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Xi Jinping Is Using Party Outreach to Build an Anti-U.S. Bloc

An overlooked summit shows the scale of the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions.

By , the China policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, and , the China policy program coordinator at the Center for American Progress.
The CCP’s 100th anniversary is celebrated.
A large screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping during an art performance celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing on June 28. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

On July 6, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a keynote speech at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and World Political Parties Summit, proclaiming the CCP “is willing to continue to work with parties and political organizations of all countries.” As with other Beijing-led forums, the CCP is using this summit as an opportunity to promote its own foreign-policy objectives, including creating a less liberal democratic world order. But Xi’s messaging at the summit, now held for the fourth time, has evolved; whereas before it focused on cooperation and development, today China is looking to build a political bloc directed against the United States and other liberal democracies.

The CCP and World Political Parties Summit targets foreign political parties, whether in power or not. Attendees included former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Argentine President Alberto Fernández. This effort to engage at the national and subnational political level is a potentially potent tool for the CCP. The annual summit—with representatives from more than 600 political parties and organizations around the world—provides the CCP a venue where it can control the agenda, discourage foreign criticism of the party, and establish and deepen connections on its own terms with international political parties. Xi’s personal participation and the summit’s institutionalization demonstrate the importance the CCP places on the meeting.

Xi has become more assertive in his keynote speeches at the CCP and World Political Parties Summits since the first convening summit in 2017. Unlike his most recent speech, Xi’s first address focused on the CCP’s planned contributions to global politics while emphasizing that the CCP was not attempting to export a Chinese political model. In his speech this year, the emphasis shifted to a more anxious tone. Rather than focusing on what the CCP would do as a political party globally, Xi called on foreign political parties to take up specific actions, such as pushing countries to strengthen cooperation, unify their own interests with the interests of all countries in the world, and build a community with a shared future for humankind—a phrase used to embody the CCP’s vision for a Beijing-led world order.

On July 6, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a keynote speech at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and World Political Parties Summit, proclaiming the CCP “is willing to continue to work with parties and political organizations of all countries.” As with other Beijing-led forums, the CCP is using this summit as an opportunity to promote its own foreign-policy objectives, including creating a less liberal democratic world order. But Xi’s messaging at the summit, now held for the fourth time, has evolved; whereas before it focused on cooperation and development, today China is looking to build a political bloc directed against the United States and other liberal democracies.

The CCP and World Political Parties Summit targets foreign political parties, whether in power or not. Attendees included former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Argentine President Alberto Fernández. This effort to engage at the national and subnational political level is a potentially potent tool for the CCP. The annual summit—with representatives from more than 600 political parties and organizations around the world—provides the CCP a venue where it can control the agenda, discourage foreign criticism of the party, and establish and deepen connections on its own terms with international political parties. Xi’s personal participation and the summit’s institutionalization demonstrate the importance the CCP places on the meeting.

Xi has become more assertive in his keynote speeches at the CCP and World Political Parties Summits since the first convening summit in 2017. Unlike his most recent speech, Xi’s first address focused on the CCP’s planned contributions to global politics while emphasizing that the CCP was not attempting to export a Chinese political model. In his speech this year, the emphasis shifted to a more anxious tone. Rather than focusing on what the CCP would do as a political party globally, Xi called on foreign political parties to take up specific actions, such as pushing countries to strengthen cooperation, unify their own interests with the interests of all countries in the world, and build a community with a shared future for humankind—a phrase used to embody the CCP’s vision for a Beijing-led world order.

The speech also contained numerous tropes commonly used by Chinese officials to criticize the United States and its allies. For instance, Xi referenced U.S. actions against Chinese technology companies, insisting countries must jointly oppose anyone engaging in technological blockades, technological divides, and development decoupling.

Xi has persistently called for other nations to avoid forming political blocs—but as often with the CCP, that really means “nobody should do it except us.” During his keynote speech, Xi called for jointly opposing “hegemonism and power politics” and not seeking world hegemony through small-group politics. Yet it is clear Xi and the CCP are capitalizing on this summit to bring other countries into alignment with CCP views on governance and calling for countries to reject governance ideals promoted by the United States and other democracies. The joint initiative produced at the summit calls for promoting multilateralism, which the CCP views as a key mechanism to reduce U.S. influence. It names the United Nations and World Trade Organization as key entities countries should commit themselves to—bodies China has made a concerted effort to influence in recent years and which the United States pulled away from under the Trump administration.

The summit meeting was also an opportunity to discourage foreign criticism of Chinese domestic affairs. For instance, Xi stated, “Every country’s efforts to independently explore a path to modernization that suits its own national conditions should be respected.” In Xi’s view, respect for “national conditions” includes avoiding public comments on sensitive topics, such as its human rights abuses. The CCP not only pressures other countries to remain silent on its tactics, but it also encourages explicit endorsements of its actions. In some cases, Beijing has been successful. For instance, a group of 37 countries signed a letter supporting China’s “contribution to the international human rights cause” while Beijing was under fire for the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang.

In many cases, the CCP’s goals and messaging resonate with foreign political leaders. Several high-profile leaders at the summit endorsed the CCP’s global outreach. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and former Bolivian President Evo Morales each praised China’s governance model and applauded the CCP’s policies. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte—often criticized at home for his pro-China stance—said, “We count on China as a friend and partner for peace and development. We trust in the collective wisdom of the great Chinese nation, that China will use its newfound strength in defense of what is good and just for humanity.”

The summit included a group of political parties and government leaders from hybrid democratic countries that are highly dependent on China for investment, trade, and economic development, such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Thailand. Many of the political parties in attendance were the ruling parties of authoritarian countries that are strategic partners of the Chinese government, such as Russia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Angola, and Cambodia. A few other attendees were ideologically aligned with socialism or communism, such as Morales and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Although the second and third groups are already committed to the degradation of the liberal international order, the U.S. government can benefit from focusing attention, development aid, trade prioritization, and largesse on the group of hybrid democratic regimes that are economically dependent on China—and can try to determine what, other than money, is drawing them into Beijing’s orbit.

Xi believes the current political order has an expiration date. The CCP will therefore seek greater levels of engagement with foreign political parties. Beijing clearly sees its best path forward as building a new political consensus that is not centered around a U.S. or liberal democratically led order. Liberal democracies need to be aware of where this message strikes home.

Patrick Yu, a research intern at the Center for American Progress, also contributed to this piece.

Jordan Link is the China policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.

Laura Edwards is the China policy program coordinator at the Center for American Progress.

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