Nearly two years after the historic, and still mysterious “Shanghai Accord” which in early 2016 halted what at the time appeared to a global collapse in capital markets courtesy of what appears to have been unprecedented political, fiscal and monetary coordination between the developed world and China, on October 18 the world turns its attention to what is arguably the most important political event of the year, and the logical conclusion to the stabilization process which started with the Accord, when the Chinese Communist Party kicks off its 19th Party Congress, the political event that will determine the country’s leadership lineup and policy priorities for the next five years.
Given the emphasis on maintaining stability in the run-up to this pivotal political transition, what the Congress will mean for China’s economy, its markets, and its place in the world is why Goldman has dedicated its latest “Top of Mind” periodical to the Congress, with editor Allison Nathan asking two experts on Chinese politics how Xi Jinping – who is already widely regarded as the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong – can use the reshuffle to further consolidate power. And, more importantly, what he intends to do with it: pursue economic reforms more aggressively or maintain the status quo.
Specifically, five of seven seats on the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) – the senior-most CCP leadership – are expected to turn over, as is about half of the Politburo, the 25-member decision-making body that sits just below the PSC.
To explore these issues, Goldman sat down with two Chinese political experts, David Shambaugh of the George Washington University and Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Both anticipate the Congress will cement Xi Jinping’s absolute authority over the CCP and the country. And both raise the possibility that Xi could be paving the way to stay in power beyond two terms, in a break with historical norms. However, Shambaugh and Lam view Xi as a visionary, not a reformist. They believe his overriding goal is to strengthen and perpetuate CCP rule, with no tolerance for policies that could destabilize the political order. (Lam argues, for example, that Xi is determined to avoid the political self-criticism that he believes brought down the USSR.) As such, both experts see only limited prospects for economic reform. But one possibility to watch: a potential reshuffling involving the role of premier that might signal a more aggressive reform stance.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 15, 2017.