China will continue to work to become more self-sufficient, but don’t expect the president to Xi Jinping to move into Taiwan by force, analysts said.
His comments follow Xi’s speech at the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s national congress on Sunday.
There were little surprises in Xi’s nearly two-hour speech in which he outlined his vision for the country for the next five years, analysts said. Xi is widely expected to cement his leadership for an unprecedented third term during the week-long meeting.
However, there was one key point made in Xi’s speech, said Dylan Loh, a foreign policy professor and China expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. Unlike previous speeches, Xi made it clear that China has to prepare for mounting external challenges, Loh said.
Furthermore, the Chinese leader’s call for the party to “build a modern socialist power by 2049” indicates “his determination to resist external pressures and guide China along the party’s own course,” political risk consultancy Eurasia Group said.
The importance of self-sufficiency was reinforced after Xi rearticulated the so-called “dual circulation” policy, Eswar Prasad, a professor of international trade and economics at Cornell University, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.
the dual circulation strategy it first emerged in 2020 when a Chinese Politburo meeting called for a greater focus on domestic markets or “internal circulation” to support China’s growth. The strategy is to rely less on export-led or trade-related growth without abandoning it altogether.
In a nearly two-hour speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined his vision for the country for the next five years. The Chinese leader is widely expected to cement his leadership for an unprecedented third term during the week-long meeting.
Lintao Zhang | Getty Images News
“Certainly Chinese leaders have been taking very careful note of what has been going on in the Ukraine war and what kind of chokehold the West has been able to apply to Russia and of course there is a sense of great power competition between US China too,” Prasad said.
“So this notion of self-sufficiency, especially in the context of technology … trying to become less dependent on the rest of the world, whether it’s for export markets or for technology or imports of any kind. Clearly that’s going to be a key pillar. .”
Xi Jinping has made his intentions very clear: he wants a private sector that is controllable, that is manageable.
Professor of International Trade and Economics, Cornell University
To get there, Prasad said Beijing’s control over China’s private sector would increase rather than move toward the other end of the spectrum, that is, to enable more market-oriented reforms.
He said Xi’s speech, consistent with comments from Beijing in recent months, suggested the government saw a more state-dominated economy as the path to stability.
“Xi Jinping has made his intentions very clear: he wants a private sector that is controllable, that is manageable.”
That strategy is on track given Beijing’s past involvement with China’s education. and real estate sectors.
As such, there is likely to be a shakeup in Xi’s cabinet by the end of this week’s meeting, including potential changes to the People’s Bank of China, as well as a Expected replacement for Premier Li Keqiang who will retire in March, Prasad said.
But it would not matter who the new prime minister or cabinet members are, since Xi has made it clear that it will be pulling all the strings, according to Prasad.
Tensions between China and Taiwan
Other observers, such as Bilahari Kausikan, a former Permanent Secretary at Singapore’s Foreign Ministry, said that Xi is not interested in taking Taiwan by force, although he said in his speech that China “will never promise to renounce the use of force.”
China sees Taiwan as self-governing as part of their territory and tensions between the two were recently inflamed when The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited the island in August despite warnings from Beijing.
“I really don’t think the Chinese are very eager to start something to reunify Taiwan by force…because if you start that, you have to win,” Kausikan said.
“I don’t think any Chinese leader can survive a failed attempt on Taiwan like Putin did on Ukraine. And I don’t think they have the capacity yet.”
Lyle J. Morris, senior fellow for foreign policy and national security at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis, agreed.
“Xi is not signaling to the international community that he wants to invade Taiwan or that he is running out of patience for political reconciliation,” he said, noting that peaceful reunification remained Xi’s catchphrase.
“He made reference to external forces very early in the speech, so clearly the US factor is front and center in his mind.
Comply with China’s zero covid policy
Asked if he was surprised Xi was sticking to China’s zero-Covid policies to the despair of businesses waiting for the country to reopen, Bilahari said Xi was driven by party and political logic that is secondary to economic logic.
“To abandon it abruptly would be to admit that it was a mistake…it will gradually unravel over the next year or two without ever admitting that it has failed,” Bilahari told CNBC.
Loh, from NTU Singapore, said there were other practicalities to sticking to zero-Covid policies. China’s medical infrastructure must be reformed before it can deal with a higher number of infections.
“The easiest, fastest and, in a way, safest method to prevent covid deaths from spiraling out of control is the zero covid policy. I expect some tweaks at the implementation level, but probably nothing beyond that,” he said.