Another thirty years for Xi JinpingYOU SANG-CHUL
The author is the director of the China Research Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo and CEO of China Lab.
The era of Xi Jinping’s third term has begun. He filled the Standing Committee of the Politburo with his people. Korea must understand what the era means. Surprisingly, Xi is trying to break from the Deng Xiaoping era. He believes that Deng’s reform and opening is no longer suitable for his era. In the third term, Xi is expected to materialize his own course of action.
This means tremendous changes. Above all, China’s moves will change since its reform and opening in 1978. As the Korea-China relations were made within the big picture of Deng’s reform and opening, China’s relationship with Korea is also expected to change significantly. What we need to pay attention to first are economy and security, the basis of diplomatic relations. Major changes will be made in China regarding the economy. Private companies that benefited from reform and opening are exiting one after another. On the other hand, state-owned companies are increasingly strengthened, creating new state-owned companies.
If Deng emphasized market economic efficiency, Xi is talking about a state-led monopoly. Only time will tell whether Xi’s economic model will succeed or not. For Korea, it is time to think about how to use such changes of China’s economic situation. The other is the security issue. Deng kept a low profile externally for reform and opening, or quietly growing strength in the dark. Under this stance, China accepted the presence of U.S. forces in Korea.
But Xi says those days are over. He is excited about “the great changes of 100 years” in which America is declining and China is rising. Given its confrontation with the United States, cooperation on North Korea’s denuclearization is unlikely. As China’s moves to take regional hegemony materialize, the number of Chinese Navy forces appearing in the Yellow Sea is increasing. The official in charge of foreign policy of the Xi Jinping government is pressuring them by saying, “Small countries must follow the big country.”
Dark clouds are gathering over the 30-year relationship between Seoul and Beijing. The problem is that the Xi Jinping era is beginning in full swing. There have been two 30 years in China before Xi — the eras of Mao Zedong and Deng (including Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao). What Xi Jinping calls his “era” refers to another third 30 years following Mao and Deng. After the past 10 years, Xi will stay in power for 10 more years and then rule as a regent for another 10 years. The “Xi Jinping era” is a challenge for Korea. We need to stay alert, study Xi’s every move, and seek our way of survival.