China Xi warned of meddling in Taiwan, no rapid invasion expected: Analysts

China is very concerned about its susceptibility to outside influences, says professor

China will continue its efforts to become more self-reliant, but does not expect President Xi Jinping to forcefully move to Taiwan, analysts say.

Their comments follow Xi’s speech at the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress on Sunday.

There were few 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 strengthen his leadership for an unprecedented third term at the week-long meeting.

However, there was an important highlight in Xi’s speech, said Dylan Loh, a foreign policy professor and China expert at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Contrary to previous speeches, Xi made it clear that China had to brace itself for growing external challenges, Loh said.

Moreover, the Chinese leader’s call for the party to “build a socialist modern power by 2049” points to “its determination to resist external pressure and steer China on the party’s own course,” according to Eurasia Group. , a political risk consultancy.

Self-sustainability

The importance of self-reliance was heightened after Xi reformulated 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 first emerged in 2020 when a meeting of China’s Politburo called for a greater focus on domestic markets, or “internal circulation” to support China’s growth. The strategy is to become less dependent on export-based or trade-related growth without completely abandoning it.

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 strengthen his leadership for an unprecedented third term at the week-long meeting.

Lintao Zhang | Getty Images News

“Certainly the Chinese leaders have taken very careful note of what has happened in the war in Ukraine and what kind of stranglehold the west has been able to give Russia and of course there is a sense of great power competition between the US and China as well,” he said. Prasad.

“So this idea of ​​self-reliance, especially in the context of technology … trying to become less dependent on the rest of the world, either for export markets or for technology or imports of any kind. Obviously that’s going to be an important pillar.”

Xi Jinping has made it very clear what his intentions are: he wants a private sector that is manageable, that is manageable.

Eswar Prasad

Professor of International Trade and Economics, Cornell University

To get there, Prasad said Beijing would increase its control over China’s private sector rather than move to the other end of the spectrum, that is, to allow for more market-oriented reforms.

He said Xi’s speech, in line with Beijing’s comments in recent months, suggested the government saw a more state-dominated economy as the path to stability.

“Xi Jinping has made it very clear what his intentions are: he wants a private sector that is manageable, that is manageable.”

That strategy is well underway, given Beijing’s past intervention with China’s education and real estate sectors.

China probably not eager to start anything to forcibly reunite with Taiwan: ex-Singapore diplomat

As such, there would likely be a reshuffle in Xi’s cabinet by the end of this week’s meeting, including possible changes at the People’s Bank of China, in addition to an expected replacement for Prime Minister Li Keqiang who will retire in March, Prasad said. .

But it doesn’t matter who the new prime minister or cabinet members are, because Xi has made it clear that he will be pulling all the strings, according to Prasad.

Tensions between China and Taiwan

Other observers, such as Bilahari Kausikan, former permanent secretary of Singapore’s foreign ministry, said Xi does not want to take Taiwan by force, though he said in his speech that China “will never promise to renounce the use of force”.

China considers self-governed Taiwan part of its territory, and tensions between the two have risen recently when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visited the island in August, despite warnings from Beijing.

“I really don’t think the Chinese are very eager to start anything to reunite Taiwan by force… because if you start with that, you have to win,” Kausikan said.

“I don’t think a Chinese leader can survive a failed attempt on Taiwan like Putin screwed up Ukraine. And I don’t believe they have the capacity yet.”

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Lyle J. Morris, a 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 has lost patience for political reconciliation,” he said, noting that peaceful reunification was still the operative expression Xi used.

“He was referring to outside forces very early in the speech, so it’s clear that the US factor is at the center of his thoughts.

Adhering to China’s Zero Covid Policy

Asked if he was surprised that Xi remained committed to China’s zero-covid policy to the despair of companies hoping the country will reopen, Bilahari said Xi was driven by party and political logic subordinate to economic logic.

“To give up abruptly would be to admit it was a mistake … it will gradually unwind over the next two years without ever admitting it failed,” Bilahari told CNBC.

Loh of Singapore’s NTU said sticking to the zero-Covid policy had other practicalities. China’s medical infrastructure needs to be reformed before it can cope with a wider range of infections.

“The easiest, fastest and in some ways surest method of preventing Covid deaths from spiraling out of control is the zero-Covid policy. I expect some adjustments at the implementation level, but probably nothing more,” he said. .

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