Chinese President Xi Jinping’s third term hints at more hostility towards India

As unprecedented as it could be, in his third term, Xi Jinping has announced his dictatorial cult of personality which goes beyond the terms of founding leader Mao Zedong. The simmering border conflict with China will escalate as Xi is ready to go beyond the rules and conventions, experts warn.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s third term hints at more hostility towards India
Xi Jinping secured an unprecedented third term as China’s head of state and supreme military commander.

Xi Jinping secured an unprecedented third term as China’s head of state and supreme military commander. Delegates to the congress on Friday also formally reappointed Xi as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).  

As unprecedented as it could be, Xi Jinping has announced his dictatorial cult of personality which goes beyond the terms of founding leader Mao Zedong.

In his third term, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) put him above Moa Zedong.  China’s supreme commander did not hide this. In a carefully choreographed ceremony in Beijing, he held up his right fist and placed his left hand on a red leather copy of China’s constitution.

Finally, Xi is set to become China’s longest-serving head of state since the Communist victory in 1949. The party issued the unanimous verdict of 2,900 lawmakers assembled in Beijing.

Xi already showed his total control of the ruling party during the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress in October. In the National Congress, he announced his highest circle of leadership with loyalists, including Han Zheng as vice president.

Institutional breakdown

Delegates on Friday approved a proposal to restructure the State Council, the Chinese government’s top executive body.

Earlier, a draft of the plan was released, elaborating that the ruling Communist Party of China will significantly increase its direct control of the government over the institutions—public and private.

The National People’s Congress (NPC) is also set to appoint Li Qiang as the new premier, putting him in charge of managing the world’s second-largest economy. Li Qiang has already spoken about the sweeping reforms (restructuring) of the key institutions.

In his words, the restructuring is planned to fight the policy of “containment and suppression” against foreign powers. A restructuring of China’s science and technology ministry is already announced, which focuses on the critical technologies –military and commercial—for the world’s second-largest economy. It simply counters the recent US sanctions on such critical technologies from semiconductors to sensors.  

While Xi Jinping’s primary focus remains on the West, his unprecedented third term will create massive ripples in the Indian subcontinent, remarks a senior security adviser based in India who wished to remain anonymous.

“It is already unfolding,” said a former military leader of India. Right before his coronation, Xi Jinping made scathing remarks, pointing directly to the Biden administration’s policy, and accused Washington of instigating against China. Backing up, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang issued another warning to the US establishment that “there will surely be conflict and confrontation” if the U.S. doesn’t change course.

The conflict is brewing across the continents over the issues of Taiwan, Beijing’s backing of Russia and the arms race, flowing from Ukraine to the nuclear conflicts.  

And it is not at all an empty promise. Despite the Covid-19-induced catastrophe and faltering real estate industry, China has shown resilience in its economic growth. In fact, China has registered its GDP growth at 3 per cent against 2.1 per cent of the US economy. The robust economic growth based on its dominant export-oriented global supply chain will fuel the Chinese military to continue expanding its military assets, including the heavier nuclear arsenal.  

Looming border conflict with India

“There are no surprises here,” says a former military chief. “The simmering border conflict with China will escalate as Xi is ready to go beyond the rules and conventions,” he adds.

Post Galwan clashes in 2020, China has junked all old agreements for peace and tranquillity earlier. China has replaced it with its strategy of ‘Incremental Encroachment’ by raising new areas, renaming them, and following it up with ground troops.

The talks with China have only resulted in avoiding military confrontation—barring a few. India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had clearly said that “unless there is peace and tranquillity in the border areas… unless there is an observance of agreements and no unilateral attempt to change status quo… the situation cannot be, and is not, normal”.

However, despite this bilateral trade has surged, touching an all-time high at $100 billion. In fact, recent data showed that India-China trade for 2022 reached $135.98 billion. The trade is in China’s favour as its exports to India have touched $118.5 billion while China’s imports from India is reduced to $17.48 billion.  The vast disparities further complicate India’s position.  

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First published on: 10-03-2023 at 19:25 IST
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