CCP Congress: “China’s Development Must Remain In Its Own Hands”

On Oct. 16, the opening day of the 20th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a much-awaited speech, reviewing the achievements accomplished over the past five years since the last party congress, and laying out the path forward for the next five years and beyond. Since 2017, the international environment has hardened dramatically, as has the determination of the Anglo-American powers to prevent China from becoming the world’s major industrial producer. Earlier this month, the Biden Administration issued a further list of high-technology items that U.S. or related firms are prohibited from delivering to China, particularly in the area of semiconductors. And just one week ago, it published its National Security Strategy, which defines China as the main threat and the “the only competitor with both the intent and, increasingly, the capability to reshape the international order”. (The necessity of constraining “a dangerous Russia” is mentioned in the same sentence.)

The Chinese leadership, however, has made clear they will not be deterred by such obstacles. “China’s development must remain in its own hands,” Xi told the 3,000 delegates gathered in the Great Hall of the People, and adhere to the path laid out, regardless of meeting “choppy waters and even storms on the road ahead.” All obstacles will be surmounted, he insisted.

On international trade, Xi Jinping underlined that China would continue to open its economy to foreign investment, and that even “allies” of the U.S. are unlikely to try to “decouple” from China. Domestically, the government is implementing an enhanced program for the development of science and technology, to “accelerate innovation and improve the distribution of human resources”.

At the same time, China’s leaders continue to call for cooperation and dialogue and to reject traditional geopolitics. That was reiterated at an Oct. 15 press conference by the spokesperson for the 20th National Congress, Sun Yeli, who refused to accept the premise that conflict between the U.S. and China is inevitable.

“We have never believed in the so-called ‘Thucydides trap’”, he said, referring to the “theory” that once a rising power becomes strong enough, it will inevitably enter into conflict with the existing great power. We “oppose the logic that a strong country is bound to seek hegemony. We don’t bully others, but we won’t allow others to bully us.” In the case of the United States and China, Sun explained, they have more interests in common than differences, among them economic and trade relations. The two nations should work together on resolving the world’s problems, which is what the international community expects from them, he stressed.

Xi himself, while presenting the plans for modernizing the Chinese military and enhancing security, pointed out that “We oppose a new Cold War, double standards, and interference from abroad, but we will never strive for hegemony.”

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