When, in 1972, Nixon pointed out to Mao Zedong that “the Chinese President changed the world”, Mao just answered “no, only something on the outskirts of Beijing.” In the mind of the Chinese President, a Taoist poet, that was the sense of the natural centrality of the “Middle Empire” compared to the First World (the United States and the USSR, namely “the barbarians of the North”), to the Second World (namely the servants of either power) and to the Third World, the region that was bound to be represented and dominated by China.
Currently, after the Long March of the “Four Modernizations” launched by Deng Xiaoping, China is the world’s first economy and is becoming one of the first powers – and, in the future, it will be the hegemonic military power at least in the Asian world.
In the 1950s, however, an old map of the CPC’s Central Committee considered Japan, the Philippines, all the South Pacific islands, South and North Koreas and Vietnam as areas of Chinese hegemony.
This project will not be implemented – if ever – with weapons, but with the economy and with strategic and cultural dominance, which will be protected by weapons.
Hide a knife behind a smile is one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems used in politics and war.
In China’s traditional culture, war is not “the continuation of politics by other means”, but simply politics tout court.
The splendid isolation of Mao’s China was fully realistic: the country was poor but, in spite of the failures of the “Big Leap Forward” of the 1950s and of the “Great Cultural and Proletarian Revolution” between 1966 and 1976, the per capita GDP denominated in power purchasing parity (PPP) doubled.
Not falling into the Cold War trap that Mao Zedong considered a “paper tiger” – which, in fact, was at the origin of the USSR’s economic and military collapse – is the basis of this slow, but relentless economic and international status growth.
But without the very strong traditional Chinese nationalism, combined with the Marxist-Leninist ideology, that Mao’s project – which is currently being achieved with Xi Jinping – could not be implemented.
From the rejection of the bipolar international order to the construction of a new multipolar order, with China at the core – this is the geopolitical pathway from Mao’s slogan of 1949 “the Chinese people have stood up” to the 19th CPC Congress led by Xi Jinping.
Furthermore, even under Deng Xiaoping and his successors, China has never accepted a role as “revisionist power”, thus maintaining the request for a new international order and even strengthening the polemic against the United States and Russia in favor of Third World’s rights.
Nor should we forget the long coldness vis-à-vis the old post-World War II economic alliances, such as the World Bank and the Monetary Fund, seen as “instruments of American imperialism” and relics of a bipolar era that ended just when China – still following Mao’s cry on Tien An Men Square in 1949 – “stood up”.
In 2012, however, Xi Jinping did not inherit a “developing” China – just to use the compassionate jargon of international bankers.
In 2012 Communist China had recorded two decades of double-digit GDP growth and was already the second global economy. It was also the world’s largest exporting country and finally recorded a stable commercial surplus of over 4-5 trillion US dollars.
Since the beginning of the Four Modernizations, China has been the largest trading partner for the whole Eastern Pacific region and has been pushing upwards – for years – the prices of raw material it badly needed.
Also the Chinese Armed Forces are closely following economic development.
Currently China has already declared its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) operational throughout the East China Sea, in view of full control of the Western part of that sea.
A change of the US strategic equation in the Pacific entailing a radical transformation of the US geopolitics: either still accepting China’s investment and the much needed purchases of US Treasury bonds or the net decrease in financial trading and Communist China’s greater military and economic presence in the Pacific – with the related loss of hegemony.
With a view to masking and concealing – in a world still linked to the Cold War – the growing phase of China’s economy and military strategy (which are always two sides of the same coin) and not to alarming its neighbouring countries, Deng Xiaoping coined the “tao wang yang hui” (韬光养晦) policy line, namely hide your light under a bushel or conceal your strengths and bide your time – Taoist terminology relating to the tradition of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and the Thirty-Six Stratagems.
The sense is easily understandable.
Deng’s Taoist policy line implied some successive rules: 1) avoid leading or forming faction in any international conflict and stay neutral in all circumstances; 2) do not try to lead an opinion in international politics; do not try to represent any interest group and stay away from any sphere of influence; 3) avoid any trouble, controversy or antagonism in world politics; be humble, but try not be humiliated and even accept minor humiliation if you have to; 4) concentrate on economic development, 5) focus on establishing a friendly relationship with all countries in the world, irrespective of the ideology of the countries you deal with.
Indeed, Xi Jinping is fully heir to this policy line and, in the early years of his leadership, he focused on carefully hiding his light under a bushel and remaining in the “dark”, namely what does not concern or is not immediately seen by the “Western devils”, as Europeans were called during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 – a fight that was later mythicized precisely by the Red Guards.
The rapid development of the economy, from Deng to Xi Jinping, has led to inevitable imbalances in Chinese society: 12 million migrants moving from rural to urban areas every year, with almost all rural migrants heading for the coast from Fujian up to Laoning.
Other major unavoidable problems are the decrease of the population replacement rate, which leads to severe shortcomings in the search for new workforce; widespread corruption, another predictable phenomenon in a fast-growing command economy and finally the average age increase.
Currently the average Chinese aging rate is the highest in recent world history.
In 2050 the cost of pensions could rise up to 44% of the current one.
As some Western sources say, currently China’s public debt is approximately 60% of GDP, while some other Western observers even maintain that the Chinese debt is equal to 110%.
China’s official sources maintain it is equal to 46.5% and has been stable for two years.
Probably the truth lies somewhere in between, although considering the Chinese scarce willingness to resort to the debt lever.
Hence Xi Jinping wants to face all these new situations in the CPC tradition.
A “strong and prosperous China”, in the tradition of Sun Yat Sen, the father of nationalism and constant point of reference for Chinese Communists, as well as Xi’s continuity with the reforms which – as maintained by the CPC Third Plenum of 2013 – view the “market as the decisive engine for economic development”.
Xi Jinping also wants to create a strong and stable internal market to counterbalance the First World’s financial and economic crises.
Xi Jinping’s main economic challenge lies in doing with the domestic market what has been done so far in China with exports, while maintaining a good level of exports.
Not to mention pollution, which can block both domestic production – especially in the agricultural sector, by stopping exports – and foreign investment.
Xi wants to upgrade the exporting companies in order to make them adapt to international quality standards and improve their price level. The Chinese leader also wants to build an effective and profitable internal market, albeit targeted to social and political stability.
With specific reference to internal market reforms, one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems is particularly appropriate, namely “cross the sea without the emperor’s knowledge”.
The room for the market-world within future China’s internal market will be little and well-defined.
The fight against corruption, which is the natural corollary of this strategy devised by Xi Jinping, was and is still massive and fast.
It is also based on the old Plenum of 2013.
It was in the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC that the idea of shifting from a phase of fast capital accumulation to a phase of gradual internal redistribution emerged.
Hence Xi Jinping is currently defending the Party from the slow erosion of the Chinese social system.
Today the block of social and economic innovation lies in the hidden interests of Chinese State-owned enterprises and in their monopoly or monopsony markets.
Since he rose to power, Xi has entrusted approximately 800,000 State and Party officials only with the task of fighting against corruption.
A dual structure, namely the CPC leadership and the local units, controls the inspectors’ activity, and in the first half of 2017, over 210,000 State and Party officials have been investigated.
Last year the total number of officials investigated was 415,000.
As reported by Chinese internal sources, only in the first half of 2017, 38 national leaders and 1,200 prefecture officials have been judged corrupt by the central authorities.
In August 2013, in the framework of a careful analysis of the Chinese oil system, Jiang Jiemin, the CEO of China National Petroleum Corporation, was removed from his post, followed by Xu Caiohu, the Vice-President of the Central Military Commission and later, in March 2014, by Liu Yuan, the son of Liu Shaoqi, while the illegal outflow of Chinese capital is approximately 60 billion US dollars a year.
Xi Jinping’s hard line, namely “governing the nation according to law”, follows the tradition of Shang Yang’s legalist school of the 3rd century BC, as well as the ancient Taoist and State policy line followed by Shi Huangdi, the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first Emperor of a unified China and of the famous Terracotta Army.
Shi Huangdi was one of Mao’s favorite quotes: “Remember I am a thousand times fiercer than Shi Huangdi,” he used to say to his aides.
Furthermore, in keeping with a policy line set in a secret circular letter of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping is promoting the struggle “against the seven problems”: the promotion of constitutional democracy; the propaganda of universal rights as Western-style “civil rights”; the promotion of citizens’ movements destroying the Party’s foundations; the dissemination of the neo-liberal ideology; the promotion of press freedom; the support for the traditional nihilism on New China and finally the ban on defining the current Chinese economic system as “State capitalism” or “new bureaucratic capitalism”.
At strategic security level, as leader not yet in power, Xi Jinping supported Putin for the launch of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and hence proposed a pan-Asian view of military security and economic development to the other Heartland countries.
A vision that is currently based on the fast implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, which will reach the Mediterranean and the core of Europe.
Hence this is how Xi Jinping is approaching the 19th CPC Congress since its foundation in Shanghai in 1921 – a Congress that now gathers 2,338 delegates, while there were only fifty in Shanghai.
The goals are now well-known.
To achieve the “Two Centennial Goal” successfully: firstly, the issue lies in completing the process of building a moderately well-off society and accelerating Socialist modernization so as to turn China into a “great modern Socialist nation”.
The two dates set are 2020, the centennial (one year before) of the CPC foundation, and 2049, namely the centennial of the People’s Republic of China.
The terminology often used by Xi, “a moderately well-off society” must not make us think of mediocre and modest goals.
Conversely, it is a typically Confucian expression, where moderation implies wisdom and hence the balance between human passions and their reflecting on interpersonal relations.
In Xi Jinping’s policy line, the practical measures envisaged by the leader to achieve these goals will be, first of all, improving the people’s living conditions – but the masses’ best living conditions assume and imply Socialist democracy – then complying with laws and finally ensuring security, safety and the protection of the environment.
Besides modernizing domestic laws, Xi Jinping’s China will avoid the sale or sell-off of State-owned enterprises, which will maintain and increase their value, while their reform is implemented.
Hence a market-based reform, but also controlled by the Party as to the mix of factors of production in the medium and long term.
Again following the line of “hiding your light under a bushel”, China will maintain its strategic profile which does not seek hegemony and – again in Xi’s words – will carry out military actions outside its territory.
Hence, according to Xi Jinping, China will continue its policy of welcoming foreign capital and foreign companies – albeit more carefully. As meant by Xi between the lines, China will continue to pursue its project of becoming the global manufacturing hub.
Nevertheless, most of the capital generated by the Four Modernizations will lead to such an internal social stability in China, which is now unthinkable also in Western societies and to a rational rebalancing of China’s productive forces, which will have a strong domestic market while the export market will shrink due to the Western structural crisis.
U.S.- China Strategic Competition in The East Asia
East Asia has been the most dynamic region where development has been internationally recognized. The regional politics of the region has developed a paradox that has flamed up the economic environment of the region. The trends have shown the increased intensifying security issues along with the strategic completion that has spread the security and economic tensions across the East Asian Region. In a global circle, China is known as the revisionist state. The historical manners suggest the reclaim of East Asia by the Chinese. This claim has intensified the relations between the US and China in East Asian Region. The main challenge for China is to shift the US intervention from the East Asian region for the balanced equation at the strategic level. This might provoke the US and its allies in East Asia such as Japan that will help the US to jeopardize the Chinese rule from the region. The challenge for the US and its allies in the East Asian Region is more complicated because of the economic stability of China at the International Level. This might be a proxy war for both the superpowers in the East Asian region where the conflict may rise compromising the strategic stability of the region. The strategic location of the US lies in the actual form of ability and project power over great sustainable intervals. The strategic behavior increases the policies and shapes the allies.
One prevalent belief in the United States about China’s long-term policy goals in Asia is that Beijing aspires to be the regional hegemon and wants to restore a Sino-centric order in the region.
First, Beijing favors unipolar ties at both the global and regional levels and believes that with ongoing economic growth, this trend will continue intra-regional political consultation in Asia, influence on regional affairs is going to be more diversified and more evenly distributed. Secondly, although China expects some relative increase in its influence in Asia, it understands that thanks to the boundaries of its hard power and particularly its soft power, China can never achieve a grip cherish its role within the ancient past or to the U.S. role within the region at the present.
From Beijing’s perspective, the US is an East Asia power, although not an Asian power, and its political, economic, and security interests within the region are deep-rooted, as are its commitments to regional stability and prosperity. Beijing has always welcomed a constructive U.S. role in regional affairs. At the identical time, however, Beijing also feels uneasy with certain aspects of U.S. policy. As a superpower, The US has been too dominant and intrusive in managing regional affairs. It fails to pay due regard to the voices of other regional players and sometimes gets too involved within the internal affairs of other states, lacking an understanding of their culture, history, and values.
The US and European aspects towards the South China Sea and East Asia should involve long-term perspectives of engaging ASEAN states. Such impacts will create room for the US to tackle China in the East Asian region. The development of any comprehensive strategic security policy is the need of the hour that assures one’s interest in the region. Both the states perceive a threat from each other and try to further advance their capabilities for the sake of safety and security. The US is not in a position to deal with the other power far away from its homeland, sustaining its military and protecting allies. Aggressive behavior in strategic competition can lead to unwanted results. The US would have to accept the strategic realities of China to normalize the relations. China on the other hand should rethink its policies in East Asia and Indo Pacific. However, as yet, deterrence has played its part by keeping states from a large-scale action. States running in the race of acquiring arms conventionally due to uprising strategic competitions are worsening any likely condition of conflict.
Key points for US:
In terms of identifying specific actions for a U.S. strategy for competing strategically with China in East Asia, a key element would be to possess a transparent understanding of which actions are intended to support which U.S. goals, and to take care of an alignment of actions with policy goals. Cost-imposing actions are actions intended to impose political/reputational, institutional, economic, or other costs on China for conducting certain activities within the East Asian Region, with the aim of persuading China to prevent or reverse those activities. Such cost-imposing actions need not be limited to the East Asian Region only.
The development of any comprehensive strategic security policy is the need of the hour that should involve joint military maritime exercises. The US and China have set their limits in coordinating military to military joint cooperation due to their desired interests and competition. Both the states perceive a threat from each other and try to further advance their capabilities for the sake of safety and security.
Summit for Democracy Attempts to Turn Multicolor Modern World into Black and White Divisions
One of the most important takeaways from the recent sixth plenary session of 19th CPC Central Committee is that Beijing flatly rejects Westernization as the path to modernize the Chinese society and the national economy. Instead, as it was underscored in the plenary Communiqué, the country will continue to stick to “socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.” The leadership will preserve and further develop the system that served the people so well over last more than 70 years.
This statement did not come as a surprise to numerous China watchers all over the world. In fact, the critical choice between socialism and Western-type liberalism was not made in November of 2021, but decades ago.
One can argue that the outcomes of the sixth plenary session are yet another manifestation of a more general global trend: The world has been and will continue to be very diverse in terms of political systems, social models and economic patterns of individual nation states. Moreover, the odds are that this diversity will increase further literally in front of our eyes. Instead of the “end of history,” we will observe more intense multifaceted competition between different types of social development.
One way to react to this emerging reality is to accept it as a positive trend that enhances the overall stability of the global social system. The more diverse and complex the system is, the more resistant it is to various shocks and disturbances. To make a rough analogy with biology, a natural forest, which is a very diverse and complex ecosystem, is much more resistant to whims of the weather and natural disasters than a man-cultivated monocultural field. Accepting the trend, we should focus on how to manage competition within the increasingly diverse and complex world so that this competition will ultimately benefit all of us.
The other way to deal with this reality would be to start fighting against social, political and economic diversity by trying to advance one single model over all others. This is exactly what the Joe Biden administration is committed to doing by launching an ideological crusade against China, Russia and other nations that dare to deviate from the fundamentals of the Western development model. To make its case, the White House has announced a virtual Summit for Democracy to be hosted by the US on December 9–10 with the goal “to renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad.”
This vision reduces the multi-color palette of the modern world to a minimalist black and white graphics of a global fight between “democracies” and “autocracies.” It divides the international system into “us” and “them,” into “good” and “bad,” into “legitimate” and “illegitimate.” Such a reductionist system, if constructed, cannot be stable and shock-resistant by definition: Any major international crisis or a regional conflict could spark high risks of implosion.
It goes without saying that the nations of the world should firmly oppose corruption, abuses of power by state authorities and gross violations of human rights. If the goal of the Summit for Democracy were to confront these evils on a global scale, there would be no need to make the event exclusive by inviting mostly US friends and allies. If the goal is to advertise the US political, social and economic model, Washington should probably delay the summit and put its house in order first. If the goal is to isolate Beijing and Moscow in the world of politics, this is not likely to work well for the US.
Nations of the world have a right and even a duty to experiment with their political and social development paths. This experimenting contributes to the overall social experience of the humankind. Only history is in a position to judge what models turn out to be efficient, productive and fair and what models will find their place at the dump of human delusions. And history has a lot of means at its disposal to punish leaders, who believe that they possess a “one size fits all” model, which could successfully replace the existing diversity with an imposed universalism.
From our partner RIAC
The Chinese diplomatic force in the IAEA to confront Western leadership
At the level of international relations, through China’s presence in all the relevant international organizations, and its membership in all of the United Nations organizations, specifically in the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, China aims to play the role of the (international balancer), in light of its quest to maintain a certain level of competition with the United States of America politically and economically, this is in line with its desires to constantly play the role of the pole calling for (multipolarity and multilateral international pluralism through the Chinese political speeches of Chinese President “Xi Jinping”), in order to oppose American hegemony over the world and Washington’s policies to maintain its position as a single pole in the international community. China’s increase in its foreign investments, in order to enhance its economic hegemony over the world through its political and diplomatic tools with countries that have equal economic power with it in a number of (trade, scientific and technological issues, in addition to military and intelligence tools, as a reference for China’s new foreign political center).
We note that the patterns of Chinese foreign policy is (the pattern of dependence, which is based on the high level of foreign participation in all current global issues), to restrict the attempts of the United States of America to pass its decisions internationally, and therefore China is trying to enter the membership of all international organizations so that China’s foreign policies remain more comprehensive, broader and more effective in the global change, and to change all directions of these issues and control them in the United States, and this is one of its new political tools that serve its global expansion through the (Chinese Belt and Road Initiative).
In the same context, China focuses its external and competitive strength on its presence in effective international organizations, and rapprochement with the European Union, especially (France, Germany), despite not denying their relations with Washington, because of their strong influence in the global economy. In addition to China’s reliance on the plan of foreign and foreign investments in countries that influence American influence through the Belt and Road projects, as well as China’s resort to the import policy of many resources necessary to develop its economic capabilities from certain European countries to open influential relations with them, leading to (the Chinese strategy to obtain political support through the policies of alliances, consulates, representations, and its membership of international organizations), with the aim of influencing countries’ policies economically to pass important international decisions regarding the US challenge to China, such as: (the Iranian nuclear file, North Korea, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, etc.), to increase with this The level of external penetration of China economically and politically).
China is mainly aiming to increase its membership in international organizations and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to (create a new balance of power and get rid of unipolarity restrictions through the medium powers and small states that the international system prevails with real pluralism, instead of the current state of American unipolarity).
In my personal opinion, the countries of the Middle East may find in the rise of China and Russia, and perhaps other international powers to re-compete the United States, as a (real opportunity to advance the effects of the pluralism of the international system at the regional level, and this would create more space for movement and opposition or bargaining and flexibility of movement for all to confront the policies of American hegemony, according to Chinese planning with Russia), and this also works to alleviate those restrictions and American dictates, and perhaps the sanctions and pressures it imposes on opponents of its approach internationally.
The strategy of competition between China and the United States has become China’s long-term strategy, which is based on (the necessity of a heavy Chinese presence in all international organizations and forums, which allows China to communicate with various global powers and balance its relations with them compared to Washington), as well as diversifying the People’s Republic of China for its relations and distribution of its power among the competing countries, which allows China to show wide options on all important issues, and the most dangerous is that this Chinese presence, which (allows Beijing to prejudice the foundations of its relationship with the United States of America and the other various powers around the world).
China and Russia also aim to form an alliance into all international and regional organizations to change the current provocative approach of the American policies in their confrontation, especially those related to mobilization policies and American alliances against them around the world. The Chinese alliance with Russia was so clear with the (Russian Foreign Minister “Sergey Lavrov’s visit” to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, while on the other hand, both Kuwait and Qatar have received a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the CPC Central Committee “Yang Jiechi”).
On the other hand, China is among the Security Council countries that have the largest number of (Chinese peacekeeping forces around the world), and China is at the forefront of the (most contributing countries to the international peacekeeping budget, in addition to sending naval fleets to carry out maritime guard missions according to according to the UN Security Council resolutions), and therefore China may play an important role in establishing security in many countries in the world, and this is perhaps what China plans to ensure its use, in the event of a decline in American interest in the security of many regions in the world, within the framework of (the strategy of pressure of the American expenditures, retreat and withdrawal from many places around the world and devote its concern to the American interior issues and its worsening economic crises).
The point is worthy to be considered here, is the report issued in July 2021 by the (International Atomic Energy Agency), entitled “Nuclear reactors around the world”, in which he analyzed China’s plan to (establish the dream of nuclear sovereignty around the world by starting to build and establish about 11 reactors). There are other Chinese nuclear reactors under construction, as well as the (new Chinese planning to build other 29 nuclear reactors), while the International Atomic Energy Agency’s work report on the other hand indicated that the known total number of reactors that are actually in service, other than those planned for construction, and other reactors under construction, is up to About 50 Chinese nuclear reactors, a step that confirms that “China is clearly shifting towards nuclear energy in the production of electricity, and depends on it directly in its industrial renaissance during the coming period, especially as it is the number one country in the world that is expanding in the establishment of nuclear plants, followed by Russia, which plans to build other 20 new nuclear reactors, while it has 38 nuclear reactors in active service”. Some leaks indicate the presence of Chinese nuclear reactors, exercises and tests in the “Doklam Desert” region on the borders of “Xinjiang” province in northwest China.
It also notes that, from the reality of the report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, its confirmation regarding (Chinese planning to become the first country in the world in the production of nuclear energy during the next ten years, in return for the decline in the share of the United States of America in nuclear reactors, which continues to the continuous decrease with the exit of new American numbers of reactors annually), as the future plan of the United States of America does not include the establishment of new reactors, which indicates that (the expansion of this type of energy tends towards China and Russia during the coming period, and these countries will have accumulated experiences, enabling them to dominate and control this new nuclear industry in various countries of the world, and this is what is actually common happening in the region). Knowing that its uses will be mainly peaceful and to serve the interests of peoples and countries, so we may witness the coming period intensifying the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in many files around the world to study them, inspect different regions and various other areas to ensure (their peaceful uses of nuclear energy in many development projects around the world).
Hence, we almost understand (the importance of the Chinese presence and presence and its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency in the first place), given that it actually owns 50 nuclear reactors in service, and its contribution to the production of electricity and providing energy to one and a half billion citizens, and China also has new nuclear reactors under construction, so (China seeks to be near the International Atomic Energy Agency, to embarrass, restrict and limit the American influence on the one hand against Beijing’s allies, led by Iran and then North Korea. Therefore, China has developed a strategic plan in the coming years, which is based on the intensity of the Chinese international presence and passing its foreign policies and decisions with the help of its Russian ally internationally).
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