A Healthy Dose Of Xi Jinping Hysteria
Concerns around the rapid abandonment of strict pandemic control measures in China filled a news void Thursday. Predictably, the same outlets which spent the better part of a year mercilessly deriding Xi Jinping's no tolerance approach to COVID are now engaged in around-the-clock, breathless editorializing about the risks associated with a haphazard rollback of the curbs. On Wednesday, China unveiled 10 new measures which amounted to an admission that "COVID zero" -- "dynamic" or otherwise --
9 thoughts on “A Healthy Dose Of Xi Jinping Hysteria”
China’s military is untested now and when they have had border skirmishes in the past they have done poorly.
This may be one of your best posts, ever. It is rife with analysis, soul searching, and humility. Bravo for putting all of yourself into your work.
The criticism of Xi’s policies, no matter which direction they go is reflective of the 24 hour news coverage that fights for our attention. Hyper criticality is now a daily response to whatever qualifies as newsworthy content. It’s meaningless and a waste of thought and energy but we play that game daily anyway.
I think China is still in a place where we can manage them through diplomatic ties. With a country that large and under such surveillance the best we can hope for is the people there tire of their dictatorship and rise up. That can be best accomplished with soft power.
China’s military may be larger than ours but it is not battle tested. I think if we can learn anything from the Ukraine conflict it’s that you can’t look at sheer size and modernization and assume any outcomes. There is no reason in the world anyone would have assumed that Russia would have fallen so flat on its face against a tiny force like Ukraine. It is also easy to assume the US would be challenged by a large Chinese navy, but that navy has never been tested and doesn’t have centuries of success behind it. I’m certainly not advocating for a conflict, war never really seems to solve anything anyway, but I do think other fighting forces get way more credit than they have earned. And yes, my bias as a Navy vet is showing.
All in all, Russia has demonstrated that they would have no chance in a traditional conflict with us, all they have left is mutually assured destruction. China, while tenuously amenable to maintaining peaceful relations is certainly a threat. However, I think the recent protests will push back Xi’s plans vis a vis Taiwan. We can use that newly bought time to rely on our soft power to push them further away from that notion. Ideally we need the people there to push back against that regime and enable the fight when it comes.
What better way to distract a restive population than starting a nice war? Especially one that can be presented as a battle to save national face.
Looking at the weak US military presence in the region, our depleted stock of weaponry thanks to our aid to Ukraine and eventual weakening of the chip stranglehold, if was in Beijing I’d look to take action sooner rather than later, before those vulnerabilities are rectified.
Nor do they need to launch a full scale conventional war to wring concessions out of the west. Disrupting Taiwan’s energy grid, the two crucial LNG import terminals and general computer system mayhem might be enough to crack Taiwan’s “Silicon Shield”.
Plus, how much appetite do US taxpayers have for yet another war? I recently spoke with some Taiwanese there and over there. None of them are counting on the US to commit forces to their defense. Are they wrong?
War can be a distraction but when large volumes of people recently called for a change of leadership, you’re not going to easily convince them to put their lives on the line for an unnecessary conflict.
The US has naval bases all across Japan and South Korea. It’s not like we’re looking at such a weak Pacific presence akin to the 1940’s. We have been preparing for an Asian conflict for decades.
I was thinking more of tactical aircraft rather than ships, which can take weeks to move into position, if they are available nearby. The loss of the bases in the Philippines would haunt us if we were forced to defend the island.
Great article and comments. I echo the thought that the recent protests are a tony beacon of hope that sets Xi’s plans to take over the world back a little bit. But also, thinking about Hershel Walker receiving 49% of the vote gives me pause about any long term optimism.
I know this isn’t politically correct but I am still stuck with the metaphors of my youth. I read most, if not all, of the “Uncle Remus” tales. As I think of the idea of a direct engagement with China I can’t help but remember the “Tar Baby” from those stories. Every time you touched it the more it absorbed you and the more you got stuck. China is a tar baby and over-estimating our ability to confront it physically is simply silly.
I really enjoyed reading this post. China is one of the biggest and most interesting puzzles to me, in large part due to something you noted, it is set to become the largest economy and have the largest military, but can it succeed as a true world power maintaining the current police state system and blocking the free flow of information into its population? Can you truly dominate the world order, as the US has, when you need to spend as much effort controlling your own people as you might spend influencing other nations? I used to visit Hong Kong frequently during the good years of the “one country two system” experiment and I crossed into the mainland on several occasions. My impression back then was that the China that Hong Kong promised could become an undisputed superpower but not the one I witnessed in the mainland, as impressive as it was. I think China would need to attract immigration and relax restrictions in the flow of information for it to really achieve its full potential and both of those premises are at odds with the party’s survival strategy, for all the faults we can find with the US and Europe both can eventually solve an aging population and declining productivity by allowing immigration (again), people still want to move to the developed world and try their shot at a decent life, will that ever be the case for Xi’s China?
H- yet another 10 out of 10 post.
Your ability to present complicated and multi-layer concepts with your own ideas while adding a personal and vulnerable detail about yourself makes for unparalleled writing that truly resonates on so many levels.
I believe that the US will remain a superior superpower based on the declining birthrate in China and the recognition that most of the world’s population that does not have opportunities in their native countries would choose US over China- if given such an opportunity.