GIGA Focus Global

Driving the Wheels of History: The World after China’s 20th Party Congress

Number 5 | 2022 | ISSN: 1862-3581

  • A guide talks to visitors in front of images of Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China October 13, 2022
    A guide talks to visitors in front of images of Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China October 13, 2022

    The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2022 not only cemented the domestic political control of party-state leader Xi Jinping at the beginning of his third term in power – potentially on his way to a lifelong position – but also sent a clear message that, under his leadership, the People’s Republic will play a considerably more active role in global affairs.

    • To understand the implications for China’s foreign and security policies, the ideological messages sent during the 20th Party Congress should not be regarded as empty rhetoric but be taken seriously for their practical relevance. The canon of “Xi Jinping Thought” has evolved into a comprehensive Weltanschauung with a global reach.

    • A subtle but far-reaching message can be found in Xi Jinping’s repeated calls to seize the “historical initiative.” This formula reveals a growing desire not to remain the passive object of Western containment strategies but to play a proactive role shaping power in global affairs.

    • The aspiration to seize the strategic initiative has been promoted specifically with regard to Taiwan. Perceptions of grave external threats suggest that China’s leadership is preparing itself for escalating military conflicts in the region – a scenario not necessarily implying that China itself is heading for a war.

    • At the same time, the Party Congress documents include multiple offers to collaborate in the field of global governance, including the Global Security Initiative launched in April 2022. As China finds itself excluded from a growing number of multilateral formats, however, these offers are made with increasing reservations.

    Policy Implications

    For European decision-makers, the ever more urgent question is whether China’s desire to have more say and influence in shaping global affairs is to be accommodated or not, given the country’s growing geopolitical weight and its unmistakable ambitions. The answer to this question will inform not only the future of multilateralism but also the escalatory dynamic of a looming military conflict in which China and the United States are heading towards each other, spellbound by mirror images of hostility.

    Continue reading in German



      The GIGA Focus is an Open Access publication and can be read on the Internet and downloaded free of charge at According to the conditions of the Creative-Commons license Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0, this publication may be freely duplicated, circulated, and made accessible to the public. The particular conditions include the correct indication of the initial publication as GIGA Focus and no changes in or abbreviation of texts.

      The German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles. GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any consequences arising from the use of the information provided.

      GIGA Focus

      In the various editions of the GIGA Focus, the GIGA publishes its research findings and concise analyses of current events. Four editions cover politics, economics, and society in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, respectively. A transregional edition examines global trends.

      GIGA Focus
      Open Access

      Open Access

      The concept of "open access" has empowered the GIGA to virtually eliminate the financial, technical, and legal barriers normally faced by many of those seeking to access the institute’s research findings. This publication strategy ensures that people all around the world have equal opportunities to keep up with scholarly advances.

      Open Access at the GIGA


      Sign up to receive email notifications about GIGA activities

      Social Media

      Follow us