China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has made one of his boldest political gambits yet, wagering that he can tame Hong Kong through national security legislation, despite the risk of fresh upheavals there and a new flash point with the United States.
The security proposals, unveiled on Friday at the delayed opening of China’s annual legislative session, scotched any expectations that the coronavirus pandemic might have left Mr. Xi humbled, cautious or ready for compromise. On the contrary, he has chosen to press an offensive over Hong Kong, riling Western powers, at a time of global crisis while China is struggling to pull out of its sharpest economic slump since Mao’s time.
Mr. Xi has etched in blazing colors an outline of a post-pandemic world in which China shoulders past Western nations seen as divided, irresolute and now sapped by the virus and a looming economic slump. At the opening of the National People’s Congress, leaders exuded confidence that China had pulled out of the pandemic crisis faster and in better shape than much of the world.
“Through the hard work and sacrifice of our entire nation, we have made major strategic achievements in our response to Covid-19,” Premier Li Keqiang said in his work report to the congress, a kind of annual State of the Nation speech.
The move on Hong Kong aligns with Mr. Xi’s forceful vision of a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” free of internal rifts. And he appears steeled for any economic, political and diplomatic blowback.