Xi Jinping sees Taiwan as vital to his legacy

    By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2022.11.1

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was a farce played out before the eyes of the world. In 1956, the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union led to the country’s rightward shift and its eventual collapse.

As the CCP’s 20th National Congress accelerated its leftward shift, what changes will this bring?

The seven members of the new Central Politburo Standing Committee of the CCP are either experts in “class struggle” or former secretaries of Chinese leaders. None of them is an expert in economics — not even incoming Chinese premier Li Qiang (李強), who would be responsible for the economy.

The Chinese leadership undoubtedly plans to concentrate on “class struggle.”

China’s announcement of its GDP for September was delayed by the national congress, with some outside the country speculating the holdup was due to it being low. The figure turned out to be higher than expected.

However, as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) publicly removed his predecessor Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) from the national congress, while having the list of top Chinese leaders made in accordance with his personal will, can the GDP data be trusted?

What kind of tragedy might befall China if Xi’s political line continues? Before large-scale protests break out, perhaps Xi would launch a war to “liberate Taiwan” just to get himself off the hook, and make a last-ditch effort to secure his legacy and fortune.

This might be the greatest risk facing Taiwan.

Still, with the national congress concluded, it is possible Xi might soften his stance temporarily. During this period, he is expected to lure Western countries by achieving the CCP’s goals, so as to resolve China’s economic downturn and make headway on the Taiwan issue.

How massive such gains might be is still unknown.

Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) ceded Chinese territory to serve the country’s greater interest. This is the kind of action people must watch for with Xi.

At a meeting with leading military cadres on Monday last week, shortly after the conclusion of the national congress, Xi instructed defense officials to strive to achieve “the goals set for the centenary of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army [PLA]” in the next five years.

Even though invading Taiwan was not one of the goals reported by the media, it must be in Xi’s mind as this is the only way for him to surpass Mao’s supreme status.

As 2027 marks the centennial anniversary of the PLA’s establishment, Xi needs to accomplish some achievements by that time to secure a fourth term.

In Xi’s political report to the national congress, he demanded that the military “shape our security posture, deter and manage crises and conflicts, and win local wars.”

Clearly, he is also aware that there is no guarantee of victory in an all-out war with the US, and is willing to admit this to Washington. Nevertheless, he would surely make every effort to achieve his goals in the next five years.

Hu is considered Xi’s great benefactor. Compared with Hu, former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) friendship with Xi is insignificant in his eyes.

However, to tackle domestic problems, and to build his image as a great leader, Xi would inevitably make use of them to destroy Taiwan’s internal unity and cooperation with the US and Japan.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Eddy Chang


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