Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Chinese Power: How Will It be Used?

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC by 2.0

In the new era that Xi Jinping declared at the just-completed 19th CPC Congress, China’s power will be more visibly on display in its international relationships. That is likely to give the nation’s ill-wishers much fodder with which to demonize it further. All the more important, therefore, for well-informed onlookers to understand the context of Chinese power projection in the 21st century.

Since the dark days of the late Qing Dynasty, Chinese reformers and leaders of all political persuasion have regarded “fuqiang” (rich and strong) as the ultimate goal of China’s self-improvement efforts. First, of course, the catastrophic consequences of dynastic collapse had to be dealt with. Mao Zedong did that by leading an epic revolution that reunited the nation and restored its sovereign authority.

“Fu” (wealth) then became the historical mission of the Deng Xiaoping era. China accomplished it in spades, becoming an economic superpower and setting many world records in the process. To focus on that monumental task, Beijing’s foreign policy was low-key, risk-adverse and highly accommodating. It was perfectly encapsulated in Deng’s dictum, “Lie low and build strength.”

Now that “fu” is initially accomplished, China under Xi is finally turning to “qiang.” What does exercising strength mean, to the Chinese? Certainly not what the Western powers have demonstrated the past two centuries: hegemonic subjugation of other nations and peoples, looting their resources, and institutionalizing that exploitation via global systems rigged in their favor.

China’s way of exercising power is already apparent the past few years. At the core is an effort to build international ties of a mutually beneficial and largely economic nature. Its quintessence is the Belt & Road Initiative, a vision to turn the entire EurAsian landmass into a vibrant, interconnected hub of human productivity and welfare. Millennia of history show that China is not at heart a predatory power.

But given contemporary realities, the BRI megaproject is more than likely to come under full-spectrum assault from the predatory, militaristic US-led imperium, whose longstanding global dominion it threatens. This is where Chinese strength will come in (together with that of BRI partners). Given EurAsia’s vastness, China will need powerful, state-of-the-art military capabilities simply to protect BRI’s footprint. And that, as President Xi has made clear, is what China is committed to building.

Beijing’s growing power will also be used to defend the nation’s core interests. Those who would challenge it on sovereignty issues can expect significantly stronger pushback. That includes Taiwan, the South China Sea, Diaoyu Islands, Tibet, Xinjiang and even Hong Kong, where local anti-Communists have joined forces with the imperium’s agents to stymie progress for two decades.

A time-honored Chinese maxim on the use of force goes: “If you don’t mess with me, I won’t mess with you. But if you mess with me, I will assuredly mess with you.” Mao and his successors actually stated that, from time to time. Another saying: “A weak country has no foreign policy.” In the 21st century, those adages will likely become the animus for China’s exercise of power.

More articles by:
October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Zhivko Illeieff
Why Can’t the Democrats Reach the Millennials?
Steve Kelly
Quiet, Please! The Latest Threat to the Big Wild
Manuel García, Jr.
The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ Over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Adam Parsons
A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Crash
Binoy Kampmark
The Tyranny of Fashion: Shredding Banksy
Dean Baker
How Big is Big? Trump, the NYT and Foreign Aid
Vern Loomis
The Boofing of America
October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us