role not just as the core of the Central Committee but also as the fount of new ideas and interpretations of Marxism within the Party. The Report to the Congress and the resolution on amendments to the Party constitution have a clear focus on China’s internal challenges, or, to put it more precisely, the challenges the Party sees to its continuing existence in power.

This “great new struggle” requires Party cadre to “study the history of the Party”, to remember its revolutionary ethos, to “[carry] forward our fighting spirit and [build] up our fighting ability” and to “strive in unity” in order to achieve “the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation”.

In his report to the 2017 Congress, Xi called “the principal contradiction facing Chinese society” as that “between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life”. Over the past few years, the Party tackled this contradiction by moving away from an emphasis on GDP growth rates and undermining the domination of the private sector. The approach was represented by the concept of “common prosperity”, which has now been incorporated into the Party constitution.

The Party has thus confirmed its return to a central role in directing the growth and development of the Chinese economy while the stress on greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology suggests increasing concerns about the impact of the international environment on China’s economic ambitions.

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A Third Term For Xi Jinping Holds Little Assurance For India

Originally published at BQ Prime, 22 October 2022.

India has several reasons to pay close attention to the ongoing 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).  As a neighbour to China and as a country of similar size of population and length of history, it would be natural for India to assume that it occupies an important place in the minds of Chinese leaders in terms of both geopolitics and development experiences. What then is the message for India from CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping’s report to the Congress on questions of foreign policy and the economy?

Continue reading “A Third Term For Xi Jinping Holds Little Assurance For India”

എല്ലാം നയിക്കുന്ന പാർട്ടി

Co-authored with Anand Parappadi Krishnan and originally published as ‘എല്ലാം നയിക്കുന്ന പാർട്ടി; ചൈനീസ് പാർട്ടി കോൺഗ്രസിന് കൊടിയേറുമ്പോൾ’, 24 News, 15 October 2022.

ചൈനീസ് കമ്മ്യുണിസ്റ്റ് പാർട്ടിയുടെ (സി.സി.പി) ഇരുപതാം ദേശീയ കോൺഗ്രസ് ഒക്ടോബർ 16-ന് ആരംഭിക്കും. ചൈനയുടെ സാമ്പത്തിക-രാഷ്ട്രീയ കരുത്ത് വർധിച്ചതോടെ, ഓരോ അഞ്ച് വർഷത്തെ ഇടവേളയിലും നടക്കുന്ന ഈ സമ്മേളനത്തിന്റെ പ്രാധാന്യവും ഉയർന്നിട്ടുണ്ട്. ഈ സമ്മേളനങ്ങളും അതിൽ ഓരോന്നിലും ജനറൽ സെക്രട്ടറിമാർ അവതരിപ്പിക്കുന്ന രാഷ്ട്രീയ റിപ്പോർട്ടും പുറം ലോകത്തിന് നൽകുന്നത് വിജയകരമായി പൂർത്തീകരിച്ച നാഴികക്കല്ലുകളെ കുറിച്ചുള്ള പാർട്ടിയുടെ കാഴ്ച്ചപ്പാടും ഭാവി ലക്ഷ്യങ്ങളുടെ ഒരു രൂപരേഖയുമാണ്. കൂടാതെ, ചൈനയ്ക്കകത്ത് തങ്ങളുടെ അധികാരത്തിന്റെ അളവ് തിട്ടപ്പെടുത്താനും, അതിനെതിരായി ഉയരുന്ന ബാഹ്യമായ വെല്ലുവിളികളെ എങ്ങനെ നേരിടാമെന്നുമുള്ള പാർട്ടിയുടെ ഉൾക്കാഴ്ച്ചകളുടെ പ്രതിഫലനത്തിനുള്ള വേദി കൂടിയാണ് ഈ സമ്മേളനങ്ങൾ.

ചൈനയുടെ ആഭ്യന്തര കാഴ്ച്ചപ്പാടിനെ അടിസ്ഥാനപ്പെടുത്തുകയാണെങ്കിൽ, ഈ ഇരുപതാം കോൺഗ്രസ് ഇതുവരെ കെട്ടിപ്പടുത്തിട്ടുള്ള മാതൃകകളുടെ ഉടച്ചുവാർക്കലാണെന്ന് പറയേണ്ടി വരും. കാരണം, നിലവിലെ ജനറൽ സെക്രട്ടറി ഷി ജിൻപിങ്ങിന് ഒരു മൂന്നാം ഊഴം ലഭിക്കാനാണ് സാധ്യത. പാർട്ടി ജനറൽ സെക്രട്ടറി, രാജ്യത്തിന്റെ പ്രസിഡന്റ് എന്നീ രണ്ടു പരമോന്നത പദവികളും ചൈനയിൽ പരസ്പരം കോർത്തിണങ്ങിയാണിരിക്കുന്നത്. ഈ രണ്ടു പദവികളും സാധാരണ ഗതിയിൽ വഹിക്കുന്നത് ഒരാളും. അതുകൊണ്ട് തന്നെ, മാർച്ച് 2023-ൽ ഷീ, രാജ്യത്തിന്റെ പ്രസിഡന്റായി, ഇനിയുമൊരഞ്ചു വർഷത്തേക്ക് കൂടി അവരോധിക്കപ്പെടുമെന്നും ഏതാണ്ടുറപ്പാണ്.

Continue reading “എല്ലാം നയിക്കുന്ന പാർട്ടി”

India’s Xinjiang Abstention: Neither Morality nor Self-Interest Clear

Originally published as ‘What national interests has India achieved by abstaining at UNHRC vote on Xinjiang?’, Moneycontrol, 14 October 2022.

In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, George Smiley is asked a question about what morality was — whether it was a method or if it was “vested in the aims”.

“Difficult to know what one’s aims are, that’s the trouble”, concludes the speaker.

The conversation offers a useful framework to tackle the subject of India’s abstention during a vote on a draft resolution in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for a debate on the human rights situation in China’s troubled Xinjiang province.

Continue reading “India’s Xinjiang Abstention: Neither Morality nor Self-Interest Clear”

Why factional politics might no longer matter in China

Originally published at 9DashLine, 6 October 2022.

It is axiomatic that authoritarian states will be more vulnerable to sudden leadership changes or to regime collapse than open, democratic systems. Therefore, it is natural for China’s leaders to worry, and not entirely surprising that the Chinese Party-state has spent more on internal security than it has on external defence since 2010.

Given such investment, a sudden change in the regime in China today would require some effort given the strong control over sources of information and a high degree of centralisation of power by successive general secretaries of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Xi Jinping, the present incumbent, has centralised power to a degree perhaps unprecedented in the CPC’s history. He has done so with the aid of both traditional methods such as personnel changes through anti-corruption campaigns and the appointment of loyalists to key positions as well as with the help of modern technological surveillance. Chinese leaders at the highest echelons, including retired ones, are themselves closely monitored. It would be very difficult for meetings or plotting to happen without internal security agencies that report directly to the CPC General Secretary getting wind of them.

Continue reading “Why factional politics might no longer matter in China”

A Significant Non-Meeting: Modi and Xi at Samarkand

Originally published as ‘Samarkand SCO: Significance of the Modi-Xi non-meeting’, Moneycontrol, 19 September 2022.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not meet one-on-one with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Council of Heads of State. At least there is no publicly shared evidence of the meeting so far. One cannot be absolutely sure, of course, for such is the nature of diplomacy.

In a media briefing on the eve of the summit, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra was notably cagey about what other bilateral meetings the Prime Minister would have apart from the one with the President of the host country, Uzbekistan.

If Modi and Xi did not meet, was it the case that either side did not request for a meeting, or that one or the other side did not accept the request? What are the larger implications of this development?

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100 Years of the Communist Party of China, Special Issue 2

China Report Vol. 58, No. 3, August 2022
100 Years of the Communist Party of China, Special Issue 2
Guest Editors: Jabin T. Jacob & Bhim B. Subba


1. Introduction – ‘Carrying Forward the Great Founding Spirit’: Governance in the Communist Party of China Today

Jabin T. Jacob & Bhim B. Subba


2. The Relationship between the CPC and Think-tanks in Xi Jinping’s New Era

Hoang The Anh


3. Agriculture in Communist China: Progress without Structural Reforms

Binh Giang Nguyen


4. Between ‘Retreat’ and ‘Recentralisation’: China’s SOE Reform Conundrum

Priyanka Pandit


5. Emergency Management in Urban China: Comparing the Role of Community Institutions in the Coronavirus Outbreak and in Other Disasters

Huan Gao


Twitter thread

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A litany of economic woes but in China politics rules

Originally published at 9DashLine, 24 August 2022.

The list of problems the Chinese economy faces is long. A rural banking collapse in Henan province has affected deposits worth billions of dollars, including the life’s savings of several customers.[1] Chinese property developers have defaulted to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars[2] as a result of which homebuyers are threatening to stop paying their mortgages as the likelihood of taking possession recedes.[3] Unemployment in China is becoming serious hitting a record high for those in 16-24 age group.[4] Growth forecasts for China have been cut by multiple international agencies owing to the country’s continuing stringent zero-covid policy.[5]

Meanwhile, climate change has also not spared China. Amidst a heat wave, the demand for power has shot up to such an extent that many Chinese provinces have instituted shutdowns for industries. In Chongqing and Sichuan, for example, affected companies include Chinese, American and Japanese automakers and Taiwanese electronics manufacturers. Not only will these shutdowns have knock-on effects on supply chains within China but also internationally.[6]

The Party’s Economy

Continue reading “A litany of economic woes but in China politics rules”

China-Taiwan crisis: Implications and options for Japan

Co-authored with Chisako T. Masuo and originally published at India Today, 9 August 2022.

It would be easy to portray the tensions generated by the visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan as something largely involving the US and China; sometimes, even the Taiwanese are not considered as part of the equation or as having agency. However, the fact of the matter is that there are a lot more countries that have a stake in the fate of Taiwan and in how any contingency involving Taiwan plays out.

One of these countries naturally, is Taiwan’s neighbour, Japan.

Continue reading “China-Taiwan crisis: Implications and options for Japan”