Did Xi Jinping's speech truly center only on a call for "patience" amid modernization efforts?
In light of the recent Associated Press article titled "China’s Xi calls for patience as Communist Party tries to reverse economic slump", there are specific discrepancies in the piece that warrant correction. Here's a breakdown:
1.The inaccurate interpretation of a key speech's main focus
The notion that the heart of Xi Jinping's speech AP's article referred to was centered around a call for "patience" seems to be an oversimplification. According to Qiushi, a flagship magazine of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Xi made the speech at the class on studying the implementation of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the Spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Feb. 7, 2023.
This is Xi Jinping's speech on Feb. 7, 2023, at a class for newly-elected members and alternate members of the CPC Central Committee, as well as principal officials at the provincial and ministerial levels, on studying the implementation of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the Spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Based on my understanding and study of Chinese official narratives, the primary emphasis of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) [GRR has a column on it] is on defining and institutionalizing 中国式现代化 a Chinese path to modernization. This approach showcases the distinct accomplishments of the PRC under the CPC's guidance and the methods employed by the CPC to achieve this.
The speech was published by Qiushi on its website with the title 中国式现代化是强国建设、民族复兴的康庄大道 The Chinese-style modernization is the grand path towards building a strong nation and achieving national rejuvenation. This underscores the emphasis placed on the Chinese modernization. The theme is further reinforced in the concurrent Qiushi editorial 以中国式现代化全面推进中华民族伟大复兴 Promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation through comprehensive Chinese-style modernization.
The Chinese-style modernization proposed by the CPC only intends to differentiate itself from the Western way of modernization.
The paths to modernization differ as national conditions differ. A country should simultaneously observe the general principle of modernization and pay heed to its particularities. Chinese-style modernization contains elements that are common to the modernization processes of all countries, but it is more characterized by features that are unique to the Chinese context.
The core sense conveyed by Xi's speech and the Qiushi editorial is that the Chinese path to modernization is particularly applicable to Chinese conditions, which AP's article interpreted as a mere call for "patience".
With a closer look, the speech covers five essential characteristics of Chinese-style modernization, while "patience" is only mentioned under one of them. It would be rather hasty to take it as the gist of the whole speech.
Firstly, it is the modernization of a huge population......We will, as always, bear China’s realities in mind as we address issues, make decisions, and take action. We will neither pursue grandiose goals nor go by the rulebook. We will stay patient in advancing the course of history and take steady and incremental steps to sustain progress.
Furthermore, the call for patience is more of a formula-like proposition that is not new in speeches involving Chinese-style modernization. The Report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2022 contains exactly the same utterance as in the quote above. Therefore, there is no need for AP to overstate it as the major focus.
2.Misleading headline implications
The headline "China’s Xi calls for patience as Communist Party tries to reverse economic slump" suggests an immediate concern over an "economic slump" after the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released the data of consumer and factory activity for July on August 15. However, the speech was made in February, according to Qiushi, and such framing appears to be incongruous with the prevailing sentiments of early 2023.
Many China watchers might recall that at the beginning of this year, both domestically in China and abroad, the outlook on China's economy was quite optimistic.
Records from January 2023, for instance, indicate anticipatory tones of China's economic revival both nationally and globally after China optimized its COVID-19 response. The International Monetary Fund had projected a growth uptick for China from 3 percent in 2022 to 5.2 percent in 2023 in its February-released January 2023 World Economic Outlook Update.
The newly released January 2023 World Economic Outlook Update highlights our latest forecast for China’s GDP growth. We now project growth to increase from 3 percent in 2022 to 5.2 percent in 2023 driven by a rebound in private consumption amid the earlier-than-anticipated reopening in China.
Investors are confident in the China's economy. Morgan Stanley thought it was "the time to get back into China" and tech investors thought "the worst is over" and are once again bullish on China's economy.
“China has all the ingredients for successful investments,” said Tay Choon Chong, managing partner of Vertex Ventures China, adding that China has a talent pool made up of “educated, hungry and hardworking people.”
In this case, linking Xi’s February speech directly to economic data in July is anachronistic.
3.Unsubstantiated timing assumptions
The article’s insinuation that the timing of Xi’s speech publication in Qiushi was reactive, following the economic data released on Tuesday, August 15, seems to be on shaky ground. Given the logistical demands of magazine printing like Qiushi, such spur-of-the-moment publications are impractical. The claim, bereft of concrete evidence, renders the timing suggestion speculative at best:
Xi’s speech was published by Qiushi, the party’s top theoretical journal, hours after data Tuesday showed consumer and factory activity weakened further in July despite official promises to support struggling entrepreneurs.
Economic growth slid to 0.8% in the three months ending in June compared with the previous month, down from 2.2% in January-March. That is equivalent to a 3.2% annual rate, which would be among China’s weakest in decades.
In all fairness, the report didn't explicitly state that the publication of Xi's speech was an attempt to stabilize the market following the less-than-stellar economic data from the NBS. Yet, there's a clear undertone suggesting this, making it a prominent angle of how Xi's speech is presented.
It's essential to remember that Qiushi is a print magazine and they concurrently published an editorial as mentioned above with Xi's speech on Tuesday, August 15. Given the logistics involved, the decision to print the speech would have been made well before it was posted online at around 3 pm on Tuesday, August 15. Thus, claiming the speech was issued "hours after the Tuesday data" holds little weight unless there's solid proof, which the report didn't provide.
The most lenient interpretation might be that Qiushi had prior knowledge of the impending economic figures and intentionally chose to release that specific speech then. Publicly, there's neither evidence supporting nor contradicting this claim. However, I'd caution against overestimating the efficiency of China's governmental operations to such a degree.
4.Speech location discrepancies
Contrary to the assertion in the AP’s article, Xi Jinping did not make the speech in Chongqing, but rather in Beijing.
AP's report says:
“We must maintain historic patience and insist on making steady, step-by-step progress,” Xi said in the speech. Qiushi said it was delivered in February in the southwestern city of Chongqing. It is common for Qiushi journal to publish speeches months after they are delivered.
This can be cross-referenced with Xinhua News Agency' English & Chinese readout of the speech which unequivocally cites the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance) in Beijing as the venue on February 7, 2023:
BEIJING, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday stressed the importance of correctly understanding and vigorously advancing Chinese modernization.
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks while addressing the opening of a study session at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance).
Historical precedents also indicate that such annual engagements typically convene in the capital.
Given the aforementioned inaccuracies, the headline "China’s Xi calls for patience as Communist Party attempts to counter economic downturn" and the subsequent narrative appear unsustainable. The purported call and its associated timing don't hold up on their own merit. Enditem
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