China’s 20th Party Congress: U-M experts can discuss

October 14, 2022
China's 19th Party Congress: U-M experts can discuss


ANN ARBOR—China’s 20th Communist Party Congress will begin on Sunday, with President Xi Jinping expected to stay on for a third term in power. University of Michigan experts are available to discuss issues related to China’s politics, the Party’s history and the future of U.S.-China relations.

Mary Gallagher is the Amy and Alan Lowenstein Professor of Democracy, Democratization, and Human Rights and director of the International Institute. She is an expert in Chinese politics, law and society, and labor politics.

“Internal challenges from within the party and bottom-up protests against Xi are unlikely to occur and are even more unlikely to be successful, despite widespread dissatisfaction with his economic policies and Zero COVID,” she said. “China’s Zero COVID policy is likely to be sustained indefinitely, as China lacks high-quality vaccines and has very little natural immunity to the virus.

“The party has taken on the responsibility of COVID prevention so that every new death will be blamed on it. With over 260 million people over 60 years old in China, they fear a surge in cases and a collapse of the health care system, especially in rural areas. However, Zero-COVID also allows the party to ramp up digital surveillance and social control that will long outlast the pandemic.

“The main challenge for Xi in the short term will be balancing Zero COVID against the critical need to revive the economy. Economic policies such as ‘Common Prosperity’ are likely to continue to exist as empty slogans for people to work hard, stop lying flat and be entrepreneurial. There is likely to be very little in terms of institutional reforms that redistribute more income to households and promote greater labor mobility, especially between provinces.

“U.S.-China relations will continue to deteriorate and steps to decouple will accelerate, especially in tech. Biden’s new policies signal that the U.S. government does not want to wait to allow Chinese firms to do more indigenous innovation using U.S. technology. Zero COVID will make it difficult for people-to-people exchange (such as education, tourism and cultural exchange) to revive, thus cutting off other channels to improve, or at least stabilize relations. I’m very pessimistic about the next few years under Xi, both for China’s society and economy and for U.S.-China Relations. “


Jundai Liu is a research fellow at the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies and the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies. She says leadership succession is a political problem intrinsic to one-party rule and personalistic politics.

​​”The 20th National Congress has ignited a multitude of speculations and discussions, Questions—whether Xi is a second coming of Mao, whether China is on the brink of a second Cultural Revolution, and the like—abound,” she said. “Before addressing these questions, it is prudent to take a step back and examine the most recent party history of the 1960s and the 1980s. ​​

“Political problems intrinsic to one-party rule and personalistic politics have undergirded the fiercest CCP crises in the 1960s, especially those regarding the highest leadership. The contentious party history of the 1980s is marked by a combination of full-speed economic reform, limited and controlled ideological opening, and inaction in political reform. As such, these age-old political problems were delayed and tempered by economic success and improvements in ordinary people’s lives.

“In the 2010s and more intensely in the 2020s, with China becoming a major power on the global stage and a central part of the global capitalist economy, these entrenched political problems have resurged, with an exponential volume and a new form in a new era.”


Xiaohong Xu is an assistant professor of sociology. His research lies in the intersection of comparative historical sociology, cultural sociology and political economy.

His perspective on the Party Congress as a historical sociologist of Chinese communism is on Twitter.