NEW DELHI: Ecstatic applause greeted Chinese President Xi Jinping as he took the stage on Sunday at the start of a thorough choreography Communist Party Congress (CPC) should confirm him as the most powerful leader in the country since Mao Zedong.
About 2,300 delegates gathered in Beijing’s impressive Great Hall of the People, decked out in the party’s signature red and gold with banners bearing slogans saluting the “great, glorious and righteous Communist Party of China.”

The week-long Congress is a demonstration of party unity and strength, with carefully selected delegates from all Chinese provinces.
It’s also a show of loyalty to Xi personally, with the 69-year-old expected to secure a third term as Communist Party general secretary, rejecting the leadership succession rules that have prevailed since the 1990s.

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‘Uncle Xi’ to the exalted ruler
In his early years leading China, Xi Jinping paid for his steamed dumplings at a cheap diner, casually rolled up his trouser legs to avoid splashing in the rain, and was serenaded with sugary pop tunes. His image makers chose him as “Xi Dada”, the steadfast but brilliant “Uncle Xi” of the people.
A decade later, Xi looms over the country as a stern Communist monarch, reflecting on China’s ancient fallen dynasties and determined to conquer his enduring rise in a turbulent world.
Chinese officials praise his speeches as sacred texts, professing loyalty with a fervor that sometimes echoes the era of Mao Zedong. Teasing Xi in private can lead to prison. His public meetings are regimented cheers.
Over the past decade, Xi has amassed power both through specific one-off moves and gradually over time.

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In doing so, it shifted China from a tradition of collective leadership, with the secretary general considered the first peer on the politburo standing committee, to what is now widely regarded as supreme leadership.
When the elders chose Xi as their leader, the son of a Communist Party revolutionary was considered a safe choice to put the party first and freshen up an institution that had become sclerotic due to corruption and less relevant in an economy. liberalizing.
Xi’s elevation to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 fueled hopes among liberals and Western governments that he might be a reformer. After all, his father had helped then-leader Deng Xiaoping implement China’s fundamental reform and open up when he was party secretary in Guangdong Province.
Rise of the authoritarian
Ma Xi took his mandate to save the party seriously, bringing the party back to the center of life in China and himself to the center of the party.
In the name of fighting corruption and restoring public faith in the party, 4.7 million officials were investigated under Xi in April 2022. Many have been purged, including power rivals such as popular former Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai. Such moves have had the advantage of eradicating political enemies and promoting his own people in newly vacant jobs, while gaining public support.

Xi also oversaw the suppression of dissent and prohibited “disrespectful” discussions of the party among members. All critical comments against Xi have been deleted from the Internet.
In 2016 he became the “heart” of the party and in 2018 he abandoned the limit of two terms for the presidency, paving the way for the government for life.
Remodeling of the Chinese army
During his CCP opening speech, Xi warned that China does not “give up the use of force” to unify Taiwan with the mainland and vowed to advance the modernization of the country’s military to world-class standards to protect national sovereignty, security and evolutionary interests.
In his decade at the helm, Xi prioritized security, expanding the state’s economic role, military strengthening, more assertive foreign policy, and intensifying pressure to take over Taiwan.

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China has built the largest navy in the world, renovated the largest standing army in the world, and amassed a nuclear and ballistic arsenal to disturb any enemy.
For years, the People’s Liberation Army was considered ill-equipped and ineffective, vilified by one historian as “the largest military museum in the world”.
It was equipped with old Soviet-derived weapons, riddled with corruption, and was a predominantly infantry force with a less-than-stellar record in foreign campaigns.
When Xi became commander-in-chief of the PLA in 2013, some reforms were already underway.
But “it wasn’t really until Xi Jinping’s arrival that that effort began to translate into capability,” strategic advisor Alexander Neill told AFP.
Beijing’s military budget has increased for 27 consecutive years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Today China boasts two active aircraft carriers, hundreds of long- and medium-range ballistic missiles, thousands of warplanes and a navy that surpasses even that of the United States.
China’s nuclear stocks are increasing exponentially and, according to the Pentagon, can now likely be launched from land, sea and air, echoing the US nuclear triad.
According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, China has about 350 nuclear warheads, double those held during the Cold War.
US intelligence predicts that this stock could double again to 700 by 2027. New nuclear missile silos are under construction in the northwest of the country.
Quad fears
With unprecedented military expansion, China has asserted authority over much of the South China Sea and is seeking to dominate the Indian Ocean region.
China’s expansionist behavior has forced countries like the United States, India, Japan and Australia to join a Quad alliance, which is seen as a counterweight to Beijing.
In a report presented to the CCP on Sunday, Xi said that China opposes all forms of unilateralism and the formation of exclusive blocs and groups targeted against particular nations. This indicated Beijing’s firm opposition to groupings such as the Quad.

China has opposed the formation of the Quad alliance which includes the United States, India, Australia and Japan, as well as AUKUS, an alliance of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, stating that these groups aim to contain the rise of Beijing.
The Quad argues for the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific against the backdrop of increasing Chinese military maneuvers in the region. The United States had claimed that AUKUS would act as a “very deterrent” to Chinese aggression in the Pacific region.
Focus on economic growth
Although analysts expect a shift towards a greater focus on national security, Xi reiterated that economic development is the “Communist Party’s top priority,” a signal that Beijing will continue to prioritize growth.
Xi has increasingly highlighted the need to balance security concerns with economic growth from 2020, prompting some analysts to suggest that Xi may drop the early development slogan on Sunday.
Sticking to the party’s stance, Xi did not report substantial changes to economic goals, a move that would alleviate concerns about political changes.
Xi’s remarks come at a particularly dangerous time for China, with economic growth close to the slowest of the last four decades, dragged down by the frequent blockades of Covid politics, the crisis in the real estate sector and the impact of its crackdown on the 2021 on the “once freewheeling platform” economy, as well as global headwinds.

Economists expect China’s growth to slow to just 3.3% this year, much weaker than the official target of around 5.5%.

This would have been the biggest shortcoming since the government started setting GDP targets in the early 1990s.
A stronger rebound will depend on how soon China eases its zero tolerance approach to Covid-19.
(With input from agencies)



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