The World Around Us
October 21, 2022
Xi Consolidates as Truss Flounders

In the past week, the contrasting fortunes of the leaders of China and the United Kingdom were on full display. Beyond the leaders, the contrasts between parliamentary democracy and one-party rule also stood out.

On 16th October, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) opened its week long 20th National Congress with its leader, Xi Jinping poised to lead the Party and country for an unprecedented third five-year term.

It should be recalled that just under five years ago, Chinese lawmakers passed changes to the country’s constitution abolishing presidential term limits, effectively allowing Xi to rule indefinitely.

At the CCP Congress, President Xi delivered an extensive speech which set out the CCP’s agenda over the next five years. Among other things, he touched on the economy, Taiwan, global development and the China-United States (US) rivalry.

Concerning the economy, Xi appears to have made peace with China’s new era of slower growth. This, after China enjoyed decades of double-digit growth from the 1970s through much of the 2000s. All indications are that China will stay the course in pursuing economic reforms, as it seeks to shift away from heavy reliance on foreign investment, manufacturing and export, to a model based on domestic consumption and higher value-added products.

On Taiwan, while indicating that China will strive for peaceful reunification “with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort,” Xi reiterated China’s willingness to use force to incorporate Taiwan into the People’s Republic.

“We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary,” he expressed.

Regarding global development, China has long championed the idea of common development with many of the other countries of the world.

This is one of the reasons often cited for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which China has used to promote infrastructure development and foreign aid with other countries.

At the Congress, it appears that the BRI has been de-prioritised in favour of the newer Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative.

The elephant in the room where the CCP Congress was held was certainly the US. Amid a US-led campaign branding China as a strategic competitor and security threat, Xi’s report noted that China is now in a period where “strategic opportunity and risks and challenges co-exist.”

He contended that China must “be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms.”

Of course, the challenges ahead for China, as for the rest of the world are enormous. The country is facing a full blown debt crisis with some US$8 trillion at play – a development which could further upend an already struggling global economy.

While Xi was projecting strength and being in control at the CCP, the British leadership by contrast has struggled to project anything remotely resembling that in recent days. On 14th October, just shy of 40 days since he assumed the role of Finance Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng was sacked by Liz Truss, the British Prime Minister.

Kwarteng’s sacking came on the back of public fallout and market revolt over his mini-budget which was presented some weeks prior.

Kwarteng’s sacking has left Truss looking vulnerable and there is a sense that she may not be able to hold on to office for much longer. As one commentator noted, she is in office, but not in power, a sign of her dwindling support.

The role of race and gender, if any, in Kwarteng’s sacking and the pressures on Truss respectively, would be a useful discussion at a later stage. However, for now, the political theatre in the UK is not a good advertisement for Westminster-style democracy.

It is also perhaps an ode to the need for needful reform of this form of dIn the past week, the contrasting fortunes of the leaders of China and the United Kingdom were on full display. Beyond the leaders, the contrasts between parliamentary democracy and one-party rule also stood out.

On 16th October, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) opened its week long 20th National Congress with its leader, Xi Jinping poised to lead the Party and country for an unprecedented third five-year term.

It should be recalled that just under five years ago, Chinese lawmakers passed changes to the country’s constitution abolishing presidential term limits, effectively allowing Xi to rule indefinitely.

At the CCP Congress, President Xi delivered an extensive speech which set out the CCP’s agenda over the next five years. Among other things, he touched on the economy, Taiwan, global development and the China-United States (US) rivalry.

Concerning the economy, Xi appears to have made peace with China’s new era of slower growth. This, after China enjoyed decades of double-digit growth from the 1970s through much of the 2000s. All indications are that China will stay the course in pursuing economic reforms, as it seeks to shift away from heavy reliance on foreign investment, manufacturing and export, to a model based on domestic consumption and higher value-added products.

On Taiwan, while indicating that China will strive for peaceful reunification “with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort,” Xi reiterated China’s willingness to use force to incorporate Taiwan into the People’s Republic.

“We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary,” he expressed.

Regarding global development, China has long championed the idea of common development with many of the other countries of the world.

This is one of the reasons often cited for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which China has used to promote infrastructure development and foreign aid with other countries.

At the Congress, it appears that the BRI has been de-prioritised in favour of the newer Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative.

The elephant in the room where the CCP Congress was held was certainly the US. Amid a US-led campaign branding China as a strategic competitor and security threat, Xi’s report noted that China is now in a period where “strategic opportunity and risks and challenges co-exist.”

He contended that China must “be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms.”

Of course, the challenges ahead for China, as for the rest of the world are enormous. The country is facing a full blown debt crisis with some US$8 trillion at play – a development which could further upend an already struggling global economy.

While Xi was projecting strength and being in control at the CCP, the British leadership by contrast has struggled to project anything remotely resembling that in recent days. On 14th October, just shy of 40 days since he assumed the role of Finance Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng was sacked by Liz Truss, the British Prime Minister.

Kwarteng’s sacking came on the back of public fallout and market revolt over his mini-budget which was presented some weeks prior.

Kwarteng’s sacking has left Truss looking vulnerable and there is a sense that she may not be able to hold on to office for much longer. As one commentator noted, she is in office, but not in power, a sign of her dwindling support.

The role of race and gender, if any, in Kwarteng’s sacking and the pressures on Truss respectively, would be a useful discussion at a later stage. However, for now, the political theatre in the UK is not a good advertisement for Westminster-style democracy.

It is also perhaps an ode to the need for needful reform of this form of democracy, not just in the UK, but also elsewhere, especially in terms of how a leader is selected.

Perhaps now is as good a time as any to allow for more direct democracy.emocracy, not just in the UK, but also elsewhere, especially in terms of how a leader is selected.

Perhaps now is as good a time as any to allow for more direct democracy.

Joel K Richards is a Vincentian national living and working in Europe in the field of international trade and development.Email: [email protected]