Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

China again at the crossroads [The Age] #China #NewLeadership #XiJinPing


Xi Jinping follows Hu Jintao’s footsteps in a great display the Chinese continue to prioritize ties with their northern neighbours. Treating Russia with respect helps ensure the >;;3500 km Sino-Russia border is free of concern. Though fundamental that is now only the tip of the iceberg.

It has certainly provoked a response with Xi Jinping splashed with a rather dodgy title on the cover of Time magazine.

Here is an Australian perspective on the symbolism of China’s looking to Moscow.

– – –

China again at the crossroads

Xi Jinping will make his first presidential visit to Russia. But who will view it most favourably: conservatives or free marketeers?
By John Garnaut
Source – The Age, published March 14, 2013

20130315-080209.jpg

Illustration by Time Magazine, 2013

When Deng Xiaoping was rising to power Time magazine made him ”Man of the Year” for 1978 ”because of the tremendous enterprise he has launched to propel the nation into the modern world”.

But when Xi Jinping landed on the cover of Time at an equivalent point in his ascendancy, in October 2012, they drenched him in an eerie red, looking more like Satan than a hero, under a headline: The Next Leader of the Unfree World.

In January 1979 Deng defined the direction of the country by heading to the US where he donned a cowboy hat, symbolically steering his country away from the Soviet Union and towards the markets of the West.

Please click here to read rest of the article at its source.

When Deng Xiaoping was rising to power Time magazine made him ”Man of the Year” for 1978 ”because of the tremendous enterprise he has launched to propel the nation into the modern world”.

But when Xi Jinping landed on the cover of Time at an equivalent point in his ascendancy, in October 2012, they drenched him in an eerie red, looking more like Satan than a hero, under a headline: The Next Leader of the Unfree World.

In January 1979 Deng defined the direction of the country by heading to the US where he donned a cowboy hat, symbolically steering his country away from the Soviet Union and towards the markets of the West.

Xi who this week completes his leadership transition by being crowned ”president”, is heading first to Moscow. Will Xi’s trip to Putin’s Russia – a bastion of authoritarian state capitalism – symbolically define China’s path ahead, like Deng’s America tour defined China’s path of ”opening and reform”?

It’s too early to say, but he’s taking care to make it a success.

Xi has been brushing up on his Russian, which he learned at Beijing’s most exclusive school, No. 101, when it was reserved for children of high cadres. He has even been practising a recital of Russian poetry in front of confidants. One of those confidants is an aide to a childhood friend, Li Xiaolin, who runs a quasi-official diplomatic organisation. Li’s aide has been seconded to the main economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, from where she had been shuttling between Beijing and Moscow to prepare a huge new oil and gas supply deal to sweeten Xi’s revival.

The Russia-China energy artery depends, essentially, on the price that Putin sets. The two countries are also planning a huge new joint investment fund, with the aide to be vice-chair.

Whether or not the deals eventuate, Xi’s use of Li shows how his powerful networks in the red aristocracy enable him to work around the stifling Communist Party bureaucracy in order to get things done.

Li’s father, Li Xiannian, worked closely with Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, when they were both vice-premiers in the 1950s. At that time China’s policy was ”to lean to one side” in favour of the Soviet Union.

There are some close observers who believe, or hope, that this is exactly the historical symbolism that Xi intends to draw upon.

”Xi will shortly execute China’s own ‘pivot’,” writes one well-connected observer, who has a seat in one of the two quasi-legislatures that are meeting in Beijing this week.

That particular commentary – which highlighted how China historically turned to Moscow when it ”was totally ostracised by the Western powers” – was not published in the Chinese state media as originally intended.

Perhaps the intended symbolism of Xi’s Moscow visit is not so clear cut.

Thirty-five years after Deng was named Time’s Man of the Year there are few who would deny the magazine was on to something. The economic reforms launched at the time of Deng’s ascendancy propelled China into modernity and changed the world.

What the cover story missed was that Deng was not the architect of reforms as much as an important part of an elite consensus that was forming at the time. Among the most important leaders, who were actually making high-risk decisions and doing the heavy lifting, were the fathers of Xi Jinping and Li Xiaolin.

Both worked for Mao in the 1950s but only left indelible marks on the country following his death.

Xi Jinping will remember Li Xiannian from when the revolutionary leader kindly brought him in for a home-cooked meal in the early days of the Cultural Revolution, when Xi’s family was in disgrace. He would also be grateful for how Li signed off on his father’s rehabilitation, in August 1977.

And at precisely the time when Deng was gracing magazine covers in America, in January 1979, it was Li Xiannian who signed off on Xi Zhongxun’s most radical project, according to Monash University’s Warren Sun, an authoritative historian of the period. Li endorsed Xi’s radical idea of free trade by allowing him a piece of land to experiment with. It is now the city of Shenzhen.

Since then the Chinese economy has grown at just shy of 10 per cent a year and its GDP has risen from just over $200 billion to $12.5 trillion (according to the IMF’s purchasing power parity measure). But unlike 1979, when China was exuding optimism and the Communist Party was rallying around the promise of reform, there is a pervasive sense of fear and foreboding that the reform era could be flattened by the sheer wealth and power of the Party-state.

China is once again at a crossroads, to use the term that is in vogue among the Beijing intelligentsia. Conservatives hope Xi will ”pivot” to the conservative left, perhaps towards Putin’s Russia. More likely, perhaps, the Moscow visit will help Xi shore up his left flank so that he can resume his father’s mission of steering China towards ”open markets and reform”.

John Garnaut is The Age’s China Correspondent and International Editor

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Europe, Government & Policy, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, New Leadership, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Russia, Strategy, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Xi Jinping

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