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China’s rise and the Napoleonic prophecy

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“China is a sleeping giant. Let her lie and sleep, for when she awakens she will astonish the world.” These were the some of the last sentiments shared by arguably one of the smartest emperors of the nineteenth century; Napoleon Bonaparte.

For centuries this prediction, nay ‘prophecy’ went unheeded and chalked off as the ramblings of an egotistical monarch who had neither the divine credentials to make such predictions nor the mental fortitude to comprehend the complexities of future global power dynamics.

Little did they know that despite his final defeat and exile to Elba, Napoleon was quite an astute man when it came to understanding power politics. He is one of the earliest known examples of people who had what we have now come to know as an ‘eidetic memory. ’He is quoted to have once said;

“Different subjects are arranged in my head as in a cupboard. When I wish to interrupt one train of thought I shut that drawer and open another. Do I wish to sleep? I simply close all the drawers, and there I am – asleep.”

Legend has it, Napoleon could draw maps of vast territories from memory and he would often use this unique trait to craft amazing strategic battle plans to surprise and vanquish his enemies. He reportedly once led 40 000 soldiers through the Great Saint Bernard’s Pass in the hostile Alps in order to gain victory in Italy by surprising his enemy who – like most mere mortals –had not  considered the possibility of Napoleon navigating through such hostile insurmountable terrain. 

The little corporal, as he was affectionately known in Europe, is also said to have personally signed a whopping 33 000 documents issuing various orders across his empire and to his ambassadors in other parts of the world during his reign. He reportedly demanded to be apprised on every intricate detail of his territory and all geo-political strategic issues daily.

Napoleon’s original statement has been lost in translation over time as some people have quoted him as saying China is a sleeping ‘giant’ while some have quoted him as saying it is a sleeping ‘lion’, some have even quoted him as saying China is a sleeping ‘dragon’. However all these translations converge around the part where he says “Let her lie and sleep, for when she awakens she will astonish the world.” So whether to him China was a sleeping ‘giant’, ‘lion’ or ‘dragon’ the eerie accuracy of his prophetic prediction is still quite awe-inspiring.

During his time, China was still living under the ‘Tian Xia’ system and although it was already quite large both in territory and population, it had no interest in military conquest and opted to live in harmony with its Confucian neighbours. Napoleon, a great student of history, is said to have made his predictions after he had noted how China had acquired knowledge, innovated and adopted new technologies for millennia up to Qing Dynasty. The ‘sleeping’ aspect in the prophecy was an allusion to the complacency of the Qing Dynasty that had been too China-centric and oblivious of the changes happening in the world. Napoleon’s prophetic prediction about the implications of the ‘rise’ of China is testament to the kind of military strategist and Emperor he was.

It was a long hard road from then until now, China endured some trying times before the metaphorical giant could rise from her deep slumber. A full century of humiliation at the hands of foreign imperialists was maybe what was required to wake the giant. The good thing however, is that it appears the giant is not interested in bullying others but neither will it tolerate nor cow to external forces ever again.

The world now watches as the current world hegemon – intimidated by the giant’s impact on the global balance of power – grasps at straws to put the giant back to sleep again.

In 2014, President Xi said; ‘the lion (giant) has woken up but it is peaceful, pleasant and civilised.’ Now, 5 years later, China still ‘astonishes’ the world with her peaceful rise and in so doing, fulfilling one of the most accurate political prophecies of our time.

Carter Chapwanya is a published author and currently a Political Science PhD candidate at Shandong University.

East Asia

China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20



Image source: X @narendramodi

The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.

The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.

 Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.

The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.

Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.

China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.

To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.

The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.

Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.

All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.

Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.

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East Asia

Al-Assad’s Beijing Visit: A Stepping Stone to a Strategic Partnership Between the Two Nations

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The Chinese government is adopting a new diplomatic stance, marked by a bold challenge to American directives. This strategy aims to bolster ties with nations that the U.S. has sought to alienate, with Syria being a prime example.

Recently, Beijing welcomed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The outcome of this visit was the announcement that their ties had been elevated to a “strategic partnership of resilience.” This status is the pinnacle of China’s diplomatic relationships, and so far, only three countries—Pakistan, Russia, and Belarus—have been granted this distinction. Could Syria be next in line?

For China, their interest in Syria is multifaceted. It’s not just about the country’s economic riches; it’s a geopolitical gamble. In Beijing’s eyes, Damascus stands as an ideological outlier in the Middle East, defined by its unique intellectual and ideological foundations. This, coupled with the nation’s rich cultural diversity and pluralism, makes it all the more appealing.

Syria’s value for China transcends its natural resources. Geographically and civilizationally, its significance and the influential role it plays in Middle Eastern geopolitics make it indispensable.

Despite the ongoing war, China’s relationship with Syria has persisted. However, the depth of their ties hasn’t always mirrored China’s firm stance in the Security Council, where it has wielded its veto power in support of Syria on numerous occasions.

In 2012, China exercised its veto power against a Washington-proposed resolution calling for the withdrawal of all military forces from Syrian cities and towns.

In February 2017, Beijing vetoed a draft resolution that sought to impose sanctions on the Syrian government, accusing it of deploying chemical weapons. Then, in July 2020, Beijing opposed the extension of aid deliveries to Syria via Turkey.

China’s foreign policy towards Syria is shaped by the interplay of interests and ideology. These twin pillars have historically been foundational to China’s external relations and are deeply rooted in Chinese political philosophy.

Syria’s geopolitical and economic significance to China, paired with Beijing’s steadfast stance against meddling in sovereign nations’ internal affairs and its commitment to justice and rights restoration, has allowed China to craft its Syrian foreign policy. This alignment ensures both the safeguarding of national interests and the upholding of principles intrinsic to China’s unique political identity.

China’s stance on the Syrian conflict has always been principle-driven, aligning with its foreign policy ethos which advocates non-interference in the domestic matters of other nations.

Subsequently, Beijing has made concerted efforts to bring an end to the Syrian war, proposing numerous initiatives aimed at resolving the ongoing strife.

Beyond matters of interest and ideology, China’s position on the Syrian conflict is also informed by its aspirations to maintain and bolster its influence within the Middle East’s global power dynamics. As China emerges as a dominant force on the world stage, its evolving foreign policy towards Syria mirrors its ascending stature and influence.

Anyone examining the ties between the two nations will see no clear evidence suggesting their relationship has evolved into what the media frequently labels a “strategic partnership.”

This could be attributed to the deliberate ambiguity and behind-the-scenes diplomacy both countries favored, given their respective circumstances. It’s possible that this approach was more a Chinese preference than a Syrian one.

Particularly since Beijing is careful with its actions, striving not to unnecessarily antagonize the United States while it focuses on its grand strategic endeavor, the Belt and Road Initiative.

While Syria is in dire need of allies during its challenges, it recognizes the interests and circumstances of other nations. It understands that relationships can’t be purely evaluated on a “profit and loss” basis; there’s a strategic depth that heavily influences the decisions of major powers.

China has consistently supported Syria both diplomatically and humanitarianly. It maintained its embassy in Damascus, championed Syria’s interests in the Security Council, and readily provided humanitarian assistance, notably during the Covid-19 pandemic and after the earthquake Syria experienced a few months back.

While the evidence might not strongly suggest that the relationship between the two countries qualifies as a strategic partnership, it’s the unseen dynamics between them that appear to play a significant role in elevating their ties to a “strategic relationship” level.

The deployment of popular diplomacy was evident, with Damascus benefiting from China’s endeavors to amplify its “soft power.” Exchanges of party and economic delegations between the two nations persisted, and there was a notable increase in the number of Syrian students attending Chinese universities, funded by the Chinese government.

Interestingly, direct visits between officials of the two nations were sparse. It appears that the respective embassies served a pivotal role in cultivating and fortifying these ties.

The visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Damascus on the day the results of Syria’s presidential elections were announced on July 17, 2021, wasn’t just serendipitous. He was the first to extend congratulations to President Al-Assad on his electoral triumph.

This visit held immense significance, marking a shift in China’s foreign policy towards challenging Western influence in various global regions. It was the first visit by a high-ranking Chinese official to Syria since 2011, following the onset of the conflict.

Wang’s meeting with President Al-Assad, where he congratulated him on his re-election, was symbolic. Additionally, Chinese President Xi Jinping dispatched a congratulatory message to Al-Assad on his election victory, expressing: “China staunchly supports Syria in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and will extend as much assistance as possible.”

Following Wang’s visit to Damascus, Beijing advocated for the removal of sanctions on Syria and proposed a four-point initiative to address the crisis. This plan encompassed:

  1. Upholding Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, allowing the Syrian people the autonomy to determine their nation’s destiny.
  2. Fast-tracking the reconstruction process and immediately lifting all sanctions on Syria, a crucial step to ameliorate the country’s humanitarian crisis.
  3. Combatting terrorist organizations recognized by the UN Security Council.
  4. Championing a comprehensive and conciliatory political resolution to the Syrian conflict, bridging divides with all Syrian opposition groups through dialogue and consultation.

Wang’s trip followed the Syrian government’s successful reclamation of a majority of its territories. This transition signaled a shift towards reconstruction, a phase where Beijing is poised to assume a significant role due to its ample financial and political resources.

Given the intensifying tensions between China and the United States, China found itself drawn into a subtle yet assertive counteraction against the U.S.

Beijing has strategically ventured into regions historically under American influence, notably the Middle East. This move is significant, especially considering China’s traditional reluctance to entangle itself in the complexities and challenges of that region.

For many years, the United States has depicted the issues in the Middle East as “intractable problems,” rooted in religious disputes that span centuries.

China’s success in bolstering Arab-Chinese collaboration, particularly following the Arab-Chinese summit in Riyadh, served as an impetus for several Arab nations to pursue closer ties with Damascus. This renewed rapport culminated in Syria’s reintegration into the League of Arab States. Although the Arab initiative with Damascus seems to be progressing slowly, and at times hesitantly, it hasn’t hit an insurmountable roadblock.

Furthermore, the fruitful outcomes of Chinese mediation in narrowing the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran, resulting in the re-establishment of diplomatic ties and ambassadorial exchanges, should positively impact Arab-Syrian relationships.

China now navigates the Syrian situation with a sense of ease, steering clear of rivalry with major international players in Syria, notably Iran and Russia.

Amid intensified actions against Damascus, manifested by the deployment of additional American troops to the area and discussions about severing the connection between Syria and Iraq via a corridor from Al-Tanf to Al-Bukamal, the foundation of American intelligence leverages regional factions with specific local allegiances.

This period also saw heightened protests in southern Syria (Suwayda) and skirmishes between the SDF militia and tribal forces in northern and eastern Syria.

Syria’s challenging economic landscape has played a significant role in exacerbating these conflicts, amplifying concerns about their potential spread throughout the country.

The root of these protests can be largely attributed to differing perspectives. The Syrian government views American sanctions as the primary culprit, while many Syrians believe the escalation in corruption, which has surpassed tolerable levels, is burdening the populace.

China’s involvement in the Syrian crisis at this juncture offers robust political backing for Syria and should be complemented by heightened economic support, which Syria urgently requires.

Hosting the Syrian President in Beijing would signify a pivotal moment in the ties between the two nations, underscoring China’s aspiration for a more equitable global order.

The Syrian conflict may have been the catalyst for this shift, and the Ukrainian war further solidified it, making the strategy of international alignments more evident on the global stage.

President al-Assad’s sole visit to Beijing took place in 2004, centering on economic collaboration between both countries.

While development hinges on political and security stability, this shouldn’t deter efforts to address challenges potentially impeding economic collaboration or reconstruction involvement.

It’s beneficial to foster and stimulate dialogues between Syrian and Chinese entrepreneurs, particularly in devising solutions to reconstruction challenges, such as financing. The goal should be to transition from mere economic cooperation to a tangible economic partnership, incorporating road and rail links and connecting energy lines from Iran, China, Iraq, and Syria. This vision, proposed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2002, aimed to transform Syria into a pivotal gas transit hub and a free-trade nexus bridging the East and West by linking the Five Seas. China interpreted this as a rejuvenation of the Silk Road, envisioning a vast economic corridor from Syria to China. This aligns seamlessly with the Belt and Road Initiative introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.

Syria needs to modernize its banking system and could benefit from China’s expertise in this domain, exploring payment mechanisms that aren’t reliant on the US dollar. Strengthening ties between the chambers of commerce, industry, and agriculture and creating joint chambers between the two nations can be valuable, among other cooperative ventures.

There are numerous potential collaboration areas between the two countries that could yield significant outcomes for both if they can navigate bureaucratic hurdles and establish direct communication channels.

Such cooperation may not be well-received by Syria’s adversaries, notably the United States, which is reportedly extracting Syrian oil from the wells it controls, all the while claiming its forces are in the region to combat terrorism, specifically ISIS.

The Chinese media has extensively highlighted this act, deeming it a blatant international theft conducted openly.

China appears to be growing in confidence and is more assertive in demonstrating its global influence, especially given the rising tensions with the United States. This dynamic presents Syria with an opportunity to enhance its ties with Beijing.

Anticipation is building around the forthcoming visit of the Syrian President to Beijing. Current predictions suggest it will mark a significant moment in the relationship between the two nations, potentially reshaping the geopolitical equilibrium in the Middle East and possibly on a global scale.

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East Asia

China-Taiwan: The Future Relationship

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DPP candidate Lai Ching-te. Photo: VCG

The discordant relationships between China and Taiwan have engendered multifaceted and persistent tensions. The empirical experience of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict can serves as a compelling impetus for China and Taiwan to seriously reconsider their current relationship. It is imperative to prevent the occurrence of any form of military engagement between China and Taiwan.


The already existent tensions between China and Taiwan experienced a resurgence subsequent to Taiwan Vice President William Lai’s recent visit to the United States.

The aforementioned visit ultimately engendered another intense security situation in the Taiwan Strait. The manifestation of this is evidenced through a sequence of expansive military maneuvers executed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) within the perimeter of the Taiwan Strait region.

The convening of the aforementioned meeting is construed as a provocative measure by the Chinese authorities, rendering it a potential threat to their territorial claims of sovereignty over Taiwan. As a result, China is compelled to take responsive action.

However, from Taiwan’s perspective, this meeting was of pivotal importance in maintaining and asserting the country’s presence within the purview of the global community. It was deemed significant as international political maneuvers in pursuit of immediate recognition as a legitimate sovereign state.

In the view of China, The unification of China remains the single “outstanding” item on China’s agenda, as of present. To China, the sole legitimate governing authority throughout its national territory, which includes Taiwan, is that China. Consequently, China appears to be utilizing all available means to assert its dominance over Taiwan in its entirety.

Since the 1949 “split”, China has continuously augmented its military footprint within the vicinity of Taiwan’s territorial boundaries. China’s action is not merely intended to intimidate Taiwan; it is also designed to convey the message that any act of support towards Taiwan’s quest for sovereignty would be met with swift and forceful retaliation from China’s military force.

 Of course, International community are contemplating whether the issue at hand will culminate in a military invasion by China to Taiwan in the foreseeable future.

In order to address this inquiry, it is appropriate to begin by revisiting the contents of the Chinese Constitution (Constitution of the People’s Republic of China). According to the Preamble of the constitution, it is evident that Taiwan is an undisputed part of China’s land.

Undoubtedly, China would construe the aforementioned as a constitutional obligation which is indisputable. China maintains an unwavering stance regarding the ultimate resolution of the Taiwan Issue, emphasizing the necessity of achieving complete reunification of China, inclusive of Taiwan, as the sole viable solution.

 In pursuit of its objectives, China has demonstrated a willingness to employ a range of approaches, both non-violent and aggressive, which may include the application of armed force or the undertaking of military invasions.

economic factor

However, It is improbable that China’s armed forces will engage in military invasion on Taiwan in the immediate future.

 In light of the multitude of armed conflicts that have occurred globally, it can be posited that military aggression is consistently accompanied by elevated expenditures

Given the prevailing economic turbulence and the ramifications of the Covid-19 Pandemic on China, the prospect of an impending invasion of Taiwan by China appears to be remote. The implementation of this measure is likely to exacerbate China’s economic state. Simultaneously, this phenomenon has the capability of instigating domestic political predicaments for China.

The situation is expected to deteriorate significantly as numerous countries are eventually “compelled” to become embroiled in the vortex of the China-Taiwan armed conflict via the implementation of economic sanctions and blockades against China. Similar to the actions undertaken by various countries towards Russia throughout the course of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. China may face considerable challenges in managing the potential risk at hand.

It is noteworthy to consider that the Chinese economy operates within an export-oriented framework that relies on global value chains and energy importations. Consequently, it can be argued that the implementation of economic sanctions may have the potential to undermine China’s economic foundation, thus triggering unintended consequences and generating intricate quandaries for China.

In light of the aforementioned economic considerations, it appears that China does not exhibit a sense of urgency to reinstate Taiwan under its control through military means for a minimum of another four to five years.

Notwithstanding, this does not categorically preclude China’s pursuit of reintegration of Taiwan through military measures in the foreseeable future.  It is imperative to emphasize that China will persist in its efforts to maintain its claim of sovereignty and territorial integrity over Taiwan.

Concurrently, Taiwan is also likely to maintain a staunch resolve towards independence, defending democracy and rejecting reunification, regardless of China’s territorial claims, political pressure, or militaristic intimidation.

two possibilities

 In summary, it can be posited that there are at least two conceivable scenarios that could manifest regarding the future relationship between China and Taiwan.

First, China will let Taiwan maintain the current status quo while continuously increasing its military presence on Taiwan’s territory with the intent of exerting pressure and dominance over Taiwan’s geopolitical interests. Taiwan is potentially susceptible to a state of constant “isolation” from the international community, which could result in internal turbulence and ultimately lead to mounting pressure upon Taiwan, compelling it to enter into disadvantaged negotiations with China, thereby potentially causing it to revert to its prior status as part of China.

Second, on the other hand, China may potentially initiate the complete mobilization of its armed forces towards Taiwan. Given China’s consistent focus on sovereignty and territorial integrity. The aspiration to achieve the comprehensive integration of China (encompassing Taiwan) remains persistently pursued in accordance with the tenets of the “One China Principle” or the One China Policy.

The military maneuvers undertaken by China with the objective of suppressing Taiwan are likely to escalate into a physical and overt assault over the course of time. This military invasion is potential to be undertaken by China to seize direct assumption of control over its governing entity, with the aim of promoting significant political transformation within the region.

 However, with Taiwan’s significant prominence in the worldwide economy, particularly in the semiconductor industry, the ramifications and significance of any related actions are substantial. The occurrence of a military invasion is poised to instigate expeditious disturbance across the global economy, with China, in particular, being concurrently affected.

Despite all these possibilities, the avoidance of armed engagement between China and Taiwan is imperative, notwithstanding the various feasible outcomes thereof. Therefore, it is imperative that nations do not interpret the principle of non-intervention in international law in a rigid manner. It is recommended that all countries globally make efforts towards assisting the concerned parties in utilizing dialogue and peaceful compromise as a means of resolving their issues, rather than resorting to a full-fledged conflict. Such an undertaking holds tremendous significance as it not only safeguards the welfare of the involved parties, but also forestalls potential economic and political crises with implications extending to international peace and security stability.

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