Beijing is stepping up efforts to derail House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in the coming days, and the Communist Party’s threatening rhetoric makes more sense against the domestic backdrop. China’s economy looks increasingly fragile, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if President Xi Jinping turned to the nationalist abyss as a distraction.
The basic story is slowing economic growth. Beijing has set a GDP growth target of 5.5% by 2022, which is modest by historical standards. Even now the Party seems to admit that the country is not meeting this target, at least not honestly, as growth was only 2.5% in the first half. For an economy the size of China, with hundreds of millions of citizens still in poverty, this is the functional equivalent of a recession.