Where is China Heading?

Where is China Heading?

By David Runciman and Catherine Carr

Helen and David talk to Cindy Yu, host of the Chinese Whispers podcast, about the trajectory of Chinese politics. What is Beijing’s political strategy for Hong Kong and Taiwan? Is Xi Jinping really a socialist? Can the CCP escape its history? Plus, what’s the real reason Xi didn’t show up in Glasgow?

Talking Points: 

Before the pandemic, the central questions about China in the West revolved around Hong Kong. Now we don’t talk about it so much.

Both the West and China itself seem to think that China has the situation under control.The pandemic made protest harder. It also meant that the media on the ground was focusing on something else.Beijing called the financial companies’ bluff: they didn’t leave when the political situation got worse. 

China is trying to repair its territorial claims.

In some ways, the situation in Hong Kong has made conflict with Taiwan more likely. One country, two systems no longer seems plausible. The window of reunification may be closing. Xi would probably not want to go in for a long, drawn-out war.

This is a precarious situation: the risks of miscalculation are enormous. 

What would the West need to do to preemptively deter China? It’s not clear that this would actually be good for China. 

The CCP apparatus is incredibly opaque. 

That said, it appears that the party is more unified now than it was before.Xi is delivering, and if he continues to do so, he will probably not face too much pushback within the party.There was a domestic reason for Xi to skip COP: it coincided with the Sixth Plenum.

How ideological is Xi’s project? 

China is moving away from pragmatism, not necessarily because of Xi Jinping thought.Ideology is most evident in economics.Xi is now talking about common prosperity after decades of rampant inequality.The policies associated with common prosperity probably would not fly in the West.Xi thinks that fixing economic problems is one way to head off social problems.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Cindy’s podcast, Chinese WhispersCindy’s podcast episode with Oriana Skylar MastroVictor Shih at UC San Diego

Further Learning: 

More on the Biden-Xi virtual summitThe Talking Politics Guide to… The Chinese Communist Party

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

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