Xi’s third term increases risk of Taiwan invasion

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No timeline has been set, but senior defence figures have said China could be capable of invasion as early as 2027…reports Asian Lite News

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s purging of political rivals and elevation of loyalists to the top ranks of the Chinese Communist party has raised fears that his now unfettered and unquestionable power could increase the risk of an attack on Taiwan, the media reported.

Beijing has pledged to annex Taiwan under a disputed claim that it is a Chinese province, and in recent years has increased its military activity and other forms of harassment and coercion, The Guardian reported.

No timeline has been set, but senior defence figures have said China could be capable of invasion as early as 2027. Others point to Xi’s pledge of “national rejuvenation” by 2047 — the centenary of the People’s Republic of China — as a potential goal.

But with the events of last week’s CCP congress, which consolidated power around Xi at levels not seen for decades, some are now questioning whether there is anyone left in the party who could stop him from making a rash move, The Guardian reported.

The 20th party congress — the most important meeting of China’s political cycle — ended with Xi’s reappointment for a precedent breaking third term, and a reshuffle of officials.

The central committee, the politburo, the seven-member standing committee (PSC) and the Xi-led central military commission (CMC), which is in charge of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), are now dominated by loyalists and cleared of potential objectors and people from rival factions, The Guardian reported.

Official reports and constitutional amendments also enshrined its hardening official stance towards Taiwan that had escalated as recently as August with the release of a white paper.

Analysts and Taiwanese decision-makers are studying the changes to assess whether Xi’s timeline for Taiwan is any shorter, or the same. After a week of watching the congress — an exercise sometimes compared to reading tea leaves — most agreed it definitely had not slowed.

Prof Steve Tsang, the director of the Soas China Institute, said the changes made last week unquestionably increased the risk of China using force against Taiwan.

A soldier looks through binoculars during combat exercises and training of the navy of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the waters around the Taiwan Island, Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo by Lin Jian/Xinhua/IANS)

Vision and ambition of one man

It was a crowning moment for Xi Jinping when he stepped onto a red-carpet stage on Sunday to begin his norm-shattering third term as China’s supreme leader, media reported.

Xi, 69, has emerged from the ruling Communist Party’s five-yearly congress with more power than ever, stacking his party’s top tiers with longtime proteges and staunch allies.

That loyal inner circle has not only strengthened Xi’s hold on power – but also tightened his grip over China’s future. To an extent unseen in decades, the country’s trajectory is shaped by the vision and ambition of one man, with minimal room for discord or recalibration at the party’s apex of power, CNN reported.

In the eyes of Xi, China is closer than ever to achieving its dream of “national rejuvenation” and reclaiming its rightful place in the world. But the path ahead is also beset with “high winds, choppy waters, or even dangerous storms” – a dark warning Xi made at both the start and the end of the week-long congress.

The growing challenges have stemmed from “a grim and complex international situation,” with “external attempts to suppress and contain China” threatening to “escalate at any time,” according to Xi’s work report to the congress.

Observers say Xi’s answer to that darkening outlook is to intensify the fierce defence of China’s national interests and security against all perceived threats.

“Xi is likely to tightly control and be involved in all major foreign policy decisions. His packing of the top Chinese leadership with loyalists will allow him to better control and exert influence,” said Bonny Lin, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) China Power Project, CNN reported.

What he decides to do – and how he goes about doing it – will have a profound impact on the world.

Xi steps into his next era in power facing a significantly different landscape to his previous two terms. The relationship between China and the West has changed dramatically with US-China relations cratering over a trade and tech war, frictions over Taiwan, Covid-19, Beijing’s human rights record and its refusal to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine, CNN reported.

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