For several years, veteran journalist Pierre Donnet has followed Asia closely, focusing on China. A retired AFP journalist, Pierre-Antoine Donnet is the author of more than fifteen books on China, Japan, Tibet, and other topics in Asia. In 2020 he published the book titled Le leadership mondial en question, L’affrontement entre la Chine et les États-Unis (World leadership in question: the confrontation between China and the United States). His most recent work, published in 2021, is Chine, le grand prédateur (China, the great predator).
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan brought the conflict between the island nation and Communist China to the center of the global stage. The CCP’s claim to Taiwan is long-standing and, in part, is a key plank of the party’s global hegemony strategy.
In this regard, Pierra Donnet compares Xi’s strategy with that of Mao Zedong. She points out that Xi when he first came to power, adopted nationalism and introduced the “wolf warrior” policy in all strata of the party. Mao Zedong did something similar with the “Red Guards” to entrench his power throughout Chinese society.
The Red Guards were the foundation for carrying out the infamous “Cultural Revolution” in China, a political and social movement aimed at destroying the foundations of traditional Chinese culture (The 4 Old Ones) to build on its remains a communist society.
This movement pushed for the participation of young people as Red Guards, who were the primary enforcers of the Cultural Revolution.
Donnet says that Xi Jinping intends to do the same with the new generation of young people in China, who are entirely ignorant of what the country went through during the years of the Revolution.
When Xi took over as Party general secretary in 2012, he was not a well-known cadre in the political arena. Not much was known about his ambitions, so he acted cautiously. After formally taking over in 2013, he began to open his path to becoming “emperor.”
In this way, Xi built his hegemony through absolute intolerance of dissenting voices. Donnet points out that no one in Zhongnanhai dares to utter complaints or opinions contrary to the leader, as anyone who does will be fired immediately.
However, Xi Jinping cannot control everything, and his worst fears are not only within his party.
What are Xi Jinping’s hidden fears?
According to Donnet, although it is possible that after the 20th CCP Congress, Xi will be more stable within the party, one of the biggest challenges he will face will be the economic recession. The projected GDP growth for this year is 5.5%. However, reports for the first half of the year showed a growth of 2.5%. The zero covid policy, the supply chain crisis, the real estate market slump, and growing social unrest are setting off all the alarm bells within the CCP’s top leadership.
The next challenge is the slow growth of China’s population. There are many reasons behind it, one of them being the one-child policy implemented for several decades in the country. This policy resulted in a profound transformation in the foundations of Chinese society, and the consequences cannot be reversed for several decades. The effects of the zero covid policy are also responsible for the declining birth rate. As a result, the attractiveness of the Chinese market, which used to drive foreign investment, is declining significantly.
Other problems threatening Xi’s stability are mistakes he made, which according to Donnet, are the suppression of the island’s democratic and independent system along with the worldwide media attention to the persecution of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Pierre Donnet witnessed firsthand from Beijing everything that happened with the negotiation on Hong Kong between Deng Xiaoping, then leader of the CCP, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984. The agreement signed at that time, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, provided for an independent and democratic government beyond the reach of the CCP. However, Xi betrayed this agreement with the international community and imposed his “National Security Law,” which suspends all freedoms and individual rights along with the democratic system, turning the island into another region of the People’s Republic of China.
The French journalist points out that this mistake by Xi set a precedent for Taiwan. The island nation does not want to negotiate its autonomy with the CCP, undermining all the plans of the party factions opposed to the leader.
The real estate market crash and the Evergrande crisis represent another blow to Xi’s power. The real estate bubble and the collapse of the chain of mortgage payments on construction buildings are increasing the Chinese people’s discontent. Donnet believes that the Evergrande crisis is the beginning of the end for the CCP and opens the floodgates to huge financial risks due to the massive national debt.
Will Xi attack Taiwan to preserve his power within the party?
The international community is on alert for a possible armed conflict between communist China and Taiwan. For Donnet, it is unlikely that Xi will execute the order to attack Taiwan since the CCP’s strategy is only intimidation.
In this regard, Donnet points out that during the visit of Nancy Pelosi and other officials to Taiwan, the CCP conducted live-fire military exercises very close to the island and also near Japan. In any case, the communist regime cannot prevent officials from other countries from visiting Taiwan.
According to the French journalist, China would not invade Taiwan even if it had all the means. The island country is vital for world trade and even more important for the CCP, which depends exclusively on trade with Taiwan in several key aspects of its economy. Moreover, the Communist regime knows that if it attacks Taiwan, the United States will act in defense of the island, as will some countries in Europe and Asia, including Japan and South Korea.
Donnet concludes that for Xi Jinping, an attack on Taiwan would be a lost war from the start, leading to the total disintegration of the Communist party.