China doesn’t want a new cold war – people’s world
With all the saber-strikes directed at China these days, it’s important to get a clear idea of ââwhat the US foreign policy elite and their Chinese counterparts think about this nation’s unprecedented rise in the world stage. Their views on the Chinese Communist Party, the country’s continued economic expansion and growing military might, and its relationship with the rest of the world are revealing. And when understood objectively, they hint at something more than a repeat of the 20th century Cold War.
For example, the July / August issue of the journal Foreign Affairs is entirely devoted to the question: “Can China continue to rise?” The magazine includes a wide range of voices, including from China, and anyone interested in peace would do well to pay attention to the information in its pages.
That “the East is on the rise” is now “a point of near consensus … reinforced by years of dazzling economic performance,” notes the introductory editorial. In addition, China “has claimed its place as a world power and [has] accepted that long-term competition with the United States is almost inevitable. While it dutifully points out the obvious – that “past performance is no guarantee of future results” – the issue carefully highlights the challenges and opportunities ahead for China and the CCP.
According to Jude Blanchette, holder of the Freeman chair in Chinese studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Chinese President and CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping is acting quickly to change Chinese society because “he sees a narrow window of 10 to 15 years during which Beijing can benefit from a set of important technological and geopolitical transformations. Which will also help him to overcome important internal challenges.
As Blanchette puts it, Xi sees “the convergence of strong demographic headwinds, a structural economic slowdown, rapid advancements in digital technologies, and a perceived shift in the global balance of power away from the United States as … demanding a bold package. immediate responses. . “
While Blanchette’s article lacks depth and context, it does draw some important conclusions that point to quietly whispered concerns within the gossip mill of America’s foreign policy elite. âBy narrowing his vision down to the next ten to 15 years, Xi has instilled a sense of focus and determination into the Chinese political system that may well enable China to overcome long-standing national challenges and reach a new level of world centrality. “
More importantly, if successful, China will âposition itself as the architect of an emerging era of multipolarity,â which Washington fears, having known about 30 years without a major competitor on the world stage.
Of course, Blanchette’s article would not be complete without the obligatory Western references to a possible Xi “personality cult”, the lack of internal democracy, and “visible sycophancy” within the CCP. With just a hint of racist chauvinism, Blanchette concludes that Xi “probably doesn’t understand … that he himself can be the biggest obstacle” to China’s continued success.
At the other end of the political spectrum is an essay by Yan Xuetong, CCP leader and eminent professor and dean of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University. As Yan points out, China’s power is “just behind that of the United States.”
Yan notes that Chinese GDP has reached 71% of US GDP by the end of 2020 and is expected to “close the remaining gap over the next decade.” While China “has become a world power that can meet the rest of the world on an equal footing”, it is not trying to “present its relations with the West as another cold war; Beijing leaders believe that Soviet-style ideological expansionism could trigger a backlash that could hamper the pursuit of [economic] growth â, although Chinaâ will try to shape an ideological environment conducive to its rise â. This is an interesting change of direction, which should be studied more closely.
Illustrating the change in the balance of power, Yan cites a âconfirmed retaliatory sanctions strategyâ. For example, when the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 14 senior Chinese officials, China responded in kind and imposed sanctions on 28 US officials, including then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Likewise, China has “quickly retaliated” against British and European sanctions. The Chinese government “rightly regards any sanction or criticism of its policies as interference in its internal affairs.” Actions like these would have been unthinkable in the celebratory atmosphere of the “end of history” that dominated Western foreign policy thought following the defeat of Soviet socialism in the 1990s.
On the military front, China’s strategy is twofold, adds Yan. First, to transform the People’s Liberation Army into “a world-class fighting force ready for war at all times”, although its main mission “remains that of deterrence and not of expansion”.
Second, China aims to establish “bilateral strategic partnerships”. A few weeks after the Alaskan summit where Chinese diplomats berated their American counterparts (saying that American officials “do not have the qualifications … to speak to China from a position of strength”), Beijing “has launched a vast diplomatic campaign, sending his defense minister to the Balkans and his foreign minister to the Middle East, where the latter officially signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement with Iran and pledged $ 400 billion in “Chinese investments. China has also received foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea. And the China-Russia relationship will remain an important geopolitical reality, much to Washington’s dismay.”
In short, we are entering a post-pandemic, multipolar world, and policymakers will increasingly have to âcome to terms with this new reality,â Yan concluded.
Wang Jisi, president of the Institute for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University, noted that China is now more robust economically than the former Soviet Union during the Cold War and that China has replaced the United States. United as the main destination for foreign investment. “Americans have more and more the feeling that in a conflict with China, the momentum is with Beijing,” he added. It’s also an important recognition that hints at something more than a repeat of the 20th century Cold War.
For Wang, US-China relations revolve around “two orders: the internal order that the CCP maintains in China and the international order that the United States wants to rule and maintain.” Until recently, Washington and Beijing âmaintained an implicit understandingâ. The United States “would not openly attempt to destabilize China’s internal order and, in turn, China would not intentionally weaken the international order led by the United States.” It is within this framework that the two economies developed – âto the point of interdependenceâ. They also cooperated on the fight against terrorism and climate change.
However, this understanding “has now collapsed”, as the United States “seems determined to weaken” the CCP and China increasingly shows its international muscles, refusing to be coerced as an economic partner and junior world politics. The Chinese called for “mutual respect”. According to Wang, “Washington must respect Beijing’s internal order, which has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and brought stability to the world’s largest country.”
These are important observations from a multiplicity of sources that go beyond the resounding and bombastic calls for a new cold war. If one thing is clear – from informed sources, domestic and inside China – it’s this: China is on the rise. We can embrace it with mutual respect and friendship, or we can continue on the path of increased hostility. But, if the informed reports are correct, the result may be an overall weakening of Western capitalism, not the triumphalism of the post-Soviet 90s.
As with all editorials published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.