China’s new leader Xi Jinping is officially taking the reigns ofpower as Beijing completes the long process of a once-in-a-decadetransition. According to Shannon Van Sant, the new head has a wholebunch of problems to solve with the country’s domestic security andeconomic transition being the most important.RT: The new man at the helm, Xi Jinping, is expectedto be a strong military leader – how will this affect China’sstance on its territorial disputes, with Japan for example?Shannon Van Sant: China has made increasingly bellicosestatements in recent years regarding its territorial disputes withJapan and other Asian nations over the South China Sea. And it seems, by some analysts’ measures, that Xi Jinping is tryingto develop closer ties with China’s military and make sure that therelationship between the Chinese leadership and the military isvery, very strong. So by doing it he’s vowed to increase militaryspending and he has also been taking a strong lead with the Chineseleadership, who were making very aggressive statements regardingsome of these territorial disputes mentioned. So it will beinteresting to see if these statements were just strong, bellicosestatements going forward and if China actually takes real actionregarding those disputes.RT: With the U.S. increasing its presence in Asia -are we in for a contest of supremacy in the region between Beijingand Washington?SVS: It’s very interesting. As you said [Barak] Obama’sadministration announced a pivot towards Asia last year, and China,of course, is increasing its military spending greatly. But themajority of this increase will be spent on domestic security. Ithink that’s very significant because a lot of challenges thatChina faces right now are not international, are not in terms offoreign policy. It’s in terms of maintaining stability domesticallywith the increased number of protests across the country. So it’sworth pointing out. But yes, I think we are seeing in some regionshere in Asia perhaps the competition for influence – in places likeBurma and other places around the world. I wouldn’t say it’s acompetition yet militarily, but certainly economically and to someextent in terms of ideology and ideas in terms of how the politicalsystems should be and liberalization. There are a lot of competingideas right now between the West and Asia, and Chinaspecifically.RT: Xi Jinping’s first official visit will be toMoscow. What do you thing China’s foreign policy goals willbe?SVS: We have to wait and see. They’ve appointed some veryseasoned diplomats right now, some experts on relations with the USas well as people very familiar with Japan. So that should help interms of solving some of the territorial disputes as well as interms of managing the delicate relationship with the US. ButChina’s focus right now is very much domestic. There are a lot ofchallenges domestically to deal. Keeping the economy going amidstsome of the crisis going in other parts of the world is one oftheir biggest challenges as well as improving the rule of law andsome other reforms that have to take place if they are going tocounter some rising areas of descent in many parts of thecountry.RT: There’s a lot of talk of a global geopoliticalreshape with fast-growing economies – the BRICS nations – rapidlycoming to the fore. How important is the cooperation within theBRICS group for China now?SVS: China’s economy is growing impressively like none ofthe economies of the other BRICS nations. So China providesleadership in a certain way. And the country has good traderelations with Brazil, with African nations, with Russia and India,which is important. I think it will be very interesting to see itgoing forward. Right now in some way China is filling the World’seconomy and if it continues to do that it has to make thistransition from an economy based on manufacturing to an economybased on consumption. That’s one of the biggest challenges for theChinese leadership for the years ahead.
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