Economic thought of China’s Xi Jinping to be immortalised in newly established research centre

·4-min read

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision for a new branch of economics is fast becoming a reality, with his party announcing the establishment of an economics research centre in his name.

The decision follows discussions over such a centre that began a year ago, and analysts say the move is part of Xi’s strategy to further strengthen his rule.

The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party – the party’s most authoritative body – on Monday gave the green light for a new “Xi Jinping Economic Thought Research Centre” in Beijing. This took place at a high-level government meeting during the plenary sessions of China’s economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission.

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The government said the centre would become a think tank for the production of economic policies based on Xi’s economic ideas, which were core to his 30-year political blueprint known as the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

That doctrine is now enshrined in both state and party constitutions.

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“The research centre must facilitate in-depth study and act as an important think tank for systematic research; [as a] platform for the publicity and implementation of the research; and would interpret and disseminate economic policies. It aims to be an open and influential centre in its field,” said the Economic Daily, reporting on the meeting.

The committee also reviewed and approved the centre’s construction plans at the meeting, though no further details on its construction or opening were released.

The announcement follows last month’s establishment of the Xi Jinping Research Centre for the Rule of Law, and the Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy Research Centre last year.

The China Law Society runs the former, which produces in-depth research and interpretations of Xi’s ideas on the rule of law. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs administers the latter, which studies Xi’s thoughts on diplomacy.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said the move to build another think tank to develop Xi’s ideas, especially one approved by the highest level of government, was a further sign of Xi’s consolidation of power.

Given that economic policies are usually in the realm of the Chinese premier, by establishing an economic centre in his name, Xi was claiming more areas of the government as his “territory”, Wu said, adding that it also entrenches Xi’s role in China’s economic affairs.

“He is claiming his position for the next decade,” Wu said. He expected more details regarding the centre to be revealed by year’s end.

It is uncertain what kind of new economic models or theories Xi might generate though the centre, but his so-called dual-circulation strategy could take centre stage, Wu added.

The strategy, which revolves around economic self-reliance, was first mentioned at a May 2020 meeting of the Politburo, China’s 25-member policymaking committee, largely as an answer to the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan places a greater focus on the domestic market, or internal circulation, and is China’s strategic approach to adapting to an increasingly unstable and hostile outside world.

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Xi’s overall economic theory – dubbed Xiconomics – has been around for more than five years. It became a catchphrase after People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece, launched a series of articles in early 2016 to propagate “Xi Jinping’s economic thought”.

The Chinese government first broached the idea of a new economics research centre a year ago.

Xia Ming, a professor of political science at the City University of New York, told local media that an economics centre could also produce policies to build better relationships with the outside world, as the diplomacy think tank set up last year has done for international relations. These ideas arose amid geopolitical tensions with the US.

“Xi’s supporters want to tell the Chinese that Xi is a genius,” Xia said. “He not only has diplomatic thinking, he also has economic thinking, and he also has the rule of law. He governs the country and governs politics.”

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