BEIJING (AP) — The world faces the prospect of greater tension with China over trade, security and human rights after Xi Jinping granted himself a third five-year term on Sunday. head of the ruling Communist Party.
Xi has tightened control over his territory and is trying to use China’s economic weight to increase his influence abroad. Washington accuses Beijing this month of trying to undermine US alliances, global security and economic rules. Activists say Xi’s government wants to deflect criticism of abuses by changing the UN’s definition of human rights.
Xi says “the global system is broken and China has answers,” said William Callahan of the London School of Economics. “Increasingly, Xi Jinping speaks of the Chinese style as a universal model of world order, which dates back to a Cold War type of conflict.”
At a Communist Party congress that ended on Saturday, Xi gave no sign of plans to change the harsh “zero-COVID” strategy that has frustrated the Chinese public and disrupted business and trade. He called for more autonomy in technology, faster military development and protection of Beijing’s “core interests” abroad. He announced no changes in policies straining relations with Washington and Asian neighbors.
POLITICS: Xi calls for ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ based on reviving ruling party’s role as economic, social and cultural leader in a return to what he sees as a post-revolution golden age of 1949. “Xi’s embrace of Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy should end any wishful thinking that Xi’s China could peacefully liberalize its politics and economy,” wrote Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society. and former Australian Prime Minister, in Foreign Affairs. Xi’s government has imprisoned dissidents, stepped up internet censorship and crushed a pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Its “social credit” initiative tracks the public and punishes offenses ranging from fraud to littering. “Zero COVID,” which tracks individuals using smartphone apps and has confined tens of millions of people to their homes, “indicates how Xi Jinping wants Chinese society to operate,” Callahan said. “He must be under constant surveillance and control,” he said. “He has become much more authoritarian and sometimes totalitarian.”
ECONOMY: By 2035, the Communist Party wants economic output per person to match that of a “middle-level developed country”, Xi said in a report to congress. That suggests doubling production from 2020 levels, according to Macquarie’s Larry Hu and Yuxiao Zhang. Meanwhile, however, the ruling party is setting up a subsidy-devouring state industry and tighten control over contractors that generate wealth and jobs. This raises warnings that economic growth which fell to 2.2% more than a year earlier in the first half of 2022 will suffer. The economy faces challenges related to tensions with Washington, China’s restrictions on access to Western technology, an aging population and the collapse of its vast real estate sector. “If senior leaders take the goal seriously, they may need to take a more pro-growth policy stance,” Hu and Zhang said in a report. Analysts are awaiting details after the party’s Central Economic Work Conference in early December.
TECHNOLOGY: Xi promised to “enhance China’s self-reliance and strength in science and technology.” He gave no details, but earlier efforts to reduce dependence on the West and Japan by creating Chinese sources of renewable energy, electric cars, computers and other technologies have sparked Complaints. Beijing is violating its free trade commitments by shielding its companies from competition. US officials fear Chinese competition will erode US industrial leadership. China faces growing limits on access to Western technology, particularly from the United States, which warns it could be used to make weapons. China is building its own chip industry, but analysts say it is generations behind world leaders. Beijing does not appear to seek to isolate China but wants to reduce strategic unease by catching up with other countries, said Natixis’ Alicia Garcia Herrero. She said this would involve increased state-led investment. “It’s going to create some tension,” she said.
SECURITY: Xi says ‘external and internal security’ is the ‘foundation of national rejuvenation’. In a speech who used the word security 26 times, he said Beijing will “work faster” to modernize the party’s armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army, and “strengthen the military’s strategic capabilities”. China already has the second highest military spending in the world after the United States and is trying to expand its reach by developing ballistic missiles, submarines and other technologies. Xi has refused to renounce the use of force to unite Taiwan with the mainland. Xi also called for better supply security of energy, food and industrial goods. The party also sees “ideological security” as a priority, leading to more internet censorship.
FOREIGN RELATIONS: Beijing is increasingly using its economic strength as the main trading partner of all its neighbors as political and security leverage. China has blocked imports of Australian wine, meat and other products after its government called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Beijing has tried unsuccessfully to persuade 10 Pacific island governments to sign a security pact this year, but is making inroads with some. Solomon Islands police officers are trained in China. Beijing wants a “China-centric security system,” Callahan said. “Beijing wants to be a global leader, and part of that, according to Beijing, is being a leader in the tough politics of global security.” Chinese diplomats, in a trend dubbed “wolf warrior diplomacy,” are more confrontational and sometimes violent. This month, Chinese diplomats in Manchester, England, beat up a protester after dragging him to the grounds of their consulate. The diplomats “carried the fighting spirit”, said a deputy foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu. He said the diplomatic corps “will improve its combat skills and always stand at the forefront of safeguarding national interests and national dignity.”
COVID-19: Xi gave no indication that China’s “zero-COVID” strategy might fade despite public frustration over its costs. While other countries have eased travel restrictions, China is sticking to a strategy that has kept infection rates low but closed major cities. The party newspaper People’s Daily tried to dispel expectations of an easing once the convention is over. The strategy “must be supported,” he argued. Public health experts say more older people need to be vaccinated before the ruling party can ease COVID-19 restrictions. It could take months. Forecasters say that means it could be the end of 2023 before controls ease.
CLIMATE: Xi has promised a ‘proactive and steady’ approach to reducing climate-altering carbon emissions, but at the same time ruling party is increasing coal production to avoid a repeat of China’s power shortages and blackouts Last year. A Cabinet official said that every year coal production will increase to 4.6 billion tons in 2025. That would be 12% more than in 2021. Xi said in a speech at the United Nations in 2020 that China’s emissions are expected to peak in 2030, but did not specify to what level. China already emits more carbon than the United States and other developed economies combined, according to Rhodium Group. China is building more coal-fired power plants, which activists say could lead to higher emissions. Meanwhile, Beijing suspended a climate dialogue with Washington in August in retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to rival Taiwan.