When he took over as head of the regime in November 2012, not only was nobody suspicious of this leader with his debonair appearance and impeccably slicked back black hair, but he aroused hope in the West. Isn’t he the son of a reforming Deputy Prime Minister? At the time, Xi Jinping inherited an enviable situation: poor and reclusive at the death of Mao, China rose in forty years to the rank of second world economic power thanks to prodigious growth. It seems promised a bright future, especially as the West, convinced that this development will lead to democratization, welcomes its growth.
Ten years later, the atmosphere has changed a lot. Xi Jinping has shown his true face, that of an authoritarian and ultra-conservative leader. Far from liberalizing the country, he has continued to extend the hold of the State and the Party on society, while muzzling the slightest voice of dissent and establishing a cult of personality from another age. This big step back broke the momentum. Almost all the indicators have turned red. Paralyzed by the obsessive “zero Covid” policy and the regulated cutting of entire sectors, the economy is idling (2.5% in the first part of the year, far from “around 5.5%” set by the government for the whole year). And many foreign companies are cutting back on the old El Dorado. A sign that Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream” is struggling to convince, the number of births fell to its lowest last year since 1949, accelerating worrying aging. Abroad, violations of human rights and the aggressiveness of diplomats have terribly tarnished the image of China, which now causes fear. And prompted the United States and Europe to change their tune in the face of this threatening “rival”.
In the line of sight, the place of world leader in 2049
Will Xi Jinping change course? It’s unlikely. He should, on the contrary, praise his record in front of the more than 2000 delegates gathered in the very Stalinist Great Hall of the People, on the occasion of the XX Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which starts this Sunday, October 16 and should grant him a historic third term. Growing tensions with the West? Faithful to the Marxist principle of dialectical materialism, “he considers that they reflect the inevitable resistance to the establishment of a new world order and the advent of socialism, China being, according to him, on an upward trajectory and America in decline”, decrypts Steve Tsang, professor at the SOAS China Institute, in London.
Limited offer. 2 months for 1€ without commitment
From the perspective of the “Red Emperor”, China has entered a “new era”. During the first, Mao, the founder of the People’s Republic in 1949, returned the country’s sovereignty. The second, initiated by Deng Xiaoping, was that of enrichment. Xi Jinping, for his part, wants to make China a great power, with his sights set on world leadership in 2049. “He believes that the time has come to obtain geopolitical weight corresponding to its economic weight. China is going through a period of inflection, I would compare it to the United States of the 1890s: until the Spanish-American war, Washington exerted its influence abroad more by its economic than military power, before reversing the trend “, summarizes Charles Kupchan, professor at Georgetown University. This is why, in parallel with the gigantic project of the “new silk roads”, Xi has accelerated at a forced march the modernization of his army, more present than ever in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait.
“It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches the mouse”, said Deng Xiaoping. His heir is not at all of this opinion. In his eyes, only a China guided by a Communist Party with iron Marxist-Leninist convictions will be able to dethrone the United States. And what does it matter if the country’s image suffers. “The regime is ready to pay the price to achieve its geostrategic and ideological objectives. Its reasoning is no longer guided by economic development alone. The priority is to consolidate its political system and create a network of countries that will support its positions and its fight against the West”, explains sinologist Alice Ekman. For example, he did not hesitate to sacrifice the attractiveness of the Hong Kong financial center to impose a national security law in the summer of 2020.
The number one Chinese also believes that it is the ideological weakness of the USSR, more than economic, which caused its fall. When he began his political career, after having been sent to spend his adolescence in a miserable village in Shaanxi to be “re-educated” in the countryside, like millions of “educated young people” during the Cultural Revolution, his father, a victim of purge of by Mao, is still imprisoned. But rather than reject the system, the future leader reads Marx and chooses to be “redder than red” to make his way, reveals a comrade of youth in an American diplomatic note revealed by Wikileaks.
Will this strategy allow him to achieve his ambitions? Beijing’s offensive attitude has complicated the situation by alerting Washington, which is investing massively in technologies to counter the Middle Kingdom. But the latter has a real political will to catch up and has given himself time to be able to dominate the world…
Robin Rivaton’s Chronicle
The chronicle of Sylvain Fort
The chronicle of Christophe Donner
The chronicle of Frédéric Filloux