China watchers got some interesting viewing in late October. It was in Beijing. Former Chinese leader Hu Jintao was shockingly escorted out of the Party Congress in the Great Hall of the People.
Seated beside a stone-cold Xi Jinping, the new party boss, Hu was removed by two men in ubiquitous COVID masks. He didn’t seem interested in leaving. He turned to say something to Xi. Xi says something back, without smiling.
Beside Xi, Premier Li Keqiang, once deemed the Western-leaning reformer inside the Chinese Communist Party, stares unblinkingly into space. Meanwhile, the 79-year-old, weak-looking Hu is escorted out of the Hall, only to say days later that he was not feeling well.
Tell me, if you are not feeling well at an event, do you reluctantly leave the event, or do you happily leave it for the nearest bed or doctor’s office? Hu didn’t pass out or need help walking. No one cheered him on or even tried to help him. Didn’t appear anyone in the room thought he was sick, even the party plebs sitting in the rows behind Xi, all forced to mask up to make China’s “Zero Covid” policy look official, didn’t cheer him on — sort of like Westerners might do in cheering an injured player off the field.
None of that happened. That’s because Hu was not sick at all. Xi’s entourage told him to get out. That’s everyone’s consensus right now.
That image in the Great Hall on October 22 was one of a strong Xi — stoic and taking control. Some argue that Xi is consolidating power even more and that this is bad.
I will tell you that strong Xi is good, not bad. A stone-cold Xi Jinping facing off with Uncle Sam and his European allies is better for the United States. Why? Easy.
Imagine a China that allows for Shanghai pride parades. Imagine a China that talks about diversity, inclusion and equity and opens its cities to other Asians to live and work, sort of like the Western world. Imagine Xi closing coal-fired power plants, even if it meant economic harm, to save the planet like his friends in Germany. What happens then?
Here is what happens. The recent Commerce Department export restrictions on U.S. computer hardware sold to China would not exist. Every American tech company would exist primarily to serve China and its market’s interests.
The Trump-era tariffs, increasingly erased by a Chinese currency at five-year-lows to the dollar, would all be lifted, immediately and swiftly. “It’s a new era in Beijing. Let’s let bygones be bygones,” our leaders would all say.
The China model, one of top-down authoritarianism run by “experts,” would be increasingly viewed as the way to go. All this voting nonsense and freedom is too chaotic. Look at China! Low crime and bullet trains that leave on time. Let’s copy them. They’ve got it right.
But none of this can be done with a mean, bad guy Xi leading the Chinese Communist Party because many people will see that as being like Communist China. We don’t want to be like that guy and live in a country managed like China.
For that reason, a Eurovision-loving Xi would be bad for the West. The leaders of the West, and its biggest corporations, which all helped build China into the Frankenstein monster economy it is today, would all place their fortunes there.
Your BMWs will be made there if you’re a German. Your dear green solar panels, every last one of them, would be made there. Why not? China is cheaper, has the capacity, and has the best ports in the world. Together we can fight climate change. Your house lumber, your kitchen appliances, your Tesla-killing Polestars will all be made there, shipped to the United States nearly duty-free.
All of this happens the day Xi, or any China leader for that matter, starts to sound like a leader in Brussels and Washington. China will win in every way. We already know what that looks like. Now multiply it times 10.
For China hawks, repeat after me: bad Xi, good. Good Xi, bad.