Where does Xi Jinping live

Unfortunately, Xi Jinping is not a Deng Xiaoping

China's head of state and party promises the country a new reform push. But there will hardly be a real departure like the one that Deng Xiaoping, the initiator of the country's opening, triggered. Xi simply lacks the courage to do so.

Next Monday, China's statisticians want to present the economic data for the third quarter, and the numbers should be good. In the meantime, China has practically no more infections with the novel corona virus. The result: after industrial production, private consumption is gradually picking up again.

Exactly two weeks later to the day, the approximately 200 delegates of the Central Committee of the CP then come together for their fifth plenary. One of the most important items on the agenda will be the discussion of the 14th five-year plan. The work will provide information about the direction in which state and party leader Xi Jinping wants to steer the Chinese economy in the coming years.

Xi and his spin doctors set the stage

Xi and his spin doctors have been preparing the stage for the autumn staging for weeks. The highlight for the time being was Xi's trip to the southern province of Guangdong this week. First he visited a technology company in the city of Chaozhou and emphasized the importance of own innovations for China's development. He then gave a lecture on China's future economic policy in Shenzhen, the special economic zone founded forty years ago by the reform patriarch Deng Xiaoping. The country must become more independent of Western technology, strengthen private consumption as a growth driver and make itself more independent of the export economy, demanded Xi and promised further reforms. At the same time, he was again an advocate of multilateralism and promised to open up the economy further.

However, Xi didn't have much to offer in concrete terms. Most of all, his trip south was a pretty good PR coup. With his appearance in Shenzhen - which was once a fishing village and is now a booming metropolis - Xi placed himself in line with Deng Xiaoping. In 1992, three years after the suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests, he traveled south to assure the world that China will not reverse its economic reforms, but will accelerate the restructuring of the country.

Unfortunately, this has little to do with Xi's current economic policy. Deng, a pragmatist through and through, initiated radical reforms with the then party leader Jiang Zemin and the charismatic Prime Minister Zhu Rongji: apartments were privatized, private entrepreneurs were allowed to become party members at once, and numerous state-owned companies were either closed or privatized. It was painful structural reforms that sparked a new boom, but also led to a growing social divide.

The party increases control in private companies

Xi, on the other hand, clearly lacks the will, and presumably also the courage to implement real reforms. In public appearances, he always emphasizes restructuring, opening up, reform and multilateralism and at the same time ensures that the party can control private companies more closely, that state-owned companies retain their prominent position and that students receive even more instruction in communist ideology. It seems that Xi wants to square the circle.

Real reforms have included land reform, a relaxation of the interest rate regime and a change in the household registration system, which in its current form puts migrant workers at a disadvantage. It would be reforms that would ensure that the unequal distribution of wealth between public and private hands was reduced, and that ultimately boosted private consumption. More autonomy for the universities instead of just more money could also unleash the innovative forces in the country. Otherwise China will face difficult times in the medium term - despite good economic data.