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Analyzing What Is in Xi Jinping’s Mind

The Chinese Communist Party’s knee-jerk desire to control what people say and learn could be a long-term destabilizer of U.S.-China relations.


Analyzing China is transitioning from social to behavioral sciences: from political, economic and social disciplines to the study of the behavior of its top man, Xi Jinping.


China’s restrictions on foreigners, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, have placed the number of U.S. students in Chinese schools at unprecedented low levels.


“The number I heard recently is like 350 American students in China, total,” said Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, professor of policy analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School.


Meanwhile, there were 290,086 students of Chinese origin in U.S. schools in 2022, according to Statista.


“For the immediate moment, perhaps we can survive, in a sense, based on the existing talent pool, but in terms of the long game, not just 10 years, but definitely 20 to 30 years down the road, you have to be able to understand the other guy, and I think that really is going to be a challenge,” Beauchamp-Mustafaga said.

















The country is changing rapidly, compounding the expertise shortage. As part of this, its armed service is also receiving an update.

“The [Peoples’ Liberation Army], starting in about December of 2015 under Xi Jinping, has undergone its most rapid transformation in its history,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Henderschedt, USN, intelligence director, U.S. Pacific Command.

While all regarded China’s military as a channel actively used by the Asian country to assert its power and forward its interests, the country’s most effective asset is its economy.

“There are different measures China has done to coerce, not only the United States but perhaps more importantly, our allies and partners,” said Bonny Lin, director, China Power Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies. Wedging U.S. alliances was seen as part of the country’s attempts to degrade the West’s capabilities.

The country’s weapon of choice is economic, and this includes boycotts, non-tariff barriers and blockades, among other measures. These are effective and do not create an escalation risk.

“Countries may be self-deterred because of how powerful China has become economically. China's currently the top trading partner to over 120 countries. With almost all of China's neighbors highly dependent on trade with China,” Lin told the audience.








With the country flexing its muscles globally, along with fewer communication channels and an increased centralization of power through Xi Jinping, understanding the country shifts from looking at the structures and politics to placing interest solely on its supreme leader.

“Sometimes if you're trying to do analysis, we're really just doing a psychological profile,” Beauchamp-Mustafaga told the audience.

Still, each panelist proposed roads to limit confrontation, and in the long-term, diplomacy was proposed as the most effective channel, given the current circumstances.

“We have decades of experience in dealing with competitors, diplomatically, and engaging them; we're not going to take a step back from our interest or values,” said Gary Tripmacher, global unit chief, U.S. Department of State.

The panel discussing the future of competition and cooperation between the United States and China spoke on Friday at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in National Harbor, Maryland. The event was organized jointly by AFCEA and INSA; Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, USA (Ret.), moderated this panel called China: The Long Game.