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EDITORIAL | China People's Congress Seals Xi Jinping's Dictatorship

The 2024 National People's Congress of China reaffirms the communist party's control over the government to prioritize security over the economy.



China's President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang attend the recently concluded National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (© Kyodo)

The annual China National People's Congress (NPC) has closed. 

In a week-long meeting, it passed an amendment to the law governing the State Council, the equivalent of the Cabinet, affirming the superiority of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over all aspects of the government. 

It also demoted the status of the prime minister both in name and reality. All in all, this NPC saw President Xi Jinping tightening the dictatorial system through which he personally rules China

Furthermore, Xi's leadership team made it clear that all aspects of national security have priority over the economy. 

The outcome is a reminder not to forget the days of Mao Zedong's personalized dictatorship. In Mao's time, China experienced tremendous devastation to its domestic economy and society. Going forward, the international community will have to be even more wary of Xi's policies. 

Rejecting Deng Xiaoping's Reforms

For the first time in roughly four decades, the NPC revised the organic law governing the State Council. This revision makes it crystal clear that the CCP will dictate how the national government functions. It thereby rejected the "separation of Party and State" principle proposed by Deng Xiaoping after the repeated horrendous failures of Maoist policies such as the Great Leap Forward

In addition, traditionally the prime minister holds a press conference at the conclusion of the NPC. Up to now, this has been done in the interest of information disclosure. However, this tradition was terminated after more than 30 years. 


Both these moves are symbolic of a rejection of the Deng-era reform and opening policies. Those policies, giving priority to the economy, had held sway in China since the 1980s. 

After reporting on his activities at the National People's Congress, Zhao Leji, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, returns to his seat. President Xi Jinping is on the right. March 8. (© Kyodo)

A National Security Crisis?

Deng's reforms have been replaced by Xi's obsession with strengthening national security. For example, during his speech at the meeting, NPC Standing Committee Chairman Zhao Leji boasted about the past year's changes. 

"Revisions to the Anti-Espionage Law have provided us with more plentiful legal tools for combating infiltration by spies, subversion, and theft of secrets," he touted. He also vowed to further develop the laws related to national security. 

Ying Yong currently serves as prosecutor-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. He likewise emphasized that future policy "will resolutely protect national security and social stability."

Ying added that "crimes that endanger national security will be severely punished in accordance with the law." 

Procurator General Ying Yong (left) of the Supreme People's Procuratorate and President Zhang Jun of the Supreme People's Court smile at President Xi Jinping as he leaves the NPC on March 8. (© Kyodo)

Growing Unrest a Concern

This greater emphasis on security may be the result of X's sense of crisis that the Communist regime could be shaken by growing social unrest. Deterioration of the Chinese economy is an underlying cause of social disruptions. As well, there is an increasingly sour view of China within the international community. This represents the flip side of a situation in which the foundations of the regime are not rock solid. 

The ambiguousness of the July 2023 revised Anti-Espionage Law does not seem to matter to the power holders in China. Those same powers demonstrate no concern that its arbitrary implementation is cooling the desire of many foreign investors to invest in China. Their sole concern seems to be protecting a system of rule that guarantees their hold on power. That course has no positive impact on reviving the Chinese economy.

The international community should prepare itself for a neo- "Maoist" era being forcefully promoted by Xi Jinping himself. Too, foreign companies must stay aware of the added risk of investing in China. Meanwhile, the Japanese government should continue to join with various like-minded nations in confronting China's authoritarian regime. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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