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The 18th CPC National Congress: What Was Said and Why It Matters

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Edelman Asia Pacific Vice Chairman Cindy Tian summarizes the key highlights of the recent 18th National Party Congress and explains what it all means.

The 18th CPC National Congress: What Was Said and Why It Matters

  1. 1. EDELMAN CHINA PUBLIC AFFAIRS UPDATE November Issue THE 18TH CPC NATIONAL CONGRESS: WHAT WAS SAID AND WHY IT MATTERS. By: Cindy TianEdelman Asia Pacific Vice Chairman Cindy Tian summarizes the key highlights of the recent 18th National PartyCongress and explains what it all means.The official appearance of theseven-member StandingCommittee of the Political Bureauof the CPC Central Committee onNovember 15 ended a wild andlong period of speculation aroundChina’s leadership.Though the current transitionmay be over, commentary by theinternational media and Chinaobservers still continues – most ofwhich is focused on who’s whoand how to put each new leaderinto dated stereotypes such as‘reformist’ or ‘conservative’. Incomparison, less commentary hasbeen focused on what Xi Jinpingactually said during his inauguralspeech and how he said it.However, a close read of Xi’sinaugural speech gives a clearindication about what directionthis new era of China’s leadershipmight take: 1. Changes will be made. Although changes will not be radical, they will be focused on the best interests of the people. This is evident from Xi’s own communications during the congress – he delivered his inaugural speech almost entirely in ‘plain’ language, dropping most of the party jargon used in previous years, and apologized to the media for keeping them waiting. While subtle, these nuances are unusual for someone in Xi’s position and indicate a renewed focus on the public. 2. The party will operate with a greater sense of responsibility. In his speech, Xi went into detail on the renewed sense of responsibility the party has towards the nation, the people and the party itself. According 1
  2. 2. to Xi, focusing on these areas will help China continue down its current path of ‘revival’ and economic success, improve the country’s quality of life and rebuild trust in the party by addressing serious problems such as corruption and undue bureaucracy. 3. China will continue to open itself up to the world. In addressing the media, Xi noted that China needs to “learn more” about the world, but that the world also needs to “learn more about China.” Throughout all this, he stressed that the media will play a vital role in deepening a “mutual understanding” between China and other countries. Reading deeper into these comments also tells us perhaps the most important message: the new leadership will focus on preserving the best interests of China before all other imperatives. For companies focused on working with China, this reinforces the need to always first ask ‘How can this help China?’ Most importantly, we need to also remember that, while the CPC Congress is core to China’s leadership transition, it also sets the stage for the 12th National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), both happening in March 2013. This is when China’s new State and Government leaders will be announced and, perhaps most significantly, when new policies will be introduced with the potential to impact various industries. So, how to move forward? With the dust of the Congress still settling, our best advice is to keep watching China with one eye firmly focused on March.Apart from Xi’s speech, a few other events of the 18th Congress provide us with an idea of thechanges on China’s horizon:  Socialism with Chinese characteristics was mentioned twice in the 82-character Congress theme and was written into the Party Constitution. It was also the only party jargon used in Xi’s inaugural speech and can be interpreted as meaning China will follow its own path and not try to recreate any other political model.  The newly- elected Standing Committee is seven members strong. Although smaller than the previous Standing Committee, some agree this is one of the strongest and most capable the party has elected. While all members carry strong track records from their tenures as provincial or municipal leaders, they’ve also all shared the experience of participating in – and surviving – tough negotiations with the older generation of party leaders.  Hu Jintao’s complete retirement. Hu Jintao surprised many by relinquishing his power as both General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission. However, this unusual move has also been applauded by many as an action that will reinvigorate the health of the party and allow Xi to quickly jump into his new role as General Secretary.  A new Secretary for the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection. The appointment of Wang Qishan as Secretary of the Discipline Inspection is a clear message that Xi is committed to resolving serious problems within the party. Respected as a no-nonsense leader, Wang is credited with handling Beijing’s SARS crisis in 2003 and is expected to take a hardline on corruption and bribery. Contact us: cindy.tian@edelman.com / +86 10 5828 6505 www.edelman.com 2