A New Political Era Begins In China

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A New Political Era Begins In China

Every five years, the Communist Party of China holds its National Congress. This is where delegates approve amendments to the constitution and select members of the Central Committee, who in turn select members of the country’s most important political institutions: the Politburo, the Central Military Commission, the Politburo Standing Committee and the general secretariat.

On the occasion of the 19th National Congress, it seems like the ideal opportunity to reexamine the geopolitical trends underlying the grand strategy of the world’s largest and, arguably, second most powerful nation.  Our primary concerns will be how this might impact the global economy, multi-national corporations, and U. S. national security.

In order to understand China’s strategy under President Xi Jinping, it is important to recognize the imperatives and constraints that drive the country.

First, we let’s consider China’s geographical configuration. The country has four buffer regions that are under its control.

  • Tibet in the southwest has seen some instability and is vulnerable to outside influences.
  • Xinjiang in the northwest is predominantly Muslim, with a significant insurgency but not one that threatens Chinese control.
  • Inner Mongolia in the north is stable. And,
  • Manchuria in the northeast is also stable and of all four buffer zones, it is the most integrated with the Chinese core.

These last two regions are now dominated by the Han Chinese, China’s main ethnic group, but they are still distinct. When you look at a map of China, you will see that a good part of what we think of as China, is not ethnically Chinese.

Within Han China, there are also divisions. The population is concentrated in the east because western China has limited rainfall and can’t sustain a very large population. For this reason, China is actually a relatively narrow country, with an extremely dense population. The distinctions even within Han China are significant, and throughout history this has frequently led to fragmentation and civil war.

The most important of these distinctions is the one between coastal China and interior China. Coastal China, when left to its own devices, is involved in regional and global maritime trade, while the interior has fewer commercial opportunities. Coastal China’s priority is reaching its customers, whereas the interior wants Beijing to transfer the wealth from the coast to help support the poor interior...

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