China’s 88-million-strong Communist Party of China (CPC) will kick off its 19th Party Congress in Beijing on Wednesday, October 18. This key event occurs once every five years to set the Party’s national policy goals and elect its top leadership. The 19th CPC National Congress will review the Party’s work since 2012 and chart a course of action to guide the nation’s development over the coming years under a new leadership elected by 2,300 delegates nationwide.
There have been a lot of assumptions and speculation in the run-up to the CPC National Congress, with an excessive amount of attention placed on the leadership reshuffle in the Western media. Some reports and commentary have framed the political meeting as the American fantasy drama Game of Thrones. This makes for good entertainment, but trying to understand Chinese politics through the lens of American fiction or by projecting the mechanics of Western democracy onto Chinese politics creates a distorted picture of how China’s political system works and why the National Congress matters to China and the world.
In a nutshell, the National Congress creates a five-year roadmap for the nation. Take the goal of poverty alleviation for instance. It is common knowledge that China has lifted more people out of poverty than any other country. In the past five years alone, China has lifted at least 65 million people out of poverty, about equal to the entire population of the United Kingdom. China plans to lift the remaining 40 million or so out of poverty by 2020. Together, that is about equal to the entire population of Vietnam, and all within eight years. Once the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of CPC in 2021 is realized, China will eradicate poverty in a country with a population of about one fifth of the global total.
The second centenary goal, which aims to build a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious, will be completed by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Especially since the 18th CPC National Congress, China has made onerous efforts to realize the “Two Centenary Goals” and fulfill the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.
How does China do it? The secret is the strong leadership and guidance of the CPC. And that is where the National Congress comes into play. The event gives the Party an opportunity to review its work over the past five years and shape the future direction of the organization and the nation. It goes without saying that some will rise and some will fall in the leadership reshuffle, but the National Congress is not about who will win the “Iron Throne.” Looking at everything as a power struggle is misleading, because all the Party’s efforts are aimed at national rejuvenation. “The people’s desire for a better life will always be our goal,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in 2012 after he was elected General Secretary of CPC.
Moreover, the political event is not just about China’s future. China is a rising tide that is lifting all boats and the country has become a source of global peace and prosperity.
In addition, China’s political meeting comes at a critical time, not only for China, but also for the world. “The 19th CPC National Congress is a very important meeting, to be held at a critical stage when China is striving to achieve an all-round moderately prosperous society, and at a critical time for the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” said a government statement issued after a meeting in September.
China’s new five-year plan will not only shape the future of China for the years to come, but the future of the world. From the Belt and Road Initiative, to the goal of building an international community of shared future, China has provided a new blueprint for global development, one which will have a transformative effect on Asia and the world.
To better understand China’s unique multi-party cooperation system under the leadership of CPC and the future direction of China, we need to leave the fantasy drama on the cutting room floor and examine the wisdom, governing philosophy, strategy, and plan of the CPC, the largest political party in the world; and to this end, the 19th CPC National Congress is a good window into the inner workings of Chinese politics.