Weekend Roundup: The Audacity of the Chinese Dream

china meeting 2

BEIJING — The title of U.S. President Barack Obama’s pre-presidential biography is “The Audacity of Hope.” Chinese President Xi Jinping has written his own document released this week — The Communist Party’s 13th five-year plan — that might be titled “The Audacity of the Chinese Dream.”

This blueprint for China’s future signals the most momentous shift in direction since the death of Mao and Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up in 1978. Not a leader to rest on the laurels of his country’s success so far in rising to the top ranks of the global economy, Xi wants to leap over the “middle-income trap” in which development becomes stuck in a low-wage manufacturing export economy. To do that, he needs to avoid, in his own words, the “Thucydides trap” of conflict between China as a rising power and the U.S. as the established power so instability does not disrupt growth prospects.

As Xi and his top Politburo colleagues explained to the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council’s “Understanding China” conference on Nov. 3 in Beijing, China’s new plan lays out a path to the Third Industrial Revolution in which wealth is created by what the Chinese call “Internet Plus” connectivity: market-based innovation, green growth and cities integrated into regions through smart infrastructure. The annual high growth rates of recent decades sustained by massive inputs of labor and capital are running out of steam, Xi acknowledged, slowing to a “new normal” of around 6.5 percent — a figure many regard as dubious. Whether history will reward Xi’s audacity remains to be seen, especially as worrying debt levels continue to rise as growth slows. There is no precedent for the scale and scope of what China is now trying to accomplish.

In our meetings in Beijing we also —> Read More