By 2050, two centuries after the Opium Wars, which plunged the “Middle Kingdom” into a period of hurt and shame, China is set to regain its might and re-ascend to the top of the world.
Central state media outlet Xinhua declared this in an October 24 commentary, following up on similar remarks by President Xi Jinping at the opening of the 19th Party Congress on October 18. Now that the congress has ended, it has become clearer what China’s immediate game plan to “re-ascend to the top of the world” might be:
- First, upgrade the Belt and Road Initiative to the status of a pursuit mandated by the Communist Party’s constitution. Done.
- Second, promote the country’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi 杨洁篪, to the Politburo, in doing so preempting any speculation that the Foreign Ministry is being sidelined (according to SCMP). Check.
- Third, aim to take advantage of America’s unusually weak leader. The Washington Post notes that the term “multipolarity,” a “euphemism for U.S. decline,” was optimistically described as “rapidly accelerating” by Xi in his speech, whereas previously, it had merely been described as “deepening.” Aim, set.
- Fourth, push for participation in global governance, and build up military capabilities. The Post notes that these have become top priorities for the government.
- Finally, assert authority over Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the South China Sea. The Post says that “Xi counted ‘South China Sea reef and island construction’ among his top accomplishments,” while Bill Bishop’s Sinocism notes (paywall) a ratcheting up of nationalist rhetoric with regards to Hong Kong and Taiwan in Xi’s speech.
We may have a chance very soon to see some of this plan put into action, as U.S. President Donald Trump is set to visit Beijing on November 8-10. Trump tweeted on October 25, “Spoke to President Xi of China to congratulate him on his extraordinary elevation,” and “also discussed” trade and North Korea; he followed up with a note that he looks forward to “what will hopefully be a historic trip.”
Trump to skip key Asia summit in Philippines to go home earlier / Washington Post
“Officials close to Trump were concerned the president did not want to stay in the region for so long and worried he could get cranky, leading to unpredictable or undiplomatic behavior.”
Xi Jinping and the Communist Party
China’s ‘chairman of everything’: Behind Xi Jinping’s many titles / NYT (paywall)
Xi Jinping is alone at the top and collective leadership ‘is dead’ / WSJ (paywall)
Xi Jinping: Has China’s strongman forgotten the perils of power? / Guardian
China’s tack on “fake news”
Protest after Western media ‘troublemakers’ barred from Xi Jinping speech / Guardian
Xi says China welcomes objective reportage, suggestions / Xinhua
Fears mount over whereabouts of publisher Gui Minhai ‘freed’ by China / AFP
Australia campuses warned of ‘clandestine’ influence in apparent poke at China / Reuters