It takes determination to alienate dovish and affable nations like Canada and Sweden. Google ‘backlash china’ and you see just how much Xi Jinping has managed to damage his country’s reputation in maybe just 18 to 24 months. The Maldives, Huawei, Senator Sam Dastyari, Hambantota port, CEFC, Kenyan standard-gauge railway, Country Garden/Forest City, Gwadar, Venezuela, Anne-Marie Brady, Taiwan-bludgeoning, Canadians-as-hostages, Huang ‘Australia giant baby’ Xiangmo, Confucius Institutes – not to mention domestically sourced PR nightmares like Uighur prison camps, the social-credit panopticon, etc.
It’s as if when Xi came to power, someone wiped all of Beijing’s institutional knowledge of the outside world, and they’re blundering around learning from scratch. The shock! of realizing that corrupt overseas governments might give way to leaders who recoil at exploitative Belt and Road deals. The disbelief that, rather than sign up to become vassal states, places like Poland and the Czech Republic might see through ‘the purely congratulatory tone of 16+1 lavish events’.
Huawei seems to have been the tipping point. You want shock? Respectable Chinese global tech giant business model based on bribery. And it’s inseparable from the state. Here’s a good piece on the implications for Australia (and everywhere). Clunky responses to this fall from grace reflect Beijing’s own ineptness: faux legal opinions, trying to bully Australian businesses, a not-quite-clever ad campaign in NZ.
Xi’s relaunch of the China brand as obnoxious highlights how misreading can go both ways. An Atlantic piece ditches old US assumptions and describes how Washington faces a China that is powerful but also undergoing likely economic stagnation and internal decay. On which point, here’s Michael Pettis on China’s GDP – or how Beijing cooks the books (also a layman-friendly reminder of the inadequacies of economic growth measurements generally).
I declare the weekend open with some fizz: Coca-Cola on its 40th anniversary in China.