The new president of China, Xi Jinping, has delivered his equivalent of a 'state of the union' speech in which he lays down the guiding aims for the next ten years of his administration. It is summed up in the phrase "A Chinese Dream". As always with these elliptical statements it is not easy to be definitive as to how this Chinese dream is to be achieved or even, in detailed terms, what it actually is. I suppose you could sum it up as 'get richer, get stronger'! However, what is interesting, according to my alert observers at NightWatch, is that he first gave a virtually unreported version of this speech to the military. They were encouraged to undertake a period of intense re-education so that all military personnel were aware of the aim which is "to win in war", but also, and rather oddly to my occidental eyes, they were also encouraged to maintain "good behaviour"! I gather this mean something more than the British equivalent of telling the troops to stop having punch-ups on a Saturday night! In Chinese terms, which can only be read between the lines, it implies that the rule of the Communist Party of China over the miltary is, and will remain, absolute.
I recommend Andrew Erickson to anyone seeking a fairly balanced analysis of Chinese military capabilities. He points out that although the Chinese military budget has increased every year (with one exception) for the last 20 years, the latest increase in terms of a percentage of the total government budget is actually slightly less. Also, he reminds us that whilst the Chinese are able to apply overwhelming force in or around their vicinity, they are still nowhere near the size of the American military which, because of its global interests, is spread further but thinner.
On the civilian front, Chairman Xi faces even greater problems. Anthony Bolton, a well-known investor in Chinese markets, put it this way in The Telegraph:
“There is a new generation of internationally educated, internet-informed
individuals who will push for reforms,” he said. “They are aware of the
realities of their country and their government in a way that no previous
generation has been. The people will want a say.”
There is not too much difficulty in maintaining power in an autocratic, one party dictatorship, especially if you have hit upon state capitalism as a means of increasing wealth for your people. However, beyond a certain point, the people begin to yearn for other things besides just houses and holidays. Increasingly, they grow irritated by the corruption which always attends state-run enterprises and they can become downright angry at the heavy-handed clout of authorities in their towns and villages. Today, courtesy of the internet they can see and read and hear that there are other ways and other systems of government.
So Chairman Xi has a delicate path to tread. I gain an impression, very slight and il-informed, obviously, that Chairman Xi is rather an intelligent man who will be determined but careful in pursuit of his goals. I just hope the White House contains equal intelligence!