At this year’s 20th Party Congress, observers are paying particular attention to participants from China’s beleaguered private sector.

In addition to officials and political leaders, the approximately 2,300 congress delegates also include professionals from different sectors.

But as the fallout continues over Xi Jinping’s unprecedented crackdown on private enterprise, there is speculation that the number of non-state employees attending the congress could decline – especially if the latest congresses go by.

Decreasing numbers: At the 18th Party Congress in 2012 – where Xi was named leader of the Communist Party, replacing former leader Hu Jintao – there were 34 attendees from the private sector.

At the time, the Chinese economy was booming as it integrated more closely with the rest of the world. Just four years earlier, China stunned the world with the extravagant Summer Olympics in Beijing.

But five years later, at the 19th Party Congress in 2017, as Xi further consolidated his power and purged his political enemies, that number had fallen to 27.

Repression of capital: Then, in 2020, Beijing launched a massive crackdown on some of the country’s biggest private companies, working to curb what it considered too powerful companies, especially in big tech.

But it is expensive. More than $1 trillion has been wiped from the market value of Alibaba and Tencent – the crown jewels of China’s tech industry – in the past two years. Sales growth in the sector has slowed and tens of thousands of employees have been laid off, leading to record youth unemployment.

Troublesome numbers this year: So far, there has been no state media reports or government statements about the number of non-state-employed attendees – or much coverage at all about the significance or contribution from the private sector to the economy, unlike previous congresses.

However, a look at the full list of delegates shows that several high profile entrepreneurs, who had attended previous congresses, are absent this year, such as the president of equipment manufacturer Sany Group, Liang Wengen.

And during Xi’s keynote speech last Sunday, he stressed the need to continue the party’s “anti-monopoly” crackdown and regulate “excessive income,” a sign that he will continue to crack down on big business and corporations. rich.

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