Comrade Xi’s left entangled in a ‘Wall of Steel’

Nationalistic rhetoric escalates tension with the US and its allies as he tightens his grip on power in China

Echoes of déjà vu filled the Great Hall of the People as President Xi Jinping stoked the furnace of Chinese nationalism.

In a carefully choreographed conclusion to the National People’s Congress on Monday, he rehashed his “malice in wonderland” rhetoric from his “Wall of Steel” address in 2021.

There was no Mao suit this time, just a sober two-piece affair, white shirt and dark red tie. 

“With the founding of the Communist Party of China … and after a century of struggle, our national humiliation has been erased, and the Chinese people have become the masters of their own destiny,” Xi told nearly 3,000 Communist Party delegates to rapturous applause

“[We must] build the People’s Liberation Army into a great wall of steel that effectively safeguards national sovereignty, security, and development interests,” he added.

Take two:

  • Slightly less than two years ago, Comrade Xi celebrated the CCP’s centenary with a warning to the world.
  • Standing at the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, he was decked out in a Mao suit and armed with threats against the United States and its democratic allies.
  • “We will never allow anyone to bully, oppress, or subjugate [China]. 
  • “Anyone who tries will find them on a collision course with a steel wall forged by 1.4 billion people.”

A sign of further deterioration in US-China relations.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall FunD

Delve deeper: Like all dictators, Xi has tried to shift the blame for his coercive policies at home and abroad to perceived enemies of the state. Or, Western-style democracies.

Between the lines: In his alternative world, there was no mention of the “oppressed” and “bullied” inside China or the surveillance state orchestrated by the Communist Party.

Big picture: Last week, Xi called out Washington for trying to “suppress” and “contain” China before starting an unprecedented third term in the ceremonial role as President. His views were reiterated by new Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

Chairman of Everything: Xi’s power revolves around his position as General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission or supreme warlord. In short, he is the Chairman of Everything.

Geopolitical risks: “Chinese leader blames Washington-led ‘containment, encirclement and suppression’ for severe challenges at home. This marks a turning point in Xi’s policy, and a sign of further deterioration in US-China relations,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, tweeted last week.

China Factor comment: Xi’s acolytes now dominate the CCP elite, including new Premier Li Qiang. He was the Party chief that bungled last year’s rolling lockdowns in Shanghai, triggering street protests. Weeks later, Xi’s “zero-Covid” policy was scrapped.