A deep dive into the outcomes of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress
Germany’s cybersecurity chief gets booted for ties with Russia
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Today’s briefing is a ~5.2 min read:
- 🇨🇳 Demystifying the CCP 20th Congress: Xi reigns supreme.
- ➕ Plus: Imran Khan is barred from public office, K-pop stars BTS are up for military service, and Germany’s cybersecurity chief gets booted for ties with Russia.
📰 GLOBAL HEADLINES
Stories: The Globe and Mail, El País, Morocco World News, Manila Bulletin, Clarín
Our take: No prizes for guessing that China’s news dominated headlines around the world today, with economic worries being the only other common theme across global media.
🤿 DEEP DIVE
Demystifying the 20th Communist Party Congress
- The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ended – Xi Jinping and his allies will remain at the helm for at least another five years.
- The tightly-choreographed event provided insight into the country’s future: more power for Xi, stronger opposition to Taiwanese independence, and a more self-sufficient China.
Xi and his allies are the big winners
One of the most consequential political events of the year, the CCP’s 20th National Congress, ended with just as many questions as before it began.
- As Wang Xiangwei, former Editor-in-Chief of the South China Morning Post, put it: “Reading the tea leaves of China’s politics has always been a challenge because of its opacity, but it’s even more difficult this time around.”
One thing is for sure: Xi Jinping has emerged from the Congress more powerful than ever before.
What does it all mean?
1. ⛩ Xi’s Third Term
Like the Avengers, senior Chinese politicians communicate their status with their entrance order. So all eyes were on the order in which the seven new members of the Politburo Standing Committee (China’s highest decision-making body) entered the stage.
- While we were all but certain Xi would stay on for an unprecedented third term in power, his almost total success at filling China’s most senior positions with loyal allies surprised some China watchers.
Journalist Jonathan Cheng explains:
“Xi Jinping cemented his status as China’s most formidable leader since Mao Zedong by extending his term as Communist Party chief into a second decade and declining to elevate a clear potential successor.“
2. 📑 The report to Congress
Each CCP Congress opens with a report that reflects on the party’s last five years of work and sets a course for China’s future.
- This year, the report gave a “signal of strong continuity”, according to Shannon Tiezzi, Editor-in-Chief at The Diplomat.
We can also be reasonably confident that:
- Xi’s ‘Zero-Covid’ policy is here to stay.
- China will ramp up domestic capabilities in high-end tech.
- Security and stability will be more important than economic growth.
The goal remains to transform China into a ‘great modern socialist country’ capable of leading the world. As China expert Bill Bishop put it:
“The Party is reminding everyone in no uncertain terms that it wants the PRC to be the world leader in national strength and global influence.”
3. 🖋 Party Constitution amendments
The CCP also approved a few constitutional amendments during last week’s Congress.
- Xi was defined as the “core” leader of the Party in several clauses, which changes little in practice but cements his cult of personality.
Notably, the constitution now includes a pledge to “resolutely oppose and contain Taiwan independence”, a deliberate message from Beijing that Taiwanese independence is the reddest of red lines.
4. 🤒 Hu Jintao’s removal
The most discussed moment of the Congress came when former President Hu Jintao was reluctantly escorted out by staff whilst looking visibly confused (check out the strange video).
- Chinese media outlets claimed it was because Hu didn’t feel well, and needed to go recuperate in a private room.
Whether or not that was true, the Party Congress is so tightly choreographed that Hu’s public removal is being interpreted as a symbolic message that his era was over, and Xi alone will determine China’s future.
The bottom line
The 20th Party Congress has delivered more power to Xi Jinping: over the CCP, over China, and over the future of its 1.4 billion people. As for the West, get ready for a more assertive and confrontational China when it comes to foreign policy.
Welcome to the new era of Xi Jinping – any guesses on how long it’ll last?
📚 We know this is a lot to wrap your head around. Here are a few of the most useful sources we found while researching this story.
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🔦 REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT
North & Central Asia
The US has reportedly assured the Taliban that it will not fund or support any opposition armed groups or non-state actors.
- The US has previously supported the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front (NRF), which is a registered lobby group in the US.
- Violence in Afghanistan has subsided since the Taliban returned to power, but attacks from armed groups have recently intensified.
Azerbaijani TV really knows how to stick it to their adversaries: a recently-aired program featured a children’s choir singing a song insulting French President Emmanuel Macron.
- The French president has become a popular punching bag since he accused Azerbaijan of launching a “terrible war” against Armenia.
- Azerbaijan and Armenia have been engaged in a decades-long conflict over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Japan’s core inflation rate hit an eight-year high of 3.0% in September, marking the sixth straight month above the central bank’s inflation target.
- Japanese authorities are unlikely to intervene just yet, but if prices keep increasing, so too will the pressure on them to act.
- Historically, Japan has struggled with the opposite problem: for years, the Bank of Japan kept its interest rates ultra-low to avoid deflation.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been disqualified from holding public office after the Pakistani Election Commission found him guilty of “corrupt practices”.
- Khan was accused of failing to disclose the money he made by selling gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries. Womp womp.
- The former prime minister and cricket star has already stated he will challenge the ruling, which has sparked anger among Khan’s supporters.
🇰🇷 South Korea
After months of uncertainty, South Korean authorities have confirmed that the members of global sensation K-pop band BTS will have to enlist in the South Korean armed forces.
- Conscription is mandatory for South Korean men between 18 and 35, but many believed the artists would be exempt from service thanks to their musical careers.
- In other military news: North Korea fired over 300 artillery shells in response to South Korea’s annual Hoguk military exercises.
🗞 IN OTHER NEWS…
Dangerous liaisons: German edition
The news: The head of Germany’s national cybersecurity agency, Arne Schönbohm, has been fired over his alleged ties to Russia.
- Reports of Schönbohm’s incriminating ties were first picked up by a German satirical TV show earlier this month.
At the centre of the scandal is the ‘German Cyber Security Council’, a consultancy firm Schönbohm co-founded nearly ten years ago.
- It turns out one of the organisation’s main partners is a company founded by a former Russian intelligence agent.
Hybrid warfare: Schönbohm’s departure comes amid rising concerns about clandestine attacks targeting critical German infrastructure.
- In recent months, an explosion damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia to Germany, and an act of sabotage caused significant disruption to a German rail operator.
- Senior German military officer Carsten Breuer said the country’s leadership is:
“[p]rimarily preparing for hybrid threats [… such as] influence operations, with attacks on infrastructure and with cyber attacks.”
Old friends: NATO allies have never been fond of Germany’s deep economic ties to Russia, and many remain sceptical of Berlin’s capability to lead Europe on matters of security.
- Nevertheless, analysts say that Germany has worked to distance itself from Moscow since the start of the Russo-Ukraine War.
🤏 STORIES WE ALMOST COVERED
- 🪖 Putin imposed martial law in the four annexed Ukrainian territories, but some analysts predict it will gradually get rolled out across Russia.
- 💨 New Zealand farmers hate Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s proposed new ‘burp and fart tax’, a world-first levy designed to reduce methane emissions from farm animals.
- 🛢 Democrats want President Biden to get tough on Saudi Arabia, with California Congressman Ro Khanna saying “there must be consequences for fleecing the American people in order to support Putin’s unconscionable war.”
- 📦 Is it finally the right time to revive the EU-Mercosur trade deal?
- 📉 China delayed the publishing of key economic figures until after the Party Congress – what will they say when they’re released?
Which story do you wish we’d covered?