Over informal, private meals with American leaders, China’s Xi Jinping let his guard down a little. It was a decade ago, relations were less strained, and Mr. Xi, still cementing his power, hinted he worried about the Chinese Communist Party’s grip.
Speaking privately with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Xi suggested that China was a target of “color revolutions,” a phrase the party adopted from Russia for popular unrest in the name of democracy and blamed on the West. The recent “Arab Spring” uprisings across the Middle East had reinforced his concerns that China was vulnerable to public anger over corruption and inequality, both of which the country had in abundance.
“Xi couldn’t have been more forthright that China is beset by malevolent forces and internally prey to centrifugal forces,” said Daniel R. Russel, a former senior American diplomat who accompanied Mr. Biden to China in 2011.
“He would talk all the time about color revolutions. That’s clearly a sort of front-of-mind issue for him,” said Ryan Hass, the National Security Council director for China when Mr. Xi later visited the White House.
Such fears have come to define the era of Mr. Xi. Over the past decade, he has pursued an all-encompassing drive to expand the very meaning of “national security” in China, bolstering the party’s control on all fronts against any perceived threats abroad that could pounce on weakness at home.
He has strengthened, centralized and emboldened an already pervasive security apparatus, turning it into a hulking fortress that protects him and positions him as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Mr. Xi has built what he calls a “comprehensive” system designed for a world he sees as determined to thwart China — politically, economically, socially, militarily and technologically.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to support Taiwan against Beijing is likely to reconfirm his worldview that the United States and its allies are ready to exploit any potential weakness — and that China must always show steely vigilance. Since her visit, he has mobilized the military off the coast of Taiwan, sending the warning that China wants to curtail America’s backing for what Beijing considers a breakaway region. [Continue reading…]