Xi Jinping will not want to jeopardise third term prospects with armed conflict over Taiwan
Much has been said about US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan worsening already tense US-China relations.
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It is important to bear in mind, however, that despite Beijing’s live fire military exercises in response to Pelosi’s visit, China does not have an interest in engaging in an armed conflict with the US right now.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is a few months away from securing his coveted third term as head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and he does not want to jeopardise these prospects.
Pelosi’s Taiwan trip gave Xi the pretext to respond with military exercises, contributing to what some are now describing as the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis.
OPPORTUNITY TO DISTRACT
All of this provides Xi with the opportunity to distract the Chinese people and CCP leadership from the many problems that have arisen from some of his policies: China’s underperforming economy due to strict zero-COVID measures; skyrocketing youth unemployment; real estate and banking crises; the damage to China’s big tech stars wrought by Xi’s leftward shifting of the economy; and the disastrous friendship “without limits” public announcement with Vladimir Putin just weeks before the Ukraine invasion.
The Speaker’s trip ought to have taken place after this fall’s politically sensitive 20th National Congress, at which time Xi is expected to secure a third term as leader of the CCP, allowing him to remain in power for life.
PELOSI’S LAST HURRAH
It bears saying that Pelosi’s visit did not accomplish any strategic goal, nor did it help maintain Taiwan’s security or uphold the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
Pelosi’s stated reasons for the visit – supporting democracy and human rights – were admirable and understandable. Yet, the trip had a political angle as the last hurrah of a Speaker who is nearing the end of her career in politics and who wanted to make a final stand for human rights in China.
While the trip may have been important for Pelosi’s legacy, it was counterproductive for America’s ability to protect Taiwan.
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