The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is held between October 16th and 23rd, 2022, could mean a turning point in the history of the Asian giant, and a radical transformation of its political system, which has been in existence since 1989. To gain a better understanding of this challenge and its significance, it is necessary to review some facts.
China is the country that accomplished the most impressive process of social inclusion over the last forty years: eight hundred million people were lifted out of extreme poverty and four hundred million now make up the middle class. There can be no historical, social, economic or political comparison with the Western world.
While in China the major dilemma is between chaos and order, in the West it is between dictatorship and democracy. Order in China was secured in ancient times by the emperors; today it is guaranteed by the leadership of the Communist Party - with 94 million members. Just as political power has been concentrated, economic power has been decentralised - 70 per cent of the economy is in the hands of private companies.
While the Covid 19 pandemic is a global tragedy, it has become a nightmare in China. While in the West, society has embraced openness and coexistence with the virus, in China they have not emerged from the zero-virus policy, which has led to the worst economic crisis in the last forty years. From 12 per cent growth twenty years ago, the economy has fallen to 7 per cent over the last ten years and a meagre 2 per cent in 2022.
The second structural problem of Chinese society is its ageing population. Life expectancy reaches 80 years, but young people do not wish to have children. In the early 1980s, the "one-child" policy was imposed; in 2018, the "two-child" policy was implemented, but the incentives will have to be reinforced. It should be pointed out that, with the exception of eight years of public education, secondary and higher education and health care have to be paid for, and the lifestyle is structured around hyper-consumption - mainly through social media and mobile phones. Parenting is very expensive and directly affects each family's consumption expectations.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the conflicts in Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as the escalation of the competitive confrontation with the United States, will mark the 21st century just as the Cold War between the US and the USSR signalled the 20th century.
Xi Jinping's third term (beginning in March 2023) will be characterised by the challenge of how to address the problems discussed here.
The 20th CCP Congress represents an acceleration of the programme of the 19th Congress, which defined an inward-looking task as a priority, and the preparation of the conditions for the major competition with the United States as of 2050. The same is true of the expansion of the Chinese political model as an alternative to the West.
Herein lies the big mistake China is making. Its success has been based on a baroque dialogue with the West, shared technology and peace as a common heritage.
The great dilemma of the 21st century seems to be between the self-destructive instinct of both superpowers - with the threat of a planetary Holocaust - and cooperation to preserve the environment, eradicate poverty and defeat fundamentalist terrorism – the latter present in all cultures.
It is the old struggle between good and evil in the Judeo-Christian West or between Yin and Yang as of the 3rd century AD in Chinese philosophy.
We have never been so close to the abyss and to the Olympus of humanity. Our destiny lies in the emergence of a leadership capable of transcending its worst instincts to replace them with the values that the human condition has been able to nurture over the centuries.
Diego Guelar, he is a lawyer and a diplomatic. Former Argentine ambassador to the United States, the European Union, Brazil and China