To contain, isolate, weaken and combat the rising China, and to persuade and mobilize their people to identify with and support their goals and actions, the United States and its Western allies have spared no effort to distort the intentions of China’s development strategy, and, evidently with ulterior motives, “quoted” out of context the statements of the Chinese leaders and senior officials to “prove” their allegations.
In the narratives of the politicians and experts in the US and its Western allies, China is deliberately trying to replace the US and the West as the global hegemon and build a modern version of the “tributary” international order, with China as the core and other countries as compliant and sycophantic vassals. China is also keen to impose on other countries its “authoritarian” political system, “state capitalist” economic system, and the associated beliefs that blatantly violate the “universal values” espoused by the West. In the US-Western discourse, if China succeeds in achieving its “sinister goals”, the US will have no place in the Asia-Pacific region and Eurasia. The “liberal international order” (LIO) crafted by the US after World War II will no longer be sustainable. The system of alliances and partnerships led by the US will fall apart. The US hence will not be able to maintain its global hegemony. Not only that — the US and other Western countries will experience the tragedy of economic, political, social and cultural upheaval, collapse and retrogression. And their democratic institutions and market economies will implode. For these reasons, the US and its allies must regard China as their No 1 enemy, unite as one, and actively form alliances with other like-minded countries to end or stall China’s rise.
Notwithstanding Western distortions, China’s strategic intentions and actions can be understood easily from the perspective of common sense, rationality and empathy. Over the past 200 years, the Chinese nation has been brutally oppressed by Western imperialism, global colonialism and Japanese militarism, as well as US and Western hegemonism. After taking into account China’s historical and cultural background, its actual conditions and the severe situation at home and abroad that China has been encountering, all the development paths advocated by most Chinese politicians and intellectuals set great store on the indispensability of a strong political force that can mobilize and unite the vast majority of Chinese people, because only under the leadership of this strong political force can China restore national independence, safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and achieve prosperity and strength. Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, however, China lacked that strong political force and had erroneously adopted development paths that were not compatible with China’s needs and conditions. After the founding of the PRC, China finally embarked on the successful path of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (SWCC). At the core of SWCC is the strong, unified and comprehensive leadership of the Communist Party of China, with the State not only playing a leading role in economic and social development but also using planning and marketing concomitantly to achieve economic growth, technological progress, social justice and improvement of people’s lives. The path of SWCC is unique and deeply embodies China’s historical and cultural heritage, so it is impossible to replicate in other countries, and China has absolutely no intention to impose its development model on other countries.
As a matter of fact, in the rise of the US and other Western countries, and even today, the state, rather than the market, has always played a major role. In the history of the US, which used to trumpet the “free market”, the role of the federal government in promoting economic development has always been prominent. The criticism of the US and its allies that China does not allow the market to play the leading role smacks of hypocrisy and arrogance.
Today, states in many countries in the LIO are actively involved in the economic domain, but they are not denounced because of their strategic importance to the US or because they are the objects of its solicitation. What is most ironic is that China was already a socialist country when it was “allowed” by the West to enter the LIO. Now, however, many Americans are feigning “disappointment” that the role of the State in the Chinese economy is “still” preponderant. Because China can still achieve economic miracles without following the Western development model, it naturally poses a huge challenge to the West, and China inevitably becomes its bugbear.
In the process of building a prosperous and strong China, the CPC must constantly adjust its development strategy in response to the ever-changing international and domestic environment. It’s natural that the ongoing 20th CPC National Congress has drawn global attention.
For some time after the founding of the PRC, under the encirclement and blockade of the West, and the later unilateral termination of aid by the Soviet Union, China had no alternative but to take the road of “self-reliance”. However, with the changes in the international situation in the 1970s, China could pursue the “reform and opening-up” strategy. China rises breathtakingly by actively participating in the LIO dominated by the US. It goes without saying that China’s accession has also brought rich returns to the West. However, with the rise of China and other major developing countries, coupled with the irresponsible aberrant and delinquent behavior of the US, particularly in forcing other countries to adopt Western-styled “democracy”, the unfairness, nondemocratic nature, limited inclusiveness and inadequacies of the LIO have become all too transparent. It now has reached the point where its reform cannot be further delayed. In recent years, more and more Western experts and scholars have also become aware of the problems plaguing this LIO.
To this day, China remains a beneficiary of that LIO and has never intended to overthrow or undermine it. However, China and other developing countries on the rise will naturally want the international order to be reformed so that all countries are treated fairly and justly, and that the multitude of often-abused privileges “claimed” by the US and the West should be curtailed. Now and in the future, calls for reform of the LIO will only grow louder. The US and the West must respect the sovereignty of other countries and their right to choose the paths suitable for their development, and allow countries that adopt different development paths to peacefully coexist with the West in a new and reformed international order.
Chinese leaders have always stressed that even if China becomes a powerful country, China will not seek hegemony and will continue to develop relations with other countries by the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.” It’s noteworthy that among the great powers today, China is the only one that has not yet achieved complete national unification and is still the victim of the separatist forces and their foreign patrons. Consequently, on the one hand, China hopes to coexist peacefully with other countries in the world, work together with them to safeguard world peace and stability, and tackle major global problems; on the other hand, China is prepared to shoulder its responsibilities to mankind within its capabilities. However, the experience of the US as a global hegemon, the heavy price it has paid and the inordinate suffering it has inflicted on people around the world have made a rising China highly cautious and deeply vigilant. Given the experience and lessons of the US, if China becomes a global hegemon, no matter what ideology it upholds, it will inevitably be involved in endless wars and conflicts as the US is, which will endlessly deplete the resources of the country. It will face insuperable difficulty in trying to supply large amounts of public goods and renminbi to the world. It will also incur endless disdain from other nations and create contradictions within itself. For China, a multipolar and pluralistic world in which multilateralism is the norm is in its best interests and is also more conducive to world peace and progress.
Every sovereign state has its core interests, and China is no exception. China has long openly declared where its core interests lie. Among them, national sovereignty, security and development interests are general core interests, while Taiwan and the South China Sea are the specific core interests that are currently preponderant. China has repeatedly stressed that it will resolutely defend its core interests, Contrary to the accusations of the West, China has no ambition for territorial aggrandizement.
The renminbi is still far away from being an international currency of the world despite China being its largest trading nation. As a result, China’s financial interests and stability have been repeatedly undermined and threatened by the hegemony of the US dollar. As China’s economic and trade relations with other countries become closer, and personnel exchanges more frequent, China’s interests have spread all over the world and need to be protected through greater diplomatic and military capabilities. Naturally, we are seeing that on the one hand, China is firmly committed to peaceful and friendly coexistence with all countries in the world and is willing to make efforts and contributions to world peace, but at the same time, it is also determined to safeguard its core interests and advance other practical interests at all costs, especially to achieve the complete reunification of the country. Not surprisingly, China vigorously defends its core interests and actions against invasion and encroachment by external forces, including strengthening its military power, developing friendly and cooperative relations with more countries, promoting regional economic cooperation, and accelerating the internationalization of the renminbi. These activities have become ever more necessary and legitimate as the US and its allies continue to carry out comprehensive containment and strikes against China in all areas.
Under the misjudgments of the US and the West, China has become the “No 1 enemy” that they cannot coexist with and hence must be contained and defeated in no time. This approach has not only seriously damaged mutual relations but has also destabilized the international order and world peace and made it impossible for many salient global problems to be properly handled. Until the US and the West understand that the primary goal of the Chinese people, who have been bullied by the Western powers for 200 years, is to become a rich and powerful nation that can definitely “stand firm among the nations of the world”, and is prepared to coexist peacefully, compete fairly, and progress together with all other countries, including the US and the West, the US and its Western allies’ antagonism toward China will persist. Only when this is no longer the case can long-term peace and development in the world be secured.
The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.