Doc | Xi’s Path to Dictatorship for Life? | Zooming In with Simone Gao

Simone: This is the biggest power struggle that could decide China’s future for years.

Does this mean Xi Jinping was losing power and was forced to admit his mistakes?

The Communist Party’s 20th National Congress is going to be held in fall. The fight comes down to whether Xi Jinping will get a third term as the top leader of the country.

Tang Jingyuan: The second is that Li Keqiang did not wear a mask in public for many times, and he hardly ever mentioned the zero-covid policy in his speeches.

Li Jun: If Sun and Fu’s people dare to stir things up, Sun’s life could be taken.

Simone: The Party’s conclave is three month away, but the real decisions are being made now.

This is Beidaihe, a coastal resort town on northeast China’s Bohai Sea. Its long beaches are known for their shallow waters and fine yellow sand. Because of its proximity to the capital, Beidaihe is commonly used by the Party’s top leadership, past and present, each July to slip away from the summer heat of Beijing to plan strategies. Although those gatherings are held informally, some of the most important decisions such as the appointment and removal of senior officials are decided in this beach town.

This year, Beidaihe is of particular significance since the Party’s 20th National Congress is going to be held in fall when the new top leadership will be elected. Xi Jinping will or will not resume a third term as General Secretary of the Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and President of the People’s Republic of China. This will be the pivotal event of Chinese politics for years to come. However, the October conclave is just for show. The real decisions will be made now, including at the Beidaihe meetings.

The most important part of the Beidaihe process is, however, the time leading up to it. That is when the real battles take place. The power balance between different factions hangs on the outcome of these maneuvers. And exactly during that time, multiple indications point to Xi under attack by CCP top leadership for many of his policy falterings, appearing forced to cede some power to China’s Premier, Li Keqiang.

On May 11, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “China’s Forgotten Premier Steps Out of Xi’s Shadow as Economic Fixer.” It says “Frustrations with Mr. Xi’s leadership are building ahead of the CCP’s 20th national congress.” Meanwhile support is rallying around Mr. Li who has been known for his reform-minded economic approach.

The Journal says supporters of Mr. Li include officials with ties to the Communist Youth League, a once-powerful organization that produced past leaders including former party chief Hu Jintao.

Ten days after the Wall Street Journal was published, a primetime news piece from China Central Television, the biggest government owned TV station in China, appeared to support the journal’s position.

CCTV Anchor: On the 25th, the State Council held a national teleconference on stabilizing the economy. Li Keqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Polibureau of the Central Committee and Premier of the State Council, delivered an important speech.

Simone: At this so-called “Stabilize the Overall Economic Condition” teleconference, Li Keqiang made a few critical points to over one hundred thousand Party officials at the provincial, county, municipal and district levels.

He first claimed that “In some ways, the challenges now are “greater than when the pandemic hit hard in 2020”. Li said “We are currently at a critical juncture in determining the economic trend of the whole year.” He stressed the importance of coordinating virus control and economic development. He laid out the bottomline: The central government will not help the local government. There is a reserved fund for major natural disasters at the central government’s disposal, other than that, the local government needs to take care of themselves.

What’s the significance of this meeting? How is it related to the power struggle in the party? I spoke with Li Jun, a senior Chinese journalist who had been covering the political affairs of the country in state owned Chinese media for two decades.

Do you think Li Keqiang’s 100,000 people conference tells us that Xi Jinping is losing power and Li is replacing him?

Li Jun: I don’t think Li Keqiang’s 100,000 people conference was an indication that Xi’s lost control of power. The most important reason for this conference is that it had to be done. China’s economy is in great trouble, from years of 5 to 7% of growth to almost zero growth in the second quarter this year according to CCP’s own statistics. The actual situation may be worse.

So under such dire circumastance, Li Keqiang had to have this conference. The second reason is that running the economy is Li Keqiang’s job anyway. It is the premier’s responsibility if the economy is in trouble. The third thing we need to know is that Li Keqiang must have obtained Xi Jinping’s approval to hold such a conference.

I don’t think Li dares to challenge Xi Jinping now because it would put him in a dangerous situation. Meanwhile, I think Xi giving Li the permission to hold such a conference is also to put the blame on Li. Li became a scapegoat for the bad economy. So to sum it up, I think it is far-fetched to say that Xi Jinping has lost power since Li Keqiang held this mega conference.

Simone: However, Li Keqiang’s mega conference isn’t the only thing that led people to think Xi is losing power. One month later, Europe had an unexpected visitor.

In mid June, the central government dispatched a special envoy representing Xi Jinping, to Europe for a three-week charm offensive. Wu Hongbo, China’s former Ambassador to the UN was given a clear task: at every stop, Wu conceded China had “made mistakes,” from its handling of Covid-19, to its “wolf warrior” diplomacy, to its economic mismanagement.

This apology tour was made against the backdrop of a dangerously slowing Chinese economy and the quick worsening of the China-Europe relationship partially due to Xi’s support of Putin in the Russia-Ukraine war. Wu made it very clear that Europeans are China’s preferred partners, as opposed to the United States. His bottom line is: China will always be China, a country of growing significance and economic opportunities for Europe.

Xi Jinping’s special envoy went on an apologizing tour in Europe. Does THIS mean Xi Jinping was forced to admit his mistakes?

Li Jun: Are you saying Xi admitted he was wrong? I don’t think that’s what the CCP members do. They would only appear to admit they were wrong when they were in crisis to avoid punishment. In fact, I think Wu’s trip was Xi Jinping’s damage control to head off the crisis before the Party’s 20th National Congress so he could be re-elected smoothly. Otherwise, I don’t believe he would send his representative to court the Europeans or the international community.

In fact, this is not the first time the CCP admitted its mistakes. In the early days of reform and opening up, the CCP invited American politicians to visit China. It conceded that the CCP’s previous path was mistaken. Now we will embark on a path to develop the economy. Only with economic development, we will be able to move towards democracy and freedom.

We truly want to change. But we are too poor, too backward. We made huge mistakes with class struggles. America should give us an opportunity to correct that mistake. You should help us. It turned out the U.S. politicians truly believed China and did its best to help China. But the result is that China becomes powerful and increasingly totalitarian.

The West should learn its lesson. Do not believe the CCP will truly repent. In fact, What Xi Jinping’s real message for the Europeans was: I am seeking re-election at the 20th National Congress. Do not make trouble for me now. Things will be taken care of after I am re-elected. That’s it.

Simone: But there are also analysts who believe there is a fierce power struggle and a tug of war within the top leadership. Tang Jingyuan who is a senior China analyst and the host of the YouTube channel Foresight Jingyuan Tang is one of them.

Jingyuan Tang: Now that the power struggle between Xi Jinping and the opposition is becoming more and more obvious in the Chinese media, we can see it from several aspects: one is that the number of articles touting Xi Jinping has decreased and his absence from the front page has increased;

the second is that Li Keqiang did not wear a mask in public for many times, and he hardly ever mentioned the zero-covid policy in his speeches, although news showing these facts was often restricted;

the third indicator is that when Li Keqiang urged local officials to rescue the economy at his 100,000 people conference, the state media was touting how China’s economy overall was in a good shape.

From these signs, we can see that there is a battle of routes between “zero-covid policy” and “economic development” at the Party’s top leadership. And this fight is becoming more and more intense and obvious. It shows that Xi Jinping’s status in the party has been strongly challenged, and his position might be as unshakable as it seemed.

This will cast doubt on his re-election at the Party’s 20th National Congress.

We can also see that after Xi politicized the Zero-Covid policy by tying it to his status and governance ability. To a large extent, whether or not the zero-covid policy can continue will become the barometer of Xi’s status in the party.

Simone: And the Zero-Covid policy continued. On May 5th, the People’s Daily published an article to reinstate the unwavering execution of the zero-Covid policy to show Xi Jinping has not conceded in this regard.

Since then, despite the public outcry in Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing which had been hit with waves of omicron, the local governments have been insisting that their cities be locked down when the virus arrived.

Simone: Besides the epidemic control policy, there are other events that are considered to be closely related to the Party’s 20th Congress and Xi’s position at the top leadership. Most notably three high profile corruption cases. The first case is related to a Chinese-Canadian tycoon who was abducted from Hong Kong by the Party apparatus five years ago.

This is the luxury Four Seasons Hotel in Central, Hong Kong. At around 1am on January 27, 2017, billionaire Xiao Jianhua was reported to be taken away by half a dozen unidentified men from the hotel lobby in a wheelchair, his head covered with a blanket. Xiao did not resist.

Since then Xiao had disappeared from the public eye until 2020 when Xiao’s Tomorrow Group confirmed that their boss was on the mainland and cooperating with the government’s efforts to restructure the conglomerate.

The total worth of the Tomorrow Group that comprised nine companies was up to hundreds of billions of dollars. Its business expanded from securities, futures, to state-dominated industries, including banking, insurance, coal, cement, property and rare-earth minerals.

It was widely understood that the Tomorrow Group had close relationships with top Chinese elite families including Jiang Zemin, Zeng Qinghong, Liu Yunshan, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin and most importantly, Xi Jinping.

In fact, it is considered the common vehicle to help these families to make money and white wash their money. Gao Wenqian, a CCP historian, once said that whoever controls Xiao Jianhua will have the upper hand in the power struggle within the party since he would obtain the corruption evidence of these elites from Mr. Xiao.

Xiao’s case was put on hold for 5 years until earlier this month when the Canadian embassy revealed that his case would be put on trial on July 4 without consular access.

Why was Xiao put on trial right now? His charges were reportedly reduced to illegal collection of public deposits. What does this mean?

Li Jun: The Westerners do not know Xiao Jianhua. Who is Xiao Jianhua? He is the one that managed the money for Jiang Zemin, Zeng Qinghong, Jia Qinglin and many other powerful families in the CCP.

We call people like Xiao the White Gloves. He knows many secrets of these powerful families. He also worked with these families to oppose Xi. For example, he was behind the stock market crash in China in 2015, which cost a damage of 2.7 trillion yuan or $450 billion dollars.

He had committed serious crimes, but why was he able to get away with it? Some people say this shows that Xi is losing power and that was Xi’s concession to his opposition. In fact, this is not the case.

I think the reason his crime was reduced to illegally collecting public deposits is because Xi Jinping was trying to show that Xiao Jianhua was very cooperative: “he told us everything”.

These powerful families’ dirt is in my hands. I have reduced Xiao’s sentence to show good will to those families.

That is to say, if these families do not stir up trouble for me before the 20th national congress, I will keep you safe. But if you mess with me, I have your dirt in my hands, I will destroy you under the name of corruption. I think this is what Xi Jinping meant.

In-depth | Military and Xinjiang behind China’s Solar Industry

Joe Biden: We are going to invest $1.7 trillion dollars in securing our future, so by 2050 America will be a 100% clean energy economy.

Simone: President Biden announced a ‘New Green Deal’ and issued restrictions on fossil fuel supplies. This will make America more dependent on solar energy, but companies from which country will supply those solar panels?

Keith Krach: China, Inc. controls 80-90% of the market.

Simone: And who is funding China’s renewable energy industry?

Tianliang Zhang: So this company is not a private enterprise but an institution controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Simone: So what implications does a Chinese Communist Party-controlled solar industry mean to America’s energy independence and national security?

Keith Krach: That means we lose our energy independence. That also means we will be totally dependent on China for our clean energy. And if we do nothing, it is scary.

Simone: Hello and welcome to Zooming In China. I am Simone Gao. A consortium of renewable energy CEOs have asked President Joe Biden to remove tariffs that the Trump administration had issued on imported solar panels. They argue that the tariffs are an obstacle to the renewables industry’s ability to tackle climate change.

On March 1st, The Biden administration decided to stand behind Trump’s policy. The new administration asked the court to dismiss a complaint from some members of the solar industry arguing that President Trump’s tariffs were unlawful.

However, the bigger question is where the ‘New Green Deal’ policy of the new administration will lead America to? How will it affect America’s energy independence, and if America becomes less energy independent, who will America rely on more for solar energy? And what will be the consequence of that? In this episode of Zooming In China, we will try to explore these questions.

The current tariff imposes a 18% tax on solar cells made outside of the United States, most of which are imported from China. Those cells are assembled into panels and sold by many American companies.

Biden has announced ambitious goals for curbing global warming. In his first few days in office, the president canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, rejoined the Paris Accord, and called for a 2 trillion dollar ‘New Green Deal.’

Solar energy will play a huge role in this initiative. It already accounts for more than 12% of all renewable energy in the United States, and is expected to account for one-half of all green energy by 2050.

But there’s a catch. The global supply chain for solar panels is dominated by Chinese firms, and most of the solar panels sold in this country use imported components. This poses a strategic risk for the United States if it becomes too dependent on its rival for energy.

First let’s look at how China obtained its quasi-monopoly of the world’s solar energy industry in the first place. How did a country known for its lax environmental regulations and pollution become such a key player in renewable energy?

China’s solar energy industry originated in the 1990s as an exports-oriented industry, designed to meet the demands of European countries. Countries like Germany and Italy had passed legislation to encourage the use of solar energy, and domestic manufacturers couldn’t keep up. This was instead outsourced to Chinese suppliers.

Since then the industry has grown precipitously, and China has become the undisputed world leader in solar technology. Longi Technology is the largest solar company in the world, and is responsible for manufacturing 25% of all silicon wafers across the globe.

But Longi isn’t alone. Collectively, the Chinese solar industry accounts for at least 60% of global capacity in every stage of the supply chain, producing more than 66% of polysilicon and nearly 80% of solar cells.

On the other hand, companies from across the world wanted to enter this field as renewable energy was becoming more lucrative. But it’s difficult to survive in this industry. Since 2011, more than 750 solar companies have liquidated or closed, most notably Solyndra, which was backed by the Obama administration. In 2020, the Trump administration was still recovering parts of a $425 million loan that had been granted to a solar company during the Obama years.

The failed project, called Crescent Dunes, used thousands of mirrors in the Nevada desert to heat up steam in a giant tower, and had cost more than $1.1 billion in total.

The solar industry is an inherently risky enterprise that requires enormous investments across many years, as productions aren’t cost-efficient until the project reaches a large scale. Rapid technological changes means that hundreds of millions can go up in smoke as yesterday’s innovation becomes obsolete.

That said, how did the Chinese companies manage to outperform their competitors globally? I asked former undersecretary of State for the Trump administration Keith Krach this question. Mr. Krach was responsible for economic growth, energy and environment during the last administration.

Simone:Thank you Mr. Krach for being with us today. It seems that Solar cell manufacturing is not an easy business, most of the startups don’t make it, there is a constant flux of companies going out of business. What is the biggest reason for that?

Keith Krach: 250 firms that entered the PV industry globally and 150 exited. The bloodletting is worse for second- and third-generation technologies like thin film. 27 of 34 start-ups went belly up.

The reason is simple. China Inc has come to dominate solar cell manufacturing through a 20 year set of systematic non-market state policies, subsidies, slave labor, state financing, IP theft, with unlimited amounts of “capital” thanks to government policy and buying up companies weakened by this strategy.

Free countries companies operate according to free market principles. Chinese state-led companies don’t. There is not a level playing field.

Simone: China’s domination in the renewable energy market presents another problem for the U.S.. Given the difficulty in manufacturing effective solar technology. If a nation loses its competitive edge in the field, it may lose it forever. An illustration example is the story of America’s decline in telecommunications technology.

In 2019, Trump banned US companies from using communication technology that posed a ‘national security risk,’ which included 5G networks produced by the Chinese tech giant Huawei.

The FBI and intelligence agencies warn that the company had ties to the Chinese Communist Party and their products could serve to spy on their customers.

After the ban, US companies shifted their reliance on European companies like Nokia, based in Finland. The row over Huawei raised an embarrassing question, why couldn’t the US produce its own 5G network?

In the second half of the 20th century, the United States was a leader in telecommunication technology, and in 1999 Lucent was the sixth largest US company in market capitalization.

In the 1980s and 1990s China’s IT industry was still primitive and was reliant on imported technology. However, state regulators required foreign companies to share their trade secrets with local firms if they wanted access to the Chinese market, and companies like Lucent agreed to sharing.

At the time, they didn’t see the Chinese IT industry as a threat, but starting in 2002 Huawei and others started to muscle their way into the US market while Lucent still struggled to gain an even footing after the dot-com bubble burst.

US telecom equipment imports rose from $71 to $129 billion between 2000 and 2008, while Chinese exports rose from $19 to $124 billion around the same timeframe. By then, Lucent had been sold to a French company, and Nortel, which was once Lucent’s biggest American rival, had gone bankrupt.

There are some industries that can’t be conjured up overnight, and a year and a half after Trump’s ban on Huawei, there’s no end in near sight for America’s reliance on imported 5G equipment.

What has happened to America’s telecom companies could also happen to its solar industry. It’s arguably already halfway there.

While solar cells might not pose the same cybersecurity risks as 5G networks, there remains the threat that China might choose to embargo the United States over a diplomatic dispute.

Samantha Sloan, vice president of First Solar said this to Politico in an interview: “Solar panels are the next crude oil, and allowing China to dominate solar manufacturing is the equivalent of establishing an electro-state on the lines of OPEC.” In 1973, an OPEC oil embargo caused oil prices in America to quadruple, which led to a severe recession. I asked Mr. Krach what it means if China dominated the solar energy industry
Simone: China is on track to gain a monopoly on manufacturing solar panel cells. Do you think in the future there is a possibility that the U.S. will be dependent on Chinese solar energy and supplies? and if that happens what it will mean to America?

Keith Krach: They are already a monopoly. China Inc controls 90% of the market. All top 10 companies are Chinese except First Solar in US with 2 % and a Korea 5% Chinese manufacturers have diversified some production within Asia to avoid tariffs, but Chinese factories still produce 60 percent of the world’s PV cells

Here is what it means. According to Some experts solar could account for 70% of our energy needs by 2050. That means we go from energy independence to being totally dependent on china for the majority of our clean energy. And that’s scary.
Simone: right, you just said the U.S. still has a tiny industry that produces solar energy component, do you think they can effectively compete with Chinese manufacturers in the coming years?
Keith Krach: There are 3 big problems with status quo.
A. Makes more expensive to finance. China’s Inc.’s subsidies, whether flowing or serving as backstop, will make an investor seek a higher return as compensation.

B. Stifles innovation. Given the climate challenge. PV is too important a technology to fail. There is a real chance that the industry’s system of innovation will not be able to meet the challenge. PV solar appears to function much more as a barrier than a bridge for next -generation technologies to gain a foothold to establish their own experience curves.

C. China Inc strategically owns the beginning of the supply chain particularly polysilicon and the vast majority of it is produced in Xingjiang.

Simone: Talking about Xinjiang, Its official name is Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is the largest province-level division of the country and is home to a number of ethnic minority groups. Reports from the World Uyghur Congress submitted to the UN in 2018 suggest that 1 million Uyghurs are currently being held in the re-education camps. Officials from both the Trump and Biden administration have declared that genocide has been happening in Xinjiang. So where is Xinjiang in China’s green energy production landscape? And who is really running China’s green industry?
Today, when we talk about China’s renewable energy industry, we can not skip the Golden Concord Holdings Limited, or GCL Group. A conglomerate that specializes in renewable energy, GCL Group ranked number 3 in a 2017 list of top 500 global new energy enterprises.

On the surface, GCL is a privately owned company, but it actually has deep ties with the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.
On its website, it says “Dating from 1990, GCL has been following the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party or CCP and leading green growth with the red genes.” In the organization, there are 12 CCP committees, 5 CCP branch committees, 120 CCP divisions and 3,000 CCP members.

Zhu Gongshan, Chairman of the company, also serves as a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a central part of the Party’s United Front system.

In 2011, by partnering with the Poly Group, GCL-Poly became the world’s largest polysilicon manufacturer. The Xinjiang base is its new production center, and is planned to have an annual output of 100,000 tons of high-purity polysilicon, the largest in the country. By October 2019, it already had a 60,000-ton polysilicon production capacity. The cost of producing Polysilicon in that facility fell below 40,000 yuan, or around $6,000 dollars, per ton.

Simone: How did the cost of Xinjiang’s polysilicon production drop so much? China expert, Dr. Zhang Tianliang told me this.

Tianliang Zhang: There are two reasons why Xinjiang has become a manufacturing base. We know this industry consumes a lot of energy. It may take three years for a solar panel to generate the energy that was consumed by its production. And Xinjiang Zhundong has the largest coal mine in China so far. Just this Zhundong coal mine contains 7% of the whole country’s coal reserves. It can also provide high Calorific Value coals by Open-pit coal mining. This can tremendously cut the production cost of solar panels.

Secondly, the labor cost in Xinjiang is also very low. The average salary may be just a half or a third of that in Shanghai. It is about $700 a month in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang. Workers in the United States or Europe cannot compete.

Simone: This is what Mr. Krach think about Xinjiang’s facility.

Simone: Talking about Xinjiang, we know that Xinjiang has become the biggest manufacturing base for polysilicon. And there are many reason for that, but the two big reasons are, One, there happened to be a big coal mine near the facility so they get cheap coals to produce polysilicon. And two, Xinjiang’s labor is very cheap, we now know that Xinjiang’s cotton production uses concentration camp labors. We don’t know if that is the case with their polysilicon production as well. But do you think the world should be concerned about these factors?

Keith Krach: Well, you have your facts right Simone. And this is troubling for a number of reasons. I would turn the question around and ask what does this mean for freedom, human rights, and environmental protection. Consider that Xinjiang represents about 65% of China’s solar manufacturing capacity.
In 2016, only 9% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon came from Xinjiang. But by 2020 it provided about 45% of the world’s supply. Media has reported about forced labor on a population of about 13 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others. Current Sec. of State Blinken reinforced Secretary Pompeo’s labeling the treatment of Uighurs as genocide.

We all want to take action on climate change. However, we must remain true to our values and stand up for human rights. Everyone likes cheap goods and services. Yet, there have been multiple times when free nations and consumers decided that the relative savings or corporate profit was outweighed by the cost to society. Consider the case of “blood diamonds.”

As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis noted, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The public will turn away from infected Chinese solar if there is greater transparency. The U.S. was a leader in fostering the solar industry. We can resume that role and will be competitive once we ensure a level playing field.
Simone: Now, let’s go back to the GCL group, it has close ties not only to the Party, but to the military as well.

In 2020, GCL partnered with the Poly Group again. By receiving Poly investment’s gigantic funding, the two entities were set to pioneer cutting-edge photovoltaic and semiconductor technology.

Who is behind Poly Group, you might wonder.

Tianliang Zhang: China Poly Group is among the 102 biggest central state owned enterprises in China. It was set up on the basis of Poly Technologies, Inc., an arms-manufacturing wing of the People’s Liberation Army of China. Now it is primarily engaged in representing the Chinese defense manufacturing industry in international sales. The two founders are Wang Jun and He Ping. Wang Jun is the second son of Wang Zhen, who was a founding general of PRC, and was vice premier and vice president in China. He Ping’s father in law is Deng Xiaoping. It is not a private enterprise, but an institution controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Simone: President Biden wants to reduce the consumption of traditional energy sources that come from fossil fuels and has issued restrictions on things like fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline. In the future, if the US is dependent on Chinese solar energy and the Communist Party decides to embargo America, What will happen? Here is Keith Krach again.

Simone: Do you think America’s existing ‘strategic’ energy reserves are enough to counter a serious major energy embargo?

Keith Krach: It is a good question. Many wars have been lost won because of oil. As under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment. I looked at those three responsibilities as an optimization equation that maximize national security by optimizes economic growth, energy security and the health of the planet. This is a delicate balance to ensure that our grandchildren can enjoy the same prosperity and freedoms that we have. We must not lose sight of that.

Keith Krach: In terms of strategic energy reserves, it can only last so long. So the big question is to get that delicate balance and optimizing that and that requires a lot of analytical thinking and a lot of analysis.

Simone: So what is the way going forward?

Keith Krach:Government does have a role to play in ensuring clarity and to allow for free enterprise to flourish. Increase public investment in R&D is absolutely essential. I am free trader and Believe America’s free market system is the best in the world. But when somebody comes into the market and doesn’t play by the rules the market is no longer free. As I said in my Senate confirmation hearing when I was asked about what my strategy would be dealing with the China challenge, I said it would entail harnessing three of America’s biggest comparative advantages—uniting and mobilizing our allies, leveraging the innovation resources of our private sector and amplified democratic values. When we do that Chyna cannot compete.

I believe strongly in the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the American private sector. However, the U.S. government along with other free nations, must ensure there is an opportunity to compete. We believe in and enforce transparency, human rights and environmental standards. Free nations must demand that the energy transition is not done on the backs of minority populations in Xinjiang when a genocide is going on.

The case of PV manufacturing is not over. Nor is it unique. The threat of Chinese innovation mercantilism hangs over other, less-mature sectors, such as batteries, electrolyzers, and carbon capture devices, with the potential to reduce global carbon emissions. Policymakers should adopt measures that counter China’s policies and raise the odds that alternatives to the dominant designs in PV and other key climate and clean energy technologies get a fair chance to succeed in the coming decade. Innovation and deployment of these technologies are both important goals for public policy.

Simone: Do you think the Biden administration would go on this path?

Keith Krach: I think everybody understand the importance of energy security and how that’s tied with national security. But here again, it is an optimization equation. …

Simone: As the Biden administration presses forward with its green energy policy, it will have to deal with the dilemma of increased reliance on China-sourced solar components. Demand for solar energy will only increase if fossil fuel faces more restrictions.

Although US solar-cell manufacturers do exist, they’re responsible for a minority of the solar panel market in America. Whether that industry can survive, and thrive, will remain a critical strategic issue for America, and the world, in the coming decades. Thanks for watching Zooming In China. I am Simone Gao and see you next time.

Documentary | Will Xi’s Support for Putin Cost His Third Term as Party Leader? | Zooming In

Simone: There seems to be real chemistry between these two men. Which results in the close relationship between the two countries.

Wang Yi: Sino-Russian strategic cooperation has no end, no restricted area, and no upper limit.

Simone: But the war shook things up.

Qin Gang: The cooperation between China and Russia is not restricted, but there is a bottom line.

Simone: Will this friendship cost Xi Jinping his third term as the supreme leader of China? Or will we see a China-Russia alliance overthrowing the so-called American hegemony after all?

Simone: Narration: Cooking pancakes together, laughing and giving each other compliments.

This is Xi Jinping and Putin at the seafood market during the 4th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia’s largest city in the far east of its territory. The city was ceded to Russia by China in 1860 and has remained a sour spot for the Chinese people since then.

But this history did not affect the affinity between Xi and Putin. The harmony between them seemed real, particularly compared to this.

This was Putin treating Obama to a traditional Russian breakfast in 2009 at Novo Ogaryovo, Putin’s residence near Moscow, captured by the Euronews. Putin seemed unhappy and uninterested in whatever Obama had to say. The chemistry between the two is non-existent, in contrast to that between him and Xi Jinping.

But after Ukraine, things are somewhat different. I believe both Xi Jinping and Putin probably felt betrayed by the other party to some degree. On March 23, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said this when being interviewed by the Phoenix TV.

Qin Gang: The cooperation between China and Russia is not restricted, but there is a bottom line. This bottom line is the principles established by the UN Charter. It is the basic norm of international law and international relations.

Simone: This is a walk back from Beijing’s previous declaration that Sino-Russian strategic cooperation has no end, no restricted area, and no upper limit.

Wang Yi: Sino-Russia strategic cooperation has no end, no restricted area, and no upper limit.

Simone: This change reflected Beijing’s awkwardness in responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Prior to the invasion, Putin went to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, a much needed vanity support for China and Xi Jinping. As appreciation for Putin’s support and a will to strengthen the Sino-Russian relationship, China signed an estimated total of $117.5 billion in agreements to purchase Russia’s oil, natural gas and food over the next two decades.

Simone: In retrospect, what would make this $117.5 billion purchase agreement weigh heavier is whether during that time Putin told Xi his real plan in Ukraine, that is, Russia was going to invade Ukraine. China expert Jiang Feng told me, based on his own observation in four areas, Putin did.

Jiang Feng: Politically, on February 21, the torch of the Winter Olympics was extinguished, and on the same day, Putin delivered a national video speech declaring the recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, as independent states. Some careful netizens found that Putin accepted the opinions of a senior official, while his watch in this video shows the earlier time, indicating that this so-called live video has been recorded long ago. Because the whole world knows that as long as the independence of these regions is recognized, it means that Russia has torn up the Minsk agreement and is ready for military intervention. In order not to give the West and Ukraine more preparations, Putin used the recorded video as a live broadcast. In addition to military considerations, Putin deliberately postponed the release time, let Xi Jinping finish the Winter Olympics to satisfy his will of political show? Is it an appointment? Be my guest!

Militarily, The Times reported on April 1 that according to an intelligence memorandum provided by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), China (CHINA) carried out a large-scale cyberattack on Ukrainian military and nuclear facilities in the prep stage before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Security Service said hackers coordinated by the Chinese government carried out thousands of attacks on more than 600 websites, including Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and other agencies, which began before the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics and peaked on Feb. 23, the day before Russia invaded Ukraine. If cyberattacks were taken as part of the war, the Chinese and Russian armies would have acted simultaneously at the first time of the war.

Economically, on February 24, the Russian army officially invaded, and on the same day, the Chinese General Administration of Customs announced that China would import all-territory Russian wheat. Because there are normal testing procedures to comply with regulations, it is not difficult to see that this all-territory wheat import operation was planned earlier. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ukraine and Russia are major wheat exporters, with Russia and Ukraine together accounting for 23 percent of global wheat trade in the 2021-22 sales year. Chicago Exchange wheat price up 1.5 percent, its highest level since 2008. On the first day of war. China acted ahead of time, took advantage of the price, and achieved an important strategic layout before the inevitable global food crisis.

None of these three said preparations will be accidental, they are strategic actions that require time to prepare and require the coordination of a considerable numbers of departments. Therefore, it can be concluded that Putin has already informed Xi Jinping of the timetable for the war against Ukraine, and even, from the point of time when Xi Jinping ended the Olympics and Putin declared the independence of Donetsk, the timetable for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was probably jointly formulated by these two dictators.

Simone: The Wall Street Journal reported on February 16 that right after Putin boarded the plane back to Moscow after meeting with Xi and attending the Feb. 4 opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, China’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, China’s final arbiter of power, had closed door meetings for days. According to people with knowledge of the matter, one topic of intense discussion was how to respond to the Russian-Ukraine crisis and back Moscow without hurting China’s own interests.

The Journal argues that Ukraine is an important member of Xi’s signature Belt and Road initiative, the vast infrastructure lending and construction program designed to put China at the heart of trade from Southeast Asia to Europe.

State-owned Chinese engineering, power and construction companies in recent years have invested billions of dollars in projects in the Eastern European country.
The war in Ukraine will hurt the Belt and Road initiative significantly plus supporting Russia will further alienate the West which already sees China as its number one rival.

Simone: For this reason Xi Jinping, who has been on the forefront of championing Putin for years, is under tremendous pressure for what has turned out in Ukraine. Some say this will even impede his bid for a third term as the General Secretary of the Party this fall because the support he gave to Putin is now seen by many as being reckless and harmful to the country. So what lies ahead for the Sino-Russian relationship? Will Xi Jinping abandon Putin? One observation I would like to make is that the formation of the Sino-Russian partnership is not merely out of convenience, that is, the common goal of countering the United States. It formed, as we indicated before, because of how Xi Jinping and Putin perceived each other, as a person and as a statesman.

Simone: Xi Jinping chose Russia as the destination of his first visit abroad after assuming office as General Secretary of the Chinese Communisty Party. Since then, Xi has met with Putin 38 times, more than he has with any other world leader. When Xi visits Russia, Putin usually receives him at the Kremlin. According to Russian media, this is a very high courtesy as for some time Novo Ogalyovo, on the outskirts of Moscow, was the official residence of Putin where he usually received foreign guests.

But all activities related to the visit of the Chinese President were arranged in the Kremlin. This Xinhua News video report captured the spirit of the welcoming event well.

The official ceremony was held in the most famous George Hall in the Greater Kremlin. The ceremony was grand and luxurious, just as the resplendent George Hall itself.

During Xi Jinping’s 2013 visit to Russia, he attended 20 formal events in a day and a half, including a visit to the National Defense Department, which no foreign leaders have visited.

Xi Jinping was reported to have called Putin a good friend, an old friend, and a true friend.

He even said to Putin: “I feel that our personalities are quite similar.” to which Putin smiled knowingly.

Jiang Feng: If I remember correctly Xi said that in the first year in office, year of 2013. Xi was right, they are energetic, and physically muscular man. Putin has been a KGB front-line intelligence officer with military literacy, and Xi Jinping is willing to show off his military general family origin and service as a secretary of the Central Military Commission, that will make him have a unique control over the army compared with his former CCP leaders. You know the funny thing is, Xi Jinping’s words became a prophecy that they two were not only similar when their energy was good, but also similar when their bodies were not good at the same time under great pressure. Because the news came out, and watch tv, the two people need a doctor at the same time. Of course, Xi’s mentioned character, I am afraid to say that the political character is more described. Both Putin and Xi Like to dream. Putin dreams of great Russian rejuvenation, and Xi dreams of China’s rejuvenation. In addition, in terms of greed for power, Xi Jinping revised the constitution in 2018 to give himself the opportunity to stay in office, while Putin amended the constitution in 2020 to keep himself from retiring for a lifetime.

Simone: Besides similarities on personalities and political aspirations, the two men learn from each other, though Xi learned more from Putin. When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, Putin had been in power for more than a decade. Russia in 2000 and China in 2012, when Xi took office, had many similar problems. But under Putin’s 13 years of ruling, Russia has transformed from a weak, chaotic, and corrupt post-Soviet society into an economically viable, stable and less corrupt state although the price is the vanishing of personal freedom and the rise of an autocratic rule. But for Xi Jinping, this is not a drawback but an advantage. When we analyze Xi Jinping’s policies, strategies in dealing with political opponents and dissidents, we see a striking resemblance between him and Putin.

Simone: When Putin first took office, he waged an anti-corruption campaign that targeted political rivals. This campaign helped him gain popularity among the Russian people and paved the way for his continued rule. In 2004, Putin was reelected to the presidency by a huge majority.
Xi Jinping copied this playbook almost word by word. He waged the biggest anti-corruption campaign in the Chinese Communist Party’s history after he took office. The initial goal of this campaign was to eliminate the power and influence of his political rivals who allegedly intended a coup to remove him from the top leadership; it expanded to include more and more old and new political oppositions, and recently was even used by Xi’s opposition to weaken his power as well. The campaign persisted for almost a decade and is still going. More than 100,000 officials have been indicted for corruption and more than 1.3 million lower-level officials have been punished.
Like Putin, Xi Jinping gained popularity among the ordinary Chinese people because of the anti-corruption campaign.

Simone: Xi Jinping also borrowed Putin’s tactic of grabbing power. Putin established a vertical power structure. He weakened local power to give himself sole authority over most decisions. Putin felt Yeltsin’s ten-year experiment with decentralization had caused disobedient local government and chaos. His closely-knit vertical power structure ensures all strands of power lead back to himself. This gave him the freedom to reform as he saw fit. Thanks to oil price rise and other factors, during Putin’s tenure, the Russian economy flew and the society was significantly stabilized which further solidified his rule. Xi Jinping was deeply inspired by this approach.

Simone: He admires a centralized, stabilized and orderly society, thus he centralized his power unprecedentedly. Despite being the supreme leader for the Party, the military and the state, he deprived the functions of many government agencies and established many working groups. And he appointed himself as the director of most of these groups. For example, the Central Leading Group for Cyber Security and Informatization, the Central Leading Group for Finance and Economics, the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, the Central Leading Group for Taiwan Work, and etc. Xi was given a nickname: The Chairman of everything.

After the 19th National Congress, Xi Jinping had established himself as the most powerful ruler since Deng Xiaoping. “Xi Jinping Thought” was written into the party constitution, which means that Xi had the same footing as Mao Zedong.

Simone: There are other similarities between Putin and Xi Jinping. For example, they both suppressed media and political dissidents. For a Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping’s suppression of free information is expected. But he did more than his predecessors. China in general is more ideologically rigid under Xi Jinping than under Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. Despite the similarities, there is one big difference between the two men.

Simone: Xi Jinping is the leader of the biggest Communist country in the world, a true follower of Mao Zedong, and a world apart from this…

Putin is Russian Orthodox. His mother secretly baptized him as a baby during the Soviet years, and she regularly took him to services. According to Putin, shortly before an official visit to Israel, his mother gave him his baptismal cross, telling him to get it blessed. Putin said he never took it off since.
Can these two men with vastly different metaphysical views be true friends?

Jiang Feng: To be friends? Even when China and Russia have the same political system in history, that is, in the Soviet era, when beliefs and values were the same, the two regimes cannot become true allies.