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A new, stronger Xi Jinping awaits PM Modi in China’s Wuhan

Chinese premier Xi Jinping has reversed Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “biding time and hiding strength”. Instead, he talks about China playing a more dominant role in the world.

analysis Updated: Apr 24, 2018 07:28 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Xi Jinping,Narendra Modi,India
At Wuhan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to contend with a country on the rise with an authoritarian ruler (Xi Jinping) at its helm.(PTI File Photo)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with President Xi Jinping in Wuhan this week, he will come face-to-face with a man who, with his authority enshrined in the country’s Constitution, is easily the strongest Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

Xi now has the reins to all aspects of China’s governance. During his speech at the Communist Party of China congress last October, Xi reversed “paramount leader” Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “biding time and hiding strength”. Instead, Xi talked about China playing a more dominant role in the world and assuming global leadership along with other big powers.

In short, China has entered a new phase of development that reflects the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, as announced in the president’s work report at the Communist Party congress.

In addition to the offices of Communist Party general secretary and president, Xi is the “core” of the party and chairperson of the Central Military Commission (CMC).

And in March, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection — at the forefront of Xi’s anti-graft campaign — was merged with the new National Supervisory Commission and put under the charge of Yang Xiaodu, said to be the president’s man.

During last October’s Congress, the party also appointed a slimmer CMC, down to seven members from the earlier 11.

The new line-up includes Xi, two vice-chairpersons and four members who have pledged loyalty to the president. Xi also included Gen Zhao Zongqi, who headed the Western Command during the Doklam standoff, in the party’s central committee.

During his visit to India in September 2014, Xi was still in the process of strengthening his grip on power. With the removal of the two-term limit for the post of president in March, that process is now complete.

One foreign policy aspect of the last Communist Party congress that stood out was China’s intention to play a more influential role globally, an aspect that is already evident in India’s neighbourhood. The networks of the multibillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative are gradually finding takers and spreading across South Asia.

One of BRI’s six flagship projects, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), something that has irked India.

Officially, Xi’s neighbourhood policy is benign, but he is more assertive than before.

At the Wuhan summit, Modi will have to contend with a country on the rise with an authoritarian ruler at its helm, a man who believes in his own wisdom and who believes that his country’s time on the global stage has come.

First Published: Apr 24, 2018 07:24 IST