Takeaways fromChina's 19th National Congress

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Friday November 17, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

With the conclusion of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) 19th National Congress, observers are left with certain obvious takeaways as well assome not so obvious ones.

On the obvious side, pundits have been quick to point out that the Congress was successful from the standpoint of Chinese President Xi Jinping; whether that will translate into being successful for the nation is a different issue that the coming years shall tell. For Xi, his political thoughts have certainly achieved the desired and important"immortalized" status of being enshrined in the Party's Constitution.

Xi certainly consolidated his grip on power. In this, he also avoided naming any clear successor, which could be read a couple of ways. He could be keepingall hopefuls in line so that they would have to vie for his continued attention and approval. Or, as some raised a different concern, Xi might be revealing greater ambitions that go far beyond his second term.

Nonetheless the key phrase throughout was that China was entering a "new era;" and this "new era" did have commendable broad brush goals such as focusing on switching from economic growth to spreading the wealth and reducing pollution. Yet, the CCP was also already planning on getting things rolling for 2049 and what would be the 100th anniversary of the party; this was a telltale sign of other things beneath the surface.

As Taiwanese watchedthe sessions, the bogus 1992 consensus was mentioned several times, but stillno specific timetable was established on what China likes to name the"Taiwan question or problem."This lack may have been influenced with the purpose of avoiding unnecessary negatives since the Taiwanese have become clearly insistent that the 23 million people of Taiwan are the ones that wish to determine their own future.

On the lighter side, in presenting his thoughts, Xi spoke for nearly three and a half hours, a fact that would test the loyalty of all to stay awake.

However,as said, there were also hiddenunspoken negative takeaways just below the surface.

The largest and most hiddenin this regard was that everything seemed dependent on "the Party";and that is where the concerns begin.

Democracy is not in the cards for China, as long as the CCP is there.

For example, it is over a century after Sun Yat-sen's proclamation of wanting China to have a government "of the people, by the people and for the people." That goal is no further towards being realized than it was in the time of Sun if that really was his purpose.

Instead, to paraphrase; what Xi inaugurated at best reflection could be seen as a government "of the Party, by the Party and primarily for the Party." Of course the Party promised potential trickle down benefits for the masses. But one has to wonder how this will happen if in a half a century, a seemingly "socialist" China now vies with the US and Russia for the most capitalist millionaires and billionaires.

Can corruption be rooted out? The corruption issue shows signs of progress, though the question returns on whether it has been used more as a means of striking down some of Xi's rivals than for the good of the nation.

The bigger question in being able to create the "new era" is how can it be done within the structure of the one party state? As one-party states go, those in Taiwan have the experience of having been there, done that; and they have little faith in such a system.

Looking backin history, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which allegedly promoted democracy, lost China because of its corruption, but once in Taiwan, the KMT only partially resolved that problem. Even when Taiwan's democracy came about, there are still many unresolved corrupt matters like stolen state assets and dinosaur judges. If the people of China are hoping for a savior in a one-party state, they may best look elsewhere.

China could learn from Taiwan,where the Taiwanese pushed for a hard won democracy, but it never will; the two nations may be becoming too ethnically and culturally different.

Instead, at present Xi isrelying on reviving Confucian trust and heritage.This is something that Mao Zedong sought to indirectly destroy when it became part of his vague "four olds." At that time questioning Confucianism was de rigueur, however, now that it is useful, it has been resurrected.

At the end of the day, Xi's "new era" remains; it is long on promise, but short on specifics.

One major problem for the CCP that remains is that it and China have still not come to terms with Mao's collateral damage to the nation and the many that died in the Great Leap Forward etc. The era of Xi will only add to this.

What is also missing is the realization that central to continued long term progress and development for any nation is the matter of a free press and transparency. How can the CCP claim to make progress when it reveals that it will have little transparency and no watchdog free press to challenge the government?

Mao, the model, also was one who was great on slogans and promise as when Mao was going to root out that "western vice" of prostitution?Is it gone in China now or is it just not reported?

With the one-party state in charge of the media, focus is always diverted to support supposed progress. Credibility is the issue and it will remain the issue after the hype and fanfare of the 19th Congress have died down.The challenge for Xi is can he keep to his focus on progress for the nation and at what cost?

Credibility comes in for Hong Kong where their booksellers were jailed. That might seem small except that the people are also aware of the CCP's "Hong Kong Promise," made with no intention of keeping it even after twenty years.

Other disturbing factors are in China as well. Xi consistently spoke of a Chinese nation, something that the Tibetans and the Uighurs do not see as representing them especially as China continues to lecture and demand of other nations that they not meet the Dalai Lama.

These are part of the many unspoken issues that lurk beneath the surfacewhereTaiwan,which has a hard won democracy has concerns over the hype of China's "new era."

In response, Taiwan couldborrow a page from China and Xi's penchant for slogans; it can have its own version of its"six anys" to protect its democratic nation.

The phrasing couldgo as such: "Taiwan will not permit any person, any political party or any nation to use any means at any time to tear down or try to destroy any part of the democracy on which Taiwan's nation is founded."

Those "six anys" have a nice ring to them and point out the primary issues dividing Taiwan and China.