Will Chinese President Xi’s big bet pay off?

Will Chinese President Xi's big bet pay off?

Chinese President Xi Jinping 21. makes the boldest geopolitical bets inscheduled tribe century.

A series of seemingly disparate moves in recent months is nothing less than a generational gamble that Xi, by doubling down on his state-controlled economy, party-disciplined society, nationalist propaganda, will become the world’s dominant power. for the foreseeable future. . can produce. , and the wide-ranging global impact campaign.

Every week, Xi cuts down every karaoke bar, or hour allowed for a teenager’s online games, to a multi-million dollar investor influenced by his increased control over China’s biggest tech companies, and their overseas weeks are still growing. challenges. lists.

It is only against the background of Xi’s growing repression at home and his growing ambitions abroad that one can fully understand Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision this week to conclude a new defense pact, which he called the United States. Said of “compromise forever”. UK.

Most of the news focused on either the eight nuclear-powered submarines Australia was going to deploy, or the French outrage that their own deal to sell diesel submarines to Australia was called ” treason “and” stabbing “by the French authorities. Back from “close allies. France has called for the recall of its ambassador to the United States for the first time in the history of the NATO alliance.

All this noise should not distract from the more important message of the revolutionary agreement. Prime Minister Morrison saw greater strategic advantage and greater military potential from US-British alignment in the rapidly changing Indo-Pacific environment, replacing his previous stance of balancing US and Chinese interests.

“The relatively benign environment that we have enjoyed in our region for several decades is behind us,” Morrison said Thursday. “We have entered a new era with challenges for Australia and our allies.”

For China, this new era has many faces: a rapid rollback of economic liberalization, a crackdown on individual freedoms, increased efforts for global influence, and military build-up, all ahead of the 20th National Party Congress in October 2022. , where Xi should to seal his place in history and his continued reign.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, one of the world’s foremost experts on China, pointed to Xi’s “bizarre range” of economic policy decisions in a recent speech as president of the Asia Society.

They began last October with the shock suspension of initial public offerings planned by Alibaba Ant Group’s financial subsidiary in Hong Kong and Shanghai, apparently intended for Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma. Then, in April, regulators Chinese fined Alibaba $ 3 billion for “monopoly behavior”.

In July, the Chinese cyber regulator removed ride-sharing giant Didi from the App Store, while an investigative unit launched an investigation into the company’s compliance with Chinese data protection laws.

Then this month, regulators from China’s Ministry of Transportation ordered senior executives at Didi, Meituan and nine other rideshare companies to “correct” their digital misconduct. The Chinese state then took a stake in ByteDance, owner of TikTok and the Weibo micro-blogging platform.

Xi was prepared to accept the cost worth an estimated $ 1.1 trillion to shareholders, wiping out China’s six biggest tech stocks between February and August alone. It does not take into account additional losses in education, transportation, food delivery, entertainment and video games.

Less noted has been a dizzying array of regulatory and policy actions, the overall goal of which seems to be to consolidate state control over, well, just about everything.

Rudd said, “The best way to sum this up is that Xi Jinping has decided that in the overall balance between the roles of the state and the market in China, it is in the best interests of the party to look to the ‘State “. Make. . Xi is determined to transform modern China into a great world power, “but a great power over which the Chinese Communist Party still exercises full control.”

This means increased control over the freedoms of its 1.4 billion citizens.

For example, Xi has worked to limit video games for schoolchildren to three hours a week and has banned private lessons. Chinese regulators order broadcasters to encourage masculinity and remove “sissy men” pao niang, by gusts of wind. Regulators have banned “American Idol” style competitions and removed all mention of Zhao Wei, one of China’s richest actresses, from the internet.

“The order was sudden, dramatic and often shocking,” wrote Lily Koo in Washington post. “This is not a sector reform, it is a comprehensive reform of the economy, industry and structure,” says Jude Blanchett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

At the same time, President Xi made an effort to share the virtues and successes of China’s authoritarian model with the rest of the world.

Charles Adele and David Shulman, the newly appointed directors of the Atlantic Council’s new China Global Hub, wrote in “Foreign Affairs”, Beijing wants less foreign companies than to legitimize Marxist-Leninist ideology and promote its authoritarian system . Est. “” The CCP is not seeking ideological conformity but power, security and global influence for China and itself. “

The authors elaborate on China’s global efforts: No To remake the world in its image, but rather “to adapt the world to its interests – and more to accommodate the rise of authoritarianism in general”.

These measures include “the dissemination of propaganda, the expansion of information operations, the strengthening of economic influence and interference in foreign political systems”, with the ultimate goal of “suppressing democratic institutions and norms. within and between countries, ”write Adele and Shulman.

There are two opportunities for the United States and its allies in President Xi’s bold gamble.

The first is that Xi, by gaining control at home, will reverse the economic and social liberalization necessary for China’s success. At the same time, democracies around the world, like Australia, are increasingly inclined to seek a common cause in addressing Beijing.

Ultimately, however, Xi’s concrete actions require an equally concrete response from democracies around the world. The Franco-American crisis that followed the Australian defense agreement this week is just one example of how difficult it is to achieve and maintain.

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