Xi’s tough stance and tough stance on the United States. Here are the key takeaways from China’s annual political meetings


Hong Kong

China’s most important annual political meetings ended on Monday, leaving leader Xi Jinping at the helm of a superpower that appears more eager to confront the United States than at any time in decades.

Much of what happened at the highly choreographed meetings, known as two sessions over 10 days in Beijing, was premeditated, but they also threw up a few surprises.

Here are the main recommendations:

To longtime observers of Chinese politics, the meetings sent an unequivocal message: The Chinese Communist Party is advancing and the state is retreating.

The annual meeting of the country’s legislature and the country’s top political advisory body is traditionally a time for the central government and the prime minister to shine. But the party and Xi took more place in the story.

The National People’s Congress not only approved Xi Jinping’s unprecedented third term as president, but also endorsed his sweeping reform plan to further strengthen the party’s role in all aspects of decision-making and governance. management.

The overhaul will allow the party to directly control important financial and technological sectors – at the expense of China’s State Council, Cabinet of Ministers.

Under Xi, the party has increasingly clamped down on the power of the State Council, reversing efforts by the late Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping to introduce some degree of separation between the party and the state.

The Xi-led party assumed all decision-making power, with the State Council reduced to an executive role.

China’s new Premier Li Qiang made the announcement at his first press conference on Monday.

When asked by a reporter to describe the government’s goals for the new term, Lee replied, “The task of the new government is to implement and fully implement the decisions of the Party Central Committee.”

During the press conference, Lee referred to Xi seven times and the party 11 times.

A significant change in tone over the two sessions this year has been a more forceful approach to challenge the United States, starting from the highest levels of China’s leadership.

It is safe to assume that public opinion has not been carefully considered during China’s annual political theater exercises.

Last week, when Xi lashed out at the United States before a group of government advisers representing private companies, the sharp rhetoric sounded alarm bells over strained US-China relations.

“Western countries, led by the United States, have comprehensively restrained and suppressed us, which has caused unprecedented difficulties for our development,” Xi said.

Despite deteriorating bilateral relations, the Chinese leader has largely avoided directly attacking the United States and has mostly only referred to “Western countries” or “some developed countries”.

Xi’s particularly blunt remarks signal a serious tension – one that should be closely scrutinized and monitored by the entire Chinese administration.

The next day, China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, echoed Xi’s accusations, warning that the two superpowers would inevitably be pushed into “conflict and confrontation” if the United States did not rein in China and stop oppressing it.

In another sign of its hardening, China has appointed a US-sanctioned general as its new defense minister.

General Li Shanfu, a veteran of the People’s Liberation Army modernization campaign, was sanctioned by the Trump administration in 2018 for purchasing Russian weapons, including the Su-35 fighter jet and the S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping applauded at the fifth plenary session of the National People's Congress on March 12.

Every year on International Women’s Day, China’s state media never fails to quote Chairman Mao Zedong’s famous quote, “Women hold up half the sky.”

But the parliamentary meeting that coincides with this event almost every year is a reminder of how few women are in high-ranking positions in China.

The gender imbalance is even starker this year, as no woman has been appointed vice premier under China’s new Premier Li. Li’s predecessor, Li Keqiang, had a female vice-premier for both terms in his cabinet.

Lee’s new cabinet has only three women and 30 men.

The contrast is even more striking on the party side.

No women were promoted to the 24-member Politburo during the party’s leadership shakeup in October in a bid for gender equality. For the first time in 25 years, the party’s second most powerful group and the executive branch are entirely male-dominated.

No woman has ever served on the Standing Committee of the Politburo – the holiest seat of power.

In a surprise announcement on Sunday, Beijing retained some of its economic leadership, including People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang, a US-educated economist and Finance Minister Liu Kun.

Both have reached the official retirement age of 65 for ministers.

Yi, appointed to head China’s central bank in 2018, was expected to step down after being kicked out of the party’s Central Committee at a key party congress in October.

Xi defied the party’s retirement norms in October by staying on for another term as party leader, breaking with precedents that require leaders over 68 to step down. He also made a special case for former foreign minister Wang Yi, elevating the 69-year-old politician to the Politburo.

By retaining Yi and Liu, Beijing wants to send a message of continuity and consistency amid economic headwinds at home and abroad, analysts say.

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