Professor Cai taught for 15 years at the Central Party School, the sanctum sanctorum of the Communist elite and the motor engine of revanchist doctrine. The cadres learned that there can be no modus vivendi with “American imperialist wolves”. The foe must be smashed.
Her long essay on the CCP’s ideological reflexes published by the Hoover Institution should be read with caution but it is nevertheless a seminal text for our time. It is both an exposé of the incorrigible character of this totalitarian beast but also an indictment of Western wishful thinking over forty years of failed strategic engagement.
You cannot engage with the CCP.
The party is implacably hostile, because it sees the foreign democratic virus as a threat to its own internal control of China. “The two conflicting systems cannot be reconciled, and they cannot indefinitely coexist,” she says.
Nor does the CCP wish to coexist with the West any longer, having concluded (wrongly) from the global financial crisis in 2008 that the US is in irreversible economic and strategic decline, and that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” has shown itself to be superior. “It is the CCP that has unilaterally ruined the engagement policy, because it believes engagement has served its purpose and is no longer useful,” she said. …
China’s growth is coming at a heavy cost, like the Soviet Union’s:
China’s modernisation tsar Cheng Siwei confessed to me at a dinner, after some wine, that GDP growth was minus 8pc when adjusted for water depletion, soil erosion, air pollution, and so on). …
China is no longer on the trajectory of previous Asia tigers. It is acquiring the productivity profile of mature economies before it is mature. Premier Li Keqiang long warned that China would slide into the middle income trap without a change of course — by which he meant less top-down planning, and more free-thinking — but hubris has prevailed.
President Xi Jinping and the top cadres think they can overcome the Impossible Dilemma: achieving a vibrant, hi-tech economy under the 24-hour surveillance of an absolutist police dictatorship.
Xi merely dropped the nice facade:
Like many amateur observers of China, I had assumed that Xi Jinping’s iron-fist policies at home and abroad were a break with the more emollient approach from Deng to Hu Jintao (if you can call the Tiananmen Square massacre emollient), when China seemed to be softening from a totalitarian to an authoritarian regime. Cai Xia makes clear that the fundamental character of the CCP has been unchanging.
The party has merely dropped the facade and dispensed with Deng Xiaoping’s tactical dictum: “bide your time, and hide your strength”. It has also acquired the means of totalitarian control that Hitler and Stalin could only dream of, whether face recognition technology or digital tracking through the Social Credit System. …
Cai Xia’s contention is that the Communist regime is more brittle than it looks, like the Soviet regime before the end. “I recommend that the US be fully prepared for the possible sudden disintegration of the CCP,” she said.
It is not just the broken economic model and debt saturation, or the corruption, or the “insurmountable contradiction between exaggerated ideological propaganda and social reality”. She highlights the power-struggle at the core. …
China’s bid for world domination is mistimed:
Former British diplomat Roger Garside, a veteran of the Cultural Revolution, goes further in China Coup: the Great Leap to Freedom, arguing that the CCP is bent on world supremacy and must be overthrown before it becomes powerful enough to act on its intentions.
Mr Garside said Xi has no instinctive feel for how the free world works and has fatally misjudged the resilience of the democracies, like 1930s totalitarians before him. He has turned a well-meaning America into a determined enemy, awakening a slumbering giant before China is close to strategic parity. “No people on earth is less forgiving than the Americans when they believe that their trust and friendship have been betrayed,” he said. …
Demographics will do the rest. The workforce peaked in 2017. It is already shrinking by three million people a year and the annual decline rate will accelerate to 0.5pc after 2030.
There may be a sorpasso a few years hence when China’s economy briefly overtakes the US but it will not last long and the process will then go into reverse if the Chinese Communist Party remains in office. The US is likely to be the world’s unchallenged economic superpower again by mid-century.
This does not preclude a dangerous few years of peak hubris before Chinese decline becomes obvious. For the next decade we live in the shadow of the Thucydides trap.
hat-tip David Archibald