The 1st National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in Shanghai and Jiaxing between July 23 and Aug 2, 1921. It was attended by 13 delegates, including Mao Zedong, and it formally established the CPC, with Chen Duxiu becoming the first general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.
The 20th CPC National Congress is being held in Beijing between Oct 16 to 22, 2022, and 2,296 delegates are attending. Since the first party congress 101 years ago, the role of the CPC has developed exponentially, and it has guided national fortunes for 73 years. As the next party congress will not be held until 2027, seminal decisions are required over the country’s direction of travel and leadership, with the current general secretary, Xi Jinping, expected to secure a third term of office.
Xi’s work report, delivered on October 16, is, as always, an authoritative statement of the party’s plans, and will be closely analyzed. It reviews the past five years, outlines future objectives, and highlights such things as improved living standards, achievements “in both epidemic response and economic and social development”, and the “victory” over corruption. Having emphasized that the “one country, two systems” policy is “a great innovation of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, Xi made clear that it “must be adhered to over the long term”. He also explained how, through the central government’s resolute action in combating “turbulent developments” and its policy of patriots governing the city, order has been restored in Hong Kong, “marking a major turn for the better in the region”. However, despite the progress, global economic problems remain, as also does the threat of foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs.
The price of progress is constant vigilance, and the unexpected should be anticipated. Although, for example, the 19th National Congress in 2017 flagged up the importance of upholding the “one country, two systems” policy for Hong Kong and Macao, few imagined hostile forces were at the time plotting to sabotage it by violent means. Once, however, they launched their insurrection in 2019, it became clear their foreign backers wanted them to wreck Hong Kong, thereby undermining China.
Although this could have marked the end of the “one country, two systems” policy, it has survived. This was because of determined measures in 2020-21, when the National Security Law for Hong Kong was enacted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and the city’s electoral system was reformed to exclude political saboteurs and foreign agents from the body politic. While peace and stability have returned, and Xi has emphasized his aspiration for Hong Kong residents to lead a better life, this incident shows just how important it is for the party never to let its guard down.
Undoubtedly lessons have been learned, and the party congress will be aware of the continuing threats to national sovereignty. In particular, the Taiwan question is being relentlessly exploited by outsiders to stoke tensions, and it must be made clear that the one-China principle is sacrosanct. National dignity can never be compromised, and the secessionists must be faced down, by whatever means.
If, moreover, national resurgence is to be achieved, economic progress must remain on track. Better lifestyles, national projects, and improved infrastructure all have to be funded, and growth is the key. As China’s geopolitical rivals try to obstruct its progress through sanctions and hostile trade practices, it must, as Xi acknowledged, become more self-sufficient, and this involves maximizing its technological resources. Thus, for example, given that they are the strategic building blocks that underpin the modern world, a greater focus on the development of advanced semiconductors and related technology is essential, and Hong Kong, like Macao, can assist.
Indeed, on July 29, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council revealed that the city’s electronics industry is now its largest merchandise earner, accounting for 72.6 percent of total exports in 2021. Much of this business involves high-tech products, especially those related to telecommunications equipment, semiconductors and computer items. In the 14th Five-Year Plan, the central government gave its support for Hong Kong’s development as an international innovation and technology hub, and the development of new generation microelectronics products is proceeding apace.
When, therefore, Xi was in Hong Kong on July 1, he spoke of how Hong Kong would have “an even greater contribution to make” in achieving “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”, and the party congress will need to give this full weight as it decides the economy’s trajectory over the next five years.
It will also need to factor in the Guangdong-Macao In-Depth Cooperation Zone in Hengqin, as this is providing an opportunity for Macao’s technology innovation and industry transformation. It will develop as a center of international technology that can connect the Asia-Pacific tech ecosystem to the wider world, and this will benefit Chinese companies. Macao will be developing integrated circuits, new energy products, and artificial intelligence, and it is establishing a supply chain for chips, from design to testing, and this must also be fully harnessed for the national good.
Quite apart, therefore, from leveraging upon its role as an international financial, shipping and trading center, Hong Kong, like Macao, can also draw on its technological prowess to help the country, and the party congress will hopefully take this fully on board as it determines the shape of things to come.
The author is a senior counsel and law professor, and was previously the director of public prosecutions of the Hong Kong SAR.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.