Why does China’s leader Xi Jinping seem to be choosing a policy of stability with the US?

The meeting of the leaders of the two superpowers in Bali, in the framework of the Summit of the 20 countries with the largest economies in the world (G20), gave analysts and governments new data on the priorities of the Chinese leadership.

The international political context has changed dramatically over the past nine months and this appears to be influencing the choices of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Biden and Xi Jinping have met before, when Biden was vice president of the United States and Xi Jinping was beginning his path to China’s leadership. They always showed respect to each other and had a code of communication.

As presidents of their countries they had five contacts in the form of phone calls, teleconferences and the meeting in Bali was the first with physical contact. It lasted three and a half hours, it was considered by both sides productive in the sense that the main problems and red lines were raised by the interlocutors.

There was no joint communique, but the statements made by Biden and Xi Jinping show several points in common in recognizing and approaching common problems.

By attending the Bali Summit, Xi Jinping ended a period of diplomatic isolation due to China’s strict COVID-19 restrictions. Last September he took part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit held in Uzbekistan. But the Summit in Bali had a different meaning because the seven most developed countries of the West, the G7 group, including the USA, took part in it.

Xi Jinping’s new approach

The three major changes that led to Xi Jinping’s new approach to the outstanding issues are in our view the following:

1. He secured at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in Beijing last October, his election for a third consecutive five-year term as the leadership of the Party, State and Armed Forces.

The rule that had been imposed since the early 1990s for more collective leadership and the limitation of presidential terms to two five-year terms was thus broken, in order to avoid phenomena of over-concentration and personalization of power.

Judging by the interventions of the Chinese leader and official propaganda, it has now acquired a status comparable to that of Communist China’s founder Mao Zedong and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping who lifted it from the deadlock and put it on the path of dynamic development .

It is therefore logical that Xi Jinping feels more confident in himself and with greater margins in his political movements.

2. The context in the international political environment has changed due to the war in Ukraine which completes nine months. Putin launched the so-called “special operation” believing that in a few days he would have captured Kyiv and installed a controlled pro-Russian government only to find, over the next nine months, that he is losing most of the battles on the battlefields. The hasty withdrawal of the Russians from the completely destroyed Kherson – the only regional capital they had captured – highlights the failure of the Russian campaign.

The Chinese leadership has developed close relations with Putin, covered up the Russian invasion of Ukraine by abstaining from the UN votes, while the Chinese media does not mention the Russian military defeats and the barbaric strategy aimed at the complete destruction of Ukraine’s basic infrastructure.

Over time, Xi Jinping has gone from fully understanding Putin to being concerned about the excesses and failures of his close political friend. China emerges victorious from the confrontation, in the sense that Russia is becoming more and more dependent, economically, on it.

On the other hand, however, he is paying the bill for the international economic turmoil caused by Putin’s aggressive war, the energy crisis and the strengthening of NATO, which many, like French President Macron, considered before the Russian invasion of Ukraine ” brain dead”.

Therefore, China’s president is beginning to have second thoughts about the length and manner of Putin’s conduct of the war.

3. Τhe political strengthening of President Biden is the third change that has shaped Xi Jinping’s new political approach beyond stability with the US.

After the hasty withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan, Biden’s popularity fell below 40% and the impression was created that he was a weak, transitional president. But then it turned out that the withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan freed up forces to give extremely important economic and military aid to Ukraine and to strengthen the presence and pressure they exert in the Indo-Pacific region where it plays the leading role with power and China’s volume.

Biden has used the Ukraine crisis to reinvigorate NATO and expand his strategy geographically. Moreover, he passed the test of the midterm elections with relatively small political losses, breaking the political tradition that has been established in the US. Despite his 80 years he is beginning to acquire the image of a leader who successfully guides the West and has political problems in his country under control. This is of enormous importance to the Chinese leadership, which would logically prefer an experienced and stable interlocutor like Biden to Trump with his outbursts and contradictions.

The issue of Taiwan and the renewal of the intentions of China and the US on this issue

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also brought China’s relations with Taiwan to the fore. Taiwan has 25 million inhabitants, is one of the most economically and technologically developing economies in the world, and its people have never known a communist regime.

Until 1945 Taiwan was part of the Empire of Japan. It then became the seat of Chinese nationalists who were defeated by Mao Zedong in the civil war and fled to the big island. Since the 1990s, Taiwan has followed an impressive course of democratization that resulted in most of its residents rejecting any idea of ​​Taiwan’s integration into the People’s Republic of China.

The way Beijing handled the integration of Hong Kong, which as a former British colony had secured a special status, strengthened Taiwanese objections. The Chinese Communist Party did not tolerate political dissent in Hong Kong, imposed special legislation and organized the persecution of opposition and dissidents.

Since 1979, the US has been committed to the one China policy whereby it recognizes the autonomy of Taiwan, but does not recognize it as an independent state because that would call into question the national unity as perceived by Beijing and subscribed to by Washington in the successful its attempt to isolate the Soviet Union.

So the question is whether the Chinese leadership will persist in pursuing Taiwan’s integration even through military means, and whether the US will stick to the autonomy guarantees it offers to Taiwan without questioning the one-China policy.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was done in the name of integrating into Russia populations that had been cut off from it by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The difficulties Putin faces on the battlefield and the pressure his regime faces from the West have Xi Jinping concerned about the cost of a potential military operation against Taiwan.

Officially, he is not changing his policy, but as Biden assured after their meeting in Bali, no military operation by China against Taiwan is imminent and the two sides have cleared the red lines on the issue.

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The Liberal Globe is an independent online magazine that provides carefully selected varieties of stories. Our authoritative insight opinions, analyses, researches are reflected in the sections which are both thematic and geographical. We do not attach ourselves to any political party. Our political agenda is liberal in the classical sense. We continue to advocate bold policies in favour of individual freedoms, even if that means we must oppose the will and the majority view, even if these positions that we express may be unpleasant and unbearable for the majority.

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