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China economy

‘Xiconomics’: the one word set to define China’s long-term agenda

China wrapped up its most important economic meeting of the year with a blueprint that put Xi Jinping firmly at the centre of national development for years to come

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 7:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2017, 7:19am

“Xiconomics” is set to become the long-term guiding principles of the world’s second-biggest economy, with Beijing branding a national blueprint with the Chinese president’s name.

The Communist Party and the State Council wrapped up their most important economic meeting of the year – the central economic work conference – on Wednesday, defining a set of economic and social policies as “Xi Jinping Economic Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

The branding of the policies institutionalises so-called Xiconomics, formally recognising the president’s leading role in setting the country’s economic agenda, a responsibility he took over from Premier Li Keqiang.

Christopher Balding, an associate professor at the HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, said the inclusion of the president’s name in the document could be seen as a step to entrench Xi’s decision-making role in China’s economic affairs.

“It’s quite clear for a while that Xi has been the driving force of economic policies, a role typically reserved for the premier,” Balding said. “This is formalising what’s been apparent for quite some time.”

Xi Jinping uses new Mao-like status to outline longer-term economic blueprint for China

The move comes just two months after Xi’s political philosophy was enshrined with his name in the party’s constitution, making him the most powerful Chinese leader since late chairman Mao Zedong.

Industrial Bank chief economist Lu Zhengwei said the work conference’s backing for Xiconomics meant the president’s governing principles would remain in place until China made a major shift in development focus – something that was unlikely to happen in the next five to 10 years.

“Xiconomics is the economic branch of ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’,” Lu said, referring to the formal name for the president’s political theory.

“Following it in the long term does not mean pursuing actual growth targets, but to follow its principles and governing ideals. I believe these ideals and principles will be followed until we change the main ‘social contradiction’ in our country.”

In party dogma, the “social contradiction” is the main barrier to development for Chinese society. For more than three decades, it had been the tension between the ever-growing material and cultural needs of the people and backward social productivity.

The big picture from China’s most important economic meeting of the year

But in October at the party’s five-yearly national congress, it was redefined as the “unbalanced and inadequate development” preventing people from building better lives for themselves.

In another major shift on Wednesday, officials touched on a range of specific, everyday issues that do not usually rate a mention at central economic work conferences. These included too much homework for children, the struggle to get a doctor’s appointment, nursing shortages and online scams.

Balding said that by including such details, Beijing was trying to ensure that local officials executed central government orders.

The work conference was attended by hundreds of senior party cadres as well as the heads of the country’s most important ministries, financial regulators, provinces and even military units.