As The Communist Party Of China (CPC) Marks Its 20th National Congress

By Austin Maho, Ph.D.

The most important political event in the Communist Party of China (CPC) calendar is taking place in Beijing China. Since 1977, the CPC has established an unbroken ritual of holding its National Congress every five years. This year’s Party Congress will be the 20th such gathering since the CPC’s founding in 1921.

The 20th Congress of the CPC brings together China’s most senior leaders at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to review the achievements of the CPC in the preceding five years and chart a way forward in years to come.

This year’s Congress offers an opportunity to consider the remarkable achievements of President Xi Jinping as leader of the CPC in the last 9 years. Central to any analysis of Xi Jinping’s contributions to the development of the CPC in particular and China in general is the body of work which is now generally known and referred to as “Xi’s Thought” which encapsulates his theoretical vision for the social, economic and political transformation of China.

It would be recalled that the 19th Party Congress saw ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ gaining prominence by becoming an integral part of the party charter and constitution.

The significance of this is that it establishes Xi as a central figure in the Chinese political firmament. He becomes the first Chinese leader since CPC founder Mao Zedong to get his contribution to the party’s philosophical postulations presented as a “thoughts”

To his credit, Xi Jinping has overseen a period of profound policy realignment and formulation which has seen to the remarkable growth of the Chinese economy in the last decade. A major policy reform in his first term was to purge the CPC of corruption and aimed for “national rejuvenation” and sustainable growth across board in both rural and urban China, by dealing a decisive blow against the dishonest dealings of both “tigers” and “flies”. Since the beginning of his second tenure he has shown consistency in the implementation of priorities outlined in the work report of the 19th Party Congress.

The report which was presented by Xi Jinping himself in the 19th congress of the CPC, highlighted the policy thrust of national rejuvenation to include achieving 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,” and transformation to achieve “socialist modernization” by 2035 and become “a great modern socialist country that is prosperous” by mid-century.

In February 2021, Xi announced the eradication of “extreme poverty” at all levels. According to him the task of building a “moderately prosperous society” was achieved and became the landmark achievement of the CPC in its 100th anniversary celebration. Fighting the poverty scourge was a central and directional policy of the Xi era. It is no wonder therefore that the material wellbeing of the Chinese people have significantly improved under Xi.

Having defeated poverty, the work report for the 20th CPC congress is likely to thus focus on vision 2035 and its priority areas. Vision 2035 is the next task and milestone for China to attain “socialist modernization” in line with Xi’s vision for the new Chinese era.

Evidently, China’s remarkable growth and development cannot be divorced from its political system, which has brought stability and growth to the nation of 1.4 billion people under the leadership of the CPC, the largest political party in the world. The Chinese model of socialism is unique because it has inbuilt Chinese characteristics. In broad terms it represents Marxist –Leninism, adapted to Chinese peculiarities. Furthermore, Xi Jinping’s thought represents this characteristic and aligns with those of Marxist-Leninism.

While not outrightly advocating the Chinese model, it must be emphasized that many underdeveloped and developing countries in the world share similar characteristics with China. China has experienced many of the hiccups being experienced by many African countries today. Under these circumstances there is a lot that can be learnt from the Chinese model in building an economic and political system that is unique and adaptable to peculiar political and economic challenges rather than aping prescriptive Western style democracy.

Staying true to its chosen path under the guidance of the CPC, China has become a global economic player that has achieved significant progress in its quest for economic emancipation for its citizens. In 30 years of reforms China has successfully lifted over 800 million people from poverty. These people are mostly based in the rural parts of China. The figure represents more than half of the poor population of China. These achievements can only be attributed to the Chinese model and adoption of communist principles with Chinese characteristics. Characteristics which are people centered with a strong political organization that recognizes democratic principles in its decision making process.

In a speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to mark the end of extreme poverty and honour the frontline fighters in the monumental accomplishment on 25th Febuary 2021, Xi Jinping noted: “No country has been able to lift hundreds of millions of peoples out of poverty in such short time.” For China, it was a miracle that not only reduced poverty in China but cut global poverty by more than half. The role of the CPC in this monumental accomplishment is central which President Xi Jingping noted, provided the “political and organizational guarantee in the long and arduous struggle against poverty”.

The “organizational guarantee” of political parties is sacrosanct, this is a lesson African political parties must learn from the CPC towards the ultimate objective of “working for the people’s wellbeing” as Xi noted at the world political parties’ Summit on July 6, 2021.

The Communist Party of China under Xi Jinping is a people centered political party. This has been the driving force to the Communist Party’s longevity and accomplishment. The CPC has demonstrated its determination to support developing countries to grow their economies and lift their people out of poverty.

In the views of Professor Georg T Yu, “China has established enduring relationships on all continents and with numerous partners both major and minor”. However, “no other continent can rival the extent, the intensity, the speed and the impact of China’s relations in Africa”. In a similar vein, a 2017 report by Mckinsey and Company with the title: “How Africa and China are engaging and how the partnership would evolve, “ notes that in a mere two decades China has become Africa’s largest economic partner across trade, investment, infrastructure financing, and, there is no country with such depth and breadth of engagement in Africa” the report noted.

The two principle platforms of engagement apart from the traditional bilateral cooperation between China and individual African nations has been the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ also known as the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) or OBOR, One Belt One Road.

FOCAC is a multilateral mechanism of partnership which came into being in October 2000. Twenty two years after, it has become a major landmark in the growing Sino/Africa relationship and one of the world’s most visible and effective multilateral platforms for international collaboration and development.

FOCAC has come to represent the new world order for multilateralism and cooperation. In twenty two years it has become the rallying point for developing countries and South-South cooperation. It represents a shift in Western-backed global institutions that have only served the interests of big powers.

As noted by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the September 2018 meeting, FOCAC has become an important mechanism for collective dialogue and practical cooperation between China and African countries, a model of South-South cooperation and a banner of international cooperation between China and Africa. FOCAC for African countries has come to, “represent the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith and the values of friendship, justice and shared interests”.

It is instructive that the 8th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC which took place in Dakar Senegal in November 2021 had as its theme: “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era”.

In line with the “Dakar Action Plan 2022 to 2024”, China/Africa relationship is expected to enjoy high-level political exchanges and experience sharing on governance; support for African countries to independently chose their paths to economic and political emancipation.

The Dakar Action Plan means that the two sides work “to create synergy between the China/Africa Cooperation Vision 2035, the Long-Range Goals for 2035 of China, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations, and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, thus drawing a long-term blueprint for China/Africa practical cooperation”.

Also on the table includes bilateral and multilateral political dialogues such as the China/Africa political parties theoretical seminar, that would deepen experience sharing and mutual learning on state governance. These are opportunities that African political parties must take advantage of in the overall interest of the people of Africa and in line with China/Africa cooperation.

Be that as it may, China has not directly sought to impose its will on African countries and has stayed true to its policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of African countries.

We live in a diverse world; consequently the ways and means of achieving democracy should reflect this diversity as no single yardstick should be applied in judging democracy.

African political parties must reflect this diversity. African political parties must uphold the universal principle of democracy which underscores, participation, rule of law, equity, justice and fairness to achieve their core mandate which should be hinged on people’s wellbeing, happiness and security. Great efforts should be made towards collaboration and consensus building and promoting common values of humanity and building a community with a shared future.

As the largest developing country in the world, China must continue to assist Africa by sharing development strategies and experiences. African political parties must evolve the developmental philosophies needed to domesticate these ideas and processes to root out underdevelopment from the continent.

However, China/Africa cooperation must be wary of the antics of some Western nations and its attempt to define and take ownership of the abiding principles of democracy, for democracy belongs to no one neither is it painted in the colors of any nation’s flag.

As the CPC holds its 20th National Congress, there are expectations by African countries against the background of changing global realities.

Since the last Congress in 2017, the world has changed significantly, a consequence of Covid-19 pandemic and the global economic disruption that came with it. The disease has challenged global health and relationships. It has exposed global fault lines and has laid bare the hypocrisy of nations. At a time the world should have embraced multilateralism and solidarity, some countries have fallen short of expectation. Unilateralism and nationalism became a counterforce to multilateralism.

The breakthrough in vaccine production only accentuated global fault-lines and led to vaccine nationalism and inequalities. The economic meltdown occasioned by the fall in global commodity prices meant African countries were worst hit by the spiraling effect of the pandemic.

The 20th National Congress of the CPC is auspicious as it would provide China the opportunity to continue to build on its cooperation with African nations in the spirit of South-South cooperation.

The Congress offers immense opportunities to recalibrate China /African cooperation along the tested lines of mutualism, win- win and a shared future. Africa needs more assistance to combat the pandemic, more trade and investment. The Congress therefore offers opportunities for new vistas, new agendas and blueprint for the development of the continent.

In May 2021, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at a reception commemorating Africa Day in Beijing emphasized that enhancing unity and cooperation with Africa has always been high on China’s diplomatic agenda. China-Africa relations he said, has “reached a new starting point.”

The “starting point” in China/Africa relations is working cooperatively and collaboratively. As the 20th Congress of the CPC is set to take place, African countries and political parties expect more collaboration and consultation between China and Africa.

African countries expect more activities on the Belt and Road Initiative and implementation of the action plan of FOCAC, for the development of physical infrastructure in the continent.

African countries also expect more collaboration especially in the areas of trade and investment. African countries want to see practical cooperation in the pursuit of common development and incorporation of Africa into China’s agenda 2035 , China’s new development paradigm and Xi’s vision for the new era.

Africa seeks more synergy and exchanges on the political front between political parties in Africa and the CPC.

Africa also desires to see more efforts towards Cushioning the effects of COVID-19, promoting multilateralism and promoting the ideas of a multilateral world through the instrumentality of the United Nations.

China continues to prove to the rest of the world that its unique blend of communism with Chinese characteristics works. China is certainly not a Communist gulag as some people would want us to believe. China has over the years evolved a process were decisions are reached through the consensus of elected representatives, demonstrating China’s democratic credentials which is people centered.

President Xi Jinping people centered thoughts is at the core of modern China and the driving force that led to the realization of its first millennia goal of building a moderately prosperous society, and propelling China towards its second goal of building a modern socialist country.

African countries from all ramifications have a positive disposition towards the achievements of the CPC in the last decade. African political parties must continue in the task of building a high level China/African community with a shared future and implement a people centric approach in the development of political party ideology.

African countries are upbeat and hopeful of a positive outcome of the 20th National Congress in line with China/African relationship built on the principles of win-win and a shared future.

Dr. Austin Maho is a media scholar, a media teacher, a political activist and public affairs commentator. He is the publisher and Editor-in Chief of Daybreak Nigeria, a Nigeria Newspaper and Red Dragon Magazine. He is a member of the Nigeria Guild of Editors and several national and international organization.

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