Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
China: government and governance September 2022-
The Prince: Searching for Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping is the most powerful person in the world. At China’s 20th Communist Party congress in October he secured a third term as party chief, and may rule China for the rest of his life.
But the real story of China’s leader remains a mystery. The Economist’s Sue-Lin Wong finds out how he rose to the top in our eight-part podcast series. The Prince is the epic story of Mr Xi’s turbulent past, how he has changed China and how he is trying to change the world.
Is Communism’s COLLAPSE Near? | Cleo Paskal (YouTube)
(China Unscripted) The Chinese Communist Party is facing some strong headwinds, and there are signs that Xi Jinping might be in trouble. In this episode of China Unscripted, we discuss what would happen if the Chinese Communist Party were to fall, what might happen if Xi Jinping were overthrown, and how western democracies could easily win back some of the nations that China has begun to control. Joining us in this episode of Cleo Paskal, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.)
Why China’s economy won’t be fixed
(The Economist) Our leader argues that things are very bad indeed. The blame lies with Xi Jinping and China’s increasingly autocratic government. Mr Xi’s centralisation of power and his replacement of technocrats with loyalists is leading to damaging policy failures, not least a feeble response to tumbling growth and inflation.
China’s economic malaise is causing disillusion among the young
Xi Jinping wants them to focus on the party’s goals. Many cannot see why they should
(The Economist) A dark cloud hangs over Chinese born in the 1990s and 2000s. Since Xi Jinping won power in 2012, the government has grown more repressive and society less vibrant. Censors have turned the internet into a drearier place, while letting nationalist trolls drum in the state’s talking-points. At university students must grapple with Mr Xi’s forbidding personal ideology. Worst of all for some, China’s economy is stagnating. The unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24 in cities is over 21%—a number so disheartening that earlier this month the government stopped publishing the data, pending a review.
The AI Power Paradox – Can States Learn to Govern Artificial Intelligence—Before It’s Too Late?
By Ian Bremmer and Mustafa Suleyman
(Foreign Affairs) …both the U.S. and Chinese governments are pouring immense resources into developing AI capabilities while working to deprive each other of the inputs needed for next-generation breakthroughs. (So far, the United States has been far more successful than China in doing the latter, especially with its export controls on advanced semiconductors.) This zero-sum dynamic—and the lack of trust on both sides—means that Beijing and Washington are focused on accelerating AI development, rather than slowing it down. In their view, a “pause” in development to assess risks, as some AI industry leaders have called for, would amount to foolish unilateral disarmament.
But this perspective assumes that states can assert and maintain at least some control over AI. This may be the case in China, which has integrated its tech companies into the fabric of the state. Yet in the West and elsewhere, AI is more likely to undermine state power than to bolster it. Outside China, a handful of large, specialist AI companies currently control every aspect of this new technological wave: what AI models can do, who can access them, how they can be used, and where they can be deployed. And because these companies jealously guard their computing power and algorithms, they alone understand (most of) what they are creating and (most of) what those creations can do. These few firms may retain their advantage for the foreseeable future—or they may be eclipsed by a raft of smaller players as low barriers to entry, open-source development, and near-zero marginal costs lead to uncontrolled proliferation of AI. Either way, the AI revolution will take place outside government.
China Removes Outspoken Foreign Minister, Fueling Rumors of Rivalries Within the Communist Party
Qin Gang has been replaced by his predecessor, Wang Yi, in the foreign minister post amid swirling rumors and very few details.
(The Diplomat) In its announcement on the national evening news, state broadcaster CCTV gave no reason for Qin’s removal. He had dropped out of sight almost a month ago and the Foreign Ministry has provided no information about his status.
The ministry made no comment at its daily briefing on Tuesday. The move comes amid a foreign backlash against China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy, of which Qin was a chief proponent.
In collaboration with Young China Watchers Singapore, 1880 organized a discussion of China’s bumpy post-pandemic economic recovery. As the CCP’s recent move to tighten data security policies shows, the priority of security over economic growth continues to chase away foreign investments, putting the domestic economy at serious risk.
This summer, China will have over 16 million college graduates seeking white-collar jobs. However, despite its economic recovery from the zero-COVID days, China still faces a deficit of 30-40 million jobs. As a growing number of financial institutions “de-risk” from China, the outflow of foreign investments has been swept up by India’s rising clout.
Will China recover from the shortcomings of its structural economic makeup? At what cost?
Xi Jinping Can’t Handle an Aging China
An Increasingly Autocratic System Will Struggle to Halt Demographic Decline
By Carl Minzner, Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Professor at Fordham Law School.
(Foreign Affairs) China is aging and shrinking. The country’s population surged from 540 million in 1949 to a peak of 1.4 billion in 2021 but tipped over into decline in 2022. In coming decades, it will follow the rest of East Asia into a future marked by low fertility, rapid aging, and a steadily declining population. By the middle of the century, China is projected to have up to 200 million fewer people than it does today. Simultaneously, the median age will steadily climb from 38 years old in 2020 to around 50.
Demography is not destiny. Neither a shrinking nor a graying population necessarily spells doom for China. But the challenges presented by a declining labor force and surging numbers of elderly are significant and will require effective long-term planning and unpopular decisions. Official statements made by the Chinese Communist Party indeed flag the importance of addressing the needs of an aging society, and Chinese officials and scholars have warned about the need to raise unsustainably low retirement ages. But China’s evolving political system under an increasingly autocratic General Secretary Xi Jinping looks particularly unsuited to handling these challenges.
By the middle of the twenty-first century, China will likely find itself beset by a host of severe internal challenges, including rising tensions with urban elites over pension and health-care costs, steadily worsening conditions for the rural elderly, and a toxic atmosphere for women and foreigners that will increasingly constrain the country’s rise as a global power.
China’s exit bans multiply as political control tightens under Xi
(Reuters) – China is increasingly barring people from leaving the country, including foreign executives, a jarring message as the authorities say the country is open for business after three years of tight COVID-19 restrictions.
Scores of Chinese and foreigners have been ensnared by exit bans, according to a new report by the rights group Safeguard Defenders, while a Reuters analysis has found an apparent surge of court cases involving such bans in recent years, and foreign business lobbies are voicing concern about the trend.
One person prevented from leaving China this year is a Singaporean executive at the U.S. due-diligence firm Mintz Group, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The company, the executive and China’s Public Security Bureau did not respond to requests for comment.
Mintz said in late March the authorities had raided the firm’s China office and detained five local staff. The foreign ministry said at the time Mintz was suspected of engaging in unlawful business operations. Police visited Bain & Co’s office in Shanghai and questioned staff, the U.S. management consultancy said last week.
Many wealthy people are considering leaving China
The stable city-state of Singapore is a favourite destination
(The Economist) Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, an e-commerce giant, is a symbol of how the ruling Communist Party has humbled the rich. In 2020 he dared publicly to criticise financial regulators. Soon afterwards they spiked the $37bn initial public offering of Ant Group, Alibaba’s fintech affiliate, and investigated Alibaba itself for monopolistic behaviour. A chastened Mr Ma largely vanished from public life. In late 2021 he left China and spent time learning about farming and sustainable food production.
But after over a year’s absence, Jack is back. On March 27th photos emerged of him visiting a school in his home town of Hangzhou. He was reportedly persuaded to return by China’s new prime minister, Li Qiang. Mr Li is trying to reassure wealthy private entrepreneurs that, though they should know their place, they are still valued by the party.
China’s parliament names Xi Jinping ally Li Qiang as new premier
New premier Li Qiang, 63, a close confidant of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, faces the task of reviving China’s flagging economy.
Xi clinches third term as China’s president amid host of challenges
(Reuters) – Xi Jinping secured a precedent-breaking third term as president of China on Friday during a parliamentary session in which he tightened his control of the world’s second-largest economy as it emerges from a COVID slump and diplomatic challenges mount.
Nearly 3,000 members of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), voted unanimously in the Great Hall of the People for the 69-year-old Xi in an election in which there was no other candidate.
Chinese billionaire tech banker Bao Fan goes missing
Disappearance of China Renaissance chair raises fears of fresh crackdown on China’s finance industry
A billionaire Chinese dealmaker has gone missing, plunging one of the country’s top investment banks into turmoil.
Bao Fan, the founder and executive director of China Renaissance, is a major figure in the Chinese tech industry and has played an important role in the emergence of a string of large domestic internet startups.
The Chinese government has cracked down on several big industries, including technology, education and real estate, as part of Xi’s “common prosperity” drive to “keep income distribution and the means of accumulating wealth well-regulated”.
At least six billionaires have been cowed under Xi, including Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, who disappeared for three months in 2020 after criticising market regulators.
China’s ultra-fast economic recovery
The country’s reopening will boost global growth, perhaps uncomfortably
(Foreign Affairs) China is opening up after three years of strict “zero COVID” policies that dampened growth in the world’s second-largest economy. From punitive lockdowns to supply chain disruptions to a worsening demographic crisis, China’s economic outlook has weakened, even as Chinese officials assert that the country is back in business.
China Returns to Davos With Clear Message: We’re Open for Business
Emerging from coronavirus lockdown to a world changed by the war in Ukraine, China sought to convey reassurance about its economic health.
(NYT) China ventured back on to the global stage Tuesday, sending a delegation to the World Economic Forum to assure foreign investors that after three years in which the pandemic cut off their country from the world, life was back to normal.
But the Chinese faced a wary audience at the annual event, attesting to both the dramatically changed geopolitical landscape after Russia’s war on Ukraine, as well as two data points that highlighted a worrisome shift in China’s own fortunes.
Hours before [China’s Vice-Premier] Liu He spoke to this elite economic gathering in an Alpine ski resort, the government announced that China’s population shrank in 2022 for the first time in 61 years. A short time earlier, it confirmed that economic growth had slowed to 3 percent, well below the trend of the past decade.
China’s population is stalled — and its economy is faltering
China released figures today that show for the first time since the early 1960s, the total population declined by 850,000. At the same time, the age of the population is rising. How significant are these developments?
(Politico) China’s population declined for the first time since 1961, according to data released today by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, which reported 9.56 million births and 10.41 million deaths in 2022.
These latest figures underscore the profound economic issues China is bound to face in the coming years. When China opened up to the world starting in 1979, that meteoric economic transformation was powered by the fact that there were seemingly endless waves of young rural dwellers who became the backbone of this manufacturing assembly economy, which was built on export manufacturing, and also on huge influxes of state spending and fixed asset investment. In short, what these numbers mean is that the economic model that China has used to get to this level of becoming the world’s second biggest economy is now basically under siege because there are not enough bodies to do the work anymore.
How does this affect countries other than China? In what ways could economic concerns in Beijing reshape the world stage?
An unstable China is an unstable world. The country has had a one-party system that’s held absolute control for the last 70 years. Any fray in that dynamic is a signal of uncertainty and instability, which is bound to take its toll on global markets. The second thing is that even though China is bottoming out in terms of this relatively young population that produces commodities like iPhones and tablets, it’s still the center of global supply chains.
Chinese city dwellers head to hometowns as holidays raise COVID stakes
By Josh Arslan and Martin Quin Pollard
Lunar New Year holidays officially start Jan. 21
More than 2 billion trips due in holiday season
China axed anti-virus controls last month
Thousands of COVID patients have died in latest outbreak
(Reuters) – Passengers laden with luggage flocked to rail stations in China’s megacities on Monday, heading to their hometowns for holidays that health experts fear could intensify a raging COVID-19 outbreak in areas less-equipped to handle it.
How China’s reopening will disrupt the world economy
A tale of death, growth and inflation
(The Economist) For the better part of three years—1,016 days to be exact—China will have been closed to the world. Most foreign students left the country at the start of the pandemic. Tourists have stopped visiting. Chinese scientists have stopped attending foreign conferences. Expat executives were barred from returning to their businesses in China. So when the country opens its borders on January 8th, abandoning the last remnants of its “zero-covid” policy, the renewal of commercial, intellectual and cultural contact will have huge consequences, mostly benign.
First, however, there will be horror. Inside China, the virus is raging. Tens of millions of people are catching it every day . Hospitals are overwhelmed. Although the zero-covid policy saved many lives when it was introduced (at great cost to individual liberties), the government failed to prepare properly for its relaxation by stockpiling drugs, vaccinating more of the elderly and adopting robust protocols to decide which patients to treat where. Our modelling suggests that, if the virus spreads unchecked, some 1.5m Chinese will die in the coming months.
But eventually something resembling normality will return. The revival of commercial, intellectual and cultural contact with China should be welcomed.
China data ‘under-represents’ true impact of Covid outbreak – WHO
Analysis of Chinese data finds no new variants of concern emerging, but world health body says it still does not have ‘complete data’
(The Guardian) The World Health Organisation has criticised China’s “very narrow” definition of Covid-19 deaths, warning that official statistics are not showing the true impact of the outbreak.
There is growing concern over the steep rise in Covid infections since Beijing last month abruptly lifted years of hardline restrictions, with hospitals and crematoriums quickly overwhelmed.
The UN agency released data provided by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a day after WHO officials met Chinese scientists. China has been reporting daily Covid deaths in single figures.
Bloomberg News: Chinese Cities, Factories Tell People With Covid to Go Back to Work
Covid-positive workers will fuel spread, but may help output
Many infected but choose to work, auto parts manufacturer says
Bloomberg New Economy: It is hard to understate the importance of China’s unexpectedly abrupt and wholesale abandonment of President Xi Jinping’s “Covid zero” policy, which had been strictly implemented for the better part of three years. It’s even more difficult to lay out the implications.
The immediate outlook is fairly obvious: millions falling ill and potentially millions of deaths. This looming humanitarian catastrophe will in turn trigger a massive hit to the Chinese economy. The country is effectively going from forced lockdowns to voluntary ones. Instead of freeing up consumers, the empty streets of Beijing showcase that spending—already poor—is bound to worsen, possibly for months to come.
After the coronavirus rips through what one official estimated will be the vast majority of the population, the consequences may then be a big boom in spending. Economists are penciling that in for late in the first quarter or early in the second, and many are raising full-year 2023 GDP forecasts.
But before that happens, China is in for a terrible time of it. And even after the worst has passed, it almost certainly won’t return to “normal” as defined by pre-Covid standards. A lot has happened since 2019, and only after the first wave will the effects of those changes become clear. The biggest is surely how Chinese citizens view their government and, given his unexplained 180-degree turn, Xi himself.
Beijing is already showing signs of recognizing that reality.
Lawrence Summers, the former US Treasury secretary (and paid contributor to Bloomberg Television), says of the abrupt policy shift: “it will be fascinating to see what that means for social stability.”
Indeed, just months after Xi was effectively coronated at the party Congress, concerns about stability seem to have reached China’s highest levels. At Friday’s annual government meeting on economic policy, there was a notable return to the leadership’s old emphasis on speeding the pace of economic growth.
The Communist Party’s legitimacy has long been tied to rapid economic development. But recent years have witnessed a shift to building up only certain sectors—especially advanced technology and renewable energy—and toward the redistribution of wealth.
Xi Jinping’s Covid Crisis Is Really an Opportunity
By Minxin Pei
Mr. Xi has a strategic window to not only pivot away from the “zero Covid” policy but also from a personal governing style that has once again imperiled the party’s deal with the people.
Before Mr. Xi, that longstanding compact had obliged the party to be meritocratic and administratively competent. Officials were promoted based on the economic performance of their cities and provinces, and channels — although limited — still existed through which citizens could voice complaints. Lawyers, journalists and activists enjoyed far more freedom to challenge local authorities who governed poorly or abused power.
Mr. Xi departed from all this. He inherited the reins a decade ago with the economy booming but the ruling party tarnished by corruption and environmental devastation. He cracked down on those problems and prioritized ideological loyalty over economic development and administrative competence. Political indoctrination reminiscent of the Mao era returned, and the government has become less friendly to the private sector. Fearful of “color revolutions” — popular protests in the name of democracy — Mr. Xi has imposed the harshest social controls and censorship since Mao.
… We don’t know whether Mr. Xi thinks he needs to change course. But if he read the recent protests correctly, he must realize that a renewed compact with the Chinese people may be essential to preserving his own “mandate of heaven.”
China’s COVID spike not due to lifting of restrictions, WHO director says
(Reuters) “There’s a narrative at the moment that China lifted the restrictions and all of a sudden the disease is out of control,” he said.
“The disease was spreading intensively because I believe the control measures in themselves were not stopping the disease. And I believe China decided strategically that was not the best option anymore.”
Beijing started pivoting away from its signature “zero-COVID” policy this month after protests against the economically damaging curbs championed by President Xi Jinping.
Covid cases explode in Beijing leaving city streets empty and daily life disrupted
CNN — Empty streets, deserted shopping centers, and residents staying away from one another are the new normal in Beijing – but not because the city, like many Chinese ones before it, is under a “zero-Covid” lockdown.
This time, it’s because Beijing has been hit with a significant, and spreading, outbreak – a first for the Chinese capital since the beginning of the pandemic, a week after leaders eased the country’s restrictive Covid policy.
As China moves away from zero-Covid, health experts warn of dark days ahead (7 December)
Holes in the great fire wall: Dissent and protests in China
By Digital Forensic Research Lab
(Atlantic Council) To discuss the recent lockdown demonstrations in China, DFRLab Resident China Fellow Kenton Thibaut moderated a panel at the Digital Forensic Research Lab’s 360/StratCom this year.
While the crackdowns on these large-scale mobilizations have been much less harsh than crackdowns in 1989, [Sheena] Greitens, [associate professor at the LBJ School of University of Texas Austin] cautioned against painting the regime as becoming more tolerant of opposition, remarking that the Chinese Communist Party has shifted punishment from public spheres, such as the protest areas, to “individualized, targeted private spaces that we can’t see.”
As the protests wound down, some observers were disappointed by the results and that there has been no structural political change. But [Maya] Wang, [associate director at Human Rights Watch] offered more nuance: “Even in the West… things do not change overnight,” noted Wang. “People should not expect any differently from China. People should also not discount the inspiration that these protests brought… The protests are important this time because they give people hope they are not alone,” she said. offered more nuance: “Even in the West… things do not change overnight,” noted [Maya] Wang, [associate director at Human Rights Watch]. “People should not expect any differently from China. People should also not discount the inspiration that these protests brought… The protests are important this time because they give people hope they are not alone,” she said.
China to allow home quarantine as Covid restrictions eased nationwide
Move marks a significant shift away from strict zero-Covid policy that Beijing has pursued for almost three years
The 10-point directive, issued on Wednesday afternoon by China’s national health commission, also instructed officials to stop launching temporary lockdowns, and ended testing and health code requirements for “cross-regional migrants”, suggesting much freer travel across China for the lunar new year period.
John Ibbitson:A demographic apocalypse lies behind Chinese protests
The Chinese government will probably be able to contain the protests over COVID-19 restrictions. Beijing will probably be able to contain the protests that come after that, which may be about COVID-19 or something else. But what about the protests after that? And the ones after that?
People who are pushing back against excessive restrictions by an authoritarian regime are also reacting to a slow-moving demographic apocalypse, though many of them might not know it.
China’s population will probably begin to decline this year, and will continue to decline every year after that. The country will lose half of its population by the end of the century, possibly sooner. These losses will place an enormous strain on the country’s economy and social fabric. We can expect repeated waves of protests. Maybe worse.
China’s Covid policy didn’t have to end in riot and protest. This is why it did
All states deny and suppress protests, but the government faces a rapid spread of public anger centred on a galvanising tragedy
On Thursday 24 November, a fire broke out on the 15th floor of an apartment block in Urumqi, capital of the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. At least 10 people died, all from the minority Uyghur community. Outrage grew at the fact that the deaths were entirely avoidable, caused by China’s draconian Covid lockdown policy. Some of the victims were sealed in their flats; the building’s fire exits were locked; fire engines were delayed by Covid barriers. Demonstrations and vigils in response soon spread across the country.
Ten days later, after initially denying the tragedy had anything to do with its Covid policies and seeking to suppress all news of the protests, the seemingly immovable Chinese Communist party cracked.
China’s protests are testing the surveillance state
Protests in China might force the government to back down from its extreme Covid-19 restrictions and ramp up its extreme surveillance.
(Vox) As Wall Street Journal deputy China bureau chief Josh Chin told Today, Explained, the protests highlighted a weakness of the massive surveillance state that the CCP has built online. Images and videos of the Urumqi fire spread across China on social media faster than censors could respond, allowing the protests to grow into possibly the largest show of defiance toward the Chinese government since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. And while the protests were overwhelmingly about ending the lockdowns, we also heard some calls for an end to President Xi Jinping’s surveillance state. One of the most striking images of the protests has been one of demonstrators holding up blank pieces of paper, a symbol of Chinese censorship.
But it’s not likely to spell the end of surveillance in China. The government is already leveraging the vast amounts of information it’s collected on its citizens — including cell phone location data — to crack down on those who participated in the protests.
30 November-1 December
No Exit From Zero COVID for Xi Jinping
The death of a former leader, Jiang Zemin, is inconvenient for the Chinese Communist regime but unlikely to deter its crackdown on dissent.
By Isabel Hilton
(The Atlantic) The death of China’s former leader Jiang Zemin after a week of countrywide demonstrations of popular discontent with Xi Jinping’s signature zero-COVID policy, adds one more potentially potent factor to a volatile political situation. Xi has built a cult of personality around himself that resembles that of Mao Zedong. Jiang, who ruled as the party’s general secretary from 1989 to 2002, may not have had that stature, but his tenure casts an unflattering light on today’s flagging economy and harsh social controls.
Xi Jinping in His Own Words – What China’s Leader Wants—and How to Stop Him From Getting It
The Soviet collapse haunts Xi and functions as a fundamental guide to his actions.
By Matt Pottinger, Matthew Johnson, and David Feith
(Foreign Affairs) … “A few people tried to save the Soviet Union,” Xi said. “They seized Gorbachev, but within days it was turned around again, because they didn’t have the tools of dictatorship. Nobody was man enough to stand up and resist.” The phrase “the tools of dictatorship”—the idea that it is essential for the party and especially its top leader to control the military, the security apparatus, propaganda, government data, ideology, and the economy—would recur again and again in Xi’s speeches and official guidance over the next decade. …
Xi Versus the Street
The Protests in China Could Herald a Turbulent New Era
(Foreign Affairs) Over the past week, as more than a dozen cities have been engulfed by large protests, China has seemed more unsettled than at any previous point in Xi Jinping’s ten-year reign. By November 29, after a weekend in which people sometimes openly directed their ire at the country’s leadership, authorities had sent out a small army of police in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities to restore order, arrest protesters, and try to put the movement to rest. But as the government reasserts control, it must also now contend with the reality that large swaths of the general public have begun to question the wisdom not just of local officials but of Xi’s leadership in Beijing. That raises a once unimaginable question: Has Xi, newly installed for an unprecedented third term in office, lost the Chinese street?
Two Chinese cities ease COVID curbs after protests spread, (with video)
(Reuters) The giant Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Chongqing announced an easing of COVID curbs on Wednesday, a day after demonstrators in southern Guangzhou clashed with police amid a string of protests against the world’s toughest coronavirus restrictions.
Andrei Lungu: China needs a timeline for ending zero-Covid to regain public trust
(SCMP) Beijing’s Covid-19 containment strategy relies heavily on public cooperation, but after almost three years of lockdowns, frustrations are mounting
While China is in no position to safely open up right away, it can admit to mistakes, ask for patience and provide a timeline for ending restrictions
Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has been living quietly in Japan with visits to the U.S. and Israel after China’s crack down on him
Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma has been living in Tokyo for nearly six months, after Beijing’s crackdown on the technology sector, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.
Once China’s wealthiest and most prominent tech leader, Ma retreated from the spotlight in recent years after his criticism of government regulation landed him in trouble with Beijing, derailing the initial public offering of fintech giant Ant Group Co.
That was followed by an expansive crackdown on the private sector in China, particularly aimed at reining in the power of internet firms. His rare public appearances since then have been closely watched.
Clashes in Shanghai as COVID protests flare across China
By Casey Hall, Josh Horwitz and Martin Quin Pollard
Wave of civil disobedience unprecedented under President Xi
Rising frustration over Xi’s zero-COVID policy
Deadly apartment fire in Urumqi sparked demonstrations
Beijing, Chengdu, Lanzhou, Wuhan among cities with protests
(Reuters) – Hundreds of demonstrators and police clashed in Shanghai on Sunday night as protests over China’s stringent COVID restrictions flared for a third day and spread to several cities in the wake of a deadly fire in the country’s far west.
The wave of civil disobedience is unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago, as frustration mounts over his signature zero-COVID policy nearly three years into the pandemic. The COVID measures are also exacting a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.
Protesters call for Xi to resign amid unprecedented unrest over China’s COVID-19 measures
Wave of civil unrest unprecedented in mainland China since Xi Jinping assumed power
(CBC) Demonstrators have been arrested in Shanghai after calling for President Xi Jinping to resign
Xi Jinping and the Paradox of Power
What Mao’s Failures Reveal About Centralizing Control
By Minxin Pei
(Foreign Affairs) Far from guaranteeing another decade of success as China’s dominant leader, however, Xi’s triumph is likely to usher in a period of political rivalry among his own loyalists who are eager to seek his favor and gain an edge in the inevitable struggle for succession. Nor will Xi’s political dominance guarantee the success of policies urgently needed to meet the needs of the population and U.S.-Chinese strategic competition. Xi has amassed coercive power that may make him all but invulnerable inside the regime, but this power is of limited use when seeking to reinvigorate economic growth, promote technological self-sufficiency, and address the looming demographic catastrophe.
The Weakness Behind China’s Strong Façade
Xi’s Reach Exceeds His Military’s Grasp
By Bonny Lin and Joel Wuthnow
(Foreign Affairs) In a move that was widely expected, Xi extended his own rule. But he surprised even the closest China watchers by unveiling a roster of leaders in which his confidants now occupy all the top positions within the party and state apparatus. Using direct and forceful language, Xi consolidated his hold on power and projected a strong and ambitious China to the world.
But the façade of a confident and robust Xi masked deep anxiety. Xi sees China hemmed in on all sides and facing intensifying security threats. This anxiety is driven by Beijing’s perception of a hostile Washington, its problematic relations with its neighbors, and the fact that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army still has a long way to go to become a force capable of fighting and winning local wars—never mind larger conflicts. Such a bleak outlook motivated Xi’s selection of new military leaders, underscored the urgency with which he has pressed the PLA to modernize, and resulted in a daunting list of tasks that the PLA must meet in the years ahead. Indeed, Xi’s insistence on Chinese military strength at the party congress was in truth an admission of weakness: China cannot yet defeat its rivals, and Beijing knows it. …
PLA strategists have long been concerned about the potential for “chain reaction warfare,” or the possibility that conflict in one theater could trigger fighting with other countries that seek to press their territorial claims while Beijing is preoccupied elsewhere. Planning for a war over Taiwan likely requires the PLA to prepare for other contingencies, including possible Indian opportunism to reclaim territory along the contested border, and to clamp down on any domestic turmoil if the public grows disenchanted. But the Chinese military is just not ready for that yet. Beijing does not trust its ability to successfully use large-scale force against Taiwan and likely has even less confidence that it can simultaneously manage both a war with Taiwan and any subsequent chain reaction conflicts.
What Happened to Hu Jintao?
The former Chinese leader was abruptly escorted out of a highly choreographed meeting of the Communist Party elite. Here’s what the videos show.
By Agnes Chang, Vivian Wang, Isabelle Qian and Ang Li
(NYT) It was the lone disruption in one of the most closely choreographed events in China: The country’s former top leader, Hu Jintao, was suddenly led out of the closing ceremony of the Chinese Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress.
Regardless of what happened, the symbolism was unmistakable. A former paramount leader, historically the only person with the stature to challenge a current one, was led offstage.
That left only one man in the spotlight: Mr. Xi, about to glide to his third term, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades.
Around the Halls: The outcomes of China’s 20th Party Congress
Richard C. Bush, Diana Fu, Ryan Hass, Patricia M. Kim, and Cheng L
Brookings experts reflect on the elite political gathering and what its outcomes mean for China and the rest of the world.
…under the Xi system, power is highly concentrated, the flow of information to the top is tightly constricted, and the risks of anyone challenging Xi’s view of reality based on objective information are high. The likely consequence is that Xi & Co. will become even more prone to “group think” than they already are; they will misperceive the reasons that the regime is facing difficulties and never blame its own policies; and miscalculate how China should respond.
China’s strongman is here to stay. And weaker than he looks.
By Phelim Kine
Xi is facing slowing growth and implementing politicized economic policies that could become his Achilles’ heel.
(Politico) On Sunday, Xi walked onto a Beijing stage to confirm his appointment to a third term, followed by a new top leadership team purged of rival factions and packed with loyalists — a procession that telegraphed party cohesion and strength.
Yet, for all its reputation as an economic juggernaut, China is struggling. Its economic growth is slowing, due to factors ranging from Xi’s zero-Covid strategy to inflation related to the war in Ukraine, according to the World Bank. China’s youth joblessness rate stood at about 19 percent in August. That’s dangerously high for a party that trumpets rising living standards as proof of wise governance.
But Xi has refused to renounce his “no limits” partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin and is maintaining zero-Covid despite the costs. In addition, his ideologically driven economic policy prescriptions — which lean toward a strong-armed interventionist approach rather than support for the country’s burgeoning private sector — could stunt growth further.
Xi’s third term clearly spooked markets in Hong Kong and the United States. Investors on Monday were dumping Chinese tech sector stocks due to concern that Xi will maintain policies that have wiped billions off the balance sheets of once booming technology firms over the past year.
China is struggling under “Xi Jinping’s disastrous economic policies and a series of dangerous structural imbalances, including a declining birth rate, an inadequate social safety net, and the CCP’s long ago decision to correlate its political legitimacy with China’s economic growth rate,” said Alex Gray, former chief of staff at the National Security Council and a senior fellow with the American Foreign Policy Council.
UK court to hear Uyghur demands to ban Xinjiang cotton
(AP) A Uyghur organization and a human rights group are taking the U.K. government to court to challenge Britain’s failure to block the import of cotton products associated with forced labor and other abuses in China’s far western Xinjiang region.
Tuesday’s hearing at the High Court in London is believed the first time a foreign court hears legal arguments from the Uyghurs over the issue of forced labor in Xinjiang.
Xi Jinping chooses ‘yes’ men over economic growth in politburo purge
Helen Davidson and Verna Yu
China’s president doubles down on ruling for life, excluding potential future leaders or factional rivals
Xi Jinping has stacked the senior Chinese Communist party ranks with loyalists, showing China’s ever more powerful leader favours loyalty over merit – and wants rule insulated from criticism or questioning.
The appointments, which were revealed on Sunday, have raised concerns that Xi has surrounded himself with “yes men” as he leads China through what he called the “choppy waters” of the future, some of which are of his own making. The country is facing domestic economic troubles and worsening global tensions as Xi doubles down on threats to annex Taiwan.
At the conclusion of the party’s twice-a-decade congress on Sunday, the new members of the most powerful political bodies were revealed to include Xi acolytes in the most senior positions, with factional rivals swept away.
The already poor female representation at the top was also erased. For the first time in 25 years there was no woman on the politburo; there has never been a woman on the highest seat of power the politburo standing committee.
As expected, Xi was reappointed for a precedent-breaking third term as head of the party, and chair of the military, having abolished term limits in 2018. A decade of political purges, increased surveillance and tightened social control has resulted in the 69-year-old leader consolidating personal power to a level not seen since Mao Zedong.
Sharp fall in China’s global standing as poll shows backing for Taiwan defence
Survey finds pro-China sentiment has collapsed in many nations while positive opinion of US has rebounded
Tracking the biggest takeaways from China’s Communist Party Congress
By Atlantic Council experts
What Xi ignored on the economy will cost him
Jeremy Mark, nonresident senior fellow at the GeoEconomics Center, former International Monetary Fund official, and Asian Wall Street Journal correspondent.
While Xi’s speech declared economic development to be his “top priority,” there was no sign that he was concerned about—let alone prepared to ameliorate—the deep problems that have undermined China’s economy over the past two years. He gave no ground on the zero-COVID policies that have squelched domestic consumption and destroyed small businesses. There was no mention of soaring youth unemployment, which hovers near 20 percent in China’s cities. And he offered no hint of concerted policies that could ease the country’s deep property downturn and prevent that crisis from damaging the banking system.
China’s Xi further cements power as party congress closes
By Yew Lun Tian and Eduardo Baptista
(Reuters) – China’s ruling Communist Party wrapped up its twice-a-decade congress on Saturday, cementing Xi Jinping’s iron grip on power and revealing a new Central Committee missing two key officials lacking close ties to the leader.
Li Keqiang, Wang Yang not elected to party Central Committee
Omissions of Li, Wang seen as laying ground to promote Xi allies
Ex-leader Hu Jintao escorted from stage at closing ceremony
Party charter amendments further enshrine Xi’s grip on power
Former China leader Hu Jintao escorted out of party congress
No explanation was given for the former president’s departure from the Communist party meeting.
Reading between the lines of Xi’s party congress speech
He’s staying the course. Chinese leader Xi Jinping kicked off the Twentieth Chinese Communist Party Congress with a nearly two-hour speech that emphasized security above other issues facing the country. Xi doubled down on his zero-COVID policy and held out the prospect of forceful “reunification” with Taiwan. How should the world interpret his rhetoric about the island? Is a course correction coming on the economy? What was conspicuously absent from the speech? The Atlantic Council’s China watchers read between the lines for the answers.
Shirley Martey Hargis (@ShirleyMHargis): Nonresident fellow at the Global China Hub and Digital Forensic Research Lab
Kit Conklin: Nonresident senior fellow at the GeoTech Center and former US national-security official
Dexter Tiff Roberts (@dtiffroberts): Senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center’s Asia Security Initiative and former China bureau chief for Bloomberg Businessweek
Jeremy Mark (@jedmark888): Nonresident senior fellow at the GeoEconomics Center and former IMF official and Asian Wall Street Journal correspondent
China expected to grant Xi 5 more years, no major changes
(AP) — China on Sunday opens a twice-a-decade party conference at which leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a third five-year term that breaks with recent precedent and establishes him as arguably the most powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong.
As with most Chinese political events, little information has been released beforehand and the congress’ outcome will only be announced after several days of closed-door sessions. How much has been decided in advance and how much is still to be hashed out in face-to-face meetings also remains unknown.
China’s economy is ‘in deep trouble’ as Xi heads for next decade in power
(CNN Business) Until recently, some economists were predicting that China would become the world’s biggest economy by 2030, unseating the United States. Now, the situation looks much less promising.
As Xi prepares for his second decade in power, he faces mounting economic challenges, including an unhappy middle-class. If he is not able to bring the economy back on track, China faces slowing innovation and productivity, along with rising social discontent.
Party of One — The CCP Congress and Xi Jinping’s Quest to Control China
By Jude Blanchette
What one could previously hope for—the installation of a new leadership coterie and with it, the prospect of serious change—will not occur. Rather than a moment of course correction, the 20th Party Congress sees the CCP—a regime that has long enjoyed a reputation of competence, pragmatism, and predictability—cross a threshold into outright dictatorship and, with it, a likely future of political ossification, policy uncertainty, and the ruinous effects of one-man rule.
(Foreign Affairs) At the upcoming 20th Party Congress, the CCP will reshuffle personnel, issue reports, and project an image of Spartan unity and discipline. But the meeting will be more elegy than transformation. Despite the pomp that will surround the congress, it will mark a disquieting moment for the party. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s unprecedented third term as general secretary will drag the CCP back to the pathologies of the Mao era and simultaneously push it toward a future of low growth, heightened geopolitical tension, and profound uncertainty.
The continuation of Xi’s rule means that on the big questions of China’s future, Beijing is unlikely to shift its policies dramatically: after a decade in power, Xi’s impulses, assumptions, and judgment are already clear. … The meeting is designed not as a showcase for some dramatic new approach to governance or policy but rather as pure political theater meant to reassure the Chinese citizenry and convince global audiences that the party remains steadfast and unified under Xi as he pursues the goal of transforming China into a socialist great power.
Xi’s grip on China’s political, economic, and security institutions is formidable, and his stated plans for China’s future are many and detailed. Yet his ability to steer complex ecosystems and the forces that shape them is, as all rulers eventually learn, fixed and limited. What is more, the reactive, shortsighted, and often incoherent set of policies that Xi has promoted over the past five years intended to achieve his global ambitions and confront the country’s innumerable challenges have placed China on a worrying path of anemic economic growth, declining global prestige, and rising domestic repression. The congress will not change these realities either.
Who will succeed Xi Jinping as China’s leader? It’s complicated.
(WaPo) All eyes are on Xi Jinping at the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress that begins in Beijing on Sunday. Barring a major upset, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades will extend his rule, undoing the previous convention of top leaders serving two five-year terms before stepping aside.
With authority tightly held in one man’s hands, it’s easy to forget the remaining 2,295 delegates attending the conclave in Beijing. But it is among these jockeying cadres that experts in Chinese politics search for clues about just how much power Xi has — and how long he is liable to hold it.
The primary focus will be on the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the seven-member body at the pinnacle of decision-making power. If Xi is able to stack the committee with loyalists, then there will be few signs of checks on his personal control.
… New positions for the current and former party bosses of Xinjiang, Ma Xingrui and Chen Quanguo respectively, will be closely watched by those concerned about a harsh security clampdown in the region under Xi. If Chen receives a promotion, that would be an official stamp of approval on his hard-line approach.
Analysts also debate whether China will appoint a new foreign minister to replace Wang Yi, who will be 69 by the time the meeting ends. Some argue that Wang is likely to stay on as an influential Politburo member even if he steps aside from the ministry role.
Expert Guide to Congress
(Atlantic Council) From navigating geopolitical tensions to tackling the country’s property crisis, the outcomes of the congress could have significant implications for China’s political and economic landscape.
Beijing takes aim at the Global South
Beijing’s Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI) will likely feature prominently as foreign-policy priorities during the Twentieth Party Congress, specifically in the Congress Work Report. These initiatives currently appear to be lacking in detail, but they build on existing efforts underpinning Xi’s strategic vision for China’s global reach, in particular the Belt and Road Initiative and the “community of common destiny” concept. As such, we can view GDI and GSI as the next stage in Beijing’s attempt to shape an international system that is more conducive to China’s expanding global interests.
How to make sense of Xi Jinping, China’s enigmatic ruler
His project to restore the Communist Party’s overbearing role has grim implications for China and the world
(The Economist) Far from being a reformer, Mr Xi sees himself as a restorer—of the party and its central role in society, and of China and its role in the world. He has amassed more power and wielded it more ruthlessly than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. As his power has grown, so has China’s ambition. At the party’s five-yearly congress, starting on October 16th, Mr Xi will almost certainly be given another term as supreme leader, possibly setting him up as ruler for life. Understanding his origins and his beliefs has never been more important. …
Rather than reject the party after Mao’s purges, he dedicated himself to restoring it. The party, to his mind, was the only institution able to prevent such chaos from recurring. So it made sense for its leaders to turn to him in 2012, when many thought the party had again lost its way. To save it, they believed, it needed discipline and a renewed sense of purpose.
China’s president has given it that in spades. His anti-corruption campaign set a new tone—and doubled as a purge of his rivals. He has since reinjected the party into all aspects of life. Party committees have been set up in private firms and reinvigorated at the neighbourhood level, where grassroots members help enforce his “zero-covid” policy. Mr Xi has created party bodies with new powers to oversee government ministries.
When Mr Xi took over in 2012, China was changing fast. The middle class was growing, private firms were booming and citizens were connecting on social media. A different leader might have seen these as opportunities. Mr Xi saw only threats. At home he is assembling a high-tech apparatus of incentives and coercion designed to restore party control. Abroad, he is posing a challenge to the American-led order that the world should resist.
The Weakness of Xi Jinping
How Hubris and Paranoia Threaten China’s Future
By Cai Xia, former Professor at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party (1998-2012)
(Foreign Affairs September/October 2022) Outwardly, Xi still projects confidence. In a speech in January 2021, he declared China “invincible.” But behind the scenes, his power is being questioned as never before. By discarding China’s long tradition of collective rule and creating a cult of personality reminiscent of the one that surrounded Mao, Xi has rankled party insiders. A series of policy missteps, meanwhile, have disappointed even supporters. Xi’s reversal of economic reforms and his inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic have shattered his image as a hero of everyday people. In the shadows, resentment among CCP elites is rising.
At the CCP’s 20th National Party Congress this fall, Xi expects that he will be given a third five-year term. And even if the growing irritation among some party elites means that his bid will not go entirely uncontested, he will probably succeed. But that success will bring more turbulence down the road. Emboldened by the unprecedented additional term, Xi will likely tighten his grip even further domestically and raise his ambitions internationally. As Xi’s rule becomes more extreme, the infighting and resentment he has already triggered will only grow stronger. The competition between various factions within the party will get more intense, complicated, and brutal than ever before.