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Five factors that will be decisive for China in 2022

Despite cross-strait issues, Taiwan might not be top of China’s agenda

A masked security officer stands outside the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing. 

A masked security officer stands outside the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The year 2022 is shaping up to be a pivotal one for China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Despite ongoing cross-strait tensions, Taiwan might not be top of China’s agenda in 2022. Foreign Policy (FP) has released a report that highlights five key factors the magazine predicts will determine China’s fate in 2022.

The first is the new omicron coronavirus variant, which FP suspects will be too infectious for China’s “quarantine nets” to contain. Despite the low death rate seen in other countries, China seems determined to enact harsh restrictions, which will take an increasing social and economic toll on the country should it hold on to its zero-COVID strategy through 2022.

COVID cases will also play a role in how China handles its second big issue, the Beijing Winter Olympics, more so than weak diplomatic boycotts, according to FP. The high probability that many international athletes are barred from competing due to COVID infections could result in China winning many more medals but undermine the whole event.

The third big factor for China in 2022 will be staving off a financial meltdown from the dual pressures of an ongoing property crisis and spiraling local government debt. FP points out the U.S. economy outgrew China’s in 2021, a trend that may continue if Beijing cannot get its finances in order next year.

Relations with the U.S. are another decisive arena, and the FP predicts Beijing will angle for something of a reset, or at least a lowering of tensions with Washington, though the U.S. side is unlikely to want the same. The FP cites Chinese media sources who say some flagrantly anti-American articles have been dropped in recent weeks.

The FP’s intel here provides another hint as to why Global Times’ veteran firebrand editor Hu Xijin (胡錫進) was suddenly shown the door in December. Some China watchers at the time believed it was likely because his rhetoric on Taiwan had gone too far.

The fifth area to watch is Xi’s consolidation of power as he starts his unprecedented third term as China’s leader, which will likely see yet more purgings of potential challengers. The FP believes there is probably discontent among the CCP's rank and file, but no one is in a position to stop him.

Taiwan did not make it into the FP’s top five China stories to watch, hinting the publication probably does not think an invasion by the PLA in 2022 is likely. Recently, U.S. Republican party hawks have suggested the period between the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 and the U.S. election in 2024 may be the prime time for a Chinese invasion.

Updated : 2022-05-21 18:42 GMT+08:00