This weekend China's formidable leader Xi Jinping is expected to officially tighten his grip over the single-party country of 1.4 billion people.
The Chinese Communist Party holds its national congress every five years where the party's top brass – an elite politburo of 25 party officials who make crucial decisions for the country, led by the general secretary – is decided for the ensuing five years.
For nearly three decades, it has been customary for a new general secretary to be appointed at every other congress. But when the upcoming event kicks off on October 16, Xi Jinping (who has been in power since 2012) will reaffirm himself as general secretary of the Communist Party, leader of the military and president of China.
And there is a disturbing prediction about what that could ultimately mean for the rest of the world.
Former US marine and diplomat Grant Newsham believes Xi has been slowly arranging the country's affairs to enable it to weather a heated conflict with the west.
"This is the first CCP Congress since Mao Zedong’s era [up to 1976] that will solidify the position of a Chinese leader who can take China to war – and who probably will do so if current trends remain as they are," he wrote in an opinion piece for the Asia Times.
"Put simply, this Congress is putting China on the path to war."
Mr Newsham points to the improved capabilities of the People's Liberation Army and the work the Chinese leader has done to "sanction proof" the Chinese economy, potentially denuding the impact of sanctions in the event of conflict or aggression over Taiwan.
"He has been going about 'sanctions-proofing' China’s economy and financial system, and also exerting total control over the population via the zero-Covid crackdowns. Or, in effect, conditioning the public to hardships.
"China has been stockpiling food and fuel. It has been building coal-fired power plants (it has plenty of coal) at breathtaking speed," he wrote.
"CCP officials have also been ordered to sell their own and their relatives’ overseas holdings and bring the cash back to China ... It seems that Xi is battening down the hatches and getting ready for a fight."
While Xi will try to get what he wants through intimidation, Mr Newsham argues if that doesn't work, "he is likely to roll the dice" on war.
Prediction 'on the far end of danger spectrum'
John Blaxland, a Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies at the Australian National University, believes Xi has been strengthening his hand when it comes to posturing against the US and its allies, but doesn't think war is inevitable.
"This is the perspective of a well-regarded security analyst and former practitioner. It is an assessment at the right-hand end of the danger spectrum, and unfortunately also some say along the spectrum of plausibility," he told Yahoo News Australia.
Prof Blaxland said China's military could likely carry out another show of force after the party's congress, like its recent firing of missiles over Taiwan. But while he disagrees with Mr Newsham's assessment, he admits it is a "sobering reminder" of the dangers that lie ahead.
"In terms of likelihood, Newsham points to a range of indicators which should cause grave concern. My sense, though, is that this preparation is for posturing, intimidation and strong-arming, but is ultimately short of the threshold for kinetic war," he said.
"Most still see the costs of going beyond a show of force to an actual war or invasion as being too great for Xi to seriously contemplate. Sadly, though, that's what we thought about Putin’s posturing back in early February."
On Monday, Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen gave a speech pledging to bolster the island's combat power and defence capabilities as tensions with China rise. She also cautioned that war with China "was absolutely not an option".
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