If Xi Jinping was hoping for an “uneventful and stable” run-up to his “re-election” this autumn, says Kevin Rudd in The Wall Street Journal, “he must be disappointed”. China’s economic prospects are far worse than they were at the start of the year, and capital is fleeing the country: foreign investors dumped $18bn worth of Chinese bonds and $7bn worth of shares in March alone. The problem for China’s leader is that it’s all his fault.
Xi’s crackdown on China’s tech sector has wiped more than $2trn off the value of the country’s top 10 internet giants – those firms are now laying off thousands of people. The invasion of Ukraine by Xi’s “best friend in the world”, Vladimir Putin, has sent commodity and fuel prices through the roof and snarled supply chains, a nightmare for “the world’s largest manufacturer, exporter and energy-consuming economy”. And thanks to his crazy zero-Covid policy, around 373 million people in 45 cities have been under some kind of lockdown since April. The affected cities normally churn out around 40% of China’s total economic output, worth $7.2trn a year. Xi’s position relies on constantly rising living standards, which now look impossible to achieve. The danger for the rest of us is that, facing domestic turbulence over an ailing economy, Xi turns to “nationalism and greater foreign policy assertion” to shore up his legitimacy.