All-powerful Xi: Delhi's challenge

Chinese President Xi Jinping has emerged vastly stronger from the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Not only has he been reaffirmed as President for a second five-year term, his name and ‘Thought’ have been written into the Chinese constitution. Only Mao Zedong before him had his ‘Thought’ written into the constitution.  Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic reforms, finds mention in the constitution, but his personal philosophy is referred to only as “Theory”. Besides, his name and contribution were included only after his death. Xi has been conferred status almost on par with Mao. And like Mao, during his first term as President, Xi used the anti-corruption campaign to purge all his political rivals. Now, there is little challenge to his position. He is expected to extend his rule beyond the second term; for the first time in 25 years, the CPC Politburo did not name a successor to the President.

 Xi’s consolidation of power and his rise have significant implications for the world. He is now China’s all-powerful leader. Disagreement with his ‘Thought’ and, by extension, his policies, could be treated as sedition. There is no room for “erroneous ideologies”, Xi has said. He has ruled out political reforms, while promising more economic reforms. He has laid out a bold vision for his country, envisioning it as a modernised country by 2035 and a Socialist “strong power” with global influence by 2050.

In the speech at the conclave, Xi stressed that China is not a threat to the rest of the world and will “never seek hegemony or engage in expansionism”. China’s neighbours are unlikely to be convinced, given its increasingly muscular behaviour. They fear that as China’s global stature and influence rises, it will become more assertive, even aggressive. The modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army to make combat units more responsive and war-ready has been an ongoing process, and this will be accelerated in the coming decades. Xi has said that China will close the weapons gap with Russia in a decade and with the US by 2050. Beijing’s arms purchases will prompt others to arm themselves, too. Asia is therefore staring at a new arms race. India is being drawn into this, too. But while rivalry is inevitable between two rising powers in the same region, enmity and conflict are not. With strong leaders in Prime Minister Modi and Xi, now is the time for Delhi and Beijing to institute diplomacy and dialogue to build agreements and mechanisms to manage the rivalry and to build trust to move towards resolving disputes and narrowing differences.

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