China: Reforms Is So Forty Years Ago

China: Reforms Is So Forty Years Ago

Just hours ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech to commemorate an economic experiment that spurred one of the most staggering stories of economic growth in human history – here's Gabe with the rundown.


On December 18, 1978, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping announced an ambitious plan to "reform" and "open up" the Communist country's tightly regulated state-run economy. In the decades since, hundreds of millions of Chinese were lifted out of poverty and the country's share of the global economy rocketed from 3 percent to 19 percent. Deng's bold changes transformed a poor agrarian country into an economic superpower.

But if observers expected Mr. Xi to use the occasion to announce a fresh wave of reforms to liberalize China's flagging economy, they were disappointed. President Xi's message was at once steadfast and defiant. Amid a growing trade spat with the United States, Mr. Xi warned that Beijing would not "be dictated to" by outside powers. Despite a vague pledge to "reform what can be reformed," he also was ominously clear that there are some things "that cannot and should not be reformed."

Where Deng was a reformer, Xi is a different kind of leader entirely. Since taking power in 2012, Mr. Xi has concentrated more power in his hands than any leader since Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China. He has used that power to strengthen the role of the state in China's economy and society at home while asserting China's role internationally. Where Deng's worldview was framed by his adage to "hide your strength, bide your time," Mr Xi has pledged to put China at the "center of the world stage."

And why not, Mr. Xi might well ask. China's miracle of economic growth without political liberalization (or upheaval) compares favorably with the political challenges roiling Western democracies these days. Why shouldn't China harness the full power of the state to become a superpower in technology, AI, and other advanced technologies? From Beijing's perspective, grievances from the US and Europe about China's trade policies and technology ambitions just look like efforts to prevent China from taking its rightful place in the world order.

The trouble for Mr. Xi is that the domestic political environment is getting more difficult for him, rather than less. The economy is sagging, tensions over trade and technology with the US and other countries are intensifying, and the expectations of the world's largest middle class (which Deng's reforms largely created) are growing. By concentrating so much power in his own hands, Mr. Xi risks making himself solely responsible for the outcome, good or bad.

Forty years ago, faced with an impoverished and isolated China, Deng took a huge gamble on reform and experimentation. Today, at the helm of a powerful and globally active China, Mr. Xi is defiantly doubling down on a more conservative and assertive vision – will it turn out as well?

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

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China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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