If China continues its heavy-handed rule, it will likely incur greater international pressure and domestic discontent, leading to a halt in the country’s economic growth and causing social destabilization. The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping is at a critical crossroads.
On Tuesday, China marked the 70th anniversary of its national foundation. A military parade, the largest-ever of its kind, was held, showing off an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
“No force can shake the status of our great motherland,” Xi said. His speech seems to have been intended to praise his nation’s increased strength while also opposing U.S. moves to exert greater pressure on China.
The conflict between the United States and China extends from trade to security and cutting-edge technology. Although there are problems with the approach adopted by U.S. President Donald Trump to hinder free trade, many nations share a sense of urgency about China neglecting to abide by international rules.
This is best exemplified by China’s action of forcibly pressing foreign-owned corporations for technology transfers and stealing intellectual property. China must make efforts to dispel international concerns in this respect.
After the failure of the planned economy pursued by Mao Zedong, the founder of the current China, a market economy was introduced by Deng Xiaoping 40 years ago. Emerging from a status comparable to that of the poorest nations, China has grown into the world’s second-largest economic power.
Japan and the United States, among others, continued to support China in the belief that Beijing will start a democratic process if it becomes affluent. However, their expectations have been thwarted.
One-party rule by the Communist Party continues, combined with advancement in the country’s military expansion due to sharp growth in military expenditures that exceeds its economic growth rate. Its attempt to turn the South China Sea into a military foothold has destabilized the region.
It also cannot be overlooked that Chinese authorities are utilizing artificial intelligence to heighten surveillance and oppression targeting ethnic minorities and dissident activists at home.
A system of surveillance utilizing such cutting-edge technology as face authentication is called “digital dictatorship.” The system is spreading in newly emerging and developing nations that China supports. There are concerns that violations of human rights and free speech will spread.
In Hong Kong, demonstrations against China’s rule continue. The situation seems to indicate the limits of seeking to prevail without heeding the will of the people.
China’s economic growth — a force used by the Communist Party-led regime to unite the public — is slowing down. Excessive investment led by the state has incurred a massive amount of debt, and it strains the central and local governments as well as companies. Tasks to be tackled include addressing problems arising from a rise in personnel costs, and China’s falling birth rate and increasing graying population due to its one-child policy.
China needs to urgently revise its economic strategy. Industrial promotion through subsidies to state-owned enterprises distorts fair competition and invites antagonism with other countries. By placing importance on private corporations’ vitality and market principles, China should steadily carry out structural reforms.
Next spring, Japan will welcome Xi as a state guest for the first time. By utilizing the present momentum for improving Japan-China relations, Japan must urge China to place importance on international cooperation and fulfill its responsibility as a major power.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 2, 2019)