Op-Ed: Why China’s Xi Jinping’s Damage Control Is About Handling a Crisis

for President Xi Jinping, sending your special envoy to Europe 20 for a three week attraction tour. was one of several acts of high-stakes damage control beforeth Chinese Communist Party Congress this autumn.

Xi’s economy slowing alarmingly, funding for his Belt and Road initiative dwindled, his zero-Covid policy draggingAnd His continued support of Russian President Vladimir Putin hangs like a cloud on his claim of being of the world Major National Sovereignty Champion As Russia’s war on Ukraine continues.

some china watchers to accept Xi’s grip on power poses a serious challenge to any, but given the number of mistakes he has made recently, it is difficult to dismiss it entirely. Therefore, Xi is taking no chances one of the most important meetings of his partyA meeting created to ensure his continued rule and his place in history.

European business leaders understood that as a reference for their recent meetings with wu hongbo, Special Representative of the Chinese Government for European Affairs and former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. his message was same at every stage: Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Germany and Italy.

“The Chinese want to change the tone of the story in order to control the losses,” said a European business leader, who asked to remain anonymous because of his Chinese business interests. “They understand that they have gone too far.”

The businessman described Wu as one of the most intuitive, most open and intellectually agile Chinese officers, with his fluent and fluid English. At every stage, Wu acknowledged that China has “made mistakes” from its handling of COVID-19 to its “wolf warrior” diplomacy, to its economic mismanagement.

His visit comes at a time when concerns have risen in China.”lose europe“In the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Public mood has changed substantially for Finland and Sweden knock on the door of natoand the EU this week Embracing the prospect of Ukraine’s membership candidacy, Wu’s visit was also intended as a mop-up operation after Chinese official Huo Yuzhen’s unsuccessful visit to eight Central and Eastern European countries. in Poland, he was denied Meeting with government officials.

The Germans and their political leaders – Europe’s most important target for Chinese diplomats and business – are raising new questions about everything from investment guarantees for German business in China to specific projects like VW. factory in Xinjiang provincehouse of human rights abuses Against the predominantly Muslim Uighur population.

Although Wu addressed Putin’s war in Ukraine only indirectly, his message was designed to reassure Europeans that they are the preferred partner, unlike the United States. His bottom line: China will always be China, a country of increasing importance and economic opportunity for Europe.

Yet lost ground in Europe is one of the many problems President Xi is facing In front of his party CongressWhich will decide the country’s economic, foreign policy and domestic agenda for years to come.

The party Congress is likely to offer Xi a third term, a move that follows a 2018 decision to end the term limit. What is more likely to reveal the extent of Xi’s power, writing Michael Cunningham of the Heritage Foundation, is whether he can keep his colleagues on key central bodies, primarily the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee, as retirement norms ensure considerable turnover.

However the Congress reveals, there is growing discussion among Chinese experts about whether we are entering a period of “peak Xi” or even “Peak ChinaThere is growing evidence that he and the country he represents (and his approach has been to make the two inseparable) have reached the height of their influence and prestige,

Nothing will determine the outcome more than how Xi manages China’s economy, which is the foundation of the Communist Party’s domestic legitimacy along with the country’s far-reaching global influence.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, one of the most curious people in China anywhere, sees China’s economic prospects are weakening due to a range of factors. They include at least 10 Chinese property developer defaults, and Xi’s crackdown on China’s technology sector, which has cost its 10 largest tech companies $2 trillion in market capitalization over the past year.

In addition, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has raised energy and commodity prices and rattled supply chains, “terrifying news for the world’s largest producer, exporter and energy-consuming economy,” said Rudd. wrote Most recently in The Wall Street Journal. Add to that Xi’s insistence on China’s zero-Covid strategy, which led to a massive lockdown.

rudd have concluded That this combination of factors is enough to cause Xi to miss its 5.5% growth target and perhaps grow more slowly than the United States this year. “For Mr. Xi, failing to reach the target would be politically disastrous,” Rudd writes.

Xi’s loss control on the economic front includes fiscal and monetary stimulus to boost domestic demand and spending on infrastructure. a recent meeting The Politburo also suggested some relief from regulatory action on China’s technology sector.

Yet none of this would be enough to reverse Xi’s main sin, and that was his dramatic pivot to strong state and party control.

Writing in Foreign Affairs, Daniel H. Rosen of the Atlantic Council, a founding partner of the Rhodium Group, It’s logic“China can’t have both today’s figures and tomorrow’s strong growth rate. It has to choose.”

connects “China’s rapid economic miracle may soon undermine (the Communist Party’s) ability to continue its struggle for geo-strategic dominance,” Craig Singleton said in Foreign Policy this week.

There isn’t much time left for damage control before Xi inaugurates his party congress in the Great Hall of the People. He is likely to get the vote he wants, but that won’t solve the bigger problem. China’s challenges have arisen because of his leadership and decision-making, and he must fix his own path if he is to restore economic growth at home, revive his international momentum and avoid “Peak Xi”. .

, Frederick Kempe He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Council.