Leadership in tough time for Xi amid Taiwan tension

The much-anticipated visit of Pelosi to Taiwan passed off without incident. However, as anticipated the People’s Republic of China (PRC) vented all its anger on Taiwan by a continuous show of military force signalling that it was disturbed by the gauntlet thrown down by the Joe Biden administration, reported The Singapore Post.
Two important matters must be said upfront, to focus our attention. First, the visit was a test of President Xi Jinping as Chinese leader, in the run-up to the Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) scheduled to be held later this year, where Xi Jinping will seek a third term in office.
The second aspect is the need to understand the US and China’s motivations in their respective actions and crystal gaze on the future course of their ties.
In the aftermath, China simply cut all links with the US and declared that engagement could no longer be the new normal. Confrontation is the signal being sent out precisely because Xi Jinping is preparing to crown himself as leader once again! The fact is Xi cannot afford to make any mistakes in handling relations with the US or with Taiwan, reported The Singapore Post.
It is certain that the ties with the US figured when President Xi met with retired party elders at the annual “Beidaihe meeting” at the seaside resort in Hebei Province.
Taiwan is really the core domestic issue for China today and its handling by President Xi will determine his political standing within the CPC.
From an American perspective, the visit was an important signal that the US remained committed to Taiwan. Writing in The Washington Post Pelosi said “our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan.” Subsequently, she declared that the US’s commitment to Taiwan’s democracy was “ironclad.”
Both the US and China are aware of the possibilities of military accidents and the risks of a sudden escalation.
In this sense, the assessment of Xi’s control over the PLA would have been tested to the limit. At the end of July 2022, a US carrier strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to the South China Sea after making a port call in Singapore.
The Chinese military is also conducting exercises in coastal areas. The widespread deployment by the US would have served as a useful reference for the Chinese military, which is always simulating Taiwan invasions, reported The Singapore Post.
As President, Xi Jinping has been trying to show that he has overtaken Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao in terms of achievements. The adoption last year of the CPC’s “third resolution on history,” after the first one in 1945 under Mao Tse Tung and the second one in 1981 under Deng Xiaoping, is one such example.
President Xi Jinping has shown that he is superior to Jiang and Hu and can claim that he has skilfully managed domestic politics and ties with the US particularly on the Taiwan issue. Having focused Chinese nationalism totally on himself and projection of power, Xi Jinping will have to show that he means business.
The display of military might in the Taiwan Strait is also a reminder to the world that President Xi is in full control of the PLA. In that sense, rhetoric backed by force has worked well for Xi and that is why he told Joe Biden, “If you play with fire, you will burn yourself.”
This partly explains why Xi spoke to Biden on the phone despite sourness that hangs over bilateral ties. Although China is showing a hardline stance on Taiwan, it actually wants to avoid showing confusion ahead of the National Congress.
There is a distinct possibility that China will continue to maintain its counter measures in the run up to the CPC Congress. In the long run, this is a battle that Xi Jinping cannot afford to lose, reported The Singapore Post.

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