In Brief

Xi Jinping lays out sweeping vision for China

President tells Chinese lawmakers that nation ‘stands tall’ in the East as pivotal meeting begins

Chinese President Xi Jinping has laid out a “sweeping vision” for China today, in a three-and-a-half-hour speech to the country’s ruling elite that commentators say seemed designed to “shore up his grip on power”.

But what is Xi’s vision for the country, and what does the future hold for the superpower?

What is the congress?

The National People’s Congress of China (NPC) is the national legislature of the People’s Republic of China, and is currently the largest parliamentary body on Earth, with more than 2,900 members as of 2017.

The NPC, which is elected - and thus convenes - once every five years, has the power to create legislation, oversee the operations of the government and elect major members of the government.

This year sees the Communist Party of China hold their 19th congress since the party’s foundation in Shanghai in 1921, and allows the ruling party to reshuffle certain members of the government, including those in the Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision-making body. 

It can be used to “confirm the pre-eminence” of leaders, and this week’s gathering is “being seen as a referendum on Xi’s success in positioning himself as China’s unquestioned political supremo”, according to CNN. It is not open to the public.

What did Xi say?

The president called China’s progress during his reign - which began at the previous congress in 2012 - “truly remarkable”, but added that more effort is needed to move the country towards a goal of “national rejuvenation”, a phrase he used several times during the speech.

“Our party, our people, our forces, and our nation have changed in ways without precedent,” he said, but added that China would “not just mechanically copy the political systems of other countries”.

He also suggested that China’s success under “socialism with Chinese characteristics” demonstrated “a new choice for other countries”.

“It is time for us to take centre stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind,” he added.

What has the reaction been?

Xi's speech, described by the Financial Times as “his first major public domestic policy speech since assuming power”, has been interpreted as a showcase of his control over the country. The Guardian claims that it cemented his place as “as one of China’s most dominant rulers since Mao Zedong”.

BBC China editor Carrie Gracie adds that “the most striking thing in his mission statement was ideological confidence”, referring to his assertion that other nations should be encouraged to copy the Chinese model. This ties in with his party’s recent tactic of playing up “crisis and chaos in Western democracies”, Gracie said.

Xi’s insistence on showing “no tolerance” to corruption within his party - something that had plagued the organisation for decades prior to his rise to power - was well received at the congress. In the five years since he took office, as many as 1.4 million party officials have been punished over corruption allegations. Al Jazeera English says Xi has made “many powerful enemies” during his reign. 

His exact aims will be difficult to fully gauge until the congress concludes, on 24 October, with the unveiling of the president’s new Politburo Standing Committee, which will dictate the direction of the party in future years.

But at present, riding high on the back of his speech and a further tightening of his grip on the Communist Party, “Xi Jinping is expected to extend his hold on power for five more years, if not longer”, Quartz concludes.

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