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China goes its own way

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference has confirmed the growing centralisation of power in China around President Xi. President Biden is facing some difficult choices ahead.

The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference has confirmed the growing centralisation of power in China around President Xi. President Biden is facing some difficult choices ahead.

Charles Stanley

in Features


China’s President Xi. Jinping flattered the delegates to this conference by describing their important role in his centralised model of democracy, China style. They should be a key platform to "unite, educate and guide representatives of all ethnic groups and sectors with the Party's new theories, as well as a key channel to resolve disputes and build consensus..."

The backdrop to this conference is the completion of reforms in Hong Kong to ensure loyal representatives in the legislative assembly and continued insistence on the need for retraining and education for the Muslim minority in Western China.

The government of China is digging in against Western criticisms of its record on human rights and the wish to unify all China under a single ideology and approach. The Foreign Minister, Mr Wang Yi, stated it clearly when he said: "to smear or attack others for their different systems or even claim superiority is in essence hegemony of system."

China resents what it sees as the West claiming a moral high ground over democracy and human rights, when China just thinks it has a different approach to how to govern and consult people and ensure social harmony. Mr Wang also said that "China will never compromise on the Taiwan question".

For years, China has sought to remind the world that it thinks Taiwan is part of China. It has responded with strong words against any country that seems to be recognising Taiwan as an independent self-governing country.

With Joe Biden in the White House, China hopes it can negotiate with the US over the pandemic policies, trade and climate change. Offering opportunities for closer trade links might even move attention away from the human-rights issues.

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Beijing is also keen to establish closer trade ties with regional neighbours including Japan, Korea and Australia – though there remain substantial past histories and obstacles in the way. Indeed, it seems that China has been tougher on Australia than on others in response to Canberra’s criticism over the Hong Kong changes.

China has detected a toughening of western attitudes in recent months over everything from intellectual property to digital security, from Hong Kong to the treatment of minorities. Her policy has placed more accent on domestic economic development and domestic consumption after the fast-growing years based on exports and industrial expansion.

It has also had some difficult push backs from its Belt and Road strategy with some emerging economies thinking the split of rewards and liabilities unfair in the investment schemes China helped finance. China now says it will offer "better opportunities" to belt and Road partners. China claims it will always support developing countries and sees Russia as a partner.

China is seeking to step up its basic and blue-sky research and seeking to put in place all the necessary technologies and raw materials to be self-sufficient and strong in the years ahead. President Xi talks of a dual circulation paradigm, or China growing richer by expanding in both the home and overseas markets. He must appreciate that the stronger the central control the more likely will be opposition from the West.

The war will be cold

China does not want a major confrontation with the US, which remains powerful, and will seek to find issues where there can be some agreement or rapprochement. The overall relationship remains one of challenge, with China wishing to build her strength for longer whilst becoming more forceful about her red lines.

The US President has difficult choices to make about how far he goes in challenging China over sensitive issues like Hong Kong and the treatment of Uighurs, and how far he wishes to go in calming the position a bit by making overtures towards Iran and seeking more co-operation on trade and green matters. The climate-change issue itself is not guaranteed to bring rapprochement. It does not look as if President Xi is about to offer a major advance in cutting oil and coal use in China now, sticking with a further build-up before changing the direction of the demand graph.

Chinese shares rallied well at the start of the year – but are now below January 1 levels. The authorities have been tightening monetary conditions a bit to avoid excess credit or inflation. As environmental social and governance issues become more prominent in investment this year, there will be more debates about Chinese policy and positioning.

Nothing on this website should be construed as personal advice based on your circumstances. No news or research item is a personal recommendation to deal.

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