On October 16, more than 2,300 delegates gathered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to hold the 20th CPC National Congress, while President Xi Jinping presided over the meeting, with a very influential speech in front of the outstanding representatives of CPC members. Chen Xi, Guo Shengkun, and Huang Kunming were approved as deputy secretaries-general of the Congress. The CPC National Congress will be a week-long mega gathering of the party to appoint the CCP’s top leadership, amend its constitution and approve the country’s policy directions for the next five years.
The People’s National Congress held five years ago has been inflexibly following the guidance of ‘Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. Since then, so charmingly, the whole of their national efforts have been grounded on reinforcing the party’s political foundations and upholding the authority of the central committee and its centralized, unified leadership. In this new 20th Congress, we can hope that they will add more strength in cultivating and observing core social values domestically and envision a prosperous China on the global stage. There is an expectation that the comrades will rejuvenate China’s dream into another reality.
Implications for Nepal
Ever since the abolition of monarchy in 2008, Nepal has been on the elusive journey of economic transformation but very little has come out of it so far. Nepal envisioned socio-economic development trajectory within the new ‘federal republican’ model but there has been no progress on delivery, for various reasons. Political parties in Nepal—particularly those who identify themselves as communist—advocated for a socialist model, scientific socialism, or many such vague terms but they have failed to actualize these promises. There is a clear mismatch between their party ideologies and behaviors. It wavers resulting in inconsistency in their camaraderie, and party unity, and even has proved their inability to transform the nation’s economy, thereof.
According to the World Bank, China is central to many regional and global development issues. Nepal borders more than 1400 kilometers with this economic giant. China’s increased positive and constructive economic engagements in the near future with its neighbors in general and Nepal, in particular, cannot be overstated. The confidence building between these two countries for garnering extensive economic cooperation in various sectors hence looms large with the emergence of China’s new leadership who in 2013 had presented his strategic Belt and Road Initiative, for inclusive shared prosperity.
South Asia and the US
China’s ambition to reach the Indian Ocean through Nepal and maximize economic benefits through SSR (Southern Silk Road) is existential. Despite a few controversial border issues between India and China, the relationship of China with entire South Asian nations is on a positive trajectory. India-China trade surged to over 31 billion $ in the first quarter of 2022. Last year, China’s exports to India went up by 46.2 percent to 97.52 billion $ while India’s export to China grew by 34.2 percent to 28.14 $ billion.
As a matter of fact, the volume of trade between China and South Asia is growing, making China a major trade partner for South Asian countries. As there exist no political issues between them, China’s equitable inclusive economic policy is going to benefit all South Asian nations.
Many countries in the region ardently hope Xi’s new tenure will more distinctly underscore China’s peaceful rise and prioritize vibrant economic cooperation. Nepal as the next-door neighbor has wishes for this probably more than other nations.
China is now moving towards the third phase of the BRI. Since BRI is an instrument of viable force for their economic expansion and modernization, South Asia should be able to take advantage of BRI in their favor.
Strategic competition is the frame through which the United States views its relationship with China. The US Department of State says on its website: “The US will address its relationship with the PRC from a position of strength in which we work closely with our allies and partners to defend our interests and values.” With this statement, we can interpret that the US is anxious about Chinese political and economic engagements surpassing theirs and would take measures to minimize China’s influence—thus maintaining their dominance in all of international affairs.
In recent times, Nepal appears to have fallen under the US radar. No wonder, the frequency of US officials’ visits to Nepal over the years has witnessed an increase.
On the other hand, from 1949 to today, China’s policy towards Nepal is influenced by the Tibetan issue. But again, this is the issue which has been so well cached by the Western countries, more rigorously through funds and even settling up parliaments in exile and conducting related political activities. China’s relationship with Nepal has always been motivated by geography, rather than political ideology and hence Nepal has been assuring China’s security concerns.
Both our neighbors have begun to transform their economies from labor-intensive industries to capital-intensive ones. Undoubtedly, China and India have many advantages that Nepal does not have. How Nepal can enter this loop is a great question currently but it is not far from reality that our potential resources meet their crucial industrial needs.
Nepal’s poverty reduction strategy should be compatible with the policy objective to optimize its resources and reap the benefits of being a close neighbor of prosperous and stable China. Yet, it is quite a challenge for us to incorporate innovative technology and pursue market strategy while our scientific research, development and manufacturing capacity are weak. As Nepal and China are strategic partners and friendly neighboring countries, we are quite attentive with great hopes after China’s CPC Congress that we find a good leader on top in China who takes care of his neighbors as well for sharing their prosperity.
World is watching
The world is expecting Xi’s third tenure after this CPC congress. Although some critics were loud about Xi’s zero-covid policy, it appears that in a post-Covid situation he will prioritize economic development over all other issues. Xi would rigidly stress the new development dynamic by realizing a high level of self-reliance and making China stronger, resolute, and vocal on the world stage. Analysts view PRC will demonstrate resoluteness on the Taiwan issue and degrade the trade friction with the US in a position of power. It is expected that the confrontational tendencies of the West will subside, and Xi’s engagements with Western powers would become remarkably constructive. At the regional level, Beijing does not pose an immediate security threat in territorial waters and landmass of ASEAN, South Asia, and even East Asia. But the disinformation campaign by the antagonists will continue to portray China as a threat in the region. It is hoped that the countries in the region will soon realize this and follow a constructive and meaningful political engagement with Beijing.
Many countries in the region ardently hope Xi’s new tenure will more distinctly underscore China’s peaceful rise, reduce security tension, and prioritize vibrant economic cooperation and shared mutual benefits as has been demonstrated previously in his two terms.
Nepal as the next-door neighbor has wishes for this probably more than others.
Suresh Sharma is a retired Brigadier General of Nepal Army. He writes on strategic affairs.