Le risque potentiel de conflit entre les Etats-Unis et la Chine

WASHINGTON, DC – Xi Jinping, le nouveau président chinois, a effectué sa première visite aux Etats-Unis en mai 1980. Il était alors un officier subalterne accompagnant Geng Biao,  vice Premier ministre et principal responsable militaire chinois de l’époque. Geng m’avait accueilli en janvier de l’année précédente, lorsque je fus le premier secrétaire à la Défense américain à se rendre en Chine, en qualité d’interlocuteur pour l’administration du président Jimmy Carter.

Les Américains n’avaient pas vraiment de raison de remarquer Xi à ce moment-là, mais ses supérieurs avaient clairement constaté son potentiel. Au cours des 32 années qui suivirent, la position de Xi s’est renforcée, parallèlement à la puissance économique et militaire de la Chine. L’accession de son clan au pouvoir suprême marque également le départ de la dernière génération de dirigeants désignés par Deng Xiaoping (qui restent toutefois influents).

Malgré la place grandissante qu’occupe la Chine dans les affaires mondiales, Xi est confronté à des tensions internes qui font de la Chine un pays plus fragile qu’on ne le pense généralement. Le modèle économique chinois, tiré par les exportations, a atteint ses limites et la transition vers une croissance stimulée par la demande intérieure exacerbe les tensions internes. Réprimer la contestation n’est plus aussi aisé que par le passé et l’urbanisation rapide et les mutations socio-économiques déstabilisent ce pays de 1,3 milliard d’habitants. Les conflits ethniques dans sa périphérie mettront également le contrôle politique de Xi à l’épreuve.

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