Which are the main aims of China's international relations strategy, and how is Xi pursuing them?
Xi has been prepared to accept that while it is still rising in many ways, China is already a Great Power. Chinese academics have been studying Xi on global governance, and expect this to be a big theme after the party congress. What contributions can China make to global governance and even be a leader in some areas? The most obvious of these is China as a leader in development – not just the provision of finance for overseas projects that have developmental consequences, especially in Chinese views building connectivities (roads and railways and so on) – but in thinking what development actually means or should mean.
This entails emphasizing socioeconomic development – and indeed, stripping out the political liberalization and democratization implications and consequences of some (western) definitions and preferences. We have also seen China trying to establish its understanding of human rights – again one where socioeconomics dominates rather than political and individual rights – as the basis for discussion; and getting more than a little buy-in from other states as well. I think we can expect more of this with Chinese scholars and think tank researchers trying to think of new ways of spreading Chinese ideational influence in more places - and in probably in more policy areas as well.
Should we expect any institutional changes in China in the foreseeable future, in the light of the evolutions of China's political system and of the 19th congress?
The key question is whether Xi will look to ignore the norm - and it is no more than a norm - that party leaders only serve two terms. The State President can only serve two terms (I think that is right at least) but there is no strict formal or legal restraint on the party leader serving two terms.
Are any major changes in China’s economic policies in view?
Something has to be done about the property (and other) “bubbles” that could cause a lot of trouble if they burst. I suspect that some financial reforms will be on the card as well to ensure that more money gets to smaller private enterprises more easily than it has in the past. However, any instinct to liberalize is moderated by a desire to control at the same time. Xi is not looking to loose party control over the economy any time soon in my view; he might make to want it work better and more efficiently than before, but that is not the same thing as letting go.
Xi seems to have a preference for promoting economic upgrading through indigenous innovation. The last time that China had a big indigenous innovation campaign, it created problems with the US and the West as it seemed to be being used as a means of imposing new forms of protection (particularly by China’s provincial governments). If this is pushed again after the congress (and I think it probably will), then we could be looking at these tensions reappearing in the not too distant future.
Shaun Breslin, Professor at FAcSS, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick and Co-Editor, The Pacific Review