China’s growth is slow, but Xi Jinping is sticking to his vision.

Even with growth slowing in China, Xi Jinping has forcefully assured that he has the right road map to overtake Western rivals.

China’s economy is slowing down. Its population is shrinking and aging. Its rival, the US, has taken the lead in artificial intelligence. Mr. Xi’s declaration several years ago that “the East is rising and the West is declining” — that his country was on the rise while American power was shrinking — now seems premature, if not downright hubristic. .

The problems have led to growing talk abroad that China may reach its peak before becoming a full-fledged superpower. But Mr Xi appears bent on insisting that his policies, which include extensive party control and state-led industrial investment in new sectors such as electric vehicles and semiconductors, can secure China’s rise. Is.

As a sign of that confidence, his government announced last week that China’s economy is expected to grow by about 5 percent this year, much faster than last year’s pace, according to official data. And Mr. Xi stressed his ambitions for a new phase of innovation-driven industrial growth, acting as if the failure of the past year or two was a blip.

“Faced with a technological revolution and industrial transformation, we must seize the opportunity,” he told delegates at China’s annual legislative session in Beijing, who were shown cheering him on television. .

He later told another group at a legislative session that China had to “win the battle for key technologies” and asked People’s Liberation Army officers to “build strategic capabilities in emerging regions,” including Artificial intelligence is also involved, officials pointed out. Cyber ​​operations and space technology.

Mr. Xi’s cheerfulness may be partly for show: Chinese leaders, like politicians anywhere, are loathe to admit mistakes. And some officials have privately acknowledged that the economic downturn is dampening China’s ambitions, at least for now.

Ryan Haas, director of the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, who visited China last year, said he came back with the feeling that “the Chinese are a little more deferential than they were a year ago. Visitors The pace of China’s economy will overtake that of the United States in years to come – pushed further over the horizon.”

Even so, Mr Xi’s determination to stick to his long-term ambitions seems more than a show. “Xi and his team still believe that time and momentum are with China,” said Mr. Haas, a former China director at the US National Security Council. “With Xi coming to power,” he added, it’s hard to imagine “any significant recalibration in the overall momentum that China is going through.”

Since taking power in 2012, Mr. Xi has tightened the Communist Party’s grip on Chinese society. He has expanded state management of the economy, expanded the security apparatus to fend off potential challenges to party rule, and confronted Washington on technology, Taiwan and other disputes.

Mr. Xi’s critics say his centralist, hardline tendencies are part of China’s problems. It did not cause China’s dangerous dependence on the property market for growth, and it has worked to eliminate it. But many economists say he is too heavy-handed, stifling business and innovation. Critics argue that Mr. Xi has also unnecessarily antagonized Western governments, prompting him to limit access to technology and deepen security ties with Washington.

Over the past year, the Chinese government has moved to ease these tensions. It has taken steps to restore confidence among private businesses. Mr Xi has also sought to ease tensions with the US and other countries.

Such moderate gestures point to what Mr. Xi described as “strategic flexibility” from Chinese officials in difficult times. But Mr. Xi said, even as the authorities take easing measures, they must stick to their long-term goals. He and his loyal subordinates have defended their policies in speeches and editorials, suggesting that skeptics are short-sighted. Chinese officials and scholars have also increased their condemnation of Western analysts who have predicted that China is facing a period of decline.

Mr. Xi has emphasized that economic and security priorities must work together as China continues to grow at a slower pace. Mr. Xi is also betting that investment in manufacturing and technology can deliver new “high-quality” growth by boosting new clean energy and electric vehicle industries.

Michael Beckley said the Chinese leadership’s “mantra seems to be, ‘We’re not going to grow as fast as before, but we’re going to gain more leverage over trading partners by controlling key parts of the world economy,'” An associate professor at Tufts University, who has argued that China is a “pecking power,” meaning a country whose economic rise has slowed but not yet stopped.

Some economists say China’s progress in these select industries will not be enough to offset the drag caused by declining consumer confidence and the debt burden of developers and local governments. China’s wider fortunes depend on whether Mr Xi’s gamble on technology can pay off.

“They see technology as the solution to every problem they’re facing — economic, environmental, demographic, social,” said Nadij Rolan, a researcher at the National Bureau of Asian Research who studies China’s strategic thinking. ” “If they can’t make substantial progress in that domain, it’s going to be very difficult for them.”

Scholars in China and abroad who hope the country can take a more liberal path sometimes look to history for examples of when party leaders made bold changes to ease domestic and international tensions.

The last time China was caught in such a painful conundrum was on June 4, 1989, after a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The bloodshed prompted Western countries to impose sanctions on China, deepening the economic shock. However, within several years, China’s leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, tried to mend relations with Washington and other capitals and introduced market changes that revived growth and lured Western investors.

Now, though, China faces much stronger hostility from other major powers, Zhou Feng, a prominent foreign policy scholar at East China’s Nanjing University, said in an interview. For example, China’s growing exports of electric cars – which have benefited from wider government subsidies – could reignite trade tensions, as the US, Japan and Europe fear losing jobs and industrial muscle.

Professor Zhou said economic and diplomatic tensions were posing “China’s biggest challenge in decades”.

Still, Chinese leaders are convinced that, whatever their problems, their Western rivals will face a worsening situation that will eventually humble them and disintegrate.

Recent reports from subsidiaries of China’s ruling party, the military and the Ministry of State Security point to contrasting polarization in the US ahead of the next election. Regardless of who wins, Chinese analysts say U.S. power is likely to remain unsettled by political inaction.

Chinese scholars have also focused on fault lines in the Western bloc over Russia’s war in Ukraine. Beijing’s relations with the US and European governments have been badly strained over Mr Xi’s partnership with President Vladimir V. Putin. But as the war approaches its third year, the burden of supporting Ukraine is deepening fissures and “fatigue” in the US and Europe.

Chen Xiangyang, a researcher at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, which is under the Ministry of State Security, wrote last year, “US foreign intervention cannot handle everything it stirs up. Trying to.” “China can exploit contradictions and exploit them.”

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