President Xi’s cherished dream of enforcing ‘Middle Kingdom’ order is far from reality
The ancient Han dynasty of China which transformed the country into a world empire had visualized in the early 4th century the idea of establishing a Pax Sinica world order. In the 21st century China’s aggressive expansionist posturing is ostensibly aimed at resurrecting such a Sino-centric world order. China has made use of coercive economic, diplomatic and military means to achieve its professed aim. A Confucian world order is a task in the making.
Xi’s vision of China
Samuel P Huntington in his seminal book ‘The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order’ in a prophetic manner warned that the 21st century is likely to be shaped by an epic clash in the form of ‘Chinese assertiveness’, ‘Western arrogance’ and ‘Islamic Resurgence’. Xi seems to be fully determined on altering the status quo ante.
The dream of the ‘Asian century’ has manifested itself in the form of the ‘Chinese century’ for the Chinese president. Like the Japanese aim of building a ‘co-prosperity sphere’ during the second half of the 20th century especially during the second world war China too seems to be fashioning the world order in accordance with the vision of Xi’s predecessors.
China is making the use of all tools in its arsenal. In recent years a discernible pattern has emerged over China’s border and maritime assertions. Beijing has laid claim to the entire resource rich South China Sea region, besides claiming the entire Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in India or Arunachal Pradesh or Vladivostok in Russia.
Deng Xiaoping’s aim of ensuring the ‘peaceful rise’ of China is over. The incumbent Chinese Premier Xi Jingping is shaping China and the tumultuous world order in accordance with his aim of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
This Chinese vision is amply evident through the bellicose wolf warrior diplomacy as well the use of carrot and stick policy of ‘economic empowerment’ of other nations through the famed BRI route.
A reality check is however imperative. At this critical juncture, the dragon has suffered a huge reputational loss due its lackadaisical handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beijing’s opacity in the early stages of the virus outbreak not only led to the loss of critical time but has also resulted in a massive economic slump unseen since the Great Economic Depression of the 1930s.
The IMF has claimed in its world economic outlook report that the global economy can tank by more than 4 percent. The world has stepped up its scrutiny of the Chinese premier’s pet project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
As if the global criticism against China’s cover up of the pandemic wasn’t enough, the dragon is facing new headaches on the territorial front. Nation states are fighting back against Beijing’s irredentist claims.
Taiwan has made it very clear that it will remain an independent country without any formal allegiance to the communist party on the mainland.
America and the wider western world have been aiding Taiwan to stay afloat by military and economic.
Vietnam along Philippines and Indonesia made it clear recently at a regional summit that the claims over South China Sea is to decided exclusively on the basis of the UNCLOS treaty propounded in 1982.
More damaging is Beijing’s skirmish with New Delhi at over five points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The June 15 clash between Indian and Chinese troops which left over 20 Indian soldiers dead has sparked uproar not only in India but also from other parts of the globe. India’s banning of 59 Chinese apps and scrutiny of Chinese investments are evidence that the elephant is leading the fight against the dragon.
China also faces harsh opprobrium against its consistent attempts to undermine the political sanctity of Hong Kong, the passage of the draconian national security law which criminalizes subversion, terrorism and foreign interference is a textbook example of how China has choked the financial hub’s autonomy. The future for Beijing doesn’t look promising.
A distant dream
Given that China is fighting perceptional and territorial conflicts with multiple state and non-state actors, it is very clear that the President Xi’s cherished dream of enforcing the ‘Middle Kingdom’ order is a far from reality.
China needs some urgent introspection regarding its global ambitions, for this they need to pay heed to the advice of Italian diplomat and strategist Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice “diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.”