As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) approaches its 100th anniversary in July, it appears stronger and more confident than ever. Even though Xi Jinping recently stressed the necessity to soften the tone and “strive to create a credible, lovable and respectable image of China,” the leadership in Beijing is still convinced that its own governance model is superior to Western democratic models.
How does the CCP position itself – and China as a whole – in a challenging political environment at home and abroad? This question is crucial both for China and for European actors, who need to find ways to deal with an increasingly assertive China under CCP-rule. For insight into the CCP’s standing MERICS experts Katja Drinhausen, Nis Grünberg, Mikko Huotari, John Lee and Helena Legarda analyzed three key objectives of CCP governance in the latest MERICS Paper on China “The CCP's next century: expanding economic control, digital governance and national security”.
Objective no. 1: aligning the economy with political objectives
China’s ruling party wants to align the economy with political objectives. To steer the forces of economic liberalization, globalization and marketization, the CCP strives to implement a “party-state capitalist” model. The model is characterized by centralized leadership and a hybrid economy that blends market capitalism with top-down, macro-economic development plans, and private and public economic actors. All of which are core elements of a system the CCP wants to establish to stabilize its rule. ”China’s current direction of travel is clearly towards a business environment in which CCP leadership and norms point the way,” says MERICS Senior Analyst Nis Grünberg.
Objective no. 2: achieving smart governance, cyber sovereignty and tech supremacy by swift digitalization
Digitalization has become a crucial element in the CCP’s governance approach, the party strives to implement smart governance, achieve cyber sovereignty and tech supremacy. To remain at the vanguard of (and not just respond to) social and political developments, CCP leaders are advancing digitalization forcefully throughout the system. MERICS Senior Analysts John Lee and Katja Drinhausen conclude: “A key characteristic of China’s growing surveillance state is how it connects online and long-established offline capacities in monitoring and policy enforcement.”
Objective no. 3: setting ‘Security First’ as a new paradigm in geopolitics
As it approaches its 100th year, the party takes forceful preemptive action against perceived threats to its rule, pursuing the extraterritorial application of Chinese laws and trying to enforce formerly domestic red lines overseas. Since Xi Jinping came to power, China has adopted a multi-faceted and all-encompassing approach to national security. This approach is intimately linked to the party’s stability and survival. “Other countries must be prepared to deal with a Chinese leadership that will respond forcefully to any perceived criticism or attack against its interests,” says MERICS Senior Analyst Helena Legarda.
Outlook: the world needs to be prepared for a China engaged in systemic competition
The CCP’s assertiveness has profound implications for European actors, as is reflected in recent conflicts over human rights and trade issues and mutual announcements of reciprocal punishments and sanctions. "The world needs to be prepared for an ever more assertive CCP – and a China that does not shy away from engaging in systemic competition," says Mikko Huotari, MERICS Executive Director.