Some would say that Xi has been very clever about his career choices in the Party, and due to his hard work and determination, he reached his position. What is important to remember that it has been a long-coming and careful process. With strong political ideology and loyalty to the Party’s cause, he reached his high position. However, to maintain it and become the Chinese President for life it took cleverly implemented foreign as well as domestic policies which will be discussed in this page.
In 2013, the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee, the Communist Party delivered a far-reaching reform agenda that alluded to changes in both economic and social policy. A new National Security Commission was formed with Xi at its helm. The Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms was formed to oversee the implementation of the reform agenda. It became the most significant reform since Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 “Southern Tour”.
In the economic realm, allocated more decisions to be made by the private sector and so, decentralise the state’s involvement in the distribution of capital, and restructure state-owned enterprises to allow further competition, potentially by attracting foreign and private sector players in industries that were previously highly regulated.
This goes to show the on-going change that Xi embraced, similar to China’s Open Door Policy, Xi saw the opportunity in moderate liberalisation of the market. Xi went further to abolish the laogai system of “re-education through labour” which was largely seen as a blot on China’s human rights record. The one-child policy was also abolished, resulting in a shift to a two-child policy from 1 January 2016. This marked a crucial understanding of Xi’s desire to be included in the global community and invite more globally respected businesses into China. Consequently, it means that China will slowly be taken into consideration as vital and fair power.
Xi and Communist Party ideologues coined the phrase “Chinese Dream” to describe his overarching plans for China as its leader. Xi first used the phrase during a high-profile visit to the National Museum of China on 29 November 2012, where he and his Standing Committee colleagues were attending a “national revival” exhibition.
Since then, the phrase has become the signature political slogan of the Xi era yet the true origin of the term “Chinese Dream” is unclear. While the phrase has been used before by journalists and scholars, some publications have posited the term likely drew its inspiration from the concept of the American Dream.
While the Chinese Dream was originally interpreted as an extension of the American Dream, which emphasises individual self-improvement and opportunity. The slogan has taken a more nationalistic character than the American Dream, with official pronouncements of the “Dream” being consistently linked with the phrase “great revival of the Chinese nation”.
Clever and Careful
Xi has been called a single-minded and exceptionally ambitious in his pursuit of high office. Even though his father was denounced and tortured during the cultural revolution, Xi decided to join the CCP during this turbulent period. To avoid Beijing’s hyper-competitive political climate, Xi chose to start his career outside the capital, and in 1983 he requested a position in the provinces.
Going along the lines of presenting China as a vital power on the global level, Xi has reportedly taken a hard-line on security issues as well as foreign affairs, projecting a more nationalistic and assertive China on the world stage. His political programme calls for a China more united and confident of its own value system and political structure.
Under Xi China has also taken a more critical stance on North Korea, while improving relationships with South Korea. China-Japan relations have soured under Xi’s administration; the most thorny issue between the two countries remains the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu. In response to Japan’s continued robust stance on the issue, China declared an Air Defense Identification Zone in November 2013.
Xi has cultivated stronger relations with Russia, particularly in the wake of the Ukraine crisis of 2014. He seems to have developed a strong personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin. Both are viewed as strong leaders with a nationalist orientation who are not afraid to assert themselves against Western interests.
Xi has called China–United States relations in the contemporary world a “new type of great-power relations”, a phrase the Obama administration had been reluctant to embrace. Under his administration, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that began under Hu Jintao has continued. On China–U.S. relations, Xi said, “If [China and the United States] are in confrontation, it would surely spell disaster for both countries“. The U.S. has been critical of Chinese actions in the South China Sea. In 2014, Chinese hackers compromised the computer system of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, resulting in the theft of approximately 22 million personnel records handled by the office.
Xi has frequently spoken out critically on the U.S. “strategic pivot” to Asia. Addressing a regional conference in Shanghai on 21 May 2014, he called on Asian countries to unite and forge a way together, rather than get involved with third party powers, seen as a reference to the United States. “Matters in Asia ultimately must be taken care of by Asians. Asia’s problems ultimately must be resolved by Asians and Asia’s security ultimately must be protected by Asians“, he told the conference.
In November 2014, in a major policy address, Xi called for a decrease in the use of force, preferring dialogue and consultation to solve the current issues plaguing the relationship between China and its South-East Asian neighbours. In spite of what seemed to be a tumultuous start to Xi Jinping’s leadership vis-à-vis the United-States, on 13 May 2017 Xi said at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing: “We should foster a new type of international relations featuring ‘win-win cooperation’, and we should forge a partnership of dialogue with no confrontation, and a partnership of friendship rather than alliance. All countries should respect each other’s so.” However, relations with the U.S. soured after Donald Trump became president in 2016. Since 2018, U.S. and China have been engaged in an escalating trade war.
Therefore, Xi has shown his skills of understanding western ideology and culture, possibly from his experience in the US during his youth. He shows an understanding that the key for capitalism is that cooperation berries benefit and that is exactly the attitude China has been going for in its foreign policy. A positive-sum game.