New Trend Report on China: Regime survival is President Xi’s first priority

Regime survival is now the predominant trend in China’s power politics, writes Dr habil May-Britt U. Stumbaum from the Bundeswehr Universität Münich in the latest Hybrid CoE Trend Report on China.

According to Dr Stumbaum, Chinese President Xi Jinping is running a campaign to achieve utmost control within China, and over China issues worldwide. “Regime survival makes all other intertwined trends subordinate to this one overarching strategy,” Dr Stumbaum writes.

Covid-19 has worked as a catalyst for Xi’s goal, as the pandemic has offered up ample opportunities for disinformation campaigns and initiatives to discredit the competence of Western liberal democracies. However, Covid-19 has also increased pressure on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to deliver economic well-being and safety to Chinese citizens. The CCP needs to legitimize its grip on power more than ever.

At the same time, Xi is waging a historical campaign to remake Chinese society and render it fit for the global competition ahead. Central to this aim is ensuring that the people are absorbing the “right socialist values,” Dr Stumbaum writes. This spills over to China’s foreign policy and manifests itself as the second trend that Dr Stumbaum identifies: a “whole-of-society approach” in hybrid threat operations.

“The CCP’s siege mentality is part of its creation myth. Hence, understanding the role of ideology and the perceptions of the CCP is becoming essential in analyzing how domestic developments, structures, and paradigms spill over into China’s foreign policy approaches,” Dr Stumbaum notes.

According to the author, an ever-intensifying level of hybrid operations by China is to be expected. Other trends identified in the report are as follows:

  • China’s economic statecraft, which derives from sanctions and incentives for conditioned development projects, as well as altering international norms and standards.
  • China-Russia cooperation and coordination, with China drawing on lessons from Russian hybrid threat operations.
  • A rise in awareness, resilience and resistance in affected states, particularly in Europe, North America and the Indo-Pacific.

You can download and read the new Hybrid CoE Trend Report on China here.

This Trend Report forms part of Hybrid CoE’s work on analyzing China and Russia as hybrid threat actors. The work will continue in 2022 with a Trend Report on Russia, as well as a study comparing the two.

Read more on our work on China:

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 5: Trends in China’s Power Politics

Hybrid CoE Research Report 1: China as a hybrid influencer: Non-state actors as state proxies (by Jukka Aukia)

Hybrid CoE Paper 9: Towards a more China-centred global economy? Implications for Chinese power in the age of hybrid threats (by John Seaman)

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