China’s National Party Congress is running from Oct. 16 through October 20. Much Western Press reportage of this every-five-year event is loaded with Western bias to outright falsehoods.
A major falsehood is that Xi Jinping will “be elected Chairman for life.” It must be remembered that when Mao lay on his deathbed for many months, a severe earthquake struck Tangshan and nearly 240,000 citizens died because the People’s Liberation Army that is dispatched for rescue efforts---similar to our National Guard—remained in barracks due to the uncertainty of takeover by the Gang of Four. That earthquake struck on July 28, 1976. Mao lingered on his deathbed until September 9. The “Gang of Four” were arrested on October 4, 1976. So when Deng Xiaoping rose to power and began the opening-up of China, he made sure there were term limits added to their Constitution. Deng he saw the need for ongoing command and orderly continuity in succession. China’s leaders still recognize that today.
In 2018, China’s legislature revised its Constitution by removing the two-term presidential limit clause (“The consecutive service on the posts must not exceed two terms”) from Article 79. That means that the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the PRC can now serve more than two terms. But an aging and debilitated leader would never be renewed.
The Western Press commonly refers to the National People’s Congress being a “rubber stamp.” They should look back to April 1992 when the NPC approved the Three Gorges Dam project where nearly one-third of delegates voted against the plan or abstained. There is a misconception that China’s politicians are of identical minds and all march in step to the leader. But it is quite obvious that if our U.S. Congress was of only one party, there would still be variation in political positions whether it was all-Democrat or all-Republican. China likewise has a variety of leaders who vary in political philosophy.
When Xi assumed leadership in 2012, he reduced pollution by restricting traffic and use of coal burning in cities. By 2020, harmful air particulates had fallen 40 percent according to the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute. China is now producing and buying half of the electric vehicles made in the world. China’s people recognize they “breathe easier.” China is also the world-leader in clean energy technology, producing state-of-the-art low-cost solar panels as well as the first modular nuclear power units to go online. Xi speaks of balancing economic development with energy conservation.
Nearly a decade ago during a visit to a China university, I watched the noon news to hear China was reducing its two million-man army to half that level over the next years. Xi was continuing Deng Xiaoping’s efforts to modernize China’s armed forces. Nevertheless, this would still be less than a third of what the U.S. spends on our military, including over 850 overseas U.S. military bases. China’s military is a defense force. And in 2014, President Xi Jinping reinforced adherence to their “Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence,” a policy of not militarily intervening in other countries and recognizing each country must evolve from its own history and culture.
In 2013, the World Bank found 82 million Chinese lived in extreme poverty. This dropped to 6 million in 2019 and zero by the end of 2020. From 2013 to 2020, disposable income per urban household grew 66 percent, and 82 percent in rural households. While the pandemic has severely curtailed current production, GDP growth still continues. It is in decline in the West.
When Xi came into office, he confronted a widespread level of corruption in both government and business, often an extension of “guanxi” or you-scratch-my-back-and-I-scratch-your’s relationships. During Xi’s term, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection issued 11.3 million warnings, conducted 4.7 million investigations and 1.5 million received punishments, some receiving a death penalty. While China’s growth continues at a slower rate, there has been more attention focused on the many Chinese millionaires and concern to not revert back to a pre-1949 China of a few rich and many poor. Xi’s drive for “common prosperity” includes preventing abuses by the rich.
The most egregious errors in Western reporting surround Xi’s “Zero-COVID” policy. Foreign reporters seize upon a few instances of Chinese protests surrounding quarantine, but the overwhelming population is very aware that abandoning these effective measures places them closer to the disastrous outcome of the U.S. COVID-19 response, which would mean about 4.4 million deaths. Despite the big economic slowdown, Chinese are solidly behind actions they can take that protect others around them.
And based on the 2021 “Democracy Perception Index” survey, the Chinese population is considerably more satisfied with their political system than Americans are with ours.