CACR Report: China's Uncertain Times and Fading Opportunities
On 16 October, the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) kicked off in Beijing with CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s (习近平) televised delivery of a political report titled “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive in Unity to Build a Modern Socialist Country in All Respects” (hereinafter the 20th Party Congress Report). Party Congress reports, as the most authoritative form of the CCP’s public messaging, provide invaluable insights into the principles, priorities, and perspectives that will guide the Party’s approach to domestic and foreign affairs for at least the next five years before the subsequent Party Congress. Careful attention should especially be paid to the presence or absence of particular tifa (提法), political watchwords that signal the CCP leadership’s consensus position on major issues. Given these features, analysts and policymakers in the United States and beyond should take changes in tifa—which are always deliberate—seriously. The changes evident in the 20th Party Congress Report in particular offer an unparalleled glimpse into not only the ideas that will underpin Chinese policymaking until at least the latter half of 2027 but also the broad trajectory of likely Chinese actions over the same period.
In the 20th Party Congress Report, the most significant change in tifa for foreign affairs was the omission of two key phrases that had appeared in several of the Party’s past political reports and consequently guided China’s foreign policy for decades: 1. “Peace and development” (和平与发展) are the “theme of the times” (时代主题) and 2. China’s development is in an “important period of strategic opportunity” (重要战略机遇期).
In a special report, CACR’s President and CEO David Gitter and Director of Analysis Brock Erdahl discuss the significance of these changes. Download the report here: