China: the rise & power of Xi Jinping

As Xi Jinping’s influence grows, China is elevated to a whole new political and economic stage

“There have been a lot of changes in China since I grew up there as a kid,” said Jing Li, Chinese teacher. “The home, food, entertainment, and consumerism have changed the most.”

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. China has been on an exponential economic rise. 

Beginning in the 1980s, China reoriented its production with capitalism. Ironically, China was able to benefit from its colonial legacy. For example, Britain controlled Hong Kong until 1997, Portugal controlled Macau till 1999, and the US still uses Taiwan as a protectorate. These colonies actually connected China to the world economy before it fully entered the system and made large contributions to its currency. 

During Mao Zedong’s era, Hong Kong provided ⅓ of China’s foreign currency. Without it, China would not have been able to import nearly as much technology. During Deng Xiaoping’s rule, following the cold war, Hong Kong was vital to China’s modernization. It was used for countless economic advancements, including: access to foreign currency, imports (high technology), and utilization of the labor force.

Taiwan was also very important, not only in terms of capital investments, but also with its technology transfer, most importantly in the semiconductor industry.

Hong Kong and Taiwanese investors were also one of the key reasons for rapid growth of the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong.

 

Xi JinPing

“I mean, actually, I think [Mao Zedong and Xi JinPing] are pretty similar,” said senior Chinese exchange student Delancey Ma. 

Mao Zedong, also known as Chairman Mao, helped to establish the Communist party in China, and was extremely powerful and revolutionary. He ignored term limits and ruled from 1949 to 1976. Deng Xiaoping came to power after Mao in the late seventies. He ruled for about 15 years and created a more capitalist and economic system in China, connecting it to the global economy. According to the Financial Times, Xi JinPing is different. He is redefining the narrative and somewhat rewriting history. Xi hopes to avoid mentioning the communist party and rebuild China, allowing it to become a global superpower, which many would argue has been achieved. 

“Looking to the future, China continues to spread its authoritarian influence and makes bigger moves on the world stage,” said Ellie Novak, debate captain. “As far as current competition goes, I would say the main source is influence from other countries. China wants its neighbors to fear them and respect their unjust claims to territory (such as the Nine-dash line in the South China Sea).” 

When Xi JinPing began as President, many were hopeful, as he made great efforts to put an end to corruption within the Chinese government. However, as the years go by, Xi has been making many more ambitious and authoritarian leaps as leader. Overall, his leadership has shown many parallels with Mao’s rule. 

“Xi Jinping did some good things,’ said Ma. “For example, he fixed a lot of corruption in the government and punished many corrupt officers. Later though, he became more extreme, selfish, and power-hungry. Now, I feel like the people are blinded, and overall the situation is very similar to what happened during Mao’s rule.”

According to the New York Times, during this year’s annual meeting, announcements were made that could strongly affect the Communist Party Congress of next year. Xi plans to elevate himself to the same national stature as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Such a bold move would vastly decrease the possibility of challengers or disagreements, giving him far more power than previously held. 

“Xi could be in power until he dies,” said Ma. “It’s scary.”

In March of 2018, 6 years into Xi JinPing’s rule, term limits were removed from the Chinese constitution. This means that in 2022, Xi will likely seek a third term unopposed, and could choose to remain president for the remainder of his life. Additionally, in March of 2018, at the First Session of the Thirteenth National People’s Congress, a new set of ideas and policies known as “Xi Jinping Thought” was developed from the writings and speeches of Xi Jinping. The preamble of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China was amended to mention Xi Jinping Thought. 

Xi JinPing, in turn, has ramped up his national and international influence, both politically and economically, which has caused some concern among other countries. 

 

Current Issues

Currently, China has the world’s largest population and second largest economy (GDP). Tensions between China and other countries also continue to rise. Most recently, the AUKUS security pact is the centerpiece of many debates. The alliance is between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The pact means that the US and UK will supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia as it feels increasingly threatened by the encroaching China. However, according to Forbes, Xi warned the countries against allowing tensions to flare up into a “Cold War mentality”. He states that such efforts in the Asia-Pacific may prove fruitless, as China does not plan to increase its economic development. 

“China is expanding their influence across Asia and looking west, one example of which is the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Novak. “In this initiative, China is funding ports in poor countries such as Sri Lanka and Greece that can’t pay them back, which allows them to control the port and expand their influence beyond their borders.”

 

Future

The future of China and its relationship with other countries remains unclear. However, it seems that China’s growth will not come to an end anytime soon. According to CNBC, the Chinese economy is predicted to surpass the US economy as early as 2032.

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