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China’s army is to become a “wall of steel,” but not a word about Ukraine

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China has a new head of government – a loyal companion of head of state Xi Jinping. At the end of the national congress, he announces some growth, more independence, and above all the expansion of the military. But not a word about Ukraine.

Xi Jinping’s buddy network bears the martial name “Zhejiang’s New Army” and it is from here that China’s ruler Xi Jinping recruits his people for day-to-day business, i.e. the government. The new Prime Minister Li Qiang is part of the clique, which has known each other for around 20 years. The career paths of the two had crossed at the time in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, where the metropolis of Shanghai is also located. Since then, the two officials have been marching through the institutions, arm in arm. And what Li said when he took office should correspond to what his companion Xi wanted, which he said.

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Essentially, the new head of government outlined five areas that are crucial for leadership in Beijing:

  • Economy
  • Corona Aftermath
  • relationship with the United States
  • Taiwan
  • Military

China is only aiming for five percent growth

At the beginning of the National People’s Congress, the country had lowered its economic forecasts more than it had in decades: only five percent growth was possible this year. But even that could be difficult, according to Li Qiang: “I’m afraid that it won’t be easy to achieve our growth target and that we’ll have to redouble our efforts,” he said at the final press conference. He sees many uncertainties, instability and unforeseeable events. “Stabilizing economic growth is a challenging task not only for China but for all countries in the world.”

Probably not fully convinced, Li has defended the government’s crackdown on the coronavirus pandemic. During the pandemic, his country “always adhered to the principle that people come first,” said the politician. “The events prove that China’s strategies and measures were absolutely correct.” However, during his time as governor in Shanghai, he had followed a rather loose course until he was sentenced to a strict zero-Covid strategy with lockdowns by the central government. Because the virus was still spreading, the economy was severely affected and protests broke out, Beijing abruptly lifted the rules.

China and US should work together

Like Xi, who struck an unusually aggressive tone towards the USA in his speech, Li chose the means of hostility – but also reached out: the two largest economies are closely linked, from which both benefited. “Encirclement and repression are not good for anyone,” he said while offering cooperation. “China and the United States should and must work together. If China and the United States work together, we can achieve a lot,” the premier said.

In the recent past, it has repeatedly become clear where the interests of the two states collide: for example in the assessment of Russia’s attack on Ukraine or the fate of the island republic of Taiwan. Beijing wants to annex them, while the USA has pledged to protect them. In his closing speech, however, Xi Jinping did not repeat earlier statements that China does not rule out military force if other efforts are unsuccessful. Instead, he said relations should be developed “peacefully”. However, “external interference” and “splittist activities” by pro-independence forces must be resolutely rejected. The unification process must be pushed “unshakeably”.

All of these developments lead the government to the point that “security is the bedrock of development, while stability is a prerequisite for prosperity”. So the defense must be advanced and the armed forces expanded “to a Great Wall of Steel,” as President Xi said. The nearly 3,000 delegates to the National Congress approved a sharp 7.2 percent increase in defense spending. And incidentally, at the beginning of the month, a law came into force that allows all Chinese between the ages of 18 and 60 to be drafted in the event of war.

Despite this saber-rattling, Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine was not mentioned at all. Although there were questions at the press conference of the new head of government, they had been agreed and so no one could inquire about them. According to press reports, Xi plans to travel to Moscow this spring. So far, Moscow has had the backing of its big neighbor.

Sources: DPA, AFP, “”

Source: Stern

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