The anticipation surrounding the Central Committee’s plenum originating from the XVIII Congress of the PCC seems fitful; perhaps more pressing abroad than in China. Many factors contribute to the attention it draws: among these, three stand out. When Xi JinPing opened the discussions—which will last from November 9th to 12th—the eyes of the world were upon him, and journalists’ notebooks and tablets will record the passages of the account. Is appears the world—in particular Italy—is trying to recover a concentration until now feeble and especially centered on the false dilemma, “China: threat or opportunity?” Rear-view mirrors certify China’s ascent, a historical phenomenon at this point concluded. Now, the country has reached an average level of income, it has defeated underdevelopment, and its dimensions inspire fear and respect. The world watches China with attention for this reason. Furthermore, the congress is traditionally a forum for historical decisions. In 1978, the third plenum of the PCC gave life to Deng Xiao Ping’s politics of “reform and opening” which, in an acute 180-degree change of direction, defeated the Cultural Revolution’s Maoism and laid the tracks that directed the country to records observed today. All successive decisions were made in analogous plenums. In a country where politics still command, the policies deriving from the party shape successive decisions. In the end, it is these very resolutions that interest analysts on an international level. The image of China enclosed on itself has waned; today, its decisions will affect the rest of the world, especially industrialized nations in crisis. What will happen to the US and Europe if China stops buying their public debt? What scenarios will arise in the Pacific if China accelerates its national pride and vindicates with force the contested islands? What will the consequences be for companies—especially for Italian companies—if the country veers toward “domestic-led growth” which would attract foreign consumer goods? The list goes on, but it’s likely that Xi’s report will focus on internal themes. There is no shortage of problems to solve, and the domestic issues are more important than the global for the administration to solve: from agricultural property reform to urbanization, from wage demands to corruption, from income disparities to environmental issues.
In any case, it would be a mistake to lay all hopes on the plenum’s results. Those waiting for incisive, immediate or even western-style reforms nurture the illusion of a natural evolution of political policy. Instead, behind the apparent unity, China doesn’t demonstrate the unity necessary to launch such reforms. China needs not only courage, but also stable conditions to initiate changes. The new secretary, Xi—elected only a year ago—is a synthesis of the diverse interests of the party. He is the best candidate to manage a difficult transition, where many souls—and especially many interests—coexist and want to protect themselves. He does not yet have the control, let alone the authority, to impose historical changes. However, he could create a path and indicate a direction. Because of this, expecting a mixture of announcements and reforms, changes, preservations, propaganda and analysis is legitimate. The first conclusions will be possible at the end of the plenum, the more truthful conclusions after some months when media attention has allowed space for an analysis of how effectively changes were made.