President Xi Jinping of China is already looking beyond his third term in power. That indicates he is certain of getting the third term at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) later this year. He is already laying down the foundations for the country’s long haul under his leadership for the “next five years or even longer periods of time”.

President Xi, hardly known for making projections about himself, appeared to be candid about his strategy for the future: “The next five years will be a critical period for the beginning of building a modern socialist country in an all-round way. Doing a good job in the development of these five years is crucial to realizing the goal of the second century of struggle. We must firmly grasp the problem of unbalanced and insufficient development, focus on making up for shortcomings, strengths and weaknesses, consolidate the bottom line, and promote advantages, and study and propose new ideas and new measures to solve the problem.”

His speech at party seminar on July 26-27 gives a peep into his mind. The seminar was aptly named, “Learn the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech and welcome the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China”. Leading party cadres at the provincial and ministerial levels and top party officials attended.

Xi said in the context of the 20th Congress: “… it will be held at this crucial moment when we embark on the new journey to build China into a modern socialist nation in all respects. At the congress, we will lay out goals, tasks, and major policies for developing the cause of the Party and the country in the next five years or even longer periods to come, which are pivotal to the further development of the Party and the country’s cause, the future of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the realization of national rejuvenation. Clearly identifying the banner our Party will hold, the path it will take, the goal it will continue to strive for, and to what extent it is motivated on the new journey ahead is of great significance to uniting and encouraging Chinese people of all ethnic groups to strive for a new success for socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Xi appears to have already initiated a complete review of the “international and domestic situations to have a clear understanding of the strategic opportunities, risks and challenges we face”. He is aware of the external challenges and he hints at China being prepared to meet them. “At present, profound changes unseen in a century are evolving rapidly across the world, exhibiting more distinctive features of our world, our times, and the historic change we are facing.”

Of course, he did not name any of the challenges that are otherwise well known. He merely said his people will need to be prepared to face tougher situations as China meets the challenges under his leadership. “The risks and challenges we are to face and the problems we are to address are more complex than ever before. The whole Party must be more mindful of potential dangers, be always prepared for worst-case scenarios and have a strong will and greater capability to respond to even harder situation.”

The President sought to convince the cadres and the Chinese people why it is imperative that loyalty to the leader and adherence to party principles alone can help the country overcome the challenges. That is another indication of another round of consolidation of the President’s power in the offing. “The Central Committee has kept in mind the overall picture for national rejuvenation and major changes in the world unseen in a century, united and led the whole Party, the armed forces and the people of all ethnic groups in effectively coping with the grave and complex international situation and a series of risks and challenges, and pushed forward socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era in an energetic manner.”

Xi Jinping reiterated his contribution to increasing the importance of the party and insisting on total loyalty to it. “We insisted on combining the basic principles of Marxism with China’s specific reality and with the excellent traditional Chinese culture, forming the socialist thought with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and realizing a new leap in the sinicization of Marxism. The whole party must grasp the world outlook and methodology of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, adhere to and make good use of the standpoints and methods that run through it, and constantly open up a new realm of modernization of Marxism in the great practice of the new era.”

His speech suggests that ever since he came to power in 2012 he has been implementing a long-term strategy to remain in power and mould China according to his political philosophy as distinct from other top Chinee leaders in the past.

Referring to the 19th National Congress, he said it was the platform for a “strategic plan for building a great modern socialist country in an all-round way”. Of the next Congress, he said: “The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China should make a macro outlook on the two-step strategic arrangement for building a powerful modern socialist country in an all-round way, and focus on deploying strategic tasks and major measures for the next five years.” 

His message to the Chinese people leaves nobody in doubt about the centrality of his role, presence and power in the country’s development. “The whole Party must grasp the outlook and methodology of the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and uphold and make good use of its standpoints, viewpoints and methods. We will thus be able to open up new horizons in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of our times through great practices in the new era.”

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