The EU and the U.S. need to finally admit the sobering conclusion that Beijing is developing in a direction that is entirely different from what the West is willing to accept.
Many critics have long dismissed as Western hubris the fact that the European Union and the United States want to use policy to change China according to their image. Why, they scoff, should a country with a population of 1.4 billion and thousands of years of history dance to the beat of other governments’ drum?
Since Sunday at the latest, Brussels and Washington have finally had to admit the sobering conclusion that Beijing is developing in a direction that is entirely different than the West is willing to accept. Repression instead of political opening, state control instead of free market economy, and — perhaps the bitterest pill for international corporations — tenacious adherence to its “zero COVID” policy.
The contents of Xi Jinping’s speech were in no way surprising. The head of state essentially just spelled out what he has been working toward for years. His “rebirth” of the Middle Kingdom entails more clearly than ever a return to its socialist roots, if also with “Chinese characteristics.”
Chinese Economy in a Period of Drought
It remains to be seen, however, if Xi’s vision will even come to fruition. In recent years, the autocrat has not only committed glaring errors in international politics, but also maneuvered the economy into a period of drought with his lockdown policy. It is probably inevitable that at some point it will ignite frustration among the population, despite dystopian surveillance and ideological control.
There are more than a few U.S. experts who are already cynically saying, if we really wanted to get rid of Xi, then all we can hope for is that the coming years bring the biggest possible “overdose” of Xi. His policies are, after all, threatening to dismantle themselves.
But that is also just speculation. Xi may have seemed to be much closer to peak power at the end of 2020 than he is today. The tide can no doubt turn again. Now, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to glimpse China’s potential comeback on the horizon.