Trump’s Visit to China on the Heels of the 19th Party Congress

Delegates attend the fourth plenary meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 14, 2013. China's parliament formally elected heir-in-waiting Xi Jinping as the country's new president on Thursday, succeeding Hu Jintao, putting the final seal of approval on a generational transition of power. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - GM1E93E13AD01

A few short months ago, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finished up the 19th Party Congress on October 24th in Beijing. Party congresses are held every five years where the Secretary General (Xi Jinping) of the CCP gives a broad outline of policy for the country. The 19th Party Congress comes this year at an unusual time; right before U.S. President Trump’s Asia tour and Beijing visit in early November.

At the Party Congress, Xi gave a marathon speech for three-and-a-half hours, striking a powerful tone in what he wants China to accomplish domestically and internationally. Below are a few key highlights from his speech:

Consolidation of power: Xi announced China is entering a “new era” and taking the “center stage in the world,” articulating China’s position domestically and internationally. Generally, the future Secretary General is selected during the Congress, however, Xi chose no heir apparent, making it very unclear what will happen come 2022. Xi emphasized the Party will seek to more or less control all of Chinese society in the future, coining it “Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”

Economy: China wants to be at the center of global initiatives, and at its center is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Abroad, China will be looking to invest in building roads, railways, and other infrastructure projects. Domestically, China is looking into making state-owned enterprises stronger and bigger and regulating banks and the financial system closely.

Military: As China continues to grow as a global power, so does its military. Xi wants a modernized military, with professional officers and innovation in weaponry. Moreover, Xi is looking to take hard stances on Taiwan and Hong Kong, stating that “We will never allow anyone, any organization, or political party, at any time or in any form, to separate any part of Chinese territory from China.”  Xi is also looking at taking a hard stance on the South China Sea maritime disputes, despite growing tensions in the region with Southeast Asian countries and the United States.

Domestic Security: China aims to reduce pollution, improve schools and healthcare, increase regulations on the Internet, and promote fair access within its borders. Furthermore, Xi established the “National Security Commission,” a secretive body that helps steer domestic security, emphasizing Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.

Trump on the Heels of the 19th Party Congress

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China's President Xi Jinping and China's First Lady Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC13C8D168D0
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania visit the Forbidden City with China’s President Xi Jinping and China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Shortly after the 19th Party Congress, U.S. President Donald Trump made his first visit to Asia, arriving in Beijing on November 8th for a couple days. Xi threw a lavish welcome for Trump, including an elaborate arrival ceremony at the airport, a personal tour to the Forbidden Palace, and Trump’s official ceremonial welcome at the Great Hall of the People being broadcasted on national television.

Trump’s speech focused on a few expected key topics, including the issues regarding North Korea and the mutual commitment of China and U.S. to reach a completely denuclearized North Korea. Trump also spoke at length about the economic relationship between the U.S. and China, praising the unique and vibrant trade relationship, but also pointing out the necessity for a fair and reciprocal one, criticizing the chronic imbalance in the trade relationship.

The Party Congress and Trump’s inaugural China visit come at an important time of the year, just as Trump is about to wrap up his first year as U.S. President. Though these events were big news at the time, the relationship between the U.S. and China is something all China watchers should continue to follow, as new developments on the economic, diplomatic, and military fronts hint at a shifting power dynamic in international relations. Trump and Xi’s meeting in Beijing was cordial, but future developments await, especially for those of us interested in studying or pursuing U.S.-China relations.

Stay in tune for our end of the year review on the U.S.-China relationship!

Want to know more? Check out these links below:

New York Times: Trump’s Visit to China Provides a Progaganda Bonzana

SupChina: What Happened at China’s 19th Party Congress

The Washington Post: How China Will Play Trump

New York Times: Xi Jinping’s Marathon Speech: Five Takeaways

Foreign Policy:  Trump’s Big Asian Adventure (podcast)