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Brief #137: 20th Central Committee Second Plenum

The Second Plenum of the Central Committee was held from February 26 to 28. The outcomes of the Plenum are as follows:

  1. The Central Committee fully affirmed the Politburo's work since the First Plenum was held on October 23, 2022.
  2. The Central Committee adopted a list of proposed candidates for leading positions in state institutions.
  3. The Central Committee adopted a list of proposed candidates for the leadership of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.
  4. The Central Committee decided to recommend the two lists to the respective relevant institutions, namely the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.
  5. The Central Committee adopted the Party and State Institutions Reform Plan and decided to submit part of the plan to the upcoming National People's Congress annual session for deliberation per legal procedures.

The plenum communiqué (Chinese-English side-by-side) follows the briefing.



There is new language in the plenum communiqué that deserves attention. Overall, this new language indicates adjustments in the Party leadership's evaluation of the challenges it confronts, rather than a significant departure from current positions.

The bold text in the quotations below highlights the language changes.

First, the Central Committee characterised China’s international environment throughout 2022 as “grave and intricate” (严峻复杂):

The plenary session fully affirmed the work of the Central Political Bureau since the first plenary session of the 20th Communist Party of China Central Committee. It unanimously believe that in the face of a grave and intricate international environment and the arduous task of domestic reform, development and stability, the Central Political Bureau...made new advances in all aspects of its work.


This characterisation is not out of line with other recent official pronouncements. The readout of the Central Economic Work Conference in December, for example, characterised the international environment as “tumultuous” (风高浪急).

However, there is arguably a change in emphasis compared to the 20th Party Congress Report, which used “grave and intricate” not to describe the “international environment” (国际环境) but rather recent “international trends” (国际形势).

Regardless of the nuance in this case, a broader point can be made: in recent years, the Communist Party leadership has become increasingly worried about China’s international environment:

Brief #126: 20th Party Congress Report: Keywords Analysis
Threat perception, technology, ideology

Second, the Central Committee added new language in assessing China’s development prospects:

[China] still face many deep-seated problems regarding reform, development and stability. The foundation of China's economic recovery is not yet solid, and the three-fold pressure of shrinking demand, supply shocks and weakening expectations remains substantial. Various unexpected factors could occur at any time.


This language was not present in the 20th Party Congress Report. It appeared in a truncated form in a different context in the readout of the Central Economic Work Conference, which stated that, in 2022, the Party Central Committee “responded to the impact of factors beyond expectations” (应对超预期因素冲击).

This language highlights the continued uncertainties surrounding China's economy and the Party leadership's vigilance towards unforeseen developments.

Third, the Central Committee called the entire Party to action to achieve the 2023 development objectives and tasks:

All comrades of the Party must stay confident, maintain strategic clarity, promote the spirit of struggle, achieve "better coordination in three areas", and work hard to achieve this year's various objectives and tasks. We should fully, accurately and comprehensively implement the new development concept, accelerate the construction of a new development pattern, and strive to promote high-quality development.

全党同志必须坚定信心,保持战略清醒,发扬斗争精神,做到 “三个更好统筹”,努力实现今年各项目标任务。要完整、准确、全面贯彻新发展理念,加快构建新发展格局,着力推动高质量发展。

While terms such as “strategic initiative” (战略主动) and “strategic resolve” (战略定力) have been used in recent high-level Party documents, the term “strategic clarity” (战略清醒) has not up to this point. A look at Party discourse suggests that "strategic clarity" probably refers to a clear-eyed view of the broader trends and goals of the Party.

Another new term is "better coordination in three areas" (三个更好统筹). The three pairs of policy areas that need better coordination are international and domestic policy, COVID-19 response and socio-economic development, and development and security.

The literal translation of the Chinese term "三个更好统筹" is "Three Better Coordinations". When an idea or formulation is given a "number," such as the "Two Upholds," the "Three Represents," or the "Four Consciousnesses," its significance is presumed to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Additionally, the term "统筹", roughly translated as "overall planning and coordination," has gained popularity in the Party-state lexicon. It underscores the interrelated nature of policymaking in different domains and the trade-offs from competing policy imperatives.

For more on the "Three Better Coordinations," please refer to the readout of the Politburo group study session on January 29, 2021, which focused on the new development philosophy and the 14th Five-Year Plan.

Leadership Positions

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