What to expect from Xi Jinping

by Chris Zappone

Don’t expect any mellowing around territorial disputes. Xi Jinping, in order to keep a firm grip on the military, must strike a nationalist tone. The Economist concludes that China, which relegates foreign affairs to the lower rung of importance, has put in place a number of voices in its foreign policy apparatus that won’t likely mark a departure in China’s tone from the past year on foreign issues. 

Yang Jiechi, who “has given the Americans tongue-lashings in the past was made senior adviser to Xi on foreign affairs. 

Mr Yang “is described as a “as a ‘highly polished’ diplomat who was well regarded in Washington during his service as China’s ambassador a decade ago. [But} Mr Yang’s harsher tone in the past three years has matched that of higher-ups, and is in line with the ‘sharper and more nationalistic approach’ of Mr Xi…”

Mr Yang’s successor as foreign minister is Wang Yi, an Asia specialist who was China’s ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007. In Tokyo Mr Wang helped to heal relations after earlier bad blood. But today Sino-Japanese relations are much worse, with China challenging Japanese control of the Senkaku islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) in the East China Sea. To date, Mr Xi has shown no sign of wanting to wind down the confrontation.

Also, Xi himself is “certainly fond of nationalist rhetoric,” The Economist says.

On March 17th, at the end of the 13-day annual session of the “National People’s Congress”, he repeated some favourite catchphrases. The country had to “strive to achieve the Chinese dream of the great renaissance of the Chinese nation”. The army issued a circular to troops promising to provide “robust support” for this endeavour. That will not reassure neighbours who worry about China’s growing assertiveness in disputed regional waters, and who turn to America for help.

Click here for the Economist article.