Xi Jinping is back to business. Chinese modernization can’t wait

Editorial extracted from the latest issue of Red River dated April 17, 2023

Emmanuel Macron‘s stop-over in Guangzhou on April 7 was part of Xi Jinping’s provincial tour in Guangdong. Once the French presidential plane left Chinese airspace, the Chinese leader unfolded his priority agenda on the economic and security fronts.

On April 11, Xi Jinping visited the Southern War Zone as Chairman of the Central Military Commission to inspect the Naval Staff in particular. Since 2016, China has had 5 war zones (zhanqu), compared to 7 military regions previously (junqu). The primary organizational difference being the establishment of an integrated joint command at the expense of the leadership of the Army. Since then, the Southern War Zone has been in charge of designing and implementing naval military exercises in the China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, the last of which was held from April 8 to 10.

On April 12, Xi Jinping traded his military jacket for a white inspection shirt and visited GAC (Guangzhou Auto Corp.) and its intelligent driving laboratory, which set up a European R&D center in Milan, Italy, last fall. A production unit of GAC’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aion, established in 2017, producing electric vehicles, was also honored with a short visit by the Chinese President.

During his tour, Xi Jinping reiterated that “Chinese modernization is fundamentally different from Western one, that China does not follow the path of polarizing and plundering other countries. Chinese modernization has goals, plans and strategies, and all of them have been deployed step by step (…)”Key technologies must be based on independent research and development. International cooperation is also welcome” (Xinhua, 4/13).

The dual agenda of this tour is a good illustration of Beijing’s development policy, which articulates and pushes economic and security interests together, implementing a comprehensive doctrine of economic security. In 2017, the Central Commission for the Integration of Military and Civilian Development was established at the highest level of the Party. In 2019, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reopened its Division for Economic Development and Defense.

At the end, it is somewhat difficult not to perceive in this the slow but incremental development of China’s war economy model for the years and decades to come.

Sinopole is a resource center dedicated to deciphering China’s industrial and political strategies

Subscribe for free and receive exclusive analysis