China, the sinologist: “Where is the Dragon going? Much depends on the US and Russia”

Masini (La Sapienza): “But Xi’s speech in the wake of the past and no reference to international crises. On Taiwan only a more peremptory tone”.

Xi Jinping is heading towards an obvious third term as leader, a leader whose “decisions also directly affect our world”. In Beijing, the work of the Chinese Communist Party Congress continues in a China ‘sealed’ in the name of the Zero Covid strategy desired by the Chinese president, who in his awaited speech insisted more on “references to internal development rather than on the development of relations with the outside”. Where is the Dragon going? “It depends a lot on both internal and external reasons to China, it will be a question of how the international context will change”, sinologist Federico Masini, professor of Chinese Language and Literature at La Sapienza in Rome, replies to Adnkronos. We must look to the USA, with Joe Biden’s America which considers China the main geopolitical challenge (this is the meaning of the new National Security Strategy), and to Europe, where the conflict unleashed on February 24 by the Russian invasion of China continues. ‘Ukraine.

“Above all, it will be a question of what attitude the United States will have after the Midterm elections towards Europe and Asia – he says – It will be necessary to see to what extent the US commitment in Europe will push the EU towards Russia and this will also determine the role of China “, which – states the US document – is the only power” that has both the intent to alter the world order and, increasingly, economic, diplomatic, military and technological power, to do it “. And in yesterday’s speech by Xi, Masini underlines, “there were no references, as there never have been, to specific international crisis situations”. The news would have been the other way around.

Where China is going “depends on many things”, on the “international context”, underlines Masini, highlighting how internally it will be a question of seeing the situation of the Chinese economy, or “how the Chinese economy will continue to grow relatively little” . Because, he points out, “however it grows”. And it will be necessary to see “whether this will continue to guarantee internal economic stability”. Because Xi, he says, “inherited an already incredibly developed China from an economic point of view from his predecessors” and “this great economic development has also brought errors and problems that Xi has tried to address, including corruption, inequality in distribution. of wealth “.

Economic growth and prosperity has long been a mantra of the Party-State with the worry of internal stability, a Party-State with internal dynamics about which “very little is known” and we must wait for the conclusion of the Congress to witness that ‘rite’ that sees the leaders of the Party enter the Great Hall of the People, in order of importance. As in 2017, Xi will most likely be the first – as secretary general reconfirmed for the third time – but it is on who follows him that observers will focus. “We will look closely at the new characters that will surround the president and perhaps we could glimpse something there”, says Masini, thinking about the future of Chinese leadership.

And in order not to make “speculations”, Masini invites us to judge Xi’s speech, which yesterday he “listened to in full” and which was “very similar to what we expected”, without “fundamentally nothing new”. . And perhaps, he remarks, “this could be the news”, the absence of news. Because even on Taiwan, the de facto independent island on which the CCP has not ruled even for a day but which Xi wants to “reunify”, the Chinese leader said what “they have always said”, although “perhaps with a tone that is still more peremptory “.

Perhaps, continues the sinologist, “we were hoping for an indication on the ‘Zero Covid’ policy and perhaps we were therefore hoping for signs of an imminent reopening of China to mobility, for which, however, we have not received any signals”. And this, he points out, “constitutes an obstacle for us to develop relations” because the “fact that we cannot go to China” is an “obstacle”. Hence Masini notes a “particularly recurrent use of all that is reference within China”, from the “development of technology to that of the economy”, all priorities with a “reference to internal development rather than to the development of relations with the outside”. Another choice “in the wake of what he-highlights-we have seen in recent years”. In Xi’s speech, he continues, there was “certainly a strong reference to national defense in a military and economic and also political sense”, a “focus on national defense in the economic, political and international field” which is noted – underlines the sinologist – from the “tone” used by the leader of a China whose foreign policy in recent years has been made by reiterating the “need for a Chinese presence in international organizations”, by an “increasingly prominent role at the global level” and by the ” aspiration to help create a new international order “.

Masini answers Adnkronos questions between lessons. With the students, a class of Chinese and Italians, just “tried to talk” about Xi’s speech, even if “politics is often far away for them”, urged them not to “see it as a distant world”, helped by cue from a passage “in which Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai were spoken”, the founder of the People’s Republic of China and its first prime minister, after “yesterday Xi asked for a minute of silence for the great figures of Chinese political history”. There was a hint of topicality. Is Xi the new Mao? “These are simplifications that do not help us understand something that is already very difficult to understand – concludes Masini – History will make us understand how similar his role was”.