‘Walled-in’ China under Xi Jinping poses long-term global challenges

Steven Jiang, Beijing Bureau Chief   ‘Walled-in’ China under Xi Jinping poses long-term global challenges     ----------
Analysis by Steven Jiang, Beijing Bureau Chief, CNN
Updated 4:54 AM EDT, Mon October 17, 2022

Xi Jinping delivers a report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on behalf of the 19th CPC Central Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 16, 2022. The 20th CPC National Congress opened on Sunday.

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here.

BeijingCNN — 

During China’s National Day holiday in early October, several expatriate friends and I took our young children – who are of mixed races and tend to stand out in a Chinese crowd – to the Great Wall on the outskirts of Beijing.

As we climbed a restored but almost deserted section of the ancient landmark, a few local families on their way down walked past us. Noticing our kids, one of their children exclaimed: “Wow foreigners! With Covid? Let’s get away from them…” The adults remained quiet as the group quickened their paces.

That moment has lingered on my mind. It feels like a snapshot that illustrates how China has changed since its strongman leader Xi Jinping took power a decade ago – it’s become an increasingly walled-in nation physically and psychologically – and such transformation will have long-term global implications.

Understanding the big picture is timely as Xi is poised to break convention to assume a third term as the head of the Chinese Communist Party – the real source of his power instead of the ceremonial presidency – at the ruling party’s twice-a-decade national congress, which opened in Beijing on Sunday.


The view of the Great Wall of China on October 7, 2022.
The view of the Great Wall of China on October 7, 2022.
Steven Jiang/CNN

The Great Wall, a top tourist attraction that normally draws throngs of visitors during holidays, stood nearly empty when we went thanks to Xi’s insistence – three years into the global pandemic – on a policy of zero tolerance for Covid infections while the rest of the world has mostly moved on and reopened.

China’s borders have remained shut for most international travelers since March 2020, while many foreigners who once called the country home have chosen to leave.
With the highly contagious Omicron variant raging through parts of the country, authorities had discouraged domestic travel ahead of National Day holiday. They are also sticking to a playbook of strict quarantine, incessant mass testing and invasive contact tracing – often locking down entire cities of millions over a handful of cases.
Unsurprisingly, holiday travel plummeted during the so-called “Golden Week” along with tourism spending, which fell to less than half of that in 2019, the last “normal” year.

And it’s not just one industry: Pessimism blankets other sectors, from automobile to real estate, as the world’s second-largest economy falters.


Children visit the Great Wall of China on October 6, 2022.
Children visit the Great Wall of China on October 6, 2022.
Steven Jiang/CNN

Xi’s biggest challenge

The Chinese economic slowdown poses a massive political challenge for Xi, whose party’s legitimacy in the past few decades has relied on rapid growth and rising incomes for 1.4 billion people. It’s also a harsh reality check for the international community: the world’s longtime growth engine is sputtering, just as the prospect of a global recession emerges.

But Xi’s costly “zero-Covid” intransigence is a natural outcome of the unprecedented amount of power he has amassed. For many Chinese officials, this policy is less about science and more about political loyalty to the country’s most powerful leader in decades.

Online videos abound of local health workers swabbing fruits, animals and even shoes for Covid testing despite the absence of sound scientific basis. China’s only Covid-related deaths in September were 27 people who were killed when their bus crashed on its way to a quarantine facility. Still, officials nationwide have doubled down on enforcing draconian rules, especially ahead of the party congress, helped by the world’s most sophisticated surveillance technologies.

China had boasted more security cameras than any other country even before Covid. Now, in the age of smartphones, mandatory apps allow the government to check people’s Covid status and track their movement in real time. Authorities can easily confine someone to their home by remotely switching the health app to code red – and they did just that on several occasions to stop potential protesters from taking to the streets.

Whether physical lockdowns or digital manipulation, these measures born out of “zero-Covid” have proven such effective means of control in a system obsessed with social stability that many worry Xi and his underlings will never ditch the policy.
A series of recent articles published by the party’s mouthpieces had reinforced such concern by stressing the policy’s “correctness” and “sustainability,” even before Xi hailed “zero-Covid” as a resounding success story in his two-hour speech Sunday. And state media fills its coverage with depictions of the “grim reality” in foreign countries where leaders supposedly turn a blind eye to mass fatalities and suffering caused by Covid – in contrast to China’s apparent triumph in saving lives with “minimal overall cost.”

For years, Xi’s cyber police have been fortifying the country’s so-called “Great Firewall” – perhaps the world’s most extensive internet filtering and censorship system that blocks and deletes anything deemed “harmful” by the party. Now supported by artificial intelligence, censors quickly scrub clean any posts seen as contradicting the party line – including on Covid.

This potent mix of propaganda and control under Xi appears to have had its desired effect on a large segment of Chinese society, creating a buffer for the leadership by convincing enough people of the superiority of China’s system even as millions of their fellow countrymen grow resentful of “zero-Covid.” But this approach, combined with prolonged border closure and escalating geopolitical tensions, also provides fertile ground for xenophobia.

The local child’s remarks on the Great Wall reflected that. But the true danger of the “blame the foreigners” sentiment comes when adults in powerful positions take advantage of it in the face of mounting pressure on the domestic front.
screengrab xi speech 2021

Here’s Xi Jinping’s vision to make China great again
03:04 – Source: CNN

Make China great again?

Since his ascent to the top in 2012, Xi’s ruling philosophy has become increasingly clear: Only he can make China great again by restoring the party’s – thus his – omnipresence and dominance, as well as the country’s rightful place on the global stage.

With China’s increasing economic and military might, coexistence with the West has given way to confrontation with the United States and its allies. Gone are the days of “hiding your strength and biding your time” – Chinese diplomats under Xi are proud warriors training fire on anyone who dares to question their government.

Underpinned by rising nationalism, China has started flexing military muscle beyond its shores. Tensions over Taiwan poses a real threat of war in Asia, as few doubt that “reunification” with the self-governed democratic island – long claimed by the Communist leadership despite having never ruled it – would be seen as the crown jewel of Xi’s legacy.

That outward power projection goes hand in hand with China’s sense of besiegement in a US-led world order, which Xi has made no secret of trying to reshape along with other autocrats like Russian President Vladimir Putin. Until that happens, though, the Chinese strongman’s instinct and demand for total control at home seem to have meant the erection of ever-higher barriers – in the real world and cyberspace – to keep out pesky outsiders, the perceived source of dangerous viruses and ideas.

A history paper released recently by a government-run research institute has gone viral as it, like Xi, upended a long-held consensus. Instead of denouncing the isolationist policy adopted by China’s last two imperial dynasties as a cause of their backward turn and eventual collapse, the authors defended its necessity to protect national sovereignty and security when faced with Western invaders.

The emperors of those dynasties, who also rebuilt parts of the Great Wall, failed to reverse their country’s decline back then. But the tools at their disposal were no match to the high-tech ones in the hands of China’s current ruler. Xi seems confident that his “walls” – among other things – will help him realize his oft-cited ultimate goal: the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Whether or not he succeeds, the world will feel the impact for years to come.

This was supposed to be Xi Jinping’s big year. Instead, he’s dealing with Covid and war

Analysis by Simone McCarthy, CNN

Updated 1005 GMT (1805 HKT) March 16, 2022

Hong Kong (CNN)In a year when all Xi Jinping craved was for things to be stable, 2022 is shaping up to be anything but.

After years of careful preparation, the Chinese leader is expected to step into an almost unprecedented third term at the helm of the country and its Communist Party this fall.

But instead of a smooth ride, dual crises are threatening to upend the status-quo, with China’s largest outbreak of Covid-19 in two years emerging at home while overseas, Russia embarks on a brutal, widely denounced invasion of Ukraine.

Tiếp tục đọc “This was supposed to be Xi Jinping’s big year. Instead, he’s dealing with Covid and war”

Sai lầm chiến lược của Tập Cận Bình?

Tác giả: Nguyễn Quang Dy, Nghiên Cứu Quốc Tế

Tập Cận Bình (Xi Jinping) được nhiều người coi là một chính trị gia giỏi, với kỳ tích chống tham nhũng, củng cố quyền lực, cải tổ quân đội, phát triển đất nước, vì “Giấc mộng Trung Hoa”. Đặc biệt, Tập Cận Bình còn muốn “làm Trung Quốc vĩ đại trở lại”, vượt Mỹ làm bá chủ thế giới. Nhưng mặt khác, cũng có thể nói Tập Cận Bình đã mắc phải mấy sai lầm lớn.

Thứ nhất, ông không chỉ nắm 3 chức vụ cao nhất của Đảng, Nhà nước, và Quân đội, như “lãnh đạo nòng cốt”, mà còn bỏ giới hạn hai nhiệm kỳ để trở thành “Hoàng đế đỏ” Trung Hoa. Thứ hai, ông tự tin khởi động kế hoạch “Made in China 2025” làm Mỹ và phương Tây lo lắng chống lại. Thứ ba, ông chủ quan theo đuổi sáng kiến “Vành đai và Con đường”, làm nhiều nước khác phản ứng “bẫy nợ”. Thứ tư, ông thiếu nhạy cảm triển khai “chính sách gây ảnh hưởng” bằng các viện Khổng Tử và “tấn công quyến rũ”, làm nhiều nước lo ngại “con ngựa thành Troy”. Thứ năm, ông thẳng tay trấn áp người Duy Ngô Nhĩ ở Tân Cương, và nôn nóng triển khai “hệ thống tín nhiệm xã hội”. Đó là những đại dự án mang “dấu ấn Tập Cận Bình” nhằm thực hiện “Giấc mộng Trung Hoa”. Tiếp tục đọc “Sai lầm chiến lược của Tập Cận Bình?”

Globalization Has Created a Chinese Monster

FP
Xi Jinping’s dictatorship isn’t what the end of history was supposed to look like.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening session of the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing on Oct. 18, 2017. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening session of the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing on Oct. 18, 2017. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

On Sunday, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee recommended ending the two-term limit on the presidency, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in office indefinitely. This surely marks the end of an era — and not just for China, but also for the West.

For the West, the era in question started with the end of the Cold War, as old enemies became “emerging markets.” China had already started opening its markets to foreign investment since 1978 under Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. But only in the 1990s did the private sector take off there, and Western firms promptly rushed in to profit from the breakneck speed of Chinese economic growth. Tiếp tục đọc “Globalization Has Created a Chinese Monster”

China’s Stability Myth Is Dead

FP
With Xi Jinping’s great power comes great irresponsibility.

Chinese President Xi Jinping during the unveiling of the Communist Party's new Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing, China, on Oct. 25, 2017. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping during the unveiling of the Communist Party’s new Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing, China, on Oct. 25, 2017. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The announcement on Sunday that China would abolish the two-term limit for the presidency, effectively foreshadowing current leader Xi Jinping’s likely status as president for life, had been predicted ever since Xi failed to nominate a clear successor at last October’s Communist Party Congress. But it still came as a shock in a country where the collective leadership established under Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s was once considered inviolable. Xi, like every leader since Deng, combines a trinity of roles that embody the three pillars of power in China: party chairman, president, and head of the Central Military Commission. But like every leader since Deng, he was once expected to hand these over after his appointed decade, letting one generation of leadership pass smoothly on to the next. Tiếp tục đọc “China’s Stability Myth Is Dead”

Many watching to see what a ‘strong China’ means: PM Lee

channelnewsasia
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at the Economic Club of Washington during his US working visit. (Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb)

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WASHINGTON: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of his leadership position is a signal that this is the start of a new phase for China, according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday (Oct 25).

Mr Lee, speaking at a dialogue session at the Council on Foreign Relations during his official working visit to the US, said: “They mentioned a new era; Mao’s era, Deng’s era and now Xi’s era – which he envisages extending to 2050 and taking China to 100 years after the revolution.” Tiếp tục đọc “Many watching to see what a ‘strong China’ means: PM Lee”

Wary of Trump, China launches EU charm offensive – diplomats

BRUSSELS/BEIJING: China has launched a charm offensive with the European Union since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, shifting its stance on trade negotiations and signalling closer cooperation on a range of other issues, European diplomats say.

European envoys in Brussels and Beijing sense a greater urgency from China to find allies willing to stand up for globalisation amid fears Trump could undermine it with his protectionist “America First” policies. Tiếp tục đọc “Wary of Trump, China launches EU charm offensive – diplomats”

In Letter to China, Trump Says He Wants ‘Constructive Relationship’

President Xi Jinping of China in Lima, Peru, last year. The fact that President Trump and Mr. Xi have not talked since Mr. Trump took office in January has drawn increasing scrutiny. Credit Cris Bouroncle/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HONG KONG — President Trump has sent a letter to his Chinese counterpart saying he looked forward to developing a “constructive relationship” with Beijing, the latest in a series of conciliatory signals by the new administration after months of heated rhetoric aimed at America’s largest trading partner.

The letter, dated Wednesday, also thanked China’s president, Xi Jinping, for a message he sent congratulating Mr. Trump on his inauguration and conveyed wishes to the Chinese people for the Lunar New Year, the White House said in a two-sentence statement.

It is unclear whether the letter was meant as a substitute for an anticipated phone conversation between the two leaders or as an ice-breaking prelude to such a call. Before his inauguration, Mr. Trump and his cabinet appointees made comments and took actions that alarmed Beijing and pointed to rocky ties between the world’s two biggest economies.

Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has spoken by phone with about 20 foreign leaders. Usually highly scripted affairs, many of those calls have been anything but. The president’s conversation last month with Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister of Australia, turned contentious when Mr. Turnbull urged Mr. Trump to honor an agreement made under President Barack Obama to accept 1,250 refugees from an offshore detention center.

Continue reading on  New York Times

But arguably no bilateral relationship is more important than the one between Beijing and Washington, and the fact that Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi have not talked since Mr. Trump took office in January has drawn increasing scrutiny.

Donald Trump and China on dangerous collision course, say experts

The Guardian

Report says ties between the two nuclear-armed countries could deteriorate into an economic or military confrontation

Chinese news papers showing US president Donald Trump at a newsstand in Shanghai.
Chinese news papers showing US president Donald Trump at a newsstand in Shanghai. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

A highly combustible cocktail of Donald Trump’s volatility and Xi Jinping’s increasingly aggressive and autocratic rule threatens to plunge already precarious US-China relations into a dangerous new era, some of the world’s leading China specialists say in a new report.

For the last 18 months a taskforce of prominent China experts, some of whom have dealt with Beijing for more than 50 years, hahes been formulating a series of recommendations on how the incoming White House should conduct relations with the world’s second largest economy.

The group’s report, which was handed to the White House on Sunday and will be published in Washington DC on Tuesday, says ties between the two nuclear-armed countries could rapidly deteriorate into an economic or even military confrontation if compromise on issues including trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea cannot be found.

Continue reading on The Guardian

Xi’s APEC speech puts China, Asia-Pacific in global “vanguard”

2016-11-21 01:23:29 Xinhua Web Editor: Zhang Xu
    TĐH: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim member economies that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. It was established in 1989.

    Membership: Joined 1989: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, USA.

    Republic of China (Taiwan – Chinese Taipei) joined 1991, Hong Kong (China Hong Kong) 1991, People’s Republic of China 1991, Mexico 1993, Papua New Guinea 1993, Chile 1994, Peru 1998, Russia 1998, Vietnam 1998.

Related: Xi promotes Asia-Pacific FTA at APEC summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit on Saturday in Lima, Peru, placed China and the region at the forefront of a joint effort to reactivate the global economy, APEC participants and scholars have said. Tiếp tục đọc “Xi’s APEC speech puts China, Asia-Pacific in global “vanguard””

China’s Xi Jinping and Donald Trump speak after election win

President Xi Jinping and Trump spoke on the phone Sunday night, and “established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another,” according to a short statement from Trump’s transition team.

Tiếp tục đọc “China’s Xi Jinping and Donald Trump speak after election win”

A Battle Over Money in Beijing

WSJ

Economic policy is a flashpoint in China’s political succession fight.

China's Premier Li Keqiang at the 1+6 Roundtable on promoting economic growth in Beijing on July 22. ENLARGE
China’s Premier Li Keqiang at the 1+6 Roundtable on promoting economic growth in Beijing on July 22. Photo: Associated Press

A succession struggle is underway in China ahead of next year’s Communist Party Congress. And this time the central fight is over monetary policy instead of ideological slogans. The outcome has implications for China’s response to slowing economic growth. Tiếp tục đọc “A Battle Over Money in Beijing”

US issues warning to China before presidential visit

The Hill

Getty Images

The White House is issuing a stern warning to China about its incursions and meddling in cyberspace, the South China Sea and global currency markets, days before China’s President Xi Jinping comes to the White House.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Monday said that the U.S.’s objections to Chinese policy on multiple fronts are at the fore of the conversations between the globe’s two most powerful nations, and would be at the top of President Obama’s agenda during talks this week. Tiếp tục đọc “US issues warning to China before presidential visit”