The much-awaited and anticipated 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commenced on 16 October 2022 and concluded on 22 October 2022. As expected, from the appointments of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) to redefining and reassuring the domestic and foreign policy objectives, Xi Jinping has solidified his position in the Chinese Communist Party beyond question. This article mainly focuses on two elements from the CCP National Congress meeting. The first is redefining priorities towards Taiwan, and the second is the emphasis on technological self-reliance that signals the decoupling from the United States and Europe. Xi’s solidification of power has risen from two primary elements of his leadership, i.e., ambition and insecurity. His emphasis on security is evident from the fact that Xi mentioned the term “security” 91 times in his speech during the CCP National Congress. The party’s firmly organised National Congress presents evidence of a tight centralisation of the party that resulted from the interplay of these two factors.
After the conclusion of the CCP’s 20th National Congress, it has been observed that the meeting signals a higher risk for Taiwan. Although Xi Jinping clarified that he does not intend to use force for Taiwan’s reunification case, he has firmly emphasised the “complete reunification of the nation”. The recent Nancy Pelosi visit to Taiwan indicated that perhaps she was trying to make a statement. Hence, Xi’s emphasis on reunification has to do with making a counterstatement of his own, pointing to the resolute resistance to interference from external actors, specifically the United States. Xi Jinping indeed had insecurities vis-a-vis Taiwan when he re-emphasised in CCP National Congress that the Taiwan issue is “Chinese” and will be resolved by the “Chinese”. This statement in the opening session of the National Congress meeting was a clear warning to the United States and its allies not to intervene in Taiwan.
Despite having complete control over the Taiwan situation and having achieved cutting-edge innovative technology in various sectors, the reprioritising of these two elements in Xi’s speech at the 20th National Congress of the CCP is a declaration of China’s plan to deter foreign interference in Taiwan and initiating technological decoupling from the West.
In the current international order, China has been successfully integrating its socialist economic outlook into the liberal economic framework. But it is also in China’s best interest to integrate communist and liberal norms if it intends to lead the same international order one day. Hence, China will never formally announce its intention of “using force”, which is why Xi’s statements and associated discourse are supposed to be a subject of clear interpretation by western observers. Moreover, the CCP congress has indicated that it will resolutely oppose the Taiwanese separatists from seeking Taiwan’s independence.
On one side, CCP reaffirms the adherence to the 1992 consensus, but at the same time, it refers to “advancing the cause of reunification”. This bewilderment is somewhat intentional in order to convey the staunch statement and simultaneously avoid the possibility of a retaliatory response from the Taiwanese national government and the United States. The insecurity that rose on the part of China is the result of increasing collusion between the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan and the United States. Moreover, it is for the first time that the CCP has proposed a constitutional amendment for the Taiwan independence issue. The constitutional framework strengthens the previous normative and political stance of “unity of all the Chinese people” to ensure resolute opposition to the cause. However, it is yet to unfold whether this signalling of legalising the basis of Chinese relatively harsher policy towards Taiwan will cause more cross-strait tensions or not.
Xi’s reiteration of Chinese technological self-reliance was the second noteworthy policy emphasis during the 20th National Congress of CCP. According to the 20th CCP National Congress report, China aims to reach maximum scientific and technological self-reliance by 2035 through talent, education and innovation. Despite extraordinary economic growth, China is still dependent on the United States for technology, i.e., semiconductor chips. This is one area that prevented a trade war between both countries from turning out to be more malicious than it already was. Nevertheless, along with redefining the policy towards Taiwan, Xi’s commitment towards technological self-reliance is the second biggest concern for the West. It has been long argued that the US and China will increase decoupling in the technological sector for security reasons. But China has to opt for smart competition with neither fear nor bold decoupling to manage a careful balance between cooperation and rivalry. Xi regarded technological self-reliance as the “primary productive force” of Chinese growth and development. Having achieved technological self-reliance, China could enhance its talent for an innovation-driven strategy that will contribute to the Chinese goal of becoming a higher-income country. The export cuts from the United States in the technology sphere, including semiconductors and Artificial Intelligence technology, can prove to be an impediment to the way of the Chinese dream of becoming a global power – a factor realised and addressed by Xi Jinping in the 20th National Congress of the CCP.
Despite having complete control over the Taiwan situation and having achieved cutting-edge innovative technology in various sectors, the reprioritising of these two elements in Xi’s speech at the 20th National Congress of the CCP is a declaration of China’s plan to deter foreign interference in Taiwan and initiating technological decoupling from the West. This will take away the advantage from the United States of depriving China of its cutting-edge tech capabilities. Xi’s mention of the “technological battle” while talking about China’s strive to develop strategically significant technology is also an indication of what we may see in the form of not only technological independence but also Chinese technological dominance in the near future.