Book Review: Xi Jinping’s China

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Jayadev Ranade. 2018. Xi Jinping’s China (New Delhi: Knowledge World Publishers). pp. xi+394. Rs. 1,400. ISBN: 978-93-86288-90-5

This work is a collection of pieces written by the author in various online platforms and as part of other edited volumes. The reader does not have the benefit of an introduction that ties in all the chapters together but the fact that the book releases right after the conclusion of 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing in October certainly helps provide context.

All the big issues are covered here – from Xi Jinping’s rise to power as General Secretary of the CPC and his consolidation of power over the past five years, the murky details of the fall of Xi’s rival Bo Xilai, and China’s military reforms and reorganization. Alongside, a host of relatively arcane issues such as China’s annual sessions of its equivalent of a national parliament and Xi’s new rules for propaganda, media control – thought control, no less (the infamous Document No. 9) – are also examined. Continue reading “Book Review: Xi Jinping’s China”

A Secret Visit, Sino-Tibetan dialogue and Related concerns

Tshering Chonzom, PhD, Associate  Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Credible sources have confirmed that Samdhong Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan leader, recently visited Gyalthang (redubbed as Shangri La recently), his hometown in Yunnan province of China. According to the source, the purpose of the visit was to meet his family. In all likelihood, the visit took place sometime in November; specifically mid-November, according to the article in The Wire that first broke the news about the visit. Earlier, on November 6, the Dalai Lama appointed Samdhong Rinpoche, along with Sikyong Lobsang Sangay (the current president of the Central Tibetan Administration, or CTA, in Dharamsala) as his trusted “representative” or “personal emissary” for an indefinite period.

Samdhong Rinpoche preceded Lobsang Sangay as head of the CTA and played an instrumental role in pushing for the Dalai Lama’s middle way approach (MWA) during his tenure as president. It was during his leadership of the CTA that Sino-Tibetan talks resumed in 2002, after almost a decade of impasse. He also has a close bond with the Dalai Lama; Samdhong Rinpoche’s residential quarters are located within the premises of the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala.

So, given Samdhong Rinpoche’s recent trip to China, is a formal Sino-Tibetan meeting in the offing? Is it possible for China to take up the Tibet issue so promptly just after the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party? Continue reading “A Secret Visit, Sino-Tibetan dialogue and Related concerns”

Book Review: Cadres of Tibet

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Jayadev Ranade. 2018. Cadres of Tibet (New Delhi: Knowledge World Publishers). pp. xi+199. Rs.1,120. ISBN: 978-93-86288-92-9.

As the blurb of this book says, while information about the Tibet Autonomous Region is plentiful in China’s official media, there is comparatively little about the people who actually govern the province in China. This book tries to fill this important gap in knowledge and the author is to be commended for taking on an onerous task.

The importance and significance of the work can be understood when one considers that the best-known international repository of information on Chinese leaders, China Vitae run by the American think-tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has no data on a significant number of the officials that this book includes.  Members of the Standing Committee of provincial Communist Party Committee are not insignificant political leaders, even if there is an informal hierarchy among Chinese provinces based on GDP, history, ethnic composition and so on. However, China Vitae does not have entries for many members of the TAR Standing Committee and even if a name were available, the data is not up to date, including even for the Party Secretary Wu Yingjie who took up his post in August 2016. Ranade, by contrast, goes into granular detail on Wu’s career in Tibet and his public statements (pp.19-23) as he does also for at least a few previous Party Secretaries, including former Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary and PRC President, Hu Jintao who served in Tibet from 1988-1992. Continue reading “Book Review: Cadres of Tibet”

Health and Wellbeing in the Context of the 19th Congress of the CPC

Madhurima Nundy, PhD, Associate Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

The political report delivered by Xi Jinping at the 19th Congress of the CPC is open to analysis and many interpretations. Indeed, it is a lengthy and comprehensive report where Xi attempts to cover all aspects of development in the last five years and challenges that face China today, apart from his take on socialism entering a new era. Health and wellbeing of the population is an integral component of human development which gets articulated in various sections.

It is accepted universally, that the determinants of health and wellbeing are not restricted to access to health services alone but includes social, economic, environmental and cultural factors that influence the health of the population. As a prelude to his speech, Xi gave an overview of the overall socio-economic development and that 60 million people have been lifted above poverty. Continue reading “Health and Wellbeing in the Context of the 19th Congress of the CPC”

Tibet, the 19th Party Congress and China’s United Front Work

Tshering Chonzom, PhD, Associate  Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

What does a powerful Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China mean for the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) various minority nationalities, especially the Tibetans? The nature and extent of authority accorded to the United Front Works Department (UFWD) that handles nationality, religious and overseas Chinese affairs, during Xi’s second term is an important starting point for analysis.

The UFWD organized a press conference on 21 October 2017 on the sidelines of the 19th Party Congress, in which its leadership saw the organization as an important player in Xi’s new formulation of ‘new era’. For instance, the various conferences held under its aegis in the past five years – such as the Second Central Xinjiang Work Conference (May 2014), Central Nationalities Work Conference (September 2014), 6th Tibet Work Forum (August 2015), National Religious Work Conference (April 2016) – are retroactively characterised as work convened ‘under the guidance of the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics’. Indeed, at the national religious work conference that was held from 22-23 April 2016, Xi called upon the UFWD to take the lead in coordinating responsibilities with various organisations. In his report to the 19th Party Congress, he likens United Front work to a ‘magic weapon’ that will ‘ensure the success of the party’. Continue reading “Tibet, the 19th Party Congress and China’s United Front Work”

China’s 19th CPC Congress: Redefining Economic Growth

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

There are several aspects of the recently concluded 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that are noteworthy for India.

First, CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping has attempted to redefine what acceptable economic growth is in China. The expression ‘contradiction’ is an important one in the Chinese communist lexicon and until the 19th Party Congress, the ‘principal contradiction’ was the one between ‘the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social production’ or, in other words, China’s inability to provide for the basic material needs of its people. Following nearly 40 years of economic reforms, this challenge has now been met with China eradicating poverty at the most massive scale and at the quickest pace in human history.

This process has, however, also resulted in rising income inequalities between individuals and between regions in China, and massive environmental damage and health crises across the country. Continue reading “China’s 19th CPC Congress: Redefining Economic Growth”

19th CPC National Congress: An Analysis

Bhim Subba, ICS-HYI Doctoral Fellow, University of Delhi

The 19th CPC National Congress convened from 18-24 October 2017. As the established norm, a congress has two functions: a political report, and personnel arrangement. Likewise, the congress also makes substantive policy guidelines for the party-state. In this session too, General Secretary Xi Jinping, in his role as ‘core’ leader, put forward important policy guidelines, which was endorsed by the Central Committee. However, the most important is the canonization of Xi Jinping Thought in the party charter alongside Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, which has made Xi the most powerful leader in present-day China. Thus, questioning Xi will mean questioning the CPC!

 

Xi Jinping Thought – Part of a Continuum

Xi Jinping’s more than three hour-long speech outlined achievements of the last five years of his tenure, and announced that China is entering a ‘new era’, and laid a new guiding ideology as ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ which subsequently was added to the party charter in power.

Looking at the report, one can analyze that this formulation is not ‘new’. Continue reading “19th CPC National Congress: An Analysis”

19th National Congress of the CPC: Xi Jinping Firmly in Charge

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Xi Jinping is officially China’s strongest leader in decades. The Communist Party of China’s Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) was unveiled at the end of the 19th National Congress of the CPC in Beijing yesterday with Xi Jinping reelected General Secretary for a second term. The 7-member PBSC includes besides Xi and his Premier Li Keqiang, at least four of Xi’s close allies in key positions. Also, in a departure from Party norms it offers no choice of potential successors to take over from Xi in 2022 when again according to norms, he is supposed to step down from power.

This composition of the PBSC in favour of Xi is the culmination of a series of steps he has taken over the past five years, foremost of which was a popular and far-reaching anti-corruption campaign that netted hundreds of senior Party and military officials including a potential rival and a former PBSC member, no less. Continue reading “19th National Congress of the CPC: Xi Jinping Firmly in Charge”

A China Gazer’s Random Musings – No. 1

Amb. Kishan S. Rana (retd), Emeritus Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi

There is such a cascade of writing on China that as an oldie, I am attracted by the notion of penning personal reactions, reflections, and observations. Few of us can claim special insights into a country marked by both opacity and paradox. The longer one studies China, deeper is a typical realization that what one understands is a fraction of the things that remain unknown, even unfathomable. I plan to write this column perhaps once a month.

The 19th Party Congress Looms

For an authoritarian regime, China has a remarkable leadership transition system, which has worked smoothly for the past 30 years. Party congresses of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are held every five years. The even numbered Party Congress is when a new General Secretary and his leadership team take over; the country’s key decision-making team is the Standing Committee of the Politburo (it used to number 9, reduced to 7 in 2012). The General Secretary holds office for 10 years. The odd-numbered Congress is the one where appointments are made to the central committee and the full politburo, in preparation for the leadership change five years down the line.

Thus, the 19th CPC which meets in October 2017 is the in-between session when central committee and politburo members are appointed. It is crucial because that team plays the key role in the appointment of the next leader at the 20th Congress.

Recent months have seen sizeable re-shuffle in the top positions in the 31 provinces, Continue reading “A China Gazer’s Random Musings – No. 1”

Panama Switches Diplomatic Recognition to PRC: Understanding the Chinese Action and Strategy

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Taiwan has lost yet another member of the small group of countries that recognize it diplomatically with Panama in Central America making the move to build ties with the PRC instead. The last country to switch ties was São Tomé and Príncipe in December 2016. Before that it was Gambia at the beginning of the previous year. But in between it must also be recalled that there was the move in Nigeria to get the Taiwan representation to move from Abuja, the capital, to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center, an attempt to curtail whatever limited diplomatic privileges that the Taiwanese enjoyed in practice there. Taiwan is now down to just 20 countries recognizing it officially.[1]

With the latest action, there can be no doubt that China under Xi Jinping is engaged in a long-term but steady strategy of trying to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and constrain its international space. Beijing is declaring in unequivocal terms that it does not believe that it can reach any form of accommodation with Tsai Ing-wen’s pro-Taiwanese independence Democratic Progressive Party-led government and that its patience to wait for reunification is diminishing. Continue reading “Panama Switches Diplomatic Recognition to PRC: Understanding the Chinese Action and Strategy”