Xi in a rush

Some possibly interesting Friday reading… A dummy’s guide on how you should finance infrastructure in developing countries versus how ‘Belt and Road’ does it. (Basic money stuff – eg, low returns call for long-term debt. Bottom line: if a high-speed rail in Laos made sense, where were the non-Chinese institutions interested in funding it?) And the retreat of Confucius Institutes from American campuses. They seemed like a good idea at the time, and in theory they could have been a PR boost for Beijing.

As with all sorts of problems China is getting into – from Huawei’s sanction-breaking, to United Front infiltration in the West, to alienating Taiwan and Hong Kong, to genocide-lite in Xinjiang – there’s a common thread in these two cases: over-reach, over-aggressiveness and over-hastiness.

There are several reasons why Xi Jinping might be in such a hurry to restore China’s rightful position as the world’s supreme civilization. The economy is running on empty, relying mainly on additional inputs to generate growth. The country faces potential environmental horrors, notably with water and soil. And its demographics point to an aging and shrinking population, so time is tight for a big vision like displacing the US and establishing a Eurasian/Indo-Pacific ‘Belt and Road’ Co-Prosperity Tian Xia.

But another possible reason for Xi’s apparent impatience is simply hubris: he has no idea how all this looks to the rest of the world, his advisors don’t dare give him any bad news, and he believes his own propaganda.

In fairness to him, even overseas audiences have been taken by surprise by the rapid deterioration of the country’s image. Just a year ago, poor old Jeffrey Sachs was the soft-rock star of developmental economics with an unremarkable, mildly sympathetic position on China. Today, he finds himself vilified as an extreme Panda-hugger, hounded from Twitter after taking an up-until-recently predictable and trendy Beijing-leaning position on Huawei.

Not all the oldies are struggling to keep up. I declare the weekend open with Hong Kong’s last Governor Chris Patten on how Xi Jinping is damaging Hong Kong.


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10 Responses to Xi in a rush

  1. Real Fax Paper says:

    Sachs did not get hounded from Twitter for his predictable (and distinctly paid-for feeling) position on Huawei. He was asked, politely, what his stance was on the concentration camps in Xinjiang. He responded with a breezy “I don’t know much about it”, in much the style Imran Khan tried to brush it away this week, and a po-faced request for any articles or papers he could read on the topic. And, guess what, there were plenty. He was inundated with people helpfully and politely supplying links to all the fairly high-profile reporting that is (finally) being done on the topic. And then he deleted his account.

    I did not see one hostile or ad-hominem comment in the thread before he disappeared. Hounded he was not.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    My only fear is that Xi, in his rabid self delusion to be remembered as the most impactful emperor of all time, will force the Taiwan conundrum to a head at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives (at least) during his tenure.

    For all the “we are ALL Chinese and should love the motherland” bullshit spouted, fratricide of (mostly) fellow Han escapes irony for the tunnel visioned megalomaniac.

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    Good riddance to the CONfucius Institutes.

    These types of setups are to be on a quid pro quo basis but, as usual with the CCP, there was no quo for the quid. Western unis get suckered to host a brainwashing and control exercise while the CCP prevented ANY kind of similar arrangement in the Motherland.

    Students want to learn proper Chinese and real Chinese culture? Go spend a semester in the democratic and independent nation of Taiwan.

  4. Stephen says:

    @Chinese Netizen,

    Whilst Xi Dada may be neck deep in rabid self delusion I would wager most PLA Generals are not. To attempt the largest maritime invasion in modern warfare without the element of surprise will be a bloodbath that the CCP may never recover from. The satellites will announce the buildup well in advance leaving the Taiwanese and possibly the Japanese and USA enough time to mine the Taiwan straight.

  5. @Stephen – an interesting article here about Taiwan’s defences and why a PRC invasion is likely to fail: https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/09/25/taiwan-can-win-a-war-with-china/

  6. Cassowary says:

    @Old Newcomer
    I read the article you linked to and the first thing that came to mind is why would they need to invade at all? I think Taiwan would be sooner undone by political machinations than by military force. Bomb Taipei to smithereens to intimidate the populace, assassinate Tsai and other major DPP leaders, cut a deal with the Kuomintang and sign a “peace agreement” installing them as puppet rulers. The power vacuum is filled, the Taiwanese military is called off, martial law is declared, elections are suspended until the constitution can be rewritten to neuter all elected offices.

  7. Cassowary says:

    If they back an internal coup, they can skip the bombing and assassination parts entirely. Russia doesn’t march into Crimea with its entire army, they plant puppets and militias and propaganda.

  8. Chinese Netizen says:

    Stephen, I hope you’re right but I fear Cassowary’s scenario might be the more realistic.

  9. Stanley Lieber says:

    For the CCP to launch an unprovoked attack on Taiwan would risk the loss of the Mandate of Heaven.

    If the PLA were unable to completely subdue Taiwan within 30 days, it would become a racing certainty.

    That’s why, with sensible preparations on Taiwan’s part, it’ll never happen.

  10. pd says:

    GA, The Chinese method is incremental (sneaky), risk-adverse (cowardly), intensely personal (go for the balls), and designed to humiliate (cover with excrement) and subvert (sell your mother).

    They”ll just take that tiny island off Xiamen, and observe reactions.

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