Why you should pay attention to the Chinese Communist Party's congress The major political conference is underway in Beijing. President Xi Jinping, who is also the party's general secretary, has delivered a major speech outlining the party's goals.

Why you should pay attention to the Chinese Communist Party's congress

Why you should pay attention to the Chinese Communist Party's congress

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1129368763/1129368764" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The major political conference is underway in Beijing. President Xi Jinping, who is also the party's general secretary, has delivered a major speech outlining the party's goals.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to begin tonight with a look at China, where the Communist Party kicked off its National Congress in Beijing earlier today. It's an important political meeting, usually held every five years, where China's ruling Communist Party announces its next leaders. And as NPR's Emily Feng tells us, it's also where the party gets to signal its goals for the future.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: A serenely confident Xi Jinping strode out onto the stage of Beijing's Great Hall of the People on Sunday. More than 2,300 hand-picked party representatives clapped to a carefully synchronized beat to welcome him.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FENG: Xi is not just the leader of the Chinese state. More importantly, he's also general secretary of the Communist Party, a far more important title that he's expected to keep for another five years after this Congress. And he used his opening Congress speech on Sunday to lay out just how much he believes he helped protect the country against dangers both inside and outside China over the last decade he's already been in power.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT XI JINPING: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: He said unity is strength, and only with unity can China be victorious. The entire Congress this year is a choreographed show of just how much power Xi Jinping has consolidated within China and within the party.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

XI: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: He said, we have cleaned out the party of all of its long-untreated ills and removed serious hidden dangers in the party, the country and the military. Many people in China hoped the country's strict zero-COVID policies would ease after the Congress. The closed borders and frequent testing and lockdowns are throttling the economy and leading to growing public frustration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

XI: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: Instead, Xi touted zero COVID as one of his main accomplishments, praising what he called the, quote, "all-out people's war against the virus." That means COVID controls will likely stay, though Xi tried to reassure party members China was focusing on innovation and economic self-reliance. But Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing, said those aims are contradictory.

WU QIANG: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: "Can China control, long term, all aspects of society but also remain connected to other countries and economies?" Wu concludes, it's not possible to totally close China off to the world and pursue economic growth. Equally notable is what Xi did not mention in his speech. He made no reference to China's friendship with Russia, a cratering property market or sweeping U.S. technology sanctions on China.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

XI: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: But the final message was clear. China must be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters and even dangerous storms in the country's journey ahead, Xi said. His prescription for the coming challenges? Uphold the Chinese Communist Party's leadership, almost certainly with him in charge.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Taipei, Taiwan.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.