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12/2/2015

Shakenandstirred

Shaken and stirred


Shifting power, less certainty

Rosie Blau
Mon Nov 02 2015
CHINA

InmanywaysChinaisstrongerthanever:PresidentXiJinpinghas
concentratedpowerandpickedoffenemies,andChinahasmuscled
itswaytothefrontoftheworldstage.Yetthecountryenters2016
unmistakablyshakierthanayearago,withquestionsaboutthe
competenceofthegovernmentafteritsfinancialmismanagementin
2015.ManyChinesearealittlelesscertainthantheywerethatthe
futureisbrightandprosperous.Thatcouldleadtogreatervolatilityin
2016.
MrXiwillputonagoodshownonetheless,continuingawhistlestop
touroftheworldscapitals,includinghisfirsttriptotheMiddleEast,
wheretradetieshavegrown.TheskyisnoteventhelimitChinas
secondspacestation,Tiangong2,willgointoorbitin2016.
Backonearth,Chinawillrampupeffortstoexportovercapacityand
gainpoliticalinfluence.AhighspeedraillinefromShanghaito
Kunmingwillbecompletedin2016,promotingChinasexpansion
intoSouthEastAsia.TheAsianInfrastructureInvestmentBank,the
firstChinaledmultilateralfinancialinstitution,setupin2015,gives
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12/2/2015

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Chinathechancetoproveitcanmeetinternationalstandards.And
headsofstatewillnoteChineseascendancewhentheycomeforthe
summitoftheG20clubofleadingnations,meetinginHangzhouin
easternChinalateintheyear.
Internationalrelationswillnotbeentirelysmooth,though.Theyear
isbookendedbykeyelectionsinTaiwanandAmerica.InTaiwan,
thereturnoftheindependenceleaningDemocraticProgressiveParty
topowerinJanuarycouldbeaheadachenotjustfortheChinese
CommunistPartybutalsoforbusinesses,whichfeararenewedchill
incrossstraitrelations.InAmericabothsideswillbashChinaonthe
campaigntrail,butwhoeverwinswillnotsubstantiallychangeChina
policy.Mutualmistrustwillendure.Chinawillkeepdefying
Americascalltostopbuildingislands(andanewairforcebase)in
theSouthChinaSea.
OtherfringesofChinamayalsobesporadicallystormy.Electionsto
HongKongslegislativecouncilin2016willpromptrenewed
protestsagainstChinasrefusaltogranttheterritoryafreechoiceof
candidatewhenvotingforanewchiefexecutivethefollowingyear.
Demonstrationswillbesmallerthanin2014,sinceantimainland
feelinghasnowsplinteredintomultiplecauses.Therewillbefurther
unrestinXinjianginthefarwest,whererelationsbetweenthelarge,
MuslimUighurpopulationandHanChinesearetense.Thereisa
goodchanceofarelatedterroristincidentelsewhereinthecountry
too.TibetwillbecalmerunlesstheDalaiLamadies(heturns81in
2016).
Athome,MrXiwillsustainhiscampaignagainstcorruption.The
questionwillbewhetherhechoosestobaganotherhighleveltarget.
Thecampaignwillstillbewelcomeamongthepopulationatlarge.
Butseveralyearsintothewarofattritiontheendlessnewsabout
officialsbroughtlowwillstarttopallandthetimidityofMrXisreal
reformscomparedwithhisradicalagendawillbegintoshow.
Labourdisputeswillspreadbut,thankstothestatesfinelyhoned
censorshipapparatus,mostpeoplewillhearlittleofthem.

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12/2/2015

Shakenandstirred
Advertisement

He who will follow Xi

Themostpivotaldecisionsof2016inChinawilltakeplacebehind
firmlycloseddoors.Atthehighestlevelintheparty,2016willbea
yearofinternaljockeyingforpowerbeforethecrucialmidpointin
MrXisreignin2017,whenfiveofthesevencurrentPolitburo
StandingCommitteeshouldretireowingtoage.MrXiwillfinallybe
abletoanointhisown,newgenerationofhenchmen.Thisisalsothe
pointwhenMrXisownsuccessorshouldbecomeknown,evenifhe
(anditissuretobeahe)isnotofficiallynamed.
MostChineseworrylessaboutsmokefilledroomsthanaboutthe
dirtyairaroundthem.Beijingersmaystarttonoticethesmog
clearingslightlyasthegovernmentclosessomebelchingfactories
nearthecapitalthoseelsewherewillseelittleimprovement.China
hadhopedtolaunchtheworldslargestcarbontradingsystemin
2016butithasalreadybeendelayedto2017.Inthemeantime,
expectpiecemealreformssuchaselectriccarincentivesandnew
metrolinesinatleasttencities.
MostChinesewillcontinuetoenjoyrisinglivingstandards.Withthe

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launchofpre5Gtechnologyandfasterinternetconnectionspeople
willspendevenmoretimelookingattheirsmartphonesthenumber
ofsocialmediausersinChinawillrisetoalmost450mnearlyone
infourofsuchusersworldwide.Somewillplaygames:Chinamay
surgepastAmericatobecometheworldslargestmobilegaming
marketin2016.
Chinasinternetuserswillhavemuchtodiscussin2016.Butone
anniversarywillbenotablebyitsabsence.InMay2016itwillbe50
yearssincetheCentralCommitteeoftheCommunistPartylaunched
theCulturalRevolution.Theimpactofthatdecadeofviolenceand
fearstillremainstodaydespite,andpartlybecauseof,therelative
lackofpublicdiscussionordebateaboutit.Chinahaschanged
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12/2/2015

Shakenandstirred

utterlysincethen,butin2016itwillagainprovethatithasnotyet
changedquiteenough.

by Rosie Blau
Beijing
China correspondent, The Economist

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