The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was held last week and already called “momentous,” was followed in many countries of the world. Significant decisions were made during the congress. How will they affect other countries? How could the balance of power on the world stage change?
Xi Jinping has been at the helm of China for 10 years. During those years, the country has visually changed: new skyscrapers, high-speed railroads, economic successes, and an increase in international trade but that is not all. The bottom line is that over the years, the world's most populous country has challenged the United States. An informal race for supremacy among the world superpowers began. According to the NTV TV channel website, Washington has made no secret of the fact that it calls Beijing its main strategic rival. We have all witnessed that last summer the U.S. and China, which have nuclear weapons, were one step away from an armed conflict.
In July, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Chinese fighter jets flew into the air and U.S. and Chinese aircraft carriers almost collided at sea. At that time it all came right in the end, and the world heaved a sigh of relief. How will events develop further? We can only guess. But many have noted that Xi Jinping said in his report to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China that “the Chinese dragon does intend to fly to Taiwan in the coming years.” As the media noted, the Chinese President most likely had in mind the peaceful pursuit of reunification with Taiwan. However, at the same time, it was announced at the congress that the People's Liberation Army of China would continue to be reformed so that by its 100th anniversary in 2027 it would become one of the best in the world.
At the 20th Congress, 69-year-old Xi Jinping was elected Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China for the third time. The membership of the CPC Central Committee was also renewed by two-thirds. Only 71 of the 205 members were previously on the Central Committee. The Standing Committee of the Politburo of China included Xi's supporters, replacing those who in one way or another lobbied American interests and pursued a more flexible policy toward the United States. Pro-American cadres, still called ‘Komsomol members’ and ‘Shanghai people,’ were removed from important positions in the country. Commenting on the results of the 20th Congress of the CPC, Alexei Maslov, director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University, said in an interview with TASS that “now the fight against Taiwan independence is an operational task, not only political or military.” According to him, the change of the four members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of China will strengthen the group that will pursue a tougher line in national policy.
Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Complex European International Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, also agrees with Maslov. The fact that the Communist Party has included in its statute a provision to oppose the independence of Taiwan is regarded as a desire to draw additional red lines for the United States. “This is intended to have a deterrent effect and once again demonstrate to the United States that compromise on Taiwan is impossible,” said Kashin.
Many international electronic media outlets have been flooded with video of the predecessor of the current leader of the Communist Party of China, 79-year-old Hu Jintao, being led out of the hall under his arm shortly before the congress closed. Meanwhile, he was seated next to Xi at the podium, which is very important by the standards of Chinese diplomacy. There was a lot of commentary on the subject, from public humiliation to feeling unwell. Then some media outlets explained it as the fact that Hu Jintao simply felt ill at a long event. The same opinion was held by Kashin, who clarified that it was most likely due to health grounds, not political ones at all.
When asked what the reelection of Xi Jinping to a third term would bring to Russia, Maslov said it would be to Moscow's advantage. It is always more usual to deal with proven and long-standing partners. The facts speak for themselves. In March 2013, Xi Jinping assumed the leadership of one of the largest powers on the world stage. At the same time, he paid a state visit to Russia. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met frequently. These were both bilateral visits and meetings at international summits and economic forums. In the first five years, according to media reports, the two good friends, which is how the leaders of Russia and China address each other, met more than 20 times.
It is noteworthy that Russia was the first country that Xi Jinping visited on an official visit shortly after his election. Importantly, these meetings are held regularly. In July this year, the leaders met in the Kremlin. The meeting was originally scheduled for only one and a half hours, but lasted four hours. This shows once again that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have much to discuss. This is both a strategic partnership and trade and economic cooperation. For many years, China has been Russia's largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries since the beginning of 2022, according to the Vzglyad business newspaper, has increased by one third and at the end of three quarters was more than $136 billion. These figures only confirm what Xi said four years ago, when he visited Russia. As the media reported, at the time the President of China quoted a line from ancient Chinese poetry, saying that “our ship is sailing at full sail on a great voyage.” One can only wish this ship seven feet under the keel.