By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, November 6, 2022: In China, the Congress of the Communist Party of Peoples’ Republic just concluded re-electing Xi Jinping as the President, General Secretary, and the Head of the Military Commission for another term of five years declaring him as a core leader, a status enjoyed by Mao and Deng changing the recent tradition of two-term leadership.

Many have termed this as reincarnation of Mao as there is widespread belief in the West and elsewhere that the Congress has endorsed the new doctrine similar and closely aligned to Mao’s philosophy of more Party central control where apart from shifting from economic liberal model more towards State control there is emphasis on “common prosperity”, “socialism with the Chinese characteristics”, at the same breath retaining some of Deng’s ideas.

Doctrine has, as felt by some, a swing towards assertive nationalism, making it abundantly clear that the Chinese civilizational state would not allow to be humiliated by the foreign powers as it had happened during the dismal period of “cutting of the Chinese melon” of the nineteenth century under the weak and decadent Qing dynasty.

The avowed objective is to make China in 2049, coinciding with centenary celebration of the revolution, as a developed, militarily, and technologically strong global power. In its march towards that goal, the country would reunite Taiwan either peacefully or if necessary, by force. In addition, there is also apprehension under the new phase; China may even pursue aggressively its policy to settle other disputes relating to South China Sea, Senkaku (Diaoyu) island, and unresolved border issues on India’s northern front involving Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

With this anointment as a core leader and extension of leadership for five years, Xi being only sixty-eight now ,in all probability with the existing party power structure remaining the same he would be further extended by another five-year term or even more in 2027. Some Western thinkers call it a step towards lifelong tenure at the apex level.

Now in the next ten years what would be his priority? Will it be integration of Taiwan or settlements of disputes like nine dash lines, Senkaku Island, and border disputes with India? Will the settlement be by peaceful or coercive means and whether by incremental, and step by step approach or at the same time, lock stock and barrel. Knowing by the Chinese style it would be incremental way in all probability.

Xi is also a very shrewd and wise political strategist with grip over the changing global power politics, much different from the ambitious imperial European rulers like Caesar, Napoleon or even Hitler.

One thought which pervades in China is that might of US is under decline. As years go by, the world would be tending towards multipolarity .There is no single superpower as it was the situation soon after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. China, already emerged as a global power, is in mood to compete with US in taking the leadership role.

In Taiwan, the use of force will be the last option as any pre-emptive use of force like Blitzkrieg will spark off sharp response of USA joined by Australia, Japan, South Korea in Asia with UK joining this group as a part of AUKUS, and NATO powers being in coalition as the European nations after Ukraine are getting increasingly disenchanted with China. Relationship with Canada has been strained since detention of Meng, daughter of owner of Huawei in Vancouver. Blitzkrieg possibility is perhaps anticipated in the West.

Learning from Ukraine, no long drawn military operation would be viable. In case the hostilities drag on, the role of the oil rich Middle East would be interesting. Biden has already got a cold shoulder from MBS of Saudi Arabia in matter related to sanction against Russia. With no resolution of nuclear deal in sight with Iran, the Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Khamenei will continue to maintain his bargaining power over oil. Oil rich Venezuela’s position remains unchanged. Brazil with huge oil reserve, being a member of BRICS and also an old member of Organization of American States with leftist Lula coming to power with a thin margin, will be on the fence.

Xi will wait till the next election in Taiwan. If the people do not swing towards the mainland, he may use the Western method of “regime change” and how far it would be successful in Taiwan is a big question mark. Hong Kong and Taiwan are not comparable. In case of former, China had unquestioned internationally recognized sovereignty over the city notwithstanding the doctrine, “one nation two system.”

It could tighten its administrative grip after a long lapse of two decades with many mainland Chinese buying properties in the City following exodus of the Hong Kong loyal inhabitants after 1997 when the British sovereignty lapsed, and mobilization of police force loyal to the Central authority.

Taiwan is a different kettle of fish. It is a self-governing democracy for decades with a prosperous economy and trained military and a new generation of young people highly skilled endowed with sophisticated technology, the country being the semi-conductor hub of the world on whose prowess even mainland China depends.

The Chinese economy since zero Covid policy is under strain. With global economy having experienced torpor after sub-prime crisis, soon after that affected by Covid shock now Ukraine was creating conditions for high inflation and recession, China has also been affected by the devasted international market.

For how long it would continue, it is unpredictable. The diplomatic strength gained by China in two decades through robust growth , massive exports and in recent times by BRI would be severely shaken by global economic downturn and sharp criticism in many quarters towards unviable BRI in under-developed and developing economies. In this background Xi contrary to prediction in certain Western quarters would not rush in for an immediate action to integrate Taiwan to justify his extension of term.

China’s disproportionate response to Pelosi’s visit may have been to satisfy the electing constituency for a longer term for Xi and also to send a message across the world that China takes the Taiwan issue seriously.

Mao’s oft repeated epithet “shout in the East and attack on the West” have provoked some thinkers particularly in India that Xi may surprise by doing sabre rattling on Taiwan but make a lightening attack on Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh with highly developed modern technological warfare techniques like information technology, electronics, cyberspace, hypersonic and space technology duly supported by conventional arms by jamming of computers, disrupting communication and power supply making use of drones, satellite guided missiles etc. etc.

China knows very well that there is sea change of situation vis-à-vis India since 1962.

Even in 1971, China was simply a helpless spectator to the break- up of Pakistan, a long-standing close friend and ignominious surrender of ninety thousand Pakistani troops even after all the loud rhetoric from across the Himalayas. Mao asking Nixon to teach Indira Gandhi a lesson during his historic meeting demonstrated his pusillanimous diplomacy. India has become even stronger since 1971 with nuclear weapon, missile capability and other IT sophistication.

Dhoklam and Galwan have reflected their caution.

Bravado, hyperbole, and stern expressions through media are always for internal consumption whether regime is democratic or totalitarian. The very fact that the bridges in Xinjiang have been named after their fallen soldiers reflects this. The very fact that some of soldiers of Galwan were there in the Congress also show that the Mao time obscurity has yielded place to new reality that leader needs a support base from ordinary people. ‘Power’ always does not ‘flow from the barrel of gun.’

Ascendancy to the summit breaking the tradition – however recent it may have been – must have created many heart burns, dis-satisfactions, created jealousy, envy, and humiliations. Human beings are human beings after all, no matter where they are from which country, race, religion, and ideology they belong to. Mao also faced rebellion from his own nominated successor, Lin Piao. It cannot be all hunky dory for Xi eventually. More than anything Xi has direct experience of how Cultural Revolution humiliated his powerful father. How fortune swings he knows very well.

Being wise Xi would concentrate on the strengthening, repairing, and healing internal administration and improving domestic economy as inequality and poverty have gripped the country for long many years with pervading corruption in spite of spectacular progress and prosperity.

The leadership of Asia cannot be crowned on Xi unless he demonstrates the ability to reconcile and follow give and take attitude. The ASEAN Group whom China woos is vitally connected to the South China Sea. If China has pride, other small nations have it too. Since decolonization of the last century and technological and economic globalization of twenty first century, people and nations across the world have been awakened. If Small Island State like Vanuatu can lead the island nations of the Pacific at international forum urging the countries to stop use of fossil fuel, it shows hierarchical world order is an anachronism. Xi should reflect on the changed world.

The West led by US continues to be the powerhouse of technology. Xi cannot afford to ignore the West. China needs market. Africa and Latin America cannot substitute west. Even China needs India for trade and commerce and vice-a versa for the near term.

In spite all the talk of reincarnation of Mao with Xi having third term, he may have some Mao’s tactics internally but for outside world he would continue to be like Deng.

Times have changed. In Mao’s time the world did not have internet not even during Deng’s time. Even Mao did not or could not export revolution. Era of war must wane.

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