Xi Jinping plays the nationalism card — it’s nothing new


China is seeking to co-opt its citizens, what with unemployment, low growth, thin fiscal stimulus and uncertain global conditions, under the garb of aggressive nationalism where the enemy is not within, but external.

History is rife with leaders taking to the crutch of an external enemy to deflect attention from simmering domestic issues, for example ‘foreign hand’. China—authoritarian but whose political system and accruing institutions root on the ‘mandate of heaven’ or the economic legitimacy to rule—is feeling the credibility deficit emanating from a 1.4 billion people. Today, China faces a multiple whammy of external pressures, from strained relations with the world to economic and diplomatic tensions with the US, likened as the ‘new Cold War’. Has Xi Jinping’s response been to whip up aggressive nationalism?

Recent talks by China of ‘smashing’ separatist moves by Taiwan; aggressive stance on South China Sea (China sunk a Vietnamese fishing vessel a month ago); altercations along the India-China border with stones and rods albeit arising from different perceptions of the border, a border that is not amenable to demarcation; and finally the national security law for Hong Kong add up to the bottom line of nationalism.