At the start of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) this month, President Xi Jinping unveiled his “two-stage development plan” to turn China into a “modern socialist state” by 2035. Since then, commentators have furiously debated the theme of “China rising” and Xi’s concentration of power in his own hands. They are missing the point.
In fact, Xi’s plan is far more comprehensive and forward-looking than most observers seem to think. Much like his predecessors Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Xi has established a strategy for transforming China into a “prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful” country over the next decades. The key to success will be the balance between modernity and CCP-led socialism.
When Xi took over as leader of the CCP in 2012, deep cracks had appeared in both the development model bequeathed to him by Deng and the dominant Western neoliberal model, based on free and open markets. China’s rapid industrial growth had brought rampant corruption, growing income inequality, and high levels of pollution. Western countries, too, were facing rising inequality, as they reeled from a global crisis of their own making – a crisis that, among other things, weakened their appetite for Chinese imports.
This article first appeared in Project Syndicate on October 25, 2017. The views expressed in the reports featured are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Asia Global Institute’s editorial policy.