When Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaks, observers around the world listen for clues about what to expect from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the coming months and years. Sifting through the Xi-speak associated with the “Two Sessions” requires ignoring all the fluff and cliches that are routinely echoed by the state-run Chinese media, to get to the core concerns and issues that matter most to the communists.
The “Two Sessions” refers to the perfunctory annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). This year’s sessions were the 14th in the dreary series. Perfunctory? Yes, indeed, as they are both rubber-stamping bodies deployed to show to Chinese citizens and the world that the Chinese communists practice “democracy with Chinese characteristics.”
For example, on March 10, Xi was elected by the NPC for his third 5-year term as Chinese president, by a unanimous vote of 2,952 to 0. How’s that for “democracy” when there is only one candidate? China’s touted “whole people’s democracy”—which delivers only CCP-approved officials—is just the latest Marxist euphemism for “democratic socialism.”
The NPC impersonates a Western-style legislature. In reality, it rubber-stamps so-called “work reports” and policies developed by CCP apparatchiks and committees that were blessed by Xi and his totally controlled Politburo Standing Committee before the session. Nothing is presented that has not been vetted and approved by the CCP leadership; everything is accepted without debate. More “democracy with Chinese characteristics.”
Meanwhile, the CPPCC is advertised as a national political advisory body. This particular session established ten special committees to “cover multiple areas such as proposals, the economy, agriculture, and social, legal, ethnic, religious and foreign affairs,” according to the official website. Communists advising other communists: how is that working out? Apparently not very well, as the list of persistent problems below demonstrates.
Massive Structural Debt
Forbes reports that China’s public and private debt now exceeds $51.9 trillion, “almost three times the size of China’s economy,” and continues to grow. As reported by Zero Hedge, China has over $7 trillion in so-called “hidden debt” that could lead to massive defaulting of public bonds: “Local government financing vehicles, or LGFVs, are mostly tasked with building infrastructure projects. They allow local authorities to raise money without having the debt appear on the government’s balance sheet.” A defaulting of LGFV bonds exacerbated by extremely high levels of household debt, would adversely affect the rest of China’s credit market, which has already been stressed by Xi’s failed zero-COVID policy. And debt servicing itself will also put a damper on China’s future economic growth.
As noted here, corruption permeates Chinese life, driven by “the unfairness of incomes and a lack of opportunity,” as well as a state system “that was designed to keep people in their place.” The household registration or “hukou” system restricts movements and access to employment opportunities, benefits, and services. Greasing palms is one of the few ways to get around the system and improve one’s condition in life. That communist bureaucrats are underpaid makes corruption inevitable, too, as permits and other authorizations are sold under the table.
Xi has railed against corruption since 2013 and has periodically announced anti-corruption campaigns, which always seem to peter out without any great success. Xi and the communists fail to understand that their inherent atheism and lack of moral foundation breed the corruption that they seek to eradicate.
CNN reported in January that—for the first time since 1961—China’s population “fell in 2022 to 1.411 billion, down some 850,000 people from the previous year” as announced by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The Chinese “economic miracle” will go up in smoke if this trend is not reversed, and frantic efforts to incentivize larger families by reversing the long-standing one-child policy reflect the communists’ fretting. That is because the combination of declining birth and fertility rates and a decreasing number of Chinese marriages is creating an old-age dependency ratio problem. Social welfare costs paid to the elderly will be increasingly borne by a shrinking workforce, resulting in “old versus young” societal tensions surrounding benefits paid and the taxes required to pay for them—who receives how much and who pays.
China cannot feed its 1.4 billion people, and to do so has become the second largest importer of foodstuffs in the world. The Chinese agricultural problem harks back to the inability of Soviet agriculture to feed the Russian people, from Vladimir Lenin’s days through the demise of the USSR, as nicely summarized here.
It is axiomatic that communism interferes with the laws of supply and demand, with the result being shortages everywhere. The communist Chinese haven’t solved the problem, either, despite all their gargantuan agrarian reforms (collectivization), great leaps forward, and other crackpot programs associated with an agricultural economy with Chinese characteristics.
The anti-zero COVID policy protests that erupted in numerous Chinese cities in the last quarter of 2022, dubbed the “white paper revolution,” surely frightened the communists. Some protestors even demanded that Xi “step down”—an unprecedented public expression of discontent with the CCP’s mandated lockdowns that paralyzed China since March 2020. Xi himself appeared to blink and abruptly reversed course, with “zero COVID” consigned to the dustbin of other CCP failures such as the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward.
Not the familial kind, but rather that of the communist regime itself. The communists assumed political power in China “through the barrel of the gun,” as Mao Zedong opined. And the power of that gun—the People’s Liberation Army—is what has guaranteed the continuity of the CCP’s rule to this very day. Not the Chinese people! The communists and the people know this, and the CCP’s greatest insecurity is their very illegitimacy in controlling China. The CCP fears its own long-suppressed people more than it fears “foreign devils.”
Pronouncements From the Two Sessions
Retaining political power in China is the only issue that matters to Xi Jinping and the communists. Nothing else comes close. To do so, Xi is returning to Maoist methods by reemphasizing the importance of Marxist heterodoxy and controls in delivering “shared prosperity, “common security,” “high-quality development,” “putting people first,” and other vague nonsense.
Beneath the flowery slogans, these are the measures that count most, as articulated by Xi during the two sessions:
- A blunt rebuke of U.S. policy (signifying a return to Lenin’s policy of “antagonistic contradiction,” as discussed here)
- A 7.2 percent growth in military spending (including a push toward nuclear parity with the United States and the willingness to use those new PLA capabilities to project power and intimidate neighbors)
- Institutional reforms that centralize CCP control of all sectors of the economy, including technology innovation, securities and banking regulation and reform, and other major financial reforms under the oversight of the State Council (centralized control is a standard Marxist tenet)
- Reunification with Taiwan (a top CCP objective since 1949)
- A focus on stability and self-reliance (stability is prized by the CCP above all things while self-reliance signals an inward concentration on self-sufficiency)
- Upholding the leadership of the CCP (he refers to “tackling the special challenges” which implies hardened measures to implement unanimity of action and control—spoken like the Marxist he is, with no dissent allowed)
China faces unprecedented challenges, many of which are the direct result of failed CCP policies over many years, including economic and demographic challenges, food insecurity, and unrest. In the face of these problems, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is tightening Marxist control of the communist-run regime and Chinese society in general. His unprecedented third five-year term is itself a sign that he views himself as a leader on par with Mao Zedong himself.
Xi’s public pronouncements about the importance of Marxism have been consistent throughout his reign. He has been implementing a top-down return to Mao-style Marxism within the CCP itself (as reinforced here in 2016), as well as throughout Chinese society in general. The bitter fruit of the recent two sessions is clear evidence that Marxism remains Xi’s guiding light. And that means big trouble for Chinese citizens and the rest of the world.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.