China's 19th Party Congress
The next presidential election will be on 3 November 2020. We can all plan around that if we want to.
China also has a president who runs that country. The next Chinese Communist Party confab to choose future leaders will be the 19th Party Congress, to be held in October or November 2017. That is as much detail as is available at the moment. Some 2,200 of China's top people are expected to attend in Beijing on short notice.
All this means is that President Xi is unsure of his position. Normally, Chinese presidents get two five-year terms, and normally, Xi would get another five-year term and then retire. But Xi wants to rule for longer, and he needs the blessing of the 19th Party Congress. Xi also ramped up China's military adventurism and has led the Chinese people to believe they will end up ruling the world.
The problem of starting down that road is that there is no turning back without being labeled a traitor. So Xi initiated the Doklam Plateau crisis with India to provide a fresh victory to go to the Party confab with and secure his position. That crisis has ended, and still no date has been set. What is a megalomaniacal, messianic communist dictator to do?
It could be something nasty, such as an attack on the Filipino base on Thitu Island in the South China Sea – something that will confirm Xi's reputation as a tough guy but not big enough for Japan and the U.S. to go to war over.
Xi also has another window closing on him. President Trump has been quoted as saying to his chief of staff, Gen. Kelly: "So, John, I want you to know: this is my view. I want tariffs. And I want someone to bring me some tariffs."
This is like FDR cutting off Japan's oil supply during World War II to punish Japan's aggression in China. The Japanese knew that the clock had started ticking, and they would have to choose. They chose war, but they got kicked out of China, which was the intention of the oil sanctions. Unfortunately, the longer-term plan – that China would join the community of large, civilized nations and be a force for good in the world – failed. China used its accession to the World Trade Organization to make a lot of money and is using some of those funds to prepare attacks on a number of its neighboring countries.
Now China is facing a U.S. president itching to impose tariffs on Chinese goods. If China attacks a neighbor now, that will be an excuse to ramp up the tariffs and impinge upon the Chinese economy. Politically based tariffs, driven by Chinese aggression, will be easy to copy by other countries.
So that is why the fact that there is, as yet, no date set for the 19th Party Congress is so important. Xi may feel the need to kill some non-Chinese in a military action to secure his position, and as the days pass without a date set, the number to be killed to achieve that will rise. If he miscalculates, then it is all-out war. What a way to run a country.
David Archibald's latest book is American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare.