Standing onstage in the auditorium of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, against a backdrop of a stylized hammer and sickle, Xi Jinping sounded a triumphant note. It was October 2017, and the Chinese leader was addressing the 19th Party Congress, the latest of the gatherings of Chinese Communist Party elites held every five years. In his three-and-a-half-hour speech, Xi, who was appointed the CCP’s general secretary in 2012, declared his first term a “truly remarkable five years in the course of the development of the party and the country,” a time in which China had “stood up, grown rich, and become strong.” He acknowledged that the party and the country still confronted challenges, such as official corruption, inequality in living standards, and what he called “erroneous viewpoints.” But overall, he insisted, China was headed in the right direction—so much so, in fact, that he recommended that other countries draw on “Chinese wisdom” and follow “a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind.” Not since Mao Zedong had a Chinese leader so directly suggested that others should emulate his country’s model.
Xi’s confidence is not without grounds. In the past five years, the Chinese leadership has made notable progress on a number of its priorities. Its much-heralded anticorruption campaign has accelerated, with the number of officials disciplined for graft increasing from some 150,000 in 2012 to more than 400,000 in 2016. Air quality in many of China’s famously smoggy cities has improved measurably. In the South China Sea, Beijing has successfully advanced its sovereignty claims by militarizing existing islands and creating new ones outright, and it has steadily eroded the autonomy of Hong Kong through a series of political and legal maneuvers. Across Asia, it has enhanced its influence through the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive regional infrastructure plan. All the while, the Chinese economy has continued to expand, and in 2017, GDP grew by 6.9 percent, the first time the growth rate had gone up in seven years.
Loading, please wait...