When China’s legislators head back to their provinces once Beijing’s annual parliamentary gathering concludes Wednesday, they’ll be tasked with implementing the specific policies outlined and the less tangible philosophies of Xi Jinping that underpins them.
Based on speeches given by the president during the National People’s Congress, the party’s mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency has started referring to “Xi Jinping political economics,” an eight-point clustering of themes such as how to reconcile state control and market forces, or the need to appreciate the nation’s front-line workers.
The priority: to build a people-focused common prosperity that will ease the widening gap between rich and poor. Xi’s doctrine, if enshrined in Communist Party orthodoxy, would mark a fifth leg in the party’s thinking, following “Mao Zedong thought,” “Deng Xiaoping theory,” Jiang Zemin’s “three represents” and Hu Jintao’s “scientific outlook on development.”
“Xi’s ‘political economics’ has reverberated through the Great Hall of the People throughout this year’s key political events,” Xinhua reported Monday. “In Xi political economics, socialism is the institutional guarantee so that all Chinese people can benefit from economic development.”
Here’s a rundown on the eight-point platform using the words of Xi as quoted in state media:
1. People centered: We have to arouse the enthusiasm of workers in the front-line — manufacturing workers and migrant workers. That’s the essence of socialism. The working class are the masters of our country: Xi told the Shanghai delegation on March 5.
2. Common prosperity: There should be no one left behind in building a well-off society, even among ethnic groups with small populations: Xi told the Heilongjiang delegation to the NPC on March 7. The next five years will be crucial for the government to “crack the tough bones” in the battle against poverty, Xi said on March 10 when meeting Qinghai delegates.
3. Public ownership and private ownership: Our policy of unwaveringly encouraging, supporting and guiding the non-public economy hasn’t changed, Xi said while meeting delegates from the China Democratic National Construction Association and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce on March 4. Development of the non-public sector from small to big, and from weak to strong, is realized under the leadership of the party, Xi said the same day while meeting delegates from the China Democratic National Construction Association and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.
4. New development concept: We should protect the environment like protecting our eyes and treat the environment the way we treat our lives, Xi said to the Qinghai delegation.
5. Relationship between the government and the markets: To deepen economic reform, it’s crucial to manage the balance between government policies and market forces well, Xi told the Shanghai delegation. The government must manage its duties effectively while allowing the market its freedom, he said.
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6. Open economy: China’s philosophy on economic growth will be driven by innovation, coordination, green development, openness and sharing, Xi told delegates from Shanghai, Heilongjiang and Qinghai.
7. New Normal: The New Normal of slower, more sustainable development is a time of challenge but also opportunities, Xi said March 4. Private companies should take the initiative and be more innovative to adapt to the New Normal, Xi said.
8. Supply side: To push supply-side structural reform will be a tough battle, Xi said at a meeting with the Hunan delegation on March 8. The supply of unnecessary and low-end output should be curtailed, while that of effective and mid-to-high end supply enlarged, Xi said.
Will Xi thought work in helping China navigate a once-in-a-generation economic shift away from a reliance on investment for growth to consumption and services? A problem is that he’s trying to cobble together incompatibles, says June Teufel Dreyer, a professor of political science at the University of Miami. Entrepreneurs in the nation became rich in part by exploiting workers so what happens if they truly become masters, she asks?
“No question that Xi has his eye on his legacy,” she said. “If he succeeds, Xi’s legacy may be almost as glorious as the over-the-top cult of Xi videos that are circulating. If he fails—hard times for China and possibly ignominy for him.”
(Updates with analyst comment in the 14th paragraph.)
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