China looking inward while world is opening up; Xi is sitting at home

While the world is opening up amid a lull in the COVID-19 pandemic, China is looking more and more inward and President Xi Jinping is sitting at home.

It has been over 650 days since Xi has been seen on the world stage outside his country. Since his visit to Myanmar on January 17, 2020, he has not met any leader in-person, attended any international event or visited any foreign country. As usual, his self-siege is shrouded in mystery, reported The Singapore Post.

In the last couple of months, with a lull in the coronavirus pandemic, world leaders are shedding their virtual personalities and touching elbows with fellow Presidents and Prime Ministers at in-person meetings. The two high-level events in recent days were the G20 summit in Rome and the COP26 on climate change in Glasgow.

President Xi did not represent China at any of these meetings. It is expected that this year’s summit meeting between him and US President Joe Biden may at best be a virtual meeting, reported The Singapore Post.

The simple explanation for Xi’s absence outside China is the strict COVID-19 quarantine rules. It gives Xi the best excuse not to travel at a time when, since last year, China has been facing flak from the world over the allegation of leaking the virus apart from mismanaging the initial outbreak and trying to cover up its mistakes.

President Biden did not spare President Xi for the latter’s absence at COP 26. He launched a broadside against his Chinese counterpart on two counts. One, by raising questions about China’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Two, questioning China’s claim to the global leadership mantle. He said: “We showed up. They didn’t show up … It is a gigantic issue and they just walked away. How do you do that and claim to have any leadership mantle?”

Xi’s current stay-at-home policy is in stark contrast to his globe-trotting image in the past. He was going abroad frequently, trying to firm up China’s interests on the Belt and Road Initiative front or increasing China’s presence and role in the United Nations and allied organisations. His visits were seen as an extension of China’s projection of power as the world’s second-largest economy, reported The Singapore Post.

The home-stuck President, however, is said to be focusing on internal matters for the time being. There are several challenges he faces over the coming months. The most important is a suddenly weakening economy.

Not helping its cause in any way is Xi’s “common prosperity” goal which of late has seen the state coming down heavily against the private sector and big money. Real estate, technology and private tuitions were among the sectors the worst hit, reported The Singapore Post.

Secondly, the economic meltdown has apparently fuelled political machinations by powerful critics of Xi including a few holding high offices.

Three, China’s image, already dented by its bad human rights record, is trying to evade another beating by growing international pressure to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics scheduled to begin next February.

Four, and this is a personal challenge to Xi himself, is the 20th Party Congress later in 2022. The President is preparing the ground for his third five-year term at the helm, reported The Singapore Post. (ANI)


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