China veteran Ian Johnson, senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, discusses at Channel News Asia how different China might treat much-discussed political issues like Taiwan after the visit of US House speaker Pelosi and possible new tracks in economic directions. The recent shift of focus towards the private sector as a key part of China’s economic growth strategy is more of a “tactical adjustment” instead of a change in the leadership’s thinking, said Mr. Johnson.
Channel News Asia:
Mr Johnson said that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August had set a precedent for future House Speakers, regardless of their party, to make the “mandatory” visit as a show of support for the island.
“I think this was one of those cases where the Biden administration probably didn’t want Pelosi to visit, but didn’t feel in the current climate in Washington, where there was a bipartisan consensus against China, that they didn’t feel they could speak up and ask her not to go. And so she went,” he said.
He noted that while unprecedented military activity followed the visit, it was “relatively limited” and died down after about a week.
“I think China made its point. Nothing untoward happened. There were no planes shot down or ships sunk, or anything like that,” he said, adding that it remains a “worrying” development for Beijing and those in Washington who are seeking better ties.
The recent shift of focus towards the private sector as a key part of China’s economic growth strategy is more of a “tactical adjustment” instead of a change in the leadership’s thinking, said Mr Johnson.
China’s two-pronged approach is to have domestic consumption drive the economy, while also attracting foreign investments through its markets and production capabilities.
Mr Johnson said that President Xi and his party have over the decades shown a “certain amount of pragmatism” and know that economic growth is important.
“In China, just like in other countries, people are most affected by their wallets and their livelihoods. And so they (the party) realise they have to get back on track. Getting rid of zero-COVID is part of that, for sure,” he said.
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