The security, economic and social rationale of both central and municipal governments are understandable. However, this difference of interests on China between a capital and local governments is a not a new phenomenon and it exists globally. Such a split can also be seen in China itself, where local government priorities may differ from those mandated by Beijing.
Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan have been singled out by Chinese President Xi Jinping as major risks and challenges that Communist Party members must “struggle against”. In a speech to officials on Tuesday, Xi listed a number of challenges facing the country, even putting this specific category ahead of “foreign affairs” despite the global economic and strategic challenges China faces, including the trade war with the United States.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Beijing is busy preparing for this momentous occasion, carefully planning which weapons to display in the annual military parade, but even these celebrations cannot distract the people from the slew of issues currently facing the nation.
Today, as policy makers and commentators confidently assert that trade wars are easy to win or that hot wars with China are either impossible or inevitable, the experience of being proved wrong again and again should remind us that events will, more than likely, not turn out as predicted.
China has insisted that it will not succumb to US pressure to change its industrial policy nor offer major concessions on the bilateral trade deficit. A Chinese government official close to the high-level trade talks with America said that Washington should not set any preconditions for negotiations, adding that China had sufficient strength to fight to the end if a trade war broke out.
For more than a decade, Asian countries have been on a submarine spending spree. Some countries are updating obsolete vessels while others are purchasing submarines for the first time. This trend has largely been driven by growing concerns nations have over maintaining a deterrent against an increasingly assertive China broadly, but also rivalries with neighbours and a desire to maintain technological parity with rivals.
Just as Chinese revisionism alarms Washington, the United States’ posture stokes fear in Beijing and beyond. As Trump begins his presidency, he would do well to understand this fear. The risk of crises, and even war, will grow if Trump introduces instability into areas of the relationship that posed few problems under previous U.S. administrations.
The Trump administration’s China-bashing strategy is based on the mistaken belief that a newly muscular US has all the leverage in dealing with its presumed adversary, and that any Chinese response is hardly worth considering. Nothing could be further from the truth.
China sees an America squandering its most precious global asset — soft power. The party propagandists, so often the target of scorn on the Chinese internet, can hardly believe their good fortune.