Thursday, September 1, 2022

Fall 2022 Issue 73

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Xi Jinping’s Political Agenda and Leadership: What do we know from his decade in power

Minxin Pei
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The political agenda of Chinese President Xi Jinping during his first decade in power consisted of three core components: establishing personal political dominance, revitalizing the Leninist party-state, and expanding Chinese power and influence globally. As he completes his first two terms and seeks a third term, he has made uneven progress in accomplishing his agenda. Due to his political skills and control of the regime’s instruments of coercion, Xi has firmly established his political authority and dominance. The revitalization of the Leninist party-state has been most successful in reinstituting tight social control. The reintroduction of ideological indoctrination and organizational discipline into the party may have produced a revival of political ritualism but questionable genuine ideological commitment and political loyalty. The reassertion of state control over the economy has just begun, and it is likely to entail immense costs. The assertive foreign policy has yielded mostly counterproductive outcomes as attempts to take advantage of the shift in the global balance of power has provoked a vigorous pushback by the U.S. and its allies.

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From Strategic Reassurance to Running Over Roadblocks: A Review of Xi Jinping’s Foreign Policy Record

Ryan Hass 
Thursday, September1, 2022

The conduct of China’s foreign policy over the past decade has grown more nakedly ambitious and tolerant of friction in pursuit of national objectives. China’s leaders seem to have concluded that the country has grown too strong to feign modesty of ambition. Rather than seek to placate external anxieties about China’s rise, they seem to have decided it is better to amass strength and compel others to accept China’s ambitions and conduct. During the past decade, China’s economy has grown and become more integrated within East Asia. The People’s Liberation Army has gained strength. China also has exercised greater leadership on issues of global governance and built a growing number of international partnerships. These and other developments have imbued China’s leaders with confidence that historic trends are in their favor. At the same time, Beijing’s growing assertiveness has activated pushback from the United States and its partners. China’s relations with virtually the entire developed world have grown strained and its image in these countries has plummeted. Even so, China’s leaders seem to want to put the world on notice that they are prepared to confront any country that dares stand in their path of “national rejuvenation.” 

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Enabling “Patriots” to Be Masters of the Island: Evolution of Xi’s Policy on Taiwan Since 2013

Bonny Lin
Thursday, September 1, 2022

This article examines the evolution of China’s Taiwan policy under Xi Jinping. It argues that there have been four key shifts since 2013. First, China expanded the definition of Taiwan independence and defined what Beijing viewed as the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. This provided the basis for Beijing to respond to more perceived Taiwan and U.S. “transgressions” and China views both Taipei and Washington as “revisionist” and changing the status quo. Second, Xi established a bidirectional linkage between national rejuvenation and unification with Taiwan and Beijing aims to achieve both goals simultaneously. This means that China will seek progress on unification and has established a soft benchmark to accomplish it by 2049. Third, Xi has pushed to develop a more specific “two systems” solution for Taiwan that will allow Beijing to impose its control over the island and ensure that unification with Taiwan avoids the pains Beijing experienced in Hong Kong. It is unlikely that Taiwan can maintain its democracy post-unification and Beijing will ensure that Chinese “patriots” rule the island. Finally, China has escalated and increased coercion across-the-board against Taiwan, leveraging its growing political, economic, and military power to attempt to shape cross-Strait dynamics in its favor. These changes in PRC policy have not produced the desired results and Taipei has push backed against Chinese activities and rejected China’s ‘solutions’ for Taiwan.  Although Beijing has not given up hopes of peaceful unification and would prefer to never have to invade the island, Beijing is likely to continue its bolder, less flexible, more unilateral, and more coercive approach towards Taiwan. Moving forward, the risk of tensions and instabilities in the Taiwan Strait will likely increase.

Killing the Different Dreams, Keeping the Same Regime: Xi Jinping’s Ten-Year Struggle to Remake CCP Elite Politics 

Guoguang Wu 
Thursday, September 1, 2022

This essay presents a retrospective examination of China’s elite politics during Xi Jinping’s ten years in power. It focuses on the following questions: Why does Xi Jinping prefer to confront, rather than accommodate, the cadres in his own regime? How has he been able to achieve his goals of leadership reorganization and cultivation of new elites? How has China’s elite politics been remade along with Xi’s concentration of power? And, to touch on the latest developments in elite politics ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), why does the belated emergence of elite resistance to Xi’s plan of taking on a third term have little chance of success or change the dynamics of China’s elite politics going forward? The essay positions CCP elite politics in an institutional context that is defined and framed by China’s political regime, and it argues that the nature of the regime requires Xi to confront his cadres to achieve his goals.  At the same time, the same regime poses huge dilemmas to both Xi and his rivals.

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Xi Jinping’s Mixed Economic Record

David Dollar
Thursday, September 1, 2022

The economic scorecard for Xi Jinping’s ten years in office is mixed. He opened the economy further to foreign trade and investment. He set a target date for China’s carbon emissions to peak and another date to reach net-zero. While GDP growth slowed down by more than four percentage points under Xi, it still averaged over 6%. On the negative side, the target to reach net-zero is not ambitious enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Also, Xi has doubled down on industrial policy, increasing subsidies to try to achieve technological dominance in key areas. This is a risky gambit that no doubt will have some successes, but at the cost of wasting a lot of resources. Looking ahead to the future, this state interference in the economy, combined with negative blowback from its trading partners and from China’s own entrepreneurs, is likely to result in China performing below potential.

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The Edge of an Abyss: Xi Jinping’s Overall National Security Outlook

Jude Blanchette 
Thursday, September 1, 2022

Regime security has been a central concern of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dating back to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and an acute sense of internal and external threat has been a central component of the CCP’s DNA since its inception in 1921.  No single other goal has occupied as much time, as many resources, and the amount of attention as has the struggle to ensure that the party remains the unrivaled and unthreatened permanent single ruling authority of China. Efforts to promote and consolidate “national security” prior to the elevation of Xi Jinping in late 2012 were perceived by many Chinese policymakers and security officials as inconsistent, uncoordinated, and insufficiently institutionalized. At the same time, domestic and external events emerged after the turn of the millennium which reinforced to many the inadequacies in existing national security policymaking as well as the gaps in how Beijing conceptualized the very nature of national security and national security risks. Xi Jinping has changed all of this, having overseen a profound expansion of the scope, scale, and capabilities of China’s national security apparatus. A key driver of these changes is the Overall National Security Outlook (总体国家安全观), which Xi first announced in 2014. This essay examines the origins and growth of the Overall National Security Outlook and offers an assessment of how the growing prioritization of national security will impact China’s future development and external behavior. 

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CLM Insights Interview with Kevin Rudd on his recent book:

The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic War between the US and Xi Jinping's China

(Public Affairs, 2022)

Summary of a Joint CLM and Freeman Chair of CSIS Conference on Xi Jinping’s Decade in Power

On September 8, 2022 China Leadership Monitor and the Freeman Chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies held a joint briefing on the record of Xi Jinping since he became the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012.  We provide a brief summary of the main points of the discussion.

 

Since coming to power ten years ago, Xi Jinping has proven to be a master of authoritarian politics. He has successfully consolidated his personal authority and embarked on a campaign to reinvigorate party ideology and presence in Chinese society. Xi has formulated a maximalist view of national security that centers on regime and party security, and he has tied unification with Taiwan to China’s path toward national rejuvenation. His leadership of the economy and foreign policy agenda have produced mixed results, as he attempts to shift away from the United States and bolster Beijing’s influence in the developing world.

 

Many of the challenges Xi faces now will follow him into his likely third term as General Secretary. Analysis of his performance over the past decade offers insight into his weaknesses, his strengths, and possible obstacles and opportunities he may face in the coming years.