China’s faltering performance on economic reform

China’s faltering performance on economic reform

Xi Jinping’s reform failures share a common theme

Chinese President Xi Jinping is starting off 2021 feeling supremely confident about China’s economic position.

The scourge of COVID-19 may have started in Wuhan, but China tamed it faster and more effectively than most other countries, allowing economic production and consumption to resume. In comparison, the United States, Europe and a number of other democracies continue to battle the pandemic and its economic burdens as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to enter the White House.

Meanwhile, Beijing also ended 2020 with a string of geopolitical victories, including a big investment agreement with Europe — still contingent on the final posture of the European Parliament — and a trade pact with over a dozen Asian countries, presenting a challenging field for Biden to tackle internationally, even as he faces political turmoil at home.

Xi has taken the opportunity to declare victory preemptively, noting in his annual New Year’s speech that China was “the first major economy to achieve growth,” and that the country had “achieved great success” on almost every front in 2020, from anti-poverty to technological advancement, to the completion of the 13th five-year plan.