China’s recent bid to remove the two-term presidential limits, allowing President Xi Jinping to remain as the country’s president and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC), has come in as no surprise, a US-based think tank has said.
According to Dan Bluementhal, the Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations, President Xi’s rational move comes at a time, when he has spent the last six years on accumulating political power, recentralising economic and national security policymaking and getting rid of enemies.
Bluementhal added that the Chinese President is an avid admirer of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and is emulating the latter’s various political and national security strategies.
When President Xi took over in 2012, China’s economy was in tatters as it was starting to feel the pinch of a debt-fueled massive fiscal stimulus enacted during the 2008 global financial crisis. The country was plagued by a debt of nearly 276 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and market reforms had been hindered completely, The Hill reported.
“With an underperforming economy and lack of desire to return to the period of reform and opening, President Xi is betting his legacy and his legitimacy on what he calls the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. His aspiration is that the CCP will not only survive but will return China to the geopolitical centrality it enjoyed during its imperial periods,” the American author opines.
President Xi’s also announced an ambitious plan, named the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, calling for the construction of massive Chinese infrastructure projects to link East with the West, on the lines of the ancient Silk Route. According to Beijing, it will greatly improve its energy security, acquire new forms of technology and create new land and sea routes for trading.
The Chinese President has also intensified its aggressive policies on territorial claims in the South and East China Seas and also towards Taiwan, which it considers as a “separate province”.
Bluementhal believes that these measures initiated by President Xi have successfully turned these projects into a new economic order and is bringing back China into its glory days.
The author added that the Chinese President’s latest move to remove the term limits have been described as the “Putinisation” of China. It means that the move has created plenty of problems for the US and its allies.
President Putin has consolidated Russia into a major international player by threatening Europe, attacking the democratic system of the US and disrupting the Middle East, by supporting the Syrian conflict, according to Bluementhal.
Both Washington D.C. and Beijing have been at loggerheads over the ongoing maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas. The US is finally waking up to China’s provocations ranging from militarisation of the South China Sea to attempts to “export” the communist country’s authoritarian politics. US President Donald Trump has put forth a strategy to push back against China in every domain of power, which now depends upon his administration to implement it.
If the Trump administration succeeds, Washington D.C. will find that President Xi’s rule is fragile than most assume Beijing as a strong global player in the Asian region. For example, China’s censors had to work overtime to silence mass Chinese dissent after the news of Xi’s power grab. Further, China has never been forced to face a real choice between spending on “guns versus butter,” meaning the country’s investment in defence and civilian goods.
According to Bluementhal, the US can challenge President Xi in terms of maritime disputes in the South China Sea. It should begin its campaign aggressively to expose the “rot and decay” at the core of the CPC. Faced with a serious geopolitical challenge, President Xi will have to choose between escalating his anti-US strategy or de-escalating and turning his attention to address the social and economic problems in China that its people will feel that he will address it.
Bluementhal feels that if Washington D.C fails to execute a strong campaign against China, President Xi will consolidate his position further in the field of international affairs.