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:

February 21, 2019
Nick Pemberton
Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era
Chris Orlet
The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour
Bruce E. Levine
“Heavy Drinking” and the NYT’s Offensive Obit on Herbert Fingarette
Lisi Krall
This Historical Moment Demands Transformation of Our Institutions. The Green New Deal Won’t Do That
Stephanie Savell
Mapping the American War on Terror: Now in 80 Countries
Daniel Warner
New York, New York: a Resounding Victory for New York Over Amazon
Russell Mokhiber
With Monsanto and Glyphosate on the Run AAAS Revokes Award to Scientists Whose Studies Led to Ban on Weedkiller in Sri Lanka and Other Countries
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Fake National Emergency Moves America Closer to an Autocracy
Alex Campbell
Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid
Jonah Raskin
Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer
Binoy Kampmark
Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380
February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC