Why Chinese Xi Jinping’s damage control is about overcoming the crisis

For president Xi Jinping, sends its special envoy to Europe for a three-week charming tour was just one of many high-stakes damage control actions before the 1920syou The Congress of the Chinese Communist Party this fall.

Xi’s economy is slowing dangerously, funding for his One Belt, One Road initiative has collapsed, his Zero Covid policy is wavingand his continued support for Russian President Vladimir Putin hanging like a cloud above his claim to be the world chief champion of national sovereignty while Russia’s war against Ukraine continues.

Few Chinese observers Belin Retaining Xi’s power is a serious challenge, but it is difficult to rule it out completely, given how many recent mistakes he has made. So don’t take any chances one of the most important gatherings of his partya meeting designed to ensure his continued rule and his place in history.

European business leaders understood this as a context for their own recent meetings s In Hongbo, the Chinese Government ‘s Special Representative for European Affairs and former UN Under – Secretary – General. His message was similar to any stop: Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Germany and Italy.

“The Chinese want to change the tone of history, to control the damage,” said a European business leader who asked to remain anonymous because of his Chinese business interests. “They realize they’ve gone too far.”

The businessman described Wu with his smooth and fluent English as one of the smoothest, most outspoken and intellectually agile Chinese employees he had ever met. At each stop, Wu admitted that China had “made mistakes” – from handling Covid-19, through diplomacy of the “wolf warrior” to its poor governance.

His trip came as fears in China grew for “losing Europe“After Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Public sentiment has changed enough for Finland and Sweden knocks on NATO’s doorand the European Union this week accepting the prospect of Ukraine’s candidacy for membership. Wu’s visit was also a sort of clean-up operation following a failed visit by Chinese official Huo Eugene to eight Central and Eastern European countries. In Poland, he was denied meeting with government officials.

Germans and their political leaders – Europe’s most important goal for Chinese diplomats and business – raise new questions about everything from investment guarantees for German business in China to specific projects like VW factory in Xinjiang Provincehouse on human rights violations against the predominantly Muslim Uighur population.

Although Wu referred to Putin’s war in Ukraine only indirectly, his message was intended to reassure Europeans that they are preferred partners, unlike the United States. His conclusion: China will always be China, a country of growing importance and economic opportunities for Europe.

Yet lost ground in Europe is just one of many problems facing His President before his party congresswhich will determine the economic, foreign policy and domestic agenda of the country for years to come.

The party’s congress is likely to give Si a third term, a move following the 2018 decision to lift restrictions on his term. What is more likely to reveal the degree of strength of Xi, write Michael Cunningham of the Heritage Foundation is whether he can place his allies in key central bodies, most notably the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee, as retirement rates provide significant turnover.

No matter how much Congress turns out, Chinese experts are increasingly talking about whether we are entering a period of “peak Q” or even “The peak of China“There is growing evidence that he and the country he represents (and his approach is to make the two inseparable) have reached the peak of their influence and reputation.

Nothing will determine the outcome more than how China manages the Chinese economy, which is the basis for the country’s wide-ranging global influence, as well as the Communist Party’s internal legitimacy.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, one of China’s most ardent observers everywhere, sees China’s economic prospects are weakening due to a number of factors. These include at least 10 defaults by Chinese developers and Xi’s repression of China’s technology sector, which cost it $ 2 trillion in market capitalization of the 10 largest technology companies in the past year.

Moreover, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has led to a sharp rise in energy and raw material prices and shook supply chains, “terrible news for the world’s largest producer, exporter and energy-intensive economy,” Rudd said. wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal. Add to this Xi’s insistence on China’s Zero Covid strategy, which has led to mass blockades.

Rud concludes that this combination of factors is enough to make it miss its 5.5% growth target and perhaps even grow slower this year than the United States. “For Mr. Xi, failing to achieve the goal would be politically catastrophic,” Rudd wrote.

Control of C damage on the economic front includes fiscal and monetary incentives and infrastructure spending to increase domestic demand. or recent meeting the Politburo also proposed some relief from regulatory measures against China’s technology sector.

Yet none of this will be enough to reverse Xi’s cardinal sin, and that was his dramatic quest for stronger state and party control.

Written in Foreign Affairs, Daniel H. Rosen of the Atlantic Council, who is the founder of the Rhodium Group, claims“China cannot have both today’s statism and yesterday’s strong growth rates. It will have to choose.”

He adds Craig Singleton told Foreign Policy this week: “China’s economic miracle may soon undermine (the Communist Party’s) ability to wage a long struggle for geostrategic dominance.”

There is not much time left to control the damage before He opens his party congress in the Great Hall of the People. He will probably get the vote he wants, but that will not solve the bigger problem. His leadership and decision-making were the ones that generated the challenges for China, and he will have to adjust his course if he wants to restore economic growth at home, revive his international momentum and avoid his “peak”.

Frederick Kemp is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Council.

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