Why does China now have a more assertive position against the US?
It looks like there is yet another Chinese attempt to drive a wedge between Europe and the US. I think the reckoning at the moment is that the prospects for turning around China-US relations are not good, but there is more hope for improvement. relations with Europe, which would act as a counterweight. I believe this was the intention of Wang Yi’s “peace proposal” for the Ukraine. But at the same time, China’s position on Russia and Ukraine remains so equivocal that it’s going to be very difficult to win over Europe.
Is Beijing preparing the ground for a hypothetical conflict with the US?
China and the US are constantly in “conflict” over various issues, but I don’t see any chance of a militarized conflict over Taiwan or anything else any time soon. National elections will be held in Taiwan in 10 months, which could lead to a change of party in power and a much more promising relationship for Beijing with Taiwan. China has already tried to intervene in Taiwanese elections on other occasions, and there is usually a violent reaction from voters. The complicating factor this time is Taiwanese President Tsai’s upcoming meeting with the Speaker of the US Congress, Kevin McCarthy, in California. It is less touchy for them to meet in the United States than in Taiwan, but still there is likely to be an answer.
How would you describe Xi’s leadership?
Xi controls everything: he dominates the party, he leads the army and he is president and he controls politics through all the small ruling groups that he chairs. The entire Standing Committee and Politburo are packed with Xi loyalists. The power of it is indisputable. He has the power to implement the great plans laid out in his first two terms: socialist modernization, Chinese dream, great rejuvenation of the Chinese people, great country diplomacy, etc. What we know from his first two terms is that he is not afraid to take very bold steps. The anti-corruption campaign has claimed hundreds of thousands of paintings; the diplomatic service has gone from being a pusillanimous “translation ministry” to fighting for the “power of the message,” the “hide and bide” has disappeared in favor of “confident promotion,” and it has clashed with the United States on trade and everything else. It’s clear he favors a rugged, active style that will continue and likely accelerate. China is facing a very difficult international environment and severe internal challenges (mainly economic), so the constraints placed on Chinese society are unlikely to be relaxed.