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3 Factors in Xi Jinping's Mind

A PhD research student, with keen insight of the situations happening around


Taiwan Showdown

On paper, Taiwan versus China is a no contest, and China has more of everything tanks, jets, soldiers, and warships. But like we see in Ukraine, wars are not fought on paper; they're fought on the battlefield.
Does Xi Jinping have the appetite for that? If he chooses to escalate, he faces a long list of problems, global condemnation, widespread sanctions, and stiff resistance from Taiwan.

Is Xi Jinping ready for all these challenges?

Chance to One-Up Mao Zedong

Let's look at this from his perspective. Xi is the most decisive Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, but knowing him, that won't be enough. Xi Jinping wants to be number one, not number two, and how does he achieve that number one tag by doing something that Mao Zedong never could, conquer Taiwan and unify China? He has effectively brought Hong Kong under Chinese control. His next target is Taiwan; it's no secret, and frankly, Xi Jinping is better placed than Mao. He's got a stronger military and a bigger economy, so this could be her chance to cement his legacy.

Then why hasn't he done so?

The Chinese have surrounded Taiwan; their warships have blockaded the island, but Xi Jinping is not going for the kill.

What explains this ambivalence, the timing?

For all this talk about the raging dragon, Xi Jinping's China is actually in bad shape, and I'll give you three reasons why.

Number one is the economy, last month, china's manufacturing output shrank, which means their factories produced fewer products. The manufacturing output had increased in June after the zero Covid lockdowns, but in July, it shrank again.
The main engines of China's growth are faltering; like the property sector, land sales are down almost 30 percent. The big property developers are drowning in debt. The biggest of them is ever grant, the company was supposed to present a debt restructuring plan this weekend, but they failed to deliver it. Customers in 22 cities in china are refusing to pay their loans. They say finish our buildings first, and then we'll pay. Foreign investors are equally wary. Xi Jinping's cracked down on everything has spooked them.

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China's bond market lost 45 billion dollars between February and April. All these factors point to one thing, a slowing Chinese economy. The international monetary fund has revised its forecast for china. It's now 3.3 percent; this is the slowest growth rate for china in 40 years, four decades. For 2023 the forecast is even worse, just 1.6 percent. Until now, the booming economy kept the Chinese public happy.
As a result, dissent and rebellions were rare. But Xi Jinping may not have that luxury. Especially in an election year, and that's reason number two.

The 20th national congress of the Chinese communist party will be held later this year. It's a crucial one for Xi Jinping. This congress will decide if he gets a third term or not. Right now, it looks guaranteed; that he will get it. But Xi Jinping will be looking for a seamless extension, which means no war, instability, or bad headlines.

U.S. Tests Xi Jinping's Limits on Taiwan

Reason three is the international situation; who will support China if they attack Taiwan? Perhaps Russia, Iran too, at best some rogue states like North Korea and Myanmar. Beyond that, China will be isolated if the U.S. considers its enemy number one.
Europe is unhappy about its support of Russia. The ASEAN don't like them, Japan and South Korea don't support them, and India is at loggerheads with China and the Himalayas.

So how exactly will china survive? Just think about it. In Russia's case, they had china to help.

Xi Jinping is helping Vladimir Putin sidestep Western sanctions, but who will play that role for xi? at present, there are no candidates.

So Nancy Pelosi's visit has sort of boxed Xi Jinping in. Yes, he would like to escalate, but the domestic and international situation is unsuitable for war.

So what are his options?

One advantage for Xi Jinping is time. Leaders before him were limited to two terms in office, but chances are she will be president for life. This means there is no hurry to attack Taiwan immediately. He can invest more in china's military and wait out this economic slum, possibly chip away at America's hegemony. Xi Jinping's track record suggests that he will do that. He's not Vladimir Putin; remember, he's more calculated than mercurial.

Having said that, escalations are not always planned. You see, sometimes all it takes is one miscalculation, one momentary flare-up to unleash war, and once that happens, there's no going back.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Idrees Khan

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