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(via The Diplomat)

China’s foreign relations institutions have emerged as stronger players from this year’s National People’s Congress (NPC). Taking advantage of the void left by the United States, Beijing is working to realize Xi Jinping’s vision of turning China into a global power by 2049.

News that China plans to reduce the frequency of its summits with Central and Eastern European countries has been interpreted as a charm offensive towards Brussels, where many see the 16+1 as divisive. But it could also be an acknowledgment that many of China’s economic promises to the region have not materialized or even an attempt to further divide Europe. 

Interview with Helena Legarda

China wants to develop a “world class” military force that can “fight and win wars” by 2049. So it comes as little surprise that the defense budget just got another boost. Military spending will rise by 8.1 percent this year. What’s behind this figure and China’s military modernization drive? Helena Legarda discusses the 2018 military budget and China’s strategies.

The CCP has always ruled supreme in China, but reform era leaders have pushed for a separation between party and state organs. This is changing under Xi Jinping. The planned constitutional amendments at this year’s National People’s Congress and a recent Central Committee decision suggest a reversal of this process – and a takeover of state functions and offices by the CCP.

Geoffrey Hoffman (via ChinaFile)

Censorship and surveillance versus a free and open internet: China's ideas of cyber sovereignty are incompatible with how liberal democracies define cyberspace. Despite these inevitable conflicts, the two models could coexist in relative peace as long as governments focus on the shared goal of cyber defense.

Kim Jong-un’s Olympic olive branch to South Korea may illustrate the decline of US influence in East Asia, but it is wrong to assume that China is the beneficiary of these developments. Beijing has no better answers than Washington to deal with Pyongyang’s recalcitrance, and the Kim regime will not dance to any foreign power’s tune, certainly not China’s.

Jacob Mardell

Beijing tries hard to sell its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a “win-win” for all. But the announcement of a new Chinese-led dispute settlement mechanism will only feed suspicions that the cross-border connectivity program is negotiated entirely on China’s terms.

Chinese media reports dismiss the current debate in Europe over Chinese political influencing. At the same time, their government is telling Western institutions, companies and organizations not to meddle in China’s affairs. China could be more persuasive if it allowed open transnational exchanges and debate - rather than using opaque channels and financial leverage to broaden its influence.

On her recent visit to China, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May got a foretaste of the difficult path ahead in carving out a new role for the UK on the world stage. Pressured to forge new trade and investment relationships with major powers like China, the UK might soon find out that it feels much less at home outside the EU than inside.

With little room for tightening, Beijing lacks good options to prevent a return of capital flight. China cannot afford to match the US policy changes as lower tax rates and higher interest rates would further drive up budget deficits and debt.

Worries about the future of civil society organizations in China are limited to only a handful of European countries. Others put their faith in established informal ties or have subscribed to Chinese understandings of “people-to-people exchanges,” which are unlikely to be affected by restrictions on non-governmental organizations.

Rebecca McKimm
Helping ensure the survival of the Iran nuclear deal presents China with the opportunity to raise its profile in international affairs and to set the tone in the nuclear non-proliferation debate.

In 2018, economic stability will remain the Chinese leadership's priority. Despite all the good intentions to tackle structural problems, Beijing will be hard-pressed to tolerate a drop of GDP growth below an annual average of 6.4 percent.

Xi Jinping’s promise to introduce legal accountability in China is undermined by the Communist Party’s absolute control. But Xi is no Frederick the Great. The new National Supervision Law may increase predictability, but unlike the Prussian king's legal reforms, it will not limit state power.

China is undergoing an “imperial turn” – domestically as well as in foreign politics. At home, Xi Jinping has reached the status of an “imperial chairman” at the apex of the CCP power pyramid. Internationally, China uses the space opened by the Trump administration to fill the void in effective global governance, but also to assert its dominance in East Asia and beyond.

China’s import ban on some "dirty" solid wastes could be a big contribution to protecting the global environment. The ban could force exporting countries to raise their recycling standards. At the same time, China would have to enforce stricter standards on domestic producers to defend the ban against potential trade disputes.

By Samantha Hoffman

China's holistic approach to state security does not differentiate between policies to respond to external versus internal threats. The CCP mobilizes the entire society - with a mix of persuasion and coercion - to preempt threats from both inside and outside China’s borders and from both inside and outside the CCP.

Interview with Danit Gal (via Young China Watchers)

"Do it first, regulate later," is how Danit Gal characterizes China's approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI). In this interview, she describes China's competitive advantages as large-scale commercial application, strategic planning and the lack of regulation.

China works full steam on institutionalizing its cooperation with Eastern Europe, building the 16+1 initiative into a platform for its Belt and Road Initiative. The economic reality lags far behind the announcements, but the promise of Chinese investment and the symbolism of the high-level cooperation between China and Eastern Europe are turning into a stress test for EU cohesion.

The CCP reasserts its control over the private sector by extending its reach far inside foreign and Chinese companies. For foreign investors, such close and often involuntary cooperation with the party-state can bring lucrative opportunities but also lead to questionable business decisions.

Strict outflow controls have helped maintain China's financial stability. But they risk undermining their own utility by keeping funds in the country, driving investors into risky sectors and creating an excuse to postpone overdue reforms in the financial sector.

China’s leader Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for the US President in Beijing. At the same time, he works on reducing the United States' influence in Asia on regional security, trade and economic cooperation, leaving Washington with fewer options to counter China's expansion.

After his re-election as General Secretary of the CCP at the 19th Party Congress, Xi Jinping faces the challenging task of launching and speeding up numerous ambitious political programs that were adopted during his first term. To make that happen, China’s top leader counts on technocrats from high-tech industries.

Interview with Willy Lam

The 19th Congress of the Communist Party is an opportunity to take stock of five years of Xi Jinping rule. “Xi has benefitted tremendously from the world leadership vacuum left by US President Donald Trump”, says Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. But, he warns, China’s power projection won’t go very far unless Beijing addresses its “soft power deficit” and starts to respect international rules and laws.

The international community’s trade and financial sanctions against North Korea have few chances of improving the dismal historic record of such instruments. Chinese reluctance to enforce them and US reluctance to irritate China always leave a way out for Pyongyang.