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Chinese leader Xi Jinping began his unprecedented third five-year term on Sunday (October 23) in even firmer control of the ruling Communist Party after filling the newly announced Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) with all of his allies. As many as four Xi allies were appointed to the PBSC after the week-long CPC congress. With two other allies continuing on the PBSC, this marks an unprecedented clean sweep of all seven positions on the all-powerful body, a first in Chinese Communist Party politics where power in the past was shared between different party factions, an arrangement shattered by Xi, who is 69 and may remain at the helm for the next decade at the very least.
What may be the likely impact on relations with India following Xi’s emergence from the Party Congress in firm grip? One message from the Congress was an emphasis on China continuing a “fighting spirit”, a term that was even included into the Constitution which was amended by the Congress. The amendment called for “carrying forward our fighting spirit and building up our fighting ability”, referring to China’s more assertive diplomacy under Xi. Other amendments further reaffirmed Xi’s “core” status.
Other Congress developments of note for India:
- On a similar note, Chinese diplomats said during the Congress China will continue a “fighting” approach to diplomacy with a “rock-hard resolve to safeguard sovereignty”. Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu also hit out, without directly naming the U.S., at “some forces bent on putting together small circles” and “stoking block-based confrontation” which “represents the biggest threat to the world order”. Chinese officials have in the past referred to groupings such as AUKUS (Australia-U.K.-U.S.) and the Quad (India-U.S.-Australia-Japan) as “small circles”.
- Foreign Minister Wang Yi (69) was promoted to the 24-member Politburo. He is likely to take over from retiring Yang Jiechi as top diplomat and head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission. Current Ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, was promoted to the Central Committee. Formerly handling protocol for Xi, Qin may be in line to succeed Wang next March, when the Parliament meets, as the new Foreign Minister and State Councillor. This means Qin may also take over from Wang as the next Special Representative (SR) for the India-China border talks. The SRs have not, however, met amid the continuing LAC crisis. Another candidate, also promoted to the Central Committee, is Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Haixing who has a background in European affairs, although Xi’s familiarity with Qin, who was trusted with the posting in Washington at a difficult time in relations, may be a deciding factor.
- Three People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Generals who have occupied key roles leading the army in the Western Theatre Command, which borders India, received significant promotions. General He Weidong (65) was named the new Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), which leader Xi Jinping will head for a precedent-defying third five-year term. He replaces the retiring Xu Qiliang. General He is one of three PLA Generals promoted who were actively involved in recently leading the Army in the Western Theatre Command (WTC) which borders India, during a period of heightened tensions spanning the 2017 Doklam crisis and the LAC crisis that began in April 2020.
- A pledge to “advance the energy revolution” has underlined Beijing’s growing global ambitions to position itself as a dominant player in emerging renewable industries. Self-sufficiency in strategic industries was a prominent theme at the Congress.
- Meanwhile, India’s reliance on China for electrical machinery and other goods has shown no signs of easing. The favourable trade balance that China has enjoyed with India, since bilateral commerce began to boom in the early 2000s, has cumulatively exceeded $1 trillion, according to estimates.
The Top Five What we are reading this week - the best of The Hindu’s Opinion and Analysis
1. Former Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur writes on the need to talk about the 1962 war. The 60th anniversary fell on October 20
2. We also looked at how China’s military and media are paying renewed attention to a war that was largely previously sidelined in official Chinese military histories, coinciding with recent border tensions.
3. Suhasini Haidar explains why the Financial Action Task Force, the global watchdog on anti-money laundering and combating financing terrorism (AML/CFT) efforts, announced it would take Pakistan off its “grey list”.
4. Peter Ronald de Souza explains what is at stake in Brazil’s elections, including a turn to the left or a return to the right and a threatened peaceful succession.
5. Talmiz Ahmad on how politics, geopolitics and Ottoman glory are shaping the Erdogan-driven foreign policy outlook in Turkey.