Xi Jinping is Losing the Psychological War

Commentary by Liang Jing: Xi Jinping’s visit to the Xiangjiang Battle Memorial Garden to mourn the dead gives me an ominous feeling. The tragedy of the civil war in China’s construction of a modern state is unparalleled in the world, and it is positive to go to the memorial park to mourn the dead from a humane standpoint, regardless of which side one belongs to. Failure to take this step means that the Chinese are not yet capable of reflecting on their own historical tragedy. This is an important reason why many Chinese cannot understand why the Japanese insist on paying homage to the Yasukuni Shrine. Of course, Xi Jinping is definitely not going to pay tribute to the victims of the Battle of Xiangjiang in a humane sense, but his speech shows that he is giving himself a boost for his choice of “I will be without me”.

Why do I want to emphasize that Xi Jinping is cheering himself up rather than intending to scare others? Because I believe one of the broader contexts of his move is that he realizes that he is losing the psychological battle to scare the world, that is, he should see that his strategy of scaring and coercing the world is becoming less and less effective. One after another, many news stories that have happened in recent days have reinforced this judgment of mine. Take the Oscars ceremony that just took place, where Zhao Ting’s acceptance speech seemed to me to be critical of the Beijing authorities’ foolish decision to block her and the Oscars.

It cannot be denied that the coercive tactics Xi Jinping has been using against the international community since he came to power have worked quite well. The main reason for this is that most people are genuinely afraid of a head-on conflict with the behemoth that is China. Not only would such a conflict cost you significant benefits, but Xi’s unabashed war blackmail has worked against the leaders of democratic countries. Because every elected politician has a limited term in office, Xi Jinping sees their Achilles’ heel of fear of losing votes. It is not that I believe many Western politicians, including Obama, do not see that Xi is blackmailing them, but if mainstream public opinion does not want conflict with China, or if the major moneymakers supporting the campaign are close to Beijing, Western politicians will have no trouble finding reasons to deceive themselves. Not to mention that Xi’s intimidation is often accompanied by the lure of great profit.

Why, then, is Xi’s blackmail of the international community currently increasingly failing? China’s war-wolf diplomacy, the use of epidemics for hegemony, and the repression of the Uyghurs have all played a role, especially in triggering extreme popular resentment among a growing number of people. Dealing with hooligans and triads is the oldest and most interconnected of human social experiences. It is also why, despite different historical and cultural backgrounds, there is no shortage of judgment among the general international public that China has crossed the line and that continued appeasement of Chinese coercion and blackmail means that no one can escape disaster. Indeed, all of humanity is experiencing such a catastrophe firsthand from this China-induced global plague.

One result of this major shift in popular attitudes is that politicians are facing bottom-up pressure to “say no” to Xi Jinping. As we have seen, the British government does not want to define the Xinjiang issue as “genocide,” but parliamentarians will not do so because their constituents can no longer ignore the evil that is taking place in Xinjiang. The second result is to stimulate governments to actively prepare for war. We all know that, with the exception of the United States, many democracies find it difficult to gain public support for expanding their military preparedness.

But China’s blackmail is reversing this trend. The most obvious example is Japan. Xi Jinping has helped the Japanese hawks achieve the “national normalization” they have dreamed of for years. More ironically, the United States, Japan and Western democracies will find in the process of military expansion and preparedness that China’s military power, though growing rapidly in recent years, is not ready for war. Although military equipment has improved greatly, as the recent Liaoning scandal revealed, the management and culture of the Chinese military does not look like it is ready for war. The stronger such impressions accumulate, the more democratic countries will not be afraid of Chinese war blackmail and will be more determined to prepare for war. Because they see a greater hope of psychologically overwhelming China and thus avoiding war.