Fri, Feb 14, 2020 - Page 9 News List

COVID-19 and the worldview of Xi Jinping

No matter how bad the viral outbreak gets, the crisis is not going to change how Xi governs China

By Kevin Rudd

The fourth goal is to incorporate environmental sustainability into China’s growth matrix. In the past, such concerns were ignored, but now they, too, are central to the party’s legitimacy. The Chinese people will not tolerate high levels of air, soil and water pollution.

Still, sustainability, including action to combat climate change, will always compete with priority three (economic growth), both in domestic industry and in the transnational infrastructure projects envisioned in Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Priority number five is to expand and modernize the Chinese military. Xi is overseeing the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) biggest reform — in terms of military organization, weapons platforms and personnel — since 1949.

The PLA is being transformed from an army-based institution for continental defense into a force for projecting power beyond China’s borders, through expanded naval, air force, cyber, space and AI capabilities.

Xi’s stated mission is to build a world-class military “to fight and win wars.”

The sixth objective is to secure benign and (when possible) compliant relationships with China’s 14 neighboring states and six maritime neighbors.

Russia has been key to this project, having gone from being an historic adversary that occupied much of China’s strategic attention to a virtual ally.

On the maritime front, China has made clear that it will not yield on its territorial claims in the East and South China seas.

Seventh, on China’s eastern maritime periphery, Xi believes that he must push the US back to the “second island chain” that runs from the Japanese archipelago through Guam to the eastern Philippines.

China also wants to weaken (or sever, if possible) the US’ longstanding security alliances in the region, particularly those with South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.

The ultimate objective here is to enhance China’s capacity to secure reunification with Taiwan — by force, if necessary.

Eighth, to secure China’s western continental periphery, Xi wants to turn the Eurasian landmass into a new market for Chinese goods, services, technology and critical infrastructure investment.

Through the BRI, he also wants Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as central, eastern and western Europe, to become increasingly sensitized to and supportive of China’s core foreign-policy interests.

Similarly, China sees large-scale market potential, not dissimilar to that of Eurasia, across the rest of the developing world, in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Hence, Xi’s ninth priority is manifested in the “Maritime Silk Road,” which is becoming as significant as the BRI.

More broadly, China has also been successfully converting this global economic strategy into reliable G77 voting support in critical multilateral forums.

Finally, Xi wants to reshape the global order so that it is more accommodating of Chinese interests and values.

China’s leaders see the post-1945 liberal international order as reflecting the worldview of the victorious white colonial powers that created it.

Xi considers the world of 2020 to be radically different from that of the post-war era. China has therefore developed a two-pronged strategy.

While increasing its power, personnel and financial influence within the existing global-governance institutions, China’s leaders are also building new, China-centric institutions like the BRI and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

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