America Must Understand China’s Global Vision

Op-Ed by Neenah Payne

The coronavirus scare must not distract us from understanding the multiple challenges China poses to the world under President Xi Jinping. We are witnessing not just the rise of China, but also the rise of perhaps the world’s first global leader. Since the Chinese constitution was revised in 2018 to allow President Xi to continue after the completion of his 10-year term in 2023, Xi may be on the world stage for the rest of his life. So, Xi’s “China Dream” is likely to change the world in powerful ways.

How China Is Changing The World Now! shows that Xi is a very effective diplomat – but where is he headed? Leaders of every nation have plans to improve the conditions for their countries. Trump’s goal is to “Make America Great Again”. However, President Xi Jinping may be unique in history because his vision in not just for China – but for much of the planet! Xi has overseen the construction of the largest rollout of high-speed trains, the lifting of millions of Chinese out of poverty, and the establishment of China as the world’s fastest-growing economy, but his plans extend around the globe in multiple ways.

Xi’s unique vision includes participation in the BRICS nations and his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aka “The New Silk Road” that will link 65 nations throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. China’s investment in the infrastructure of many of the 55 African nations is reviving that continent and winning friends for China. In a win-win arrangement, China is gaining access to the mineral resources it needs for industrialization while building roads, highways, schools, universities, hospitals, airports, wells, and manufacturing centers for Africa. The West has much to learn from China’s way of dealing with Africa.

When Queen Elizabeth rolled out the red carpet for Xi in 2015, the two countries agreed to build a global partnership for the 21st century and struck the first deal between China and a developed country in a major strategic industry. China issued RMB sovereign bonds in London, the first of its kind outside China. President Xi called on Britain to join China in establishing a new golden era. China’s relationship with the UK could provide a template for China’s relationship with the European Union.

Xi Jinping’s “Thought”

Xi Jinping’s grand vision discusses Xi’s plans for the next 50 years!  It says:

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would serve as a sprawling land and sea network with China at the heart of the action. Popular estimates indicate that the plan would require investments of between US$1 trillion to US$8 trillion. The immense scale of the project is reflective of Xi’s leadership acumen, his confidence and ambition. It’s safe to assume that such an endeavour would never have been on the agenda of his predecessors. However, Xi has struck a different tone compared to previous Chinese Presidents. In an effort to bolster this vision, he has taken steps to consolidate his power and legitimacy on the domestic front.

The article discusses Xi’s six-fold economic plan:

Such steps are integral to ensure a conforming system as Xi embarks on an ambitious undertaking like the BRI. It marks a major departure from the Dengist policy of taoguang yanghui – of hiding your strength and biding your time. Instead, China under Xi is now becoming more active and ambitious on the international stage which can be seen as a direct effort to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

The article points out:

In October last year, “Xi Jinping thought” – a broad framework of his ideology regarding socialism which also includes his vision of a “Chinese Dream” – was enshrined into the state’s constitution. No other leader has had an eponymous ideology added into the constitution while in office since Mao. Deng’s name was included posthumously in 1997. Earlier this year in February, the constitution was amended again to remove the two-term presidential term limit which was set in place to prevent a similar Maoist authoritarian experience. With the removal of the term limit, Xi can in theory, rule indefinitely well past the end of his second term in 2023.

Xi’s “China Dream”

“China: Time of Xi (Episode 1) – People’s Republic” discusses the “China Dream” (aka “Chinese Dream”) in which President Xi says that elimination of poverty is central to the political narrative of China and he has promised that no one will be left behind. In 2016, China spent more than $10 billion on tackling poverty. Since 2013, 60 million people have been raised above the poverty line. China used to have more low income earners than any country in the world. Today, China has more middle income earners than any other country. In 1980, the average income was $300/year. In 2000, it was $3,000/year. In 2017, average incomes reached $10,000/year.

The video below shows how ecommerce is closing the gap between villages and cities – and the whole world! The combination of state investment, private investment, and smart technology is uniquely Chinese. In 2016, rural ecommerce provided jobs for 20 million people in China for $758 billion. That was up 26% from the previous year. China has also invested heavily in rural education.

Xi has carried out the largest investment in infrastructure modernization in the world. One of the most exciting projects is the bullet train. Now, there are four high-speed train lines running north to south and four east to west. The plan is to double that with eight lines running east to west and eight running north to south in time to showcase them for the 2022 Winter Olympics. China is re-inventing its infrastructure as it reinvents its culture – and is inspiring the world to follow suit now.

The 2015 book The Xi Jinping Era: His Comprehensive Strategy Toward the China Dream says: “China’s development has entered a new phase since the era of Mao and Deng Xiaoping. Xi Jinping has developed a new philosophy of governance. The result is a 30-year plan that is the roadmap to The China Dream. The book provides a preview of what we might expect from China in the Xi Jinping Era.”

The 2015 book The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era defines a national “grand goal” to restore China to its historical glory and to replace the United States as the world leader. That dream is essential for understanding China’s strategic goals in the 21st century.

At a time when the American Dream seems to be dying, the China Dream is just getting started!

China’s Unprecedented Recovery

“China: Time of Xi (Episode #3) All Aboard” says that when China hosted the G20 meeting in 2016 for the first time, President Xi articulated a new mindset. It is a global vision based on collaboration in the recognition of a shared destiny. The rise of China is setting a new bar in many fields. China is leading the world in the recovery of deserts. China is the biggest contributor to the UN Peace Keeping Operations with 35,000 Chinese serving as UN Blue Helmets. China launched the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in 2015 to help empower other countries. It now has billions of dollars from 100 countries and serves as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund which has caused so many problems.

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order: Second Edition is by Dr. Martin Jacques, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University and at the China Institute, Fudan University. Dr. Jacques is also a Senior Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, Fudan University, Shanghai, as well as the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore.  Dr. Jacques predicts that Chinese economic power is likely to be much greater than any we have ever seen.

He points out that the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) represents a globalization model built in the developing world rather that the Western model based in the developed world. He predicts that Eurasia will strongly turn toward China as a role model for development and culture – just as countries used to look to America. China is going to become much more important than it is now. The BRI is one of the most important ways of thinking worldwide since World War II. He says that it is making sure that the world sees China as a partner rather than as a threat because it is apparently promoting collaboration.

Louis-Vincent Gave is co-author of Clash of Empires: Currencies and Power in a Multipolar World and author of two other books. He founded Gavekal, a financial research company. In “China Myths, Propaganda, Realities,” Gave says China has experienced an economic miracle — the biggest in history. The Chinese were starving 30 years ago. China brought a billion people out of poverty.

China’s unprecedented economic transformation was produced by the state’s extremely large-scale investment in infrastructure. In a highly-deflationary world, China has been running the biggest trade surpluses in history. In a world with very little growth, China is sucking $600 billion dollars of growth from the rest of the world. China has the second biggest internet in the world – second only to the US.

In the early 1990s, China was graduating 300,000 university students each year. In 2016, China graduated seven million university students. That’s an improvement in human capital such as the world has never seen. The new Long March — Xi’s 15-year battle plan with the US says Xi has invoked the historic struggle to unite his party in its long-term battle with the U.S. Xi has adopted a ‘talk and strike’ strategy until China eventually wins in 2035.

What is America’s 15-year plan? What do we plan to accomplish by 2035 – and in 50 years?

President Xi: Major Turning Point in China

The 2018 Google talk “Xi for life? What does it mean for China and the World?” is a presentation by Roy Truex, Princeton University professor of Chinese politics and authoritarian regimes. Professor Truex says that 2017/2018, the year President Xi Jinping signaled a “New Era” of his own making, is the most important turning point for China.

Xi’s presidency is even more important than the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 by Mao Zedong or the opening of China to the West in 1978 by Deng Xiaoping, known as “the Architect of Modern China”. Deng established a reform period as China adopted market strategies. Xi’s focus on eliminating corruption is widely supported and is the Chinese version of Trump’s “Drain the Swamp”.

Xi fosters an image of a “Man of the People” and has a charisma that makes him popular.

Truex says many Westerners predicted in 2013 when Xi became Vice President that he would be the new “Gorbachev” – a democrat who would liberalize China and embark on political reform. That idea was based on the fact that Xi spent time in Iowa on an exchange program (shown in the photo above) and his daughter (shown above) graduated from Harvard. However, Truex says that while Xi is a reformer, he is moving China in a more authoritarian direction rather than a democratic one. Truex says China is becoming increasingly repressive with the use of intimidation, detention, and torture.

Truex defines Xi as a “popular authoritarian nationalist”. One of the key phrases of Xi’s “Thought” is the “China Dream” – national rejuvenation. There is a narrative in the Chinese political system that China was once a great nation and it was robbed of that status by foreign imperialist powers beginning with the Opium War, and there was a Century of Humiliation from which China was freed in 1949 with the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party. The Dream is that China will, once again, become a strong, powerful, prosperous nation.

The Chinese Dream is the Chinese version of  Trump’s “Make America Great Again”. In the reassertion of nationalism, Xi is increasingly assertive on the international stage in various ways including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a multi-billion-dollar investment program spanning multiple countries and three continents. However, while Xi promotes the BRI as a “win-win” project that benefits not just China but each of the 65 nations linked in the New Silk Road, there are growing reports that the BRI is being implemented in abusive ways. So, while President Xi cultivates a very collaborative and harmonious image, the reality in China and abroad is quite different – and increasingly dangerous for the world.

Xi’s Concentration of Power

Professor Truex says that one of the basic tenets of (democratic) government is that power should not be concentrated in the hands of one person. One of the lessons of Mao’s era is that no leader should become too powerful – and now that lesson is being forgotten in the era of Xi. This warning is important to note now because the “China Model” could become one that other developing countries emulate.

Truex points to three troubling trends in China now:

  1. Increasing Cult of Personality: Xi is seen as the “next Mao” or China’s “next emperor”.
  2. “Yes Man” Policy: Public opposition to Xi would be career suicide. So, a lot of sycophants are praising Xi and universities are studying Xi’s “Thought” with little or no critical analysis.
  3. The Increasingly Sophisticated Surveillance State: China is now an authoritarian, repressive, and highly-sophisticated regime that is using high-tech to monitor its citizens. The facial recognition technology shown below is being rolled out in various localities. So, in a few years, the Chinese Communist Party may have full information on its population. The combination of closed circuit TVs around the country and Artificial Intelligence, with the social media data from “WeChat” – a social network and the replacement for cash — gives the government knowledge of each person’s location, purchases, social network, and communications.There are reports that this technology is being used in the Western province of Xinjiang which has a large Muslim population (Uighurs) to identify people who are assigned to re-education camps. The eyes and ears of the Chinese state are increasingly everywhere. However, this surveillance system has an even more ominous aspect as it is fed into “Social Credit Scores” described below which can completely control the fate of every person in China.

China’s New “Social Credit Score”

China is testing a new plan whose stated aim is to make it easier for citizens to do business and to trust each other. According to NPR, the fact that most Chinese people don’t have bank accounts or credit histories may have spurred the government to create a credit score. The Social Credit Score was first announced in 2014. The government said the system will help ensure a model society in which “sincerity and trustworthiness become conscious norms.” It’s similar to the American credit score, but much more sweeping. It tracks far more than financial transactions.

Starting in 2020, each person’s “Social Credit Score” will determine his/her rights and privileges. Every citizen starts with a score of 1,000. NPR reported the ranking as follows: 960 to 1,000 is an A; 850 to 955 points is a B; 840 to 600 is a C; below that is a D which designates the score-holder as “untrustworthy.” While the government hasn’t made the methodology used to calculate scores public, one’s ranking can fall for both major and minor infractions. People with high scores get perks — like discounts on utility bills and faster application processes to travel abroad.

Different parts of the country have different criteria to judge citizens. Serious violations include drunk-driving, embezzlement, and fraud. Much smaller violations that result in a lowered score include playing too many video games, spreading “fake news” especially about terrorist attacks, or refusing military service. Penalties will be imposed on people who cause trouble on flights, use expired tickets, smoke on trains, light up in smoke-free zones, engage in financial behaviors like “frivolous spending”, smoke or use mobile phones while driving, jaywalk, walk dogs without a leash, drive through a red light, play loud music at a public place, fail to pay utility bills or court bills, or break Communist Party rules.

Chinese who have a low “Social Score” can be banned for a year from traveling by train or plane as well as from attending certain schools. People with a low score are not allowed to stay in fancier hotels, buy real estate, purchase luxury cars, or send their children to private schools. Trust-breakers will be restricted from employment. People may be deprived of borrowing money.

Liu Hu is a journalist in China, writing about censorship and government corruption. Because of his work, Liu was arrested, fined, and blacklisted. Liu was named on a List of Dishonest Persons Subject to Enforcement by the Supreme People’s Court as “not qualified” to buy a plane ticket, and banned from traveling some train lines, buying property, or taking out a loan. “There was no file, no police warrant, no official advance notification. They just cut me off from the things I was once entitled to,” he told The Globe and Mail. “What’s really scary is there’s nothing you can do about it. You can report to no one. You are stuck in the middle of nowhere.” Human Rights Watch warns: “As President Xi Jinping’s power grows, and as the system approaches full implementation, more abuses will come.”

Opposition to Xi Jinping At Home and Abroad

Mao Zedong annexed the mineral-rich Xinjiang region, home of the Turkish Uyghur people. China’s plan seems to be to steal the land and eradicate the culture. Xi has implemented a harsh police state. The 2018 article Xi Jinping’s Genocide of the Uyghurs says:

It is now known to the world that the Uyghurs are going through one of the most horrific cultural genocides of the 21st Century. The emerging testimonies from the victims of it…point to a bigger picture that China, with a morally abhorrent and psychologically cold-blooded cruelty, are crushing the Uyghurs at all levels. Xi Jinping is the mastermind behind this genocide as the leader of China, and for the most part has somehow escaped the spotlight of international pressure and criticism, remaining a silent and unnoticed perpetuator of this genocide….For Xi Jinping, this paves the way for the successful implementation of the mega-Eurasia project, the One Belt and One Road Initiative, to which the Uyghurs are perceived to be a threat.

The 2019 article Xi deploys heavyweights to Xinjiang and Hong Kong before conclave points out:

As Xi Jinping prepares for the annual Beidaihe conclave, he is also trying to quiet the hubbubs enveloping the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Hong Kong. It has been 10 years since Xinjiang saw a massive clash between Han Chinese residents and the mostly Muslim ethnic minority Uighur residents in Urmuqi, the region’s capital city. Many people are thought to have died (Chinese authorities have admitted 197 deaths). Tensions in the region have been simmering, and Western countries now accuse China of forcibly detaining more than 1 million Muslims in the autonomous region. A group of 22 countries, including Japan, the U.K. and France, in early June submitted a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council expressing concerns over the mass detention of Uighurs.

The article adds:

“President Donald Trump’s administration has also stepped up its criticism of China’s religious crackdown.” In Xinjiang, the Communist Party has imprisoned more than a million Chinese Muslims, including Uighurs, in internment camps, where they endure round-the-clock brainwashing,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the Washington conference.

China’s leadership also faces critical issues in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

 


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