China’s President Xi Jinping has been in power for ten years. During the recent 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, he announced that the Chinese people were embarking on a new path of comprehensive construction of a modern socialist state and would pursue the great rebirth of the nation.
Xi Jinping voiced the concept of the “Chinese Dream” in 2012 when he was general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and before he took office as president of the People’s Republic of China.
The goal the dream pursued was the great revival of the Chinese nation, the creation of a rich and powerful, democratic and civilized modern socialist state. Despite not being the first to talk about the need to create a “Revived China” as opposed to “old China,” it was Xi who emphasized the need to finally get rid of the legacy of the “century of humiliation” by foreign countries, when China was turned into a semi-colony under powerful western powers. Over the past decade, China under Xi Jinping has achieved historic victories:
- China’s economy has doubled in size, exceeding 114 trillion yuan ($16 trillion);
- Absolute poverty has been eliminated;
- Per capita income has also doubled, reaching $11,890 by 2021.
However, China’s growth is slowing because of its “Zero-Tolerance COVID-19 Policy”, where frequent lockdowns and other restrictions hamper business activity and cause disruptions in supply chains. China is facing its worst real estate market crisis in decades. After the bankruptcy of Evergrande, the largest real estate developer, the market has been falling for more than a year. At the same time, real estate accounted for up to 40% of the country’s GDP growth.
Fighting ‘Tigers and Flies’
As Xi Jinping took the helm of China ten years ago, he launched a massive campaign to combat corruption in the party ranks. The Chinese leader feared that the country would repeat the fate of the Soviet Union, which Xi believes collapsed largely due to the moral decay of the Soviet party nomenklatura and its estrangement from revolutionary ideals. Over the past decade, more than five million anti-corruption cases have been filed against Chinese officials.
Among the biggest tigers caught in the net of the uncompromising campaign were Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee and chief “security leader,” as well as Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and the second man in the army.
Approaching his third term in office, Xi Jinping thoroughly cleaned up the party leadership, building a rigid power vertical of officials loyal to party ideals. In doing so, during the 20th CPC Congress, the Party Charter was amended to include “two provisions”: the status of Xi Jinping as the core of the entire party and the establishment of “Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” as guiding principles for the party and state administration.
Strong Army, Strong Leader
Xi not only strengthened the country from within, but also gradually began to move toward a more assertive foreign policy. There has been a departure from Deng Xiaoping’s long-standing concept of “Hide your strength and bide your time.” According to the current Chinese leader’s conviction, the main goal – the rebirth of the Chinese nation – is impossible without strengthening China’s position in the international arena.
China began to promote its own trade and infrastructure initiatives, such as the Belt and Road, as well as ideological constructs, such as the Community of Common Destiny for Mankind (about a more just world order from the Chinese point of view) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI). The promotion of Chinese technological standards to the outside world has become an important direction. Representatives from China already occupy executive positions in the world’s largest standard-setting organizations.
The realization of foreign policy ambitions is impossible without a strong army. Xi Jinping, as commander-in-chief, continues to reform the army, which by 2027 is expected to become the world’s leading army. The PRC’s defense budget has more than doubled from 2012 to 2021, to 1.35 billion yuan ($208 billion). It is still less than a third of the US budget, but it is the largest in the Asia-Pacific region.
All Chinese leaders since Mao have stressed the importance of China’s “reunification” with Taiwan. However, it was Xi Jinping who made it clear that the rebirth of a great Chinese nation cannot be achieved without reunification with Taiwan, and that this problem should not be left to future generations.
Recently, tensions in the Taiwan Strait have been on the rise. Beijing reproaches the US for provoking and cultivating separatist sentiments on the island. China has repeatedly indicated that it will make every effort to resolve the Taiwan issue peacefully, but a scenario of reunification by force cannot be ruled out if “outside forces” interfere in the process.