Unlike in the past, when the geopolitical discourse worldwide was going through a massive geopolitical metamorphosis in the first half of the 20th century, as the fall of empires were accompanied by the rise of democracy, republics, socialist and communist dictatorship. Meanwhile, it resulted in the rise of the US and USSR as two superpowers at the end of the second world war, and such a geopolitical metamorphosis situation is evident with China’s rise, whose rise under Xi Jinping’s leadership has countered the US and its global order and supremacy. Since its independence, China has come a long way from being a poverty-ridden, low-income group nation to now the second-largest economy in the world.
To address its economic crisis after the demise of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping’s 1979 “reform and opening up” pushed China to emphasize the four-modernization areas to develop itself as a prosperous country. As the reform emphasized the modernization of agriculture, industry, emphasis on science and technology and securing national defense, it also resulted in China being viewed as a strategic threat to the West in the later years. Furthermore, it resulted in the beginning of a debate over whether the rise of China is peaceful or not? China, since the 1990s, has adopted, basically, what we called the “charm offensive” and employed it to win over its neighboring and regional states, where China uses persuasion opposite to threat as a mode. It was done along with diplomacy, trade, investment, engage in cooperative regionalism, strengthening cultural relationships, offering aid, and acted as a responsible nation in resolving regional and global disputes.
The concept of peaceful rise or “hepingjueqi” was first used by Zheng Bijian in 2003 and was adopted by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in December 2003 as a Chinese expression to reflect country’s growth and its status as a global power from a less threatening perspective. Growing concern over the concept resulted in the adoption of peaceful development; as a result, in 2005, a white paper on China’s Peaceful Development Road was issued; it sees peaceful development for the country’s modernization as inevitable one because it will promote global peace and development. As the paper seeks a mutual benefit and common development, thus building a harmonious world altogether, which was later reiterated in the 2011 White Paper “China Peaceful Development”. With repetition of the word peace and common development, the basic content of the peaceful rise was kept while its outer look was refined as the term ‘rise’ gave way to ‘road’, which will ensure accessibility to ‘development’ and not domination. It remains the base to project China’s rise to the world since the arrival of President Xi Jinping in 2012, which transformed China’s rise to be assertive and aggressive. However, Xi’s economic infrastructure (the BRI and Made in China 2025) and financial institutions developed (AIIB and National Development Bank) carried out since 2013 to sustain the Chinese economy and economic growth raises one relevant question, i.e., ‘will China face the ‘Soviet’s fate and how so far it avoided an economic collapse’? Explanation of such question will lay a base to understand the need for Xi’s vision for China and the Chinese Dream and its development so far impacted the world order established since the collapse of the USSR.
Today, China’s aggressive behavior worldwide isn’t only supported by its strong and vibrant export-led economic growth and Xi’s leadership; it also highlights the need to discuss diminutively how China’s rigor to learn from the Soviet’s mistakes continued to help China to expand its strategic hegemony. China took a cue from the USSR’s shortcomings and the mistakes it committed during the Cold War range from economic to military aspects to protect itself from committing the same mistakes. However, whether it was Soviet’s the Glasnost or Perestroika, which opened the country to the western lifestyle and freedom of thought and expression, weakened the Soviet’s central authority as Chinese leaders considered through ethnonationalism and political unrest in the country. Unlike the Soviets, China enjoys a large homogenous society and further addresses its periphery which includes Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang, which are under CCP’s tight control to counter any Colour Revolution. Further, since the 1979 Vietnam War, as China argues, it has never engaged in any proxy warfare and instead invested its resources to couple its economies with other economies. Although, today, it created uneasiness for other countries to contain China’s rise and geopolitical ambition.
Meanwhile, as China hid its geopolitical ambition, it further transformed itself into a global manufacturing hub. As Soviet mistakes continued to reflect in the CCP research work to avoid the Glasnost moment, Watch the Periphery and further embraced Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics. President Xi Jinping, in his speech to party officials in 2013, reiterated apart from maintaining ideological control and upholding the Marxist-Leninist principle, ’a great power fall when central authority losses power and respect which will only help China to avoid Soviet Union’s mistakes. In such regard, to control the flow of information and restrain free speech, the party maintained control over the digital and non-digital platforms and didn’t allow Facebook, Google Services, The New York Times, Twitter, Washington Post, and others to work which established what called the ‘Great Firewall of China’. Such surveillance of the Chinese internet put Chinese people under steady surveillance as China uses the Deep Pocket Inspection, which allows Chinese intelligence agencies to keep an eye on Chinese people and censor information and Chinese lives establishing China as Digital Authoritarian who exports its model to other countries which become a serious issue today.
Under such circumstances and growing issue of human right issue in Xinjiang and the CCP is working towards suppressing democracy in Hong Kong and changing the demography of Tibet. Further, the intent to unify Taiwan with China, coupled with slowing of the Chinese economy due to its Zero-Covid policy, questions CCP rule and asks when will China and the CCP collapse? To contradict such scrutiny, China argues West always view China at the cusp of crisis and will experience a hard landing ending CCP rule and COVID as China’s Chernobyl moment. In recent times whenever China faces or encountered any challenges like unfounded rumor of a coup in China and Xi Jinping’s sudden departure from the Shanghai Cooperation Summit (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 15-16 September 2022 or the ongoing property crisis like the Evergrande, China argues pushes the West to create wild prophecies concerning the fate of the CCP and China.
However, Zhang Weiwei, Director of the China Institute of Fudan University, argues most of the predictions made by the West failed as they failed to predict the fall of the Soviets or the rise of China, and the rise of Trumpism and the 2008 financial crisis. He states West’s predictions reflect ideological biasedness towards no-western countries, like how they will be westernized and use their historical experience to analyse China’s future ignoring civilizational differences as they will end up concluding the wrong prediction. However, as China is facing economic and policy challenges with growing discontent among Chinese elites, Xi’s absence and other development following the SCO summit allowed the global Falun Gong movement – China banned it in 1999 – to spread anti-CCP and Xi’s discontent further. However, the possibility of a coup in China has been addressed by the party, and Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption movement with military coup remains implausible or considered the wishful thinking of the West; as such rumour reflects world is still unaware of China’s inner workings as Global Times argues none are even remotely right.
As Global Times argues, unlike how the West view China, under Xi Jinping and CCP leadership, China was able to achieve a faster economic growth rate and handled the Covid-19 pandemic well compared with the West who only exaggerate China’s problem and downplayed its growth and development reflecting having a wrong prediction of China. It further states China’s collapse perspective reflects in Francis Fukuyama, who, in 2012, argued that ‘China’s top-down political system will only blow up due to the pressure from a growing middle class who’re empowered by wealth and social network’. Meanwhile, Zhang Yiwu, Professor at the Peking University, states in China today, there are more than 1 billion people who are exposed to the internet, which still didn’t impact the CCP’s rule and authority; rather, Chinese used the medium to express their opinion on problems and warn the government to fix the problem and issues. Further, unlike other western scholars, Martin Jacquesargues with China continues to rise, support for its political system will increase, highlighting Chinese system worked which will strengthen in coming years as other countries will adopt it, which alarmed the West as it could lead to the ‘Sinification of the world’. To rebut the West’s China collapse theory, Chinese scholar like Yang Sheng argues instead of prophesizing China and CCP falls; the West should conduct poll using Pew and Ipsos, credible and authoritative institute. He states staying in the house and base your research on second-hand source data instead will only lead you away from the fact and fail to achieve a definite conclusion.