China Ratchets Up the Aggression
Unlike in democracies, where politicians vying for office first introduce themselves to their constituents, China’s leaders take a rather different approach. Only after the Chinese Communist Party has chosen its top leader in secret does he begin the process of “introducing” himself to the people. The newly enthroned general secretary Xi Jinping has been busy firing corrupt officials, visiting factories and military leaders, boarding a battleship to dine with sailors. And in the process he has been defining his mission, which he calls “the great revival of the Chinese nation”. To the world outside the goal of national revival looks more like an irredentist mission that challenges the resolve of its neighbours.
In a way, Xi is following the time-tested path of achieving economic success at home and seeking legitimacy by riding on nationalism - but with ever greater vigour. Close on the heels of his rise to the top, an exhibition pointedly named “The Road toward Renewal” has opened in Beijing. It is a goal, Xi said, that would be achieved on the strength of “a prosperous country and a strong military”. Xi, the son of a Chinese military veteran and now the chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, has amply signalled the important role he reserves for the PLA. One of his first acts as the civilian boss of the military was to promote commander in chief of the PLA, Wei Fenghe, to full general. He visited with commanders of the Guangzhou military regiment that oversees the South China Sea and inspected a destroyer patrolling the contested waters. Xi has asked the PLA to use “battle-ready standards in undertaking combat preparations”, and prepare to win “regional wars”.