Arrogant and deceived, China may have already reached its peak of power Business

Yet it is the sheer confluence of negatives, from the bursting of the housing bubble to the limitless partnership with Putin, that makes this such a potentially significant turning point for the country. As George Magnus, associated with the China Center at the University of Oxford, puts it, we may have already seen the “peak of China”.

Economic growth was once the top priority of the ruling elite, but now it seems to place ideology, Chinese exceptionalism and Western antipathy above all else. Populist nationalism has become a substitute for the growth that the economy struggles to provide.

There is a contradiction here, which the leaders do not seem to recognize. China’s development history over the past 30 years has been overwhelmingly based on integration into the global economy, but now Beijing seems to want to step back, or rather want to have its cake and eat it – to continue using the system which he increasingly rejects. However, still crucially dependent on external demand, it is still far from the self-sufficiency it aims for.

China simply cannot afford the kind of sanctions the West has imposed on Putin, says China analyst Jonathan Fenby, and therefore will not take its love affair with Putin to extremes. Putin’s failure to make more progress in Ukraine is nevertheless almost as big a setback for Chinese ambitions as for Russia.

Like Putin, Xi sensed a moment of great weakness in the fabric of liberal democracy, which he believed unable to mount a cohesive and united response to the rise of autocracies. If Putin had succeeded in taking kyiv, there is no doubt that Taiwan would find itself in an extraordinarily perilous position today.

As things stand, Putin has succeeded in uniting the West, which is now turning against China as well. China will find itself increasingly deprived of its privileged access to the markets of rich economies.

Western business leaders seeking the holy grail of the potentially vast Chinese market have plenty of time to think. Elon Musk claims to champion free speech by buying Twitter, but he still willingly invests in China where such freedoms are considered a decadent Western luxury. How does he reconcile this?

China is gearing up for what is billed as the most important political event of the decade – the 20th Party Congress. President Xi will undoubtedly emerge from his deliberations more powerful than ever. Yet behind the splendor hides a country whose destiny is increasingly uncertain.

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This notice was published: 2022-04-27 09:00:00

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