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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Winter 2022 Issue 74

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Xi’s New Central Military Commission: A War Council for Taiwan?

Joel Wuthnow
Thursday, December 1, 2022

A key result of the 20th Party Congress was the reappointment of Xi Jinping as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the selection of new CMC members. Some have argued that the new military brass indicates a greater inclination by Xi to use force against Taiwan, but the evidence does not support this view. The new CMC is consistent with the recent past in terms of its internal structure; few of the new members whom Xi has chosen have deep operational expertise on Taiwan, and his new CMC is even less “joint” than the last one in terms of service representation and joint command skills. Rather than designed to lead a war, the new CMC will be charged with pursuing the PLA’s overall modernization, which includes becoming better prepared for future contingencies. The group of CMC  advisors could also play a key role in deterring Xi from any temptation to use force if they can speak truth to power.

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New Faces of Leaders, New Factional Dynamics: CCP Leadership Politics Following the 20th Party Congress

Guoguang Wu
Thursday, December 1, 2022

The 20th National Congress, which met in October 2022, reorganized the central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, with party chief Xi Jinping beginning his third term and overwhelmingly dominating the Politburo and its Standing Committee. As non-Xi factions have virtually disappeared from the top leadership, is CCP factional politics now over? Will CCP elites become “united as a piece of hard steel" with Xi in command? How will the dynamics of leadership politics in the years to follow likely unfold? This essay is an attempt to answer these questions by analyzing the career paths of the new members of the leadership and outlining the emerging landscape of new factions in the party. It argues that, in the years to come, factional competition will be inevitable due to significant political, administrative, and institutional factors within the dictatorial regime. Generational change, in terms of internal elite circulation and power succession, will also fuel power struggles among those sub-Xi factions that are now taking shape.

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Policy Continuity with Rhetorical Escalation: Parsing Xi Jinping’s Political Report to the 20th Party Congress

Minxin Pei
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The political report Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China represents a notable departure from his report to the 2017 19th Party Congress in its tone and depiction of China’s external environment.  But in terms of policy, his report presents a policy agenda that summarizes existing policy.  The focus on national security in the report largely formalizes recent policy initiatives rather than signaling a radical shift.  When we compare the last three political reports, Hu Jintao’s report to the 18th Congress and Xi’s reports to the 19th and 20th congresses, Xi’s report to the 19th Congress was a radical departure from Hu’s report to the 18th Congress in both tone and substance, whereas his report to the 20th Congress took on a more combative tone than his report to the 19th Congress but it contained a similar policy agenda.  This can be seen in the sections on national defense and Taiwan in the two reports. Taken together, Xi’s report to the 20th Party Congress signals a continuation of Xi’s current policy agenda in his third term.

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The Covid–19 Pandemic and China’s Economic Slowdown

Alicia Garcia Herrero
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Chinese economy has been undergoing a structural slowdown during the past decade, due to aging, decelerating productivity, and lower returns on assets. The Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with China’s dynamic Zero-Covid policies, have worsened that trend, together with two other important factors, namely the demise of China’s real estate sector as well as the much more difficult external environment stemming from growing U.S.-China strategic rivalry and the war in Ukraine. China’s Covid experience started well but it is ending poorly. With much better economic performance in 2020 compared to the rest of the world, China managed to attract large amounts of capital while keeping its borders closed. However, doubling down on the Zero-Covid strategy with a much more contagious virus, while the rest of the world was opening, changed China’s fortunes for the worse. In fact, China is bound to grow barely half of what the government promised for 2022 (5.5 percent). Moving forward, as the Chinese government starts to show some signs of opening-up, the question remains whether a strong recovery should be expected.  The answer is “no.” The factors behind China’s structural deceleration are still intact. In addition, Covid-related scarring effects are bound to hurt the Chinese economy in terms of human capital and innovation. Finally, the 20th Party Congress has made it crystal clear that the role of the state – and the party –  in the economy is bound to increase. All in all, even if the Covid restrictions are lifted, China might see a temporary recovery but the structural deceleration will still lead to growth at around 2 percent by 2030. This implies that any convergence with the U.S. economy will not continue for long.

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CLM Insights Interview with Victor C. Shih on his recent book:

Coalitions of the Weak: Elite Politics in China from Mao's Stratagem to the Rise of Xi

(Cambridge University Press, 2022)

CLM Insights Interview with Josh Chin and Liza Lin on their recent book:

Surveillance State: China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control

(St. Martin's Press, 2022)

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