With all that is going on in British politics right now you would be forgiven for completely missing the otherwise headline worthy political events occuring in China. Xi Jinping, the nation’s President (read: authoritarian kingpin) has consolidated his place as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong as he announced his unprecedented third term. This powerplay has been in the works for years as in 2018 he engineered a constitutional reform which eliminated term limits when it came to the presidency. His five year plan has certainly come to fruition.
The significance of this move should not be underestimated as he charts his path to become an even more emboldened leader – the effects of which will be felt domestically and internationally. For one, the decisions made in Beijing will have ripple effects influencing the global economy, the foreign policy of the West in an attempt to hedge against the superpower, the development of technology, supply chain stability and potentially even the difference between war or peace.
Just last year, in the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, China’s international assertiveness was classified to be “the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s” posing an “increasing risk to UK interests”. This should come as no surprise given the concerns over Chinese influence in the UK, from China General Nuclear (CGN) being bought out of its 10% stake in Sizewell C over security concerns, to the government blocking a number of takeovers of British tech and defence companies by Chinese firms.
Of particular concern to democracies across the world however, is China’s ambitions for Taiwan. It is no secret that China under Xi Jinping has become increasingly bold in its ambitions to elevate the ‘One China Policy’, starting with the take over of Hong Kong. It is now obvious that the focus has moved to Taiwan which is a serious cause for alarm. Not least of all due to the potential for another conflict at a time when Europe is grappling with its own war in Ukraine, but also due to the impact this will have on democracy in the region and supply chain freedoms relating to technology, and in particular chip manufacturers and supply.
This all plays into Xi Jinping and the CCP’s long game and their so-called ‘strategy of displacement’ aimed at usurping the US as global hegemon and disrupting democracy across the world. We cannot ignore what happens when a despot is hellbent on power grabbing – in fact Ukraine is currently experiencing the consequences of such a trajectory.
When the war in Ukraine broke out it was the perfect opportunity for Xi Jinping to observe the global response to an attack on democracy and consider his options when it came to Taiwan – what is clear now however, through increased military exercises in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, is that an invasion of Taiwan and subsequent military conflict on a global scale is growing more likely by the day. As democracies we need to act proactively, decisively and collectively to counter any such action and safeguard the democratic freedoms which Xi Jinping seeks to destroy.