Corona, Hong Kong and the ongoing dispute with the United States: China continues to come under international pressure. The Volkskongress is not able to cover this up despite massive images.
For Xi Jinping, the powerful boss of the chinese communists, two events came at the right time. On the one hand, Beijing’s most important political show has been running with the National People’s Congress eleven weeks late since Friday. That the delegates from all over China now allowed to come together in the capital should signal: The Communist Party (KP) has Covid-19 fully under control. In March the appointment had to be canceled because of the Corona outbreak be postponed indefinitely. Although headed by Prime Minister Li Keqiang, KP boss Xi is at the center of the images from the congress.
Secondly, it was a happy thing for Xi to be able to speak to the World Health Organization (WHO) last week. President Trump was also asked to speak, but he did not want to. The United States criticize Beijing’s influence in the WHO and threaten cancel their payments to the organization. However, Xi promised at the WHO video conference that China would donate two billion dollars to the UN to fight Sars CoV-2. And if his country were the first to find a vaccine against Covid-19, it would be made public. At the same time, Trump said in the U.S. that he took malaria medication as a Covid-19 prophylaxis every day – no one knows yet whether it is useful or even harmful.
Xi took his chance before the WHO. And international media report more intensely than ever about the National People’s Congress. They are images of a tight, large-scale staging in which some democracy is to be faked. The congress is a bogus parliament: it is not elected in China. The congress is actually an internal political event with strong accents on economic development, on which pre-made decisions are nodded off. The party and state leadership of China will present its goals and priorities for the coming year at the People’s Congress.
The domestic economy is a problem
Abroad, one is particularly interested in the forecast of the desired economic growth. China’s economy has grown steadily since the start of reforms under Deng Xiaoping. From the nineties, the annual growth rates were sometimes in double digits. The growth goals had been announced at the People’s Congress since 1994.
But everything is different in 2020. Despite pompous staging, Premier announced Li Keqiang No growth forecasts for the first time on Friday. Rather, he referred to “the great uncertainties surrounding the Covid 19 pandemic, the global economy and trade relations”, the latter relating primarily to the trade dispute with the United States. For the five-year plan of 2016, it was said that absolute poverty should be eliminated in China by the end of 2020. The government has to say goodbye to this after the corona lockdown; the economy slumped by almost seven percent in the first quarter.
The CP leadership is most likely to be afraid of the rising unemployment. It is considered the source of social unrest, which in turn would undermine the legitimacy of the dominant, authoritarian CP. Unemployment was officially six percent in April. However, the roughly 300 million migrant workers are not included. A Chinese investment company estimates that up to 70 million migrant workers have lost their jobs due to the pandemic – the unemployment rate would be over 20 percent.
Debt uncertainty factor
A major issue of the domestic economy was the high indebtedness of the provinces and municipalities even before Corona. Nobody knows exactly how high it is, because many things have only been possible through shadow banks and beautiful figures. One thing is certain: debt is an uncertainty factor.
Li Keqiang has announced billions in aid for Corona, but no longer in the bazooka dimensions as after the 2008 financial crisis. The domestic economy is therefore a problem, also because many export markets have collapsed for China. The spread of the virus knows no borders and has serious health consequences for many people worldwide. At the same time, the shutdowns have gigantic social and economic consequences. China’s leadership is therefore confronted with international criticism, not cooperating sufficiently with foreign countries and thus contributing to the spread of the virus worldwide. The Corona-dominated People’s Congress has thus become part of foreign policy.
This also includes that Congress now has security laws for Hong Kong he let. This bypasses the parliament of the special administrative zone. The laws are directed against the democracy movement, and Chinese security organs are also to be allowed to be used directly in Hong Kong in the future. Hong Kong’s strengths include the largely independent judiciary and the free media. Since the return of the British Crown Colony to China in 1997, this should be guaranteed until 2047 under the motto “one country, two systems”. That would be over with the new laws. Hong Kong, as we know it today, would become a city of millions like many others in China.
Beijing takes advantage of the moment, because the Hong Kong democracy movement is slowed down by the restrictions in the wake of the pandemic fight. Above all, the announcement should be one thing: a demonstration of strength and toughness, especially against liberal ideas, because a democratic city, as the Hong Kong activists call for it, does not fit into the ideological concept of the CP.
Donald Trump wants to position himself “very strongly” on the Hong Kong question, as he said on Friday. Other governments of democratic states will more or less follow him. China’s relations with the USA are – to put it casually – down the drain. On the one hand, this has a lot to do with Trump. Although it is not liberal, it needs at home as a campaign aid the constant reference, sometimes in rough terms, to China’s responsibility for the pandemic.
“Brutal, Authoritarian Regime”
The tone gets sharper every day. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom China’s state media simply call a “liar”, describes the Chinese leadership in return as a “brutal, authoritarian regime”. For decades, the world had believed that China, through increasing exchange and admission to the World Trade Organization, “will become more like us,” Pompeo said recently and summarized: “That didn’t happen.”
But regardless of the Trump administration’s rhetoric, the CP is currently destroying itself with its own foreign policy that has become aggressive relations with the rest of the world, not just liberal ones. Your new diplomats, the so-called wolf warriors, aggressively poison not only against Trump: Every government that says something critical about China is now under attack. China’s leadership has also lost a lot of trust in the strategy of making other countries compliant with financial threats.
Well-meaning people are starting to turn away too
Australia, for example, is one of the states that has repeatedly requested an independent investigation into China’s handling of the Sars-CoV-2 virus. Beijing’s ambassador to Canberra therefore threatened boycott actions, the government banned meat imports from Australia, and later the import of Australian barley was also heavily taxed. This method is used globally – and it is a deterrent. Even previously well-meaning politicians and states are starting to turn away from Beijing.
After Xi’s WHO appearance, there was much talk of a moment in which a global replacement of the United States by China is in the offing. But the People’s Congress also shows that it is not enough; that China’s aspired world power status is at risk even through its own fault. At the same time, the virus crisis has not yet been overcome in China. New sources of infection appear regularly, as recently on the border with Russia. The fear of a second wave is there and the shutdown has also left deep traces in Chinese society. The middle class of the country, which is otherwise so keen to buy, is now strikingly reserved, which is also attributed to the fact that it is better to save due to concerns about the future. Despite all the pompous staging, this year’s People’s Congress points out that the problems should be solved at home first.