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China's Communist Party Congress - Narrative Intelligence

October 24, 2022Bailey Flanders

On October 18th, China's Communist party met for the 20th time ever, and Xi Jinping looks poised to begin a third five year term.

Tiananmen Square , Image via Zibek

The Great Hall of the People

On October 18th, high ranking officials of China’s Communist Party, including President Xi Jinping, gathered for the 20th congress at The Great Hall of the People in Beijing. This event takes place every 5 years, and the goal of this meeting is to set the political agenda of China’s controlling party for the next 5 year term. It is assumed that Xi Jinping will be selected by the party to serve for an unprecedented third consecutive term. So what did the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) discuss?

President Xi began the week-long conference with a rousing 2 hour speech where he discussed: COVID 19, China’s Economy, and foreign policy goals. The speech gave no indication that China would be lifting its zero COVID 19 policy, and it is clear that the strict lockdowns and sanitary precautions will continue. President Xi went on to tout China’s economic growth, despite the COVID restrictions, and promised that China would continue in its battle to meet the lofty GDP growth goals. The last important note on his speech was the language used discussing Taiwan and Hong Kong. China has no intentions of backing down from their stance on Taiwan and Hong Kong’s independence.

Another goal of this twice-per-decade event is to select the next 200 members of the CCP’s central committee. Their job is then to vote in 25 members of the “Politburo”, who will then select the representatives who make up the Standing Committee. The standing committee is a small tight knit group of some of China’s most powerful people. Currently, there are only 7 people in this group, all men, who are considered to be some of Xi Jinping’s top advisors. It will be important to monitor this event, in order to judge who may be making decisions behind the scenes for the next 5 years to come.

What's being said about the CCP Congress?

With the conference wrapped up, there have been a number of new trends and storylines in U.S media worth taking a look at. Let us examine the “China’s Communist Party Congress” brief.

Graph shows each key phrase sorted by number of mentions

In the last week the AI model scraped 90 unique narratives from 36 U.S media news sources. Our most common terms reflected above are mostly to be expected, such as “Chinese Communist”, “President Xi”, and “party congress”. These terms don’t really show us any special narratives, but the first phrase of note is, “Peaceful Reunification”. The idea of reunification is China’s lofty dream that one day Taiwan will willingly become part of China once again. During the conference on Sunday, Xi reportedly said, “the wheels of history are rolling on toward China’s reunification”. He also made the point during his speech that China will never rule out the use of force in Taiwan. Taiwan and “Hong Kong”, (which accumulated 98 mentions over the last 7 days), were popular narratives at the CCP congress, and that was reflected in the U.S media. Over the last couple of days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, issued a statement regarding the U.S’s relationship with China. He noted that China poses a threat to America’s foreign policy goals, and that President Xi Jinping’s actions suggest China may be “on a much faster timeline”, than initially suspected.

Keyword dynamics showing amplifications over a 7 day period

Xi Jinping

Our most popular topic is the President himself, Xi Jinping. The brief’s most popular terms centered around the President and the congress itself. The phrase “Xi Jinping” had 190 mentions by itself. The U.S media is focused on what the implications of President Xi’s nomination means for China. It is important to point out just how much influence Xi Jinping actually has. Not only is he the head of state in China, he is also the “General Secretary” (60 mentions) of the CCP, and the Chairman of the Central Military Committee. The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and the Armed Police are both parties of this Committee. President Xi is single handedly in charge of the military, the political party in power, and the Country. This conference is significant because it marks the start of years 10-15 for Mr. Xi, which is the first time, since Mao Zedong (1949-1976), that a President has been in office that long.

GDP growth under Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and XI Jinping

The phrase “economic growth” picked up 40 mentions on the first 2 days of the conference, which was certainly in direct response to President Xi’s comments on the economy during his speech. In 2020, the Chinese economy was in a technical recession, which is a stark contrast to the rapid growth they have seen over the last 2 decades. The shrink was a direct response to COVID 19 and China’s strict lockdowns. During Sunday’s speech, Mr. Xi laid out his newest economic policies and his plans to get back to pre-COVID levels of development. There are criticisms of Xi’s plans, and as you can see in the graph above, even before the pandemic the economic growth has been lower than the two previous leaders of China. Another 5 years of decline in total growth could be an indicator of political turmoil for President Jinping.

This congress decides the fate of the party for the next half a decade, and the media has quickly latched on to its key points. Our AI model will continue to monitor the CCP congress topic, be sure to check back with our rolling brief to follow the latest trends in American media.

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