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Communist Party Congress: Xi's Power Play, or Communist Reshuffle?

Communist Party Congress: Xi's Power Play, Or Communist Reshuffle?
The 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party begins on 18 October, and observers are split over whether it'll lead to a centralization of power by President Xi Jinping or if it'll just be a mundane half-decade party reshuffling.

Events such as the forthcoming one are studiously followed by all "China watchers" for any signs that the country's policies might be changing, similar in a sense to how "Kremlin watchers" used to study every move of the Politburo during the Old Cold War. China holds these party congresses every five years, but this one is slated to be much more important than any other in recent memory given how much has changed in the world since the last meeting.

China unveiled its One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity in 2013, and it entered into a high-level Great Power partnership with Russia a year later after Moscow sought to rebalance its relations with Asia following the West's anti-Russian sanctions over Crimea. Beijing was somewhat taken aback by Donald Trump's surprise election last year, however, and has still struggled to adapt to the US President's promises to embrace "economic nationalism" and "Make America Great Again". In addition, China's BRICS partner India has developed a confrontational flair after the election of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Modi in 2014, creating further complications along China's southern periphery.

Closer to the home front,  China has flexed its military muscles in the South China Sea in the face of what it feels to be American aggression. The government has also been on a serious crusade against corruption over the past few years too as it seeks to rejuvenate the Communist Party's popular appeal and working efficiency. The economy has continued to grow, albeit not as fast as before, and debt is beginning to pile up while overproduction relentlessly continues. Some observers have noted that it's for this exact reason why China's future is now pegged to the success of its New Silk Roads, since without the development of new markets and trade routes, the People's Republic might have difficulty ensuring systemic stability in the coming future.

With all of these important variables serving as the backdrop, President Xi is about to preside over the 19th National Congress, one which some predict might see him centralize his power in order to serve as the country's steward during these uncertain but exciting times.

Bevin Chu, former columnist on Sino-US relations for Lew and, who is also the son of TK Chu, former Vice Ambassador from the Republic of China to Saudi Arabia commented on the issue.

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