Internally, Beijing's top challenge arguably will be the pacification of Xinjiang -- a key OBOR hub. There is an effort to encourage integrated residential blocks, as Premier Li stressed, targeting cities where Uyghurs and Han Chinese have been segregated since the 2009 riots, especially in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital. Uyghur students will also be encouraged to study in Han Chinese schools. Whether this will work will largely depend on provincial cadres strictly following Beijing's integrationist directives.
All about Xi
Beijing is unabashedly ramping up its soft power in parallel to economic power; the launch of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) -- which will be key for many projects across OBOR -- is mirrored by the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea and turbocharged construction in parts of the disputed South China Sea.
Not accidentally, the CIA is sending its own signals, stressing the US would be uneasy at the prospect of China dominating Central and South Asian security in the long term.
Beijing is not exactly worried. The reform of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is also in progress -- and should be completed by 2020. The reform, coordinated by the Central Military Commission, relies on better coordination between the four Armed Forces to win wars, according to Xi himself.
Xi has already announced that before 2017 the PLA will be streamlined by no less than 300,000 jobs -- but will still count on 2 million active troops. Another key objective is to develop China as a maritime power -- totally capable of monitoring surface and aerial traffic across the South China Sea.
For instance, Beijing has deployed the powerful HQ-9 air and missile defense system to Yongxing in the Paracel archipelago -- inhabited by about 1,000 Chinese since 1956 but still also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The HQ-9 is able to transform enormous amounts of territory into virtual no-fly zones. Only the F-22 Raptor and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber can operate in the vicinity of an HQ-9 in relative safety.
Behind these Chinese military reforms, the unstated goal is clear; the US military better not start entertaining funny ideas, not only in the South China Sea but also across the Western Pacific.
China's anti-access/area denial strategy is a go. And Xi is right behind it -- now widely regarded even at the provincial level as the nucleus (hexin) of all these reforms. Talk about a lightning-fast consolidation of power. And talk about a lot to talk about when China hosts the next G20 summit, in Hangzhou, in September. The 13th Five-Year-Plan has just been approved, but China is already thinking, and mentally living, in 2020.
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