“Diplomacy with Chinese characteristics for a new era” is what? It is Beijing’s language on the country’s international achievements between the party congresses: the 18th, which was in 2012, and the current one, the 20th, which opens ten days later, on October 16. That is, in effect, during Xi Jinping’s reign
Congresses of the ruling party, like elections, are useful in any country not only for rotating parts of the top leadership, but also for taking stock of the road travelled and marking out the next job. That is what China’s political system is doing these days – producing a lot of good information and assessments of it. It does so on all topics, but for us outside of China the foreign policy principles of the world’s premier partner should be of primary interest.
And there are two important publications. The first is an article by the country’s leader Xi Jinping in the theoretical party magazine Qiushi (Search for Truth): an article on everything, but above all on the essence of the moment the world and, accordingly, the country, is experiencing. And here it is clear that the leadership is very much aware: a great struggle has begun in a world full of threats and challenges. China’s own struggle in this case is to complete its national renaissance, that is, to regain its place on the planet, which for centuries was by no means its last.
The second article in Zhenmin Jibao specifically focuses on Chinese diplomacy in the new – that is, current – era. We are mainly talking about the diplomacy that has already been formed in the last ten years.
And here we should say with sadness that the diplomacy may have been formed, but the traditional Chinese style of writing such texts is a real barrier between this country and the world. There are too many letters, too many repetitions of the same things, obligatory references to the role of top leaders with all the wording needed in such cases… In short, a translation in all senses of the word is needed here.
Indeed – what is “a new type of international relations, based on mutual respect, equality, fairness and beneficial cooperation”? And this, in fact, is the goal of “global governance reform”, which would lead to the abandonment of the “winner takes all” approach. We do not need such an approach, but rather an “international community with a shared future and a global security community for all”.
Here, of course, is a grand exercise in idealism: China wants to change the world? One has to look at what is going on in this world in the era of the current “great struggle” to realise that we are talking about an unbearably ideal situation in which the current outrages would not be possible.
But without idealism there can be no forward movement. If diplomacy or any other human activity does not have a clear vision of what goals should be pursued, there will be no diplomacy itself – and nothing at all. We will be left to sit in place and be horrified at what others are doing.
But let us not forget that the end is the goal and diplomacy is merely a means to achieve it. How can we label this very diplomacy as performed by Beijing? Especially taking into account that the most complex doctrine or philosophical system can always be expressed in one simple phrase. And the phrase in this case is as follows: for many years now, Beijing has not compelled any of its partners to anything emphatically and demonstratively. It is not idealism, by the way, it is simply better. Because you will be forced to do it today, and then tomorrow will come.
Here is another article from the Chinese media, in which, on the contrary, everything is simple and straightforward – because it is always easier to berate others than to put forward bright ideals. The title of the piece is “For the US, there is no diplomacy but the diplomacy of coercion”.
There is a minimum of slogans and generalities, but a maximum of specifics. The basic idea is simple: the receding superpower is unable to conduct normal diplomacy at all; its options are, if not direct military intervention, then threats and pressure, clear and concrete, or roaring in the air as an unspoken thought. And nothing else.
The specifics are, for example, that US sanctions alone have now been imposed on 40 nations of the world, which is more than half the world’s population. Under Donald Trump alone, all sorts of restrictions were imposed an average of three a day, some figures in the Biden administration criticised Trump for this, but are now busy doing the same.
Another thing: it’s not just those appointed opponents who are under pressure, but also friends and partners. The article describes how a certain Matthew Pottinger, in charge of Asia at the National Security Council, spent hours yelling at unnamed Brits to give up Chinese 5G technology. And he got his way, knocking the closest ally back a few years on the technology front.
It is very difficult to see what is not there. We are talking, remember, about China, a power roughly comparable to the US in economic and military power. And yet over the years it has been difficult to find an example of China putting any other country (and they are increasingly smaller and weaker than it) in an intolerable position of forcing them to do something they do not want to do. Is it China’s coercive policy to curtail business ties with Lithuania over the latter’s flirtation with Taiwan? But this is not “coercive diplomacy”: Vilnius still has an opportunity to make its own voluntary choice. Somebody else may have pressured it…
And it was quite expected around which theses Western propaganda against China is built – on the “reverse” principle. China is known for not coercing anyone, not imposing any values, practices and actions on the world stage – so one should regularly accuse it, for example, of giving other countries money to drive them into a “credit trap”. Or how not to recall here the maniacally persistent attempts to force the PRC to show military muscle in the Taiwan Strait by trapping it in its own promises to “prevent” the island from declaring independence: the goal is simply to make third countries see that Beijing too can behave if not like the US, then at least like one hundredth of them. And never mind that this can only happen if China really gets its foot very much in the door, and not at its initiative.
The idealistic principles of Chinese diplomacy are bad in that they work dimly and slowly. Other principles of Western anti-diplomacy are bad because once you use force and pressure, you provoke hatred and then have to use it all over again – incrementally – until everyone else gets sick of it.
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