(Project of the Kajima Institute of International Peace)
19th CCP National Congress
Senior Fellow, The Sasakawa Peace Foundation
Senior Associate, SSDP
On October 14, 2017, the 7th Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), ended its four day schedule. This conference had already decided on the outline of the coming 19th CCP National Congress.
We were able to see that it was not easy for the General Secretary of the CCP Central Committee, Xi Jinping to secure power.
The National Congress which is held every 5 years is a "Supreme Guide Organization" in the CCP same as the Central Committee. Chinese political leaders must demonstrate a strongly integrated CCP at the National Congress. If they fail to do so, the CCP will lose authority.
The Central Committee is the highest authority of the CCP which consists of around 200 leading party members, 25 of whom are elected as Politburo members. Then seven members are elected as members of the Politburo Standing Committee, and they hold supreme power in China.
The Central Committee must usually secure agreement from all members before the National Congress. The 18th Central Committee had already decided to strengthen the authority of Xi Jinping in the 19th National Congress. However, this was not meant to allow Xi Jinping to become a dictator.
At the 18th Central Committee of the CCP, Xi Jinping delivered a report titled "Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era."
The third ranking Zhang Dejiang and other members of the 18th Politburo Standing Committee declared that they would realize "the Xi Jinping's thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era". The expression "the Xi Jinping's thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era" will be written into the CCP Charter.
We can learn about the main priorities of Chinese leaders over the next 5 years in the report. A key term of the report is "New Era". Whoever leads China after the 19th Party Congress, China will face a new era because we will enter into 2020 in the next 5 years when the guiding program introduced by Deng Xiaoping ends.
After 2020, China will enter into a new stage of development without a guidance by a great leader, and China needs a new guidance or a new goal for its development with a strong leadership. This means that a Xi Jinping led CCP needs as strong an authority or a mandate as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping had.
The new charter of the CCP must have the authority for the leadership of the CCP. Therefore, President Xi and other leaders included Xi's new Thought into the charter. Although the new charter represents the authority of the top leader of the CCP, it is not clear whether he will assume all of the power in China.
The principal speech of General Secretary of the CCP Central Committee Xi showed a general goal toward "the Middle of This Century". It states that the CCP will make China a "great modern socialist country" by the mid-21st century. Although the report does not concretely explain this goal and how it is to be achieved, we can understand that Chinese leaders have a strong interest in this point.
The report shows that China's main concern is its economic development. Especially, achieving the goal of an "all-round well-off society" by 2020 is indispensable, because this is the order given by Deng Xiaoping. Nobody can deny that Deng Xiaoping demonstrated great leadership in China.
This means that China must keep developing its economy and contributing to a stable governance over the whole of China by the CCP. The Chinese leadership recognizes that military force is necessary for supporting economic development.
Japanese media reported that China emphasized "Maritime Power" in the report. However, General Secretary Xi Jinping used the word only once in the report. The word was used in the context of economic development.
The term of "Maritime Power" does not have only one meaning. China thinks it must be a maritime power because it is necessary for China's economic development. Ocean/Sea is important for China. China obtains many types of resources from the Ocean/Sea. At the same time China recognizes that the Ocean/Sea is a frontier much like in inland China. The meaning of the word "Maritime Power" in China includes "Frontier Control" that is aimed at preventing remote areas from independence activities.
It seems that China's Navy is a main player for maritime power, but the word "Navy" is used only once in the report. This is the same also for the words, Army and Air Force. Military is not mentioned very often in the report and occupies only less than three percent of the total report.
We understand the National Party Congress is held for introducing a guideline of rule by the CCP in the next 5 years. The report to the Congress usually does not mention diplomacy/security much. Military issues are not also the core problem.
The report, however, pointed out some priorities for the development of military capabilities including "Technology of AI (Artificial Intelligence)" and "Capability of Network Centric Joint Operation". It also mentioned interesting points: "Management and Security of Ex-Servicemen", "Protection of the interests of Servicemen and their family members", "Making Servicemen's work a respected occupation" and "Reform of Armed Police".
This shows that there are serious problems with the PLA (People's Liberation Army) different from military modernization. The reform of the PLA introduced by President Xi Jinping has not yet been completed. We can see this with the personnel policy of the CMC (Central Military Commission), China's highest military authority.
The media reported that 3 members of the CMC were arrested before September 1, 2017, and one member was replaced. Four of its eleven members were excluded from the committee just before the party congress. This is an exceptional case. This indicates that President Xi did not trust some high rank officers in the PLA.
The media reported that Gen. Fang Fenghui, former Chief of Joint Staff, Gen. Zhang Yang, the Chief of CMC Political Department, Adm. Wu Shengli, former Navy Commanding Officer were arrested. We do not know whether Adm. Wu Shengli is constrained, because he appeared in the Chinese media even after the report.
Adm. Wu Shengli has a big influence on PLA Navy, and President Xi may be afraid of his influence. The media reported that the other three officers were close to former President Hu Jintao. This might be the reason for their replacement.
The 1st Plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP decided on the new members of the CMC. They are Gen. Xu Qi¬liang, former Commanding Officer of the PLA Air Force, Gen. Zhang Youxia, former Chief of the Armament Development Department, Gen. Wei Fenghe, former Commanding Officer of Rocket Force, Gen. Li Zuocheng, Chief of Joint Staff, Gen. Miao Hua, Chief of Political Department, Gen. Zhang Shengmin, Chief of the CMC Discipline Inspection Commission and Deputy Chief of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CCP.
The last three are new members of the CMC. The 1st Plenum decided to reduce the number of CMC menbers from 11 to 7. The media expected that Gen. Han Weiguo, Commanding Officer of the Army, Gen. Miao Hua, Chief of the CMC Political Department, Gen. Song Puxuan, Chief of the CMC Logistic Support Department, Lt. Gen. Ding Laihang, Commanding Officer of the PLA Air Force, Vice Adm. Chen Jinlong, Commanding Officer of PLA Navy would be appointed members of the CMC.
All of them except Vice Adm. Chen had careers in Fujian Province. The Chinese media expected that President Xi would appoint them to CMC members, because President Xi also spent part of his career in Fujian Province. However, this was not the case.
All of them except Gen. Miao Hua were not appointed as CMC members. This means that the Commanding Officers of the Army, Navy and Air force are not in the CMC. President Xi tried to reduce the authority of the forces. On the contrary, the Chief of Joint Staff remains in the CMC. The authority of the joint Commanding line was raised in comparison with the other lines.
The supreme authority of the CMC against forces means that "the Party commands PLA". The rank of Lt. Gen. and Vice Adm. for Navy and Air Force Commanding Officer may be reflecting this situation. President Xi tries to strengthen the CCP's command over military forces by introducing a disparity of authority between the CMC and military forces.
The situation shows that President Xi is still trying to control the PLA. But President Xi cannot stop from trying this because controling the PLA is indispensable for keeping his control over the CCP and the PRC. President Xi will keep trying this.
The 1st Plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP decided membership of the 19th Politburo Standing Committee. Contrary to expectations, Mr. Hu Huachun and Mr. Chen Min-er were not chosen. Mr. Hu Huachun, very close to Former President Hu Jintao has been expected as a leader of the next generation. Mr. Chen Min-er is a close associate of President Xi, and was recently promoted to be the party committee secretary of Chongqing City. He is also seen as a successor of Xi.
Some analyze that the exclusion of the two paves the way for President Xi to keep his president position even after the 20th Party Congress. We do not know, however, whether Xi can keep the position of the general secretary of the CCP Central Committee after the 20th Party Congress. The reason why the two individuals were not chosen may be that the CCP Central Committee wanted to avoid concentrating power into both President Xi and a new generation leader.
The CCP is endeavoring to maintain its authority for long. The CCP must control every matter in China including economic development. The Chinese leadership recognizes that economic development can be achieved based on a support of military forces.
Furthermore, China recognizes that the present international order is unfair to China, and declares that China will establish a new type of international relationship in which fairness and win-win relationships are the core. China wants to change the international norms for continuing to develop its economy.
China plans to deploy an aircraft career strike group to outside of China including the Middle East before 2020. For this purpose, China has already built aircraft carriers and big naval war ships.
The goal of "building up the global top-level military forces before the middle of this century" was raised in the 19th Party Congress. China will challenge the U.S. military superiority to reduce the risk that would be ffbrought by the U.S. military interference.
However, we still cannot see what is the new China's goal. Even Chinese leaders may not understand what is the next goal in the new era. We need to keep watching China's behaviors in the international society and trying to understand the goal of China. We cannot deal with the changing goals in the international society, if we do not understand what kind of international rules China wants to establish.
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- July 2017: Proposal article "The Trump Administration's Impact on the Cross-Strait Relations" written by Yasuhiro Matsuda, Ph.D.
- June 2017: Proposal article "The outlook for the relationship between two great powers and implications for Japanese diplomacy" written by Professor Shin Kawashima
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- November 2017: "19th CCP National Congress" written by Mr. Bonji Ohara, Senior Research Fellow, the Sasakawa Peace Fondation
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- November, 2016: Participated in Astana Club 2016 held in Kazakhstan on November 14- 16, 2016.