Xi Jinping’s project of the century will continue, however, the focus would be on ‘high quality’, ‘steadily expanding’ new areas of cooperation, and continued emphasis on the construction of new land-sea passages in the west.

China’s “Two sessions” or the back-to-back meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) between 4 and 11 March 2022, were largely overshadowed by the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. It is in these sessions that the past year’s performance is spelled out, a policy blueprint for the new financial year is drawn, and government strive hard to meet the stated targets. Some of the takeaways from this year’s Government Work Report (GWR) presented by Premier Li Keqiang on 5 March are analysed as following.

First and foremost, since the Communist Party of China (CPC) is gearing up for the 20th Party Congress, later this year, therefore, the “Two sessions” have set the tone for China’s political, economic and foreign policy trajectory, not only for this year, but also beyond the prospective third stint of the Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary, Xi Jinping. In the middle of deteriorating US-China relations, technological denials by the West, and domestic power struggle, Xi Jinping by way of launching “wolf warrior diplomacy”, “anti-corruption campaigns”, “common prosperity”, “anti-monopoly laws”, poverty eradication programmes etc., seems to have steered himself out of these predicaments, The ongoing Ukrainian crisis has certainly provided a breathing space, perhaps a role that calls for China’s mediation in the crisis by the US and the EU alike. The GWR emphasis on the “strong leadership” of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core”, Xi Jinping’s thought, realizing the “first centenary”, “poverty alleviation”, formulation of the “third historic resolution” “and China starting “a new journey to build a modern socialist country in an all-round way, “marching toward the second centenary goal”, and “government and military building” under his leadership, suggest that Xi will remain China’s undisputed leader under present circumstances without any credible opposition. Russia-Ukraine crisis will further amplify the calls for a strong leadership core in China.

Two, since stabilising economic growth is directly proportional to legitimacy of the CPC, a moderately high growth of 5.5% has been set for the year 2022, which is expected to create 11 million new urban jobs this year. According to GWR, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) reached 114 trillion yuan ($18 trillion), registering 8.1% growth in 2021. It is certainly impressive given the desired target of 6%, however, if the data of all the four quarters is analysed, China’s growth declined from 18.3% in Q1 to 7.9% in Q2, to 4.9% in Q3 to 4% in Q4 according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Nevertheless, given China’s trade war with the US, declining real estate, global slump and pandemic, the growth could be considered impressive, in fact, fastest in a decade according to the NBS. Given the slump in the last two quarters, China is poised to spend and disburse more money to the provincial governments. According to statistics, the central government’s expenditure will increase by 3.9% and transfers to provincial governments are projected at 9.8 trillion yuan ($1.5 trillion). The domestic consumption and exports could be worrying, as could be seen in the Q3 and Q4, moreover, relocation of the supply chains and countries finding alternate sources could impact negatively on China’s foreign trade in 2022.

Third, as regards the foreign policy, the GWR lay emphasis on adhering to “an independent foreign policy” of peace. It talks about peaceful development, the building of a new type of international relations, and “a community with a shared future for mankind.” Taiwan as usual has been clubbed together with Hong Kong and Macao, so as to portray the issue as an internal affair. While the GWR calls for “One-China principle” and the “1992 Consensus”, “peaceful development of cross-strait relations” and the “reunification of the motherland”, it denounces “Taiwan independence” and “interference by external forces.” The document calls upon the people on both sides of the straits to work together for the “glorious cause of national rejuvenation.” Since the reunification is crucial for realising national rejuvenation, the confrontationist approaches are likely to continue, not only in the Taiwan strait but internationally too. Therefore, to expect China to retreat to pre 19th Party Congress era is impossible. With an ever expanding economy and defence allocation, China wanting to take a “centre stage” in international affairs, will bring it into confrontation with the liberal order. Xi Jinping’s project of the century will continue as mentioned by the GWR, however, the focus would be on “high quality”, “steadily expanding” new areas of cooperation, and continued emphasis on the construction of new land-sea passages in the west. China’s defence budget is set to grow at 7.1% in 2022 “amidst complex global situation” according to China’s Global Times. US$230 billion spending besides a matching internal security budget, second largest after the US is geared towards achieving “centennial goal” in 2027 when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will celebrate the 100th anniversary. These goals and “military struggles” certainly include the unification of Taiwan. The Quad and AUKUS have been described by China as US strategy to encircle China.

Finally, the GWR continues to adhere to the Covid-19 zero-tolerance policy, even as the cases throughout the world are on decline. Recently, China has seen a spurt in cases in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Jilin, Fujian and Liaoning etc. places. Increasingly, people have been debating if the “zero clearing out” and “mass testing” policy of the government is the only answer or not. Whether “co-existence” is an option or not. A gradual exist strategy is being debated and worked out, however, with the sharp rise in cases across China, this approach may be stalled. It is however, established that the “zero clearing” has enabled testing companies in China to reap huge profits ranging between 228% and 6,500% according a report by Bloomberg. The Chinese model to fight Covid-19 that gained currency in the initial phase of the pandemic is no longer being debated.


B.R. Deepak is Professor, Center of Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.