BEIJING: Chinese leader Xi Jinping has left a five-year term Congress with even more power over the ruling Communist Party. AFP examines how Xi should address the main issues facing the country.
China’s slowing economy will likely dominate Xi’s next five years in power, but his decision to pack the Communist Party’s top leadership with loyalists has raised concerns about his prioritizing ideology over religion. growth.
After decades of strong growth, China’s economy is faltering, with analysts expecting the country to struggle to meet its growth target of around 5.5% for 2022.
And Xi’s decision suggests that the days of liberal reformers leading the world’s second-largest economy are over.
While the past few decades have seen China’s private sector grow rich on easy credit and big profits, Xi’s next term could see Beijing revert to older economic management, with a new emphasis on bolstering economic growth. heavy industry and the continued crackdown on big tech.
Xi threw his weight behind developing a more consumer-driven economy – a policy known as “dual circulation” – and sought to close China’s yawning wealth gap under the banner of “ common prosperity”.
With the US vowing to prioritize maintaining a ‘sustainable competitive advantage’ over China as the two superpowers battle for tech dominance, Beijing could find itself under growing pressure at scale. internationally as growth slows at home.
After years of escalating tensions with Taiwan, an increasingly emboldened Xi may decide the time is right to fulfill Beijing’s longstanding ambition to retake the self-ruled democratic island.
US officials have argued that the world is closer than ever to seeing conflict on the island – and that China could invade it as early as this year.
China has made a “fundamental decision that the status quo is no longer acceptable and that Beijing is determined to pursue reunification in a much faster time frame,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this month.
Beijing insists its policy towards Taiwan has not changed, but the rhetoric and actions towards the island have become more pronounced.
The Communist Party first enshrined its opposition to Taiwanese independence in its constitution at its just-concluded congress that handed Xi a third term in power.
But any attempt to invade Taiwan would wreak havoc on global supply chains – the island is a major supplier of semiconductors, an essential component of nearly all modern electronics, from smartphones to kitchen appliances and cars .
It would also provoke outrage in the West, deepen China’s isolation, bring Beijing and Washington closer than ever to direct military confrontation, and stifle Taiwan’s hard-won democratic freedoms.
Xi will also have to decide the future of China’s strict zero-Covid policy – and whether the country is now ready to open up to the outside world after two years of closed borders and strict quarantines.
Politics is weighing on the economy, with officials this week blaming the outbreak for rising unemployment.
“Consumption is unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels with the current extent of Covid control,” said Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank China.
And with Covid rules in China’s semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong slowly being relaxed in a bid to attract more international capital, Xi may decide the economic costs outweigh the benefits of maintaining tight controls.
But the Chinese leader’s speech to party loyalists last week gave no sign that the rigid policy – which has forced millions into lockdowns over a handful of cases as the rest of the world learns to live with the virus – would give way anytime soon.
And with the success of the zero-Covid policy so tied to Xi’s legitimacy, it seems unlikely that any easing will take place anytime soon – whatever the cost to the economy.
China under Xi has seen the almost total eradication of civil society, with dozens of activists having fled the country and opposition to the government all but stifled.
And in the far western region of Xinjiang, rights groups say more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are being held in what the United States and Western lawmakers have called a genocide. .
The situation looks unlikely to improve over the next five years as Xi’s power becomes increasingly unchallenged and leaders stubbornly resist international pressure.
Xi’s next term is likely to see him “continue his profound assault on human rights across the country and around the world,” Human Rights Watch’s Sophie Richardson wrote.

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