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China’s President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the Boao Forum for Asian Annual Conference in Boao, China, on April 10, 2018. Photo: AFP/Hideo Kamata/The Yomiuri Shimbun
China’s President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the Boao Forum for Asian Annual Conference in Boao, China, on April 10, 2018. Photo: AFP/Hideo Kamata/The Yomiuri Shimbun

In times of grave geopolitical trouble it’s up for a true statesman to step up in the global podium and defuse a noxious Cold War 2.0 atmosphere. President Xi Jinping did deliver with his keynote speech at the annual Boao Forum in Hainan.

Here’s the full speech. And let’s start with a single sentence:

As we are going through the Covid-19 pandemic, people of all countries have more clearly realized that it is necessary to abandon the cold war mentality and zero-sum game, and oppose any form of new cold war and ideological confrontation.

The Boao audience, in a sort of Sino-Davos gathering, was composed not only of pan-Asian guests. Significantly, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple’s Tim Cook, Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman and Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio, among others, were giving Xi their full attention.

In a relatively compact speech, Xi once again exposed the architecture of multilateralism – and how a back-to-superpower-status China fits in. The message may have been subtly directed to the Hegemon, but most of all to a fast integrating Eurasia, as well as the whole Global South.

Xi emphasized multilateralism as the realm of justice, not hegemony, featuring “extensive consultation”, big countries behaving “in a manner befitting their status and with a greater sense of responsibility”, and all that leading to “shared benefits”, not the welfare of the 0.001%.

Beijing sees an open world economy as the pathway to multilateralism – which implies no “walls” and no “decoupling”, with China progressively opening up its own economy and boosting the interconnection of supply chains, digital economy and artificial intelligence (AI).

In a nutshell, that’s Made in China 2025 in action – without referring to the terminology that was much demonized during the Trump era.

Multilateralism and open economy are key components of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – which is not only a vast trade/development model but also China’s overarching foreign policy concept.

So Xi once again had to stress that BRI is “a public road open to all, not a private path owned by one single party”. It is as much about poverty alleviation, economic growth and infrastructure “hard connectivity” as about “soft connectivity” – which includes “cooperation in infectious disease control, public health, traditional medicine and other areas”.

It’s quite telling that when Xi mentioned the adoption of Chinese vaccines, he illustrated it with two examples from the Global South: Brazil and Indonesia.

How to seduce the Global South

The Chinese approach to a new pattern of international relations draws as much from Confucius as from the Dao. Hence the emphasis on “community of shared destiny” as applied globally, and the refusal of a “Cold War and zero-sum mentality” as well as “ideological confrontation in whatever forms”.

The emphasis is on “equality, mutual respect and mutual trust” on the forefront of international relations, as well as “exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations”. The overwhelming majority of the Global South certainly gets the message.

As it stands though, realpolitik dictates Cold War 2.0 is already in effect, pitting Washington against the Russia-China strategic partnership. The key area where the game is played is in fact the whole Global South.

So Xi must be aware that the onus is on Beijing to prove “a new type of international relations” is the preferred road map ahead.

The Global South will be very much aware of China’s efforts “to do more to help developing countries defeat the virus” and “honor its commitment of making vaccines a global public good.”

On a practical level, this will be as crucial as keeping China in check in reference to Xi’s promise that the civilization-state “will never seek hegemony, expansion, or a sphere of influence no matter how strong it may grow”. The fact is great swathes of Asia are a natural, Chinese economic sphere of influence.

The European Union will be sharply focused on “multilateral cooperation on trade and investment” – in reference to the ratification and signing later this year of the China-EU trade deal. And US businesses carefully following Xi’s speech will be very much interested in an enticing promise: “All are welcome to share in the vast opportunities of the Chinese market”.

International relations are now totally polarized between competing governance systems. Yet for the overwhelming majority of Global South actors, especially the poorer nations, the ultimate test for each system – as Chinese scholars know so well – is the ability to advance society and improve people’s lives.

Chinese scholars and policy makers privilege what they define as SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) development plans.

This has translated in practice into confidence by the majority of Chinese citizens in their political model – whatever the West’s interpretations. What matters is how Beijing spent the shortest time anywhere in controlling Covid-19; how the economy is growing again; how poverty alleviation was a huge success (800 million people out of poverty in three decades; 99 million rural people and 128,000 rural villages in the last stretch); and how the official goal of achieving a “moderately prosperous society” is being met.

Beijing, over the years, has carefully framed the narrative of a “peaceful rise” based on its immense historical and cultural legacies.

In China, the interplay between historical resonance and future dreams is extremely complex for a foreigner to decode. Rhythms from the past are always echoing in the future.

What this ultimately means is that Chinese exceptionalism – quite obvious throughout centuries of history – is essentially based in Confucianism, which defines harmony as a supreme virtue and abhors conflict.

And that’s why China won’t follow the belligerent, colonialist recent past of the hegemonic West: once again, one of the key messages of Xi’s Boao speech. If Beijing manages to imprint this “historical mission” narrative all across the Global South – with tangible acts and not just rhetoric – then we will be entering a whole new ball game.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics, Foreign Policy • Tags: Bri, China, China/America, Russia, Xi Jinping 
The China/America Series
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  1. Why is Capitalism, which bills itself as the #1 economic system, so afraid of competition from competitors like Cuba and Venequela?

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  2. sarz says:

    This is good news. But read Escobar’s piece now as though you were Tibetan. What will all that Confucianist and Daoist resonance do for them? I suppose the ultimate harmony will be when they think they have always been Han. Another fifty years and all those moderately prosperous Hanish Tibetans loaded with gadgets and not a lama in sight.

    Of course that’s not hegemony. Tibet is a part of China—because the Chinese say so. If they started talking that way about Kenya and denouncing splittists there, who would challenge the narrative? Certainly not the most sincere journalists that money could never buy.

  3. Under capitalism, people vote with their dollars and the market responds to peoples needs. That is clearly not what we have. Actual capitalism is not rigged to limit choices and strangle the end user.
    The irony is that despite people bleating about supposed communism landing on the shores of the USA, China is communist in name only. They have capitalism, but corporations are regulated to a reasonable degree, they do not enjoy wholesale control of the government as they do in the West.

    The world is on its head, and words like communism, capitalism, liberal, and conservative, have been made to be void of all meaning. Words like “equality” have been switcheroo’d to words like “equity” and nary a person has said a peep.

  4. Love your country. Hate your government. That’s the motto I now go by as a US citizen, but a more influential China exporting their ideologies across the globe doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better. They can call it, socialism with Chinese characteristics, but I’m pretty sure it’s still communism.

    Let’s see. Authoritarian. Surveillance happy. Dissent not welcome. Unfriendly to the church. The State=god. Propaganda centric. Vast consumerism. Hold on a second! This is what us Americans have become accustomed to. By golly, this should be a pretty seamless transition to the Chinese model.

    I was kinda hoping for a little more variety in the coming multipolar world though. Russia anyone?

  5. PJ London says:

    An article onUNZ some time ago related how in a Chinese village, stapled on the door of a family deemed to be in poverty, a form in a plastic cover, stated what was to be done to raise them above the poverty level, by when and which individual government person was responsible.
    A situation that can only be dreamt of in the civilised western countries of Europe and America.
    The outcry against the Chinese Social Value system is an outcry against the electronic format return to village customs to fit the big city environment.
    Village customs worked for 6,000 years and they see no reason to reject them now.
    You may not want to live under the customs, I do not want to live under them but at least I recognise that they are a good peaceful alternative to the police state that we are currently ruled by.
    Approval of the neighbours is more valuable and more important than obeying laws made 2,000 miles away.

  6. So, Xi is bringing us a ‘Confucian’ based traditional Chinese world order, Pepe?
    Why did Mao get his mindless mobs to destroy every Buddhist temple they saw?
    Where did all the monks go? Did they get retired or ‘retired’?
    Tell me about the rabbits, Pepe.

  7. This is what Britain should have done in 1775 and the United States in 1945, built a global commonwealth based on mutual advantage. It is more humane and ultimately more efficient than a spider web of predator and prey that requires hundreds of overseas military installations to sustain.

    It is also what National Socialist Germany did in its relations with the Global South, set up a system with twenty-four nations of direct exchange of high quality manufactured goods for raw materials and market access. The plan was based on respect of the national sovereignty of all, and bypassing the agents of international capital. In 1953, Churchill finally admitted Britain’s true World War II goal, telling conservative MP Lord Robert Boothby, “Germany’s most unforgivable crime before the Second World War was her attempt to extricate her economic power from the world’s trading system and to create her own exchange mechanism which would deny world finance its opportunity to profit.”

    This time western imperialism is facing a powerful competitor 1.2 billion strong, not a central European nation of just 75 million. Their insatiable greed makes conflict inevitable but not their victory, this time.

    • Replies: @Hapalong Cassidy
  8. joe2.5 says:

    If I were a Tibetan monk (preferably in the Dalai Lama’s US-financed Indian retinue) or if I were a Tibetan son of a serf who doesn’t have to live a slave’s life any longer? With the same rights and opportunities as any other Chinese — Han or no Han. If you have relevant data to the contrary, by all means exhibit them.

  9. @Carroll Price

    Ideological war – which is plain silly. It actually has the reverse effect. Sanctioning countries usually ignites pride in the populace and makes them more resistant to change. If there was no blockade on Cuba it would have had an economic change long ago. Aside from Costa Rica and recently Panama – Cubans were better off than Central America. But but “democracy” and “free markets” are all you hear.

  10. @sarz

    So Tibetans should sit around like museum pieces??? In any event there are plenty of monks around. Is it Han peoples fault that young Tibetans and Uighurs want to live like their modern peers? Young people all around the world are rejecting their parents religion. This is not the 1800’s. Tibetan youth have television amd internet.

    • Replies: @Weaver
  11. @joe2.5

    Yeah the Dalai Lama has had one of the most effective media and historical makeover in modern history. Talk about image rehabilitation…. His CIA handlers undoubtedly got lots of promotions over time – even though their armed insurrection failed as miserably as the Bay of Pigs. It would be the equivalent as if they saved Batista in Cuba and brought him into exile and made him a patron saint of Catholic Church.

  12. @Observator

    It sounds like Nazi Germany followed Bismarck’s advice when it came to the Global South. Bismarck had the foresight to see that colonialism was a losing game.

  13. @Jorge Gringo

    Everyone likes socialism as long as they’re on the receiving end, including conservative right-wingers.

  14. @Carroll Price

    I am working under the assumption here that I’m being labeled as a conservative right winger. I lean conservative for sure. Because liberalism is a disease. However, I am neither a lover of socialism or communism. And what is now passing for capitalism in this country, I’m not very fond of either. And yes. I am very much on the receiving end. The receiving end of lock downs, mask mandates, business closures, high taxes, bad government on the local, state and federal level, high crime, skyrocketing home prices, societal decay. And the list goes on.

    • Replies: @GeeBee
  15. GeeBee says:
    @Jorge Gringo

    You sound like a National Socialist waiting to happen. We shall welcome you with open arms come your moment of understanding.

    • Replies: @Jorge Gringo
  16. @GeeBee

    Nah. Just someone that has come to the realization that right, left, and or otherwise ain’t gonna solve our problems. Hopefully you and others will come to that realization too.

    • Agree: showmethereal
  17. @sarz

    Racist imbecility and arrogant ignorance-the Western ubermensch in all is supremacist glory.

    • Replies: @Weaver
  18. @Carroll Price

    Under real socialism everyone is on the receiving end, according to their needs, not greed, and everyone on the giving end, according to their ability. Blood-sucking parasites will need to re-invent themselves.

    • Replies: @Weaver
  19. @Jorge Gringo

    Paternalistic and communitarian, not ‘authoritarian’. Surveillance necessary to protect themselves from unrelenting Western subversion. Dissent ubiquitous, but not where it threatens the State and social peace. Quite friendly to Churches that know their place. The State= The People. Propaganda VASTLY less totalitarian than in the Free World. It differs from the US in that in China State power is being used to lift up everybody, and in the USA only the oligarchs prosper.

  20. Weaver says:

    Tibet can retain some sense of identity and still enjoy prosperity. Or is China joining the American Borg? There is either a difference, or there is not.

    • Replies: @showmethereal
  21. Weaver says:
    @Mulga Mumblebrain

    You mean theoretical, but applied socialism is just managerial domination.

  22. Weaver says:
    @Mulga Mumblebrain

    His comment had nothing to do with what you just said. If Tibet or another people feel they are not Han Chinese, that doesnt mean they then feel English.

    What’s wonderful about a multipolar world order is at least some parts of the world wont need to bow to either empire. You can say everyone is a racist or use another term, but the balance of power will prevent hegemony from either side. In a word, freedom.

  23. @Weaver

    Traditional Tibetans are easily identifiable – so I don’t know what you mean. The modernized ones are not easily identifiable – but that is their choice

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