At this year’s 20th Party Congress, observers are paying special attention to attendees from China’s beleaguered private sector.
In addition to officials and political leaders, the nearly 2,300 congress delegates also include professionals from different sectors.
But as the fallout from Xi Jinping’s unprecedented crackdown on private enterprise continues, there is speculation that the number of non-state employees attending the congress may be declining, especially given recent congresses.
Numbers that are reduced: At the 18th Party Congress in 2012, where Xi was appointed head of the Communist Party, replacing former leader Hu Jintao, there were 34 attendees from the private sector.
At the time, China’s economy was booming as it became more closely integrated with the rest of the world. Just four years earlier, China had stunned the world with the extravagant Beijing Summer Olympics.
But five years later, at the 19th Party Congress in 2017, when Xi further consolidated his power and eliminated his political enemies, that number dropped to 27.
Capital repression: Then, in 2020, Beijing launched a sweeping crackdown on some of the country’s largest private companies, moving to restrict what it saw as too powerful companies, especially in Big Tech.
But it has come at a high cost. More than $1 trillion has been wiped from the market value of Alibaba and Tencent, the crown jewels of China’s tech industry, in the past two years. Sales growth in the sector has slowed and tens of thousands of employees have been laid off, leading to record youth unemployment.
Shady numbers this year: So far there have been no state media reports or government statements on the number of non-state employee attendees, nor much coverage on the importance or contribution of the private sector to the economy, in contrast to previous congresses.
However, a look at the full list of delegates shows that several high-profile businessmen, who had attended previous congresses, are missing this year, such as the chairman of equipment manufacturer Sany Group, Liang Wengen.
And during Xi’s keynote address last Sunday, he stressed the need to continue the “antitrust” crackdown on the party and regulate “excess revenue,” a sign that he will continue to be tough on big business and wealthy individuals.