Fabricated economic data. Fake historical facts. Fudged international law.
Comrade Xi Jinping’s administration has used them all as China struggles to get off a never-ending merry-go-round of Covid-19 lockdowns.
In the past six months, President Xi has created an economic meltdown with his “zero-Covid” policy and left Beijing isolated on the global stage with its nationalistic rantings and false declarations.
Economically, China is in trouble. Part of the problem has been the countless lockdowns, fueling high unemployment as consumer confidence evaporates and small companies go to the wall.
Looking to obscure the slump at home, the ruling Communist Party under Xi has ramped up its bellicose foreign policy.
“China’s growth rates have fallen by half over the past decade and are likely to plunge in the years ahead as massive debt, foreign protectionism, resource depletion, and rapid aging take their toll,” Michael Beckley, of the American Enterprise Institute, said.
“Past rising powers that suffered such slowdowns became more repressive at home and aggressive abroad as they struggled to revive their economies and maintain domestic stability and international influence,” he wrote in a commentary for the Washington-based think tank earlier this month.
Fact over fiction:
- Behind the scenes, Beijing is waging a battle against “fake” economic data, the National Bureau of Statistics reported last month.
- Falsifying figures appear to be rampant despite the latest NBS crackdown.
- In Hong Kong, new schoolbooks will teach students that the city was never a British colony or territory.
- It was handed back to Beijing in a symbolic 1997 ceremony with the United Kingdom under the “One Country, Two Systems” joint agreement.
- China has since ripped up the accord.
- This “is a shorthand for saying, ‘Hong Kong was always a part of China, thus Hong Kongers never could claim a right of self-determination,’”one pro-democracy activist said.
- Beijing has also lied about human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
- Then, of course, there is Taiwan.
- Last week, the United States dismissed a statement by China’s Foreign Ministry that it “has sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait.”
- The flashpoint sea lane is recognized as “international waters.”
What was said: “The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, meaning that the Taiwan Strait is an area where high seas freedoms, including freedom of navigation and overflight, are guaranteed under international law,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department, said in an email to Reuters news agency.
Delve deeper: China’s saber-rattling comes off the back of an economy tanking under the strain of flash lockdowns and a draconian Covid-19 testing strategy that is being funded by cash earmarked for “poverty alleviation.”
Big picture: “Slowing growth makes China a less competitive long-term rival to the United States, but a more explosive near-term threat,” Beckley, of the American Enterprise Institute, pointed out.
Road to conflict: “China already seems to be headed down this ugly path,” Beckley said.
China Factor comment: These are strange times under Xi as he imposes Marxist-style state control over all aspects of the economy and broader country ahead of the 20th Communist Party Congress later this year. Yet his hardline policies risk further inflaming international tension and stoking unrest at home.