China’s Greatest Challenge: Not America, But Itself

(…..) As China’s international profile continues to rise in tandem with its economic and political significance, one might conclude that the Chinese public is likely to expect Xi to carry a higher profile on the international stage. As the leader of a world power, Xi will have to devote more time to international affairs, take the lead in debates on global issues, interact more frequently with foreign audiences like the citizens of Iowa, and articulate China’s role as a shaper of world affairs. In reality, however, Xi Jinping may be preoccupied with addressing a host of the economic and social challenges that China is likely to encounter in the decade ahead (…..) As Xi, along with China’s new group of leaders, work through these challenges and gradually reform the country’s economic system to better accommodate social, economic, political, demographic developments at home and abroad, they’ll also have to contend with a citizenry that is becoming more assertive in demanding and protecting their rights and interests after 30 years of rapid, harsh, and often unequal processes of growth. They may not be calling for regime change, but they are certainly demanding that their current government be more responsive to their needs. In short, the China that Xi and incoming leadership inherit is one in the midst of a delicate transition. The export-led system China’s leaders had relied on for the past several decades benefited their country tremendously. In the process, however, the model also strained Chinese society in significant ways, for which the consequences are now only beginning to emerge. The build-up of internal pressure, coupled with inability of the developed economies to sustain a China’s export-oriented economy, means that efforts to rebalance, internally and, in the process, externally, must take place. The conversation on significance of tackling these internal challenges is already taking place publicly in China. Professor Cui Liru, who directs a government-affiliated China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations, admitted in a recent essay that coming task for Beijing is substantial, and will require the “strenuous efforts” (jianku nuli) of both the government and the people. The Chinese government’s shift to establish a social safety net and improve the people’s well-being, Cui argues, will be the concrete examples demonstrating that the promises of “social fairness, justice, prosperity, and harmony” are being kept. They also form, Cui goes on to say, the legal foundation for which the Chinese Communist Party’s long-term rule is based. As I have argued in the past, it is imperative that U.S. policymakers realistically assess China’s internal challenges if they hope to understand Beijing’s intentions and insecurity, its policies’ impact on the globalized economy, its relations with Washington, and, ultimately, what type of power it will be within existing international system. For what matters most is not so much Xi’s ability to present himself, his country abroad, which is, nevertheless, no doubt, important, but how successful he will be in guiding China through a decade of painful but necessary transitions. In this, perhaps all countries are not so different after all: that, as a legendary American politician once said, “all politics are local.”



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional


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