Occurring only twice a decade, China’s Communist Party Congress is a pretty big deal when it comes to choosing the country’s future leaders. And this year’s, in particular, is important for a few reasons. It’s the first one since the COVID pandemic (and China’s zero-COVID policy was put into place), a new premier is set to be selected at the end of his term in March 2023 and President Xi Jinping is expected to break from tradition and extend his roles as president and general secretary of the Party into a third term.
Kicking off the congress, Xi gave his speech on Sunday. It was two hours long, but he made a few key points. He addressed challenges China has dealt with – the COVID pandemic, dissent in Hong Kong and tension with Taiwan – and said that China is overcoming these under his administration. Regarding foreign policy, Xi highlighted how China is becoming more influential, rivaling the West. He also gave attention to how the country is modernizing and doing it differently – with the Chinese model of development based on maintaining leadership and achieving “common prosperity." Xi also underscored the country’s climate goals and working toward carbon neutrality.
Throughout his speech, Xi hit on key points, saying:
“China’s international influence, appeal and power to shape the world has significantly increased."
“We will steadfastly push for common prosperity. We will improve the system of income distribution. We will ensure more pay for more work and encourage people to achieve prosperity through hard work. We will promote equality of opportunity, increase the income of low income earners and expand the size of the middle income group. We will keep income distribution and the means of accumulating wealth well regulated."
“We will focus on national strategic needs, gather strength to carry out indigenous and leading scientific and technological research, and resolutely win the battle in key core technologies."
“We will work actively and prudently toward the goals of reaching peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality. Based on China’s energy and resource endowments, we will advance initiatives to reach peak carbon emissions in a well-planned and phased way, in line with the principle of getting the new before discarding the old."
Others reacted to the speech, saying:
“While Xi’s tone was unapologetic, the speech came across as less expansive than five years ago (and thankfully much shorter). Instead of confidently entering his guaranteed second term, Xi at this Congress is entering uncharted waters of a paramount rule with no set time limit," said John Delury, Professor of Chinese Studies at Yonsei University of Graduate Studies in Seoul.
“This speech said ‘continuity’ and full speed ahead. Seemed to be very little indication of adjustment to policy, even though the domestic economy and international relationships face increasing headwinds," said Bates Gill, Executive Director at the Center for China Analysis at the Asia Society Policy Institute.