Despatch from Beijing | International

Gathering storms around China’s economy

Stack of China yuan banknote background. Notes face value of 100 yuan with Mao portrait

Stack of China yuan banknote background. Notes face value of 100 yuan with Mao portrait  

Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a tough back-to-the-trenches call to his comrades in the Communist Party of China (CPC) to weed out the “grey rhinos” and “black swans” that dare to undermine the economy of China and confidence of its people in its political system.

By referring to “grey rhinos”, the President was asking the CPC to eliminate highly probable events that can rock the markets, resulting in massive financial outflows, haemorrhaging business confidence in the economy. The 2008 financial crisis was a blaring “grey rhino” global event.

Conversely, Mr. Xi’s spotlight on “black swans” was a call on cadres to nail hard-to-predict events that can range from terror strikes to Brexit, which can also attack markets, resulting in extreme financial consequences.

President Xi Jinping urges the party to be vigilant about potential threats to the Chinese economy and asks cadre to work towards ensuring food security, health care and workplace security

On January 21, when Mr. Xi spoke at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, his remarks pointed to gathering storms around China, with the trade war and the seeming consensus across party lines in the U.S. to curb China’s rise as the subtext. Mr. Xi’s blunt speech echoed his similar remarks last month, warning that China may encounter “unimaginable terrifying tidal waves and horrifying storms” in the years ahead.

The audience, who heard his rallying call with rapt attention, included senior provincial and ministerial officials, as well as army generals — all decision makers who had been summoned to a special “study session” of the CPC.

Mr. Xi’s major focus has been on improving material conditions, especially by creating opportunities for young people to find employment as the foundation of social stability.

Political education

The President was emphatic in exhorting the 86 million strong CPC machine to adopt concrete measures that would generate a movement for mass-financing micro, small and medium-sized firms, helping guarantee jobs for the youth. Besides, he urged the cadres to go the extra mile to provision to the people social security, medical and health care, food security as well as workplace safety.

But the President was also clear that for ensuring legitimacy, a fresh focus was required on political and ideological education. In remarks that echoed Mao Zedong, Mr. Xi was unambiguous in calling for a robust reinforcement of “ideological and political education among the young.” That, he said, would enable the next generation to have “full confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

Some analysts are of the view that Mr. Xi and others of his generation are hyper-sensitive that China’s generation-next maybe lured into a traumatic cycle similar to the one that led to the Tiananmen Square incident, whose 30th anniversary falls later this year.

However, during his address, Mr. Xi also conveyed to the CPC that exceptional and proactive steps were required for ensuring a balance between domestic stability and reform at a time of “unpredictable international developments”. “We must keep our high alert about any ‘black swan’ incident, and also take steps to prevent any ‘grey rhino’ (threats),” he said .

Mr. Xi strongly messaged that in the current circumstances, it was indispensable to achieve self-reliance in fostering innovation and development of advanced technology — a veiled response to the threat radiating from Washington targeting China’s hi-tech Made in China 2025 project. Besides, he called upon the Party to establish an iron-fisted “security system” that would safeguard his signature Belt and Road Initiative.

Atul Aneja works for The Hindu and is based in Beijing.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 6:07:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/gathering-storms-around-chinas-economy/article26100675.ece

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