LIFE MATTERS: CHINA – Understanding Its Strengths and Weaknesses

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By Col Dennis Acop (Ret), Ph.D.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping promised his people that by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic, ‘China would become a global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence and would build a stable international order in which China’s national rejuvenation would be fully achieved’. Just this statement alone is already pregnant with meaning. This article will attempt to break down this statement of national strategy by the controversial Chinese Premier into its pros and cons given what has happened in the world with China’s actions thus far. Then by knowing the achievements of the up-and-coming challenger to the world order, we can better prepare ourselves for better or worse. There is no more logical way to present this thesis than to address point by point the realizations of the roadmap that Xi Jinping has charted for Pax Sinica.  

Writing for The Atlantic in 2017, Graham Allison believed that Xi Jinping vowed to make China great again by embarking to accomplish the following: (1) ‘Returning China to the predominance it enjoyed in Asia before the West intruded’; (2) ‘Reestablishing control over the territories the Communist Party considers to be ‘greater China’, including not just Xinjiang and Tibet on the mainland, but Hong Kong and Taiwan’; (3) Recovering its historic sphere of influence along its borders and in the adjacent seas so that others give it the deference great nations have always demanded’; and (4) ‘Commanding the respect of other great powers in the councils of the world’. 

The preceding strategies are motivated by what Xi Jinping convinced the Communist Party to be the unfair international order dictated by the West limiting China from becoming a power equal to the United States. Now, Xi is convinced that not only will China surpass the West but will displace Pax Americana by 2049. Hal Brands explained the underlying foreign policy discourse behind Xi’s expressed strategies when he wrote the following for Bloomberg in 2020: (1) ‘A deeply skeptical view of the existing international system. In their view, American alliances do not preserve peace and stability but stunt China’s potential and prevent Asian nations from giving Beijing its due. The Communist Party recognizes that the liberal international order has brought benefits but the party abhors and dreads the principles on which it is based.’ (2) ‘The international order must change a lot for China to become fully prosperous and secure.’ If we dig deeper into what is being said, then the global implications would be just as China expert Liza Tobin concludes which is that ‘a global network of partnerships centered on China would replace the US system of treaty alliances and the world would view Chinese authoritarianism as preferable to Western democracy’.

To see more clearly where the world is headed with China at the helm, it is best to look at what has actually transpired for China interiorly and exteriorly. Through this lens, we get a glimpse of this reality unfolding before our eyes but this time with the added eyes of those who have actually experienced China in other parts of the world. This eye opener allows us to better assess China on the new world order that it proposes. To understand China’s strengths and weaknesses as a world leader. And to determine for ourselves individually and collectively whether Pax Sinica is going to be a better deal. 

Xi Jinping took over from the retiring Deng Xiaoping as leader of China in 2012. To carry out the China Dream that he has been advocating from day one, Xi set out to execute his agenda for action along four key fronts. Graham Allison pointed these out in 2017. First, Xi ‘re-legitimized a strong Communist Party to serve as the vanguard and guardian of the Chinese state’. Second, he made sure that China became wealthy again through sustained economic growth. Third, ‘Xi is making China proud again’. And fourth, Xi has ‘pledged to make China strong again’. 

Unlike his predecessor Deng, Xi Jinping asserted that the Communist Party be in the thick of China’s mainstream governance. This was his first critical action agendum. Though Communist in its state ideology, China had learned its lesson from the past and managed Capitalism better to suit its national interest. This quasi-shift began in the ‘80s. Not long since then, corruption began to rear its ugly head on party bureaucrats prompting Xi to declare upon taking power that ‘corruption could kill the party’. As Allison cites, Xi quoted Confucius and ‘vowed to govern with virtue and keep order through punishments’. Xi then launched an anticorruption drive dubbed the ‘tigers and flies’ campaign wherein ‘more than 900,000 party members were disciplined and 42,000 expelled and prosecuted in criminal courts’. ‘Among those have been 170 high-level ‘tigers’, including dozens of high-ranking military officers and 18 sitting or former members of the 150-person Central Committee’. ‘Xi moved to cement the party’s centrality in China’s governance.’

While Xi’s landmark crackdown on corruption among party members is laudable and a clear illustration of China’s strength, ‘corruption remains a very significant problem in China, impacting all aspects of administration, law enforcement, healthcare, and education’. Continuing corruption therefore remains a damper to Chinese reforms and Xi cannot let-up his anticorruption campaign if China is to reach its goal in 2049. Wikipedia adds that ‘public surveys on the mainland since the late 1980s have shown that it is among the top concerns of the general public’. ‘In popular perception, there are more dishonest CCP officials than honest ones. China specialist Minxin Pei argues that failure to contain widespread corruption is among the most serious threats to China’s future economic and political stability. He estimates that bribery, kickbacks, theft, and waste of public funds costs at least three percent of GDP. Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index ranks the country 80th place out of 198 countries.    

While China’s external dealings may indicate unrelenting strength towards Xi’s strategic blueprint, they can also mask domestic pressures that may not be so visible but are unmistakable owing to historical precedents of authoritarian regimes like the former USSR. That meltdown was not so long ago in fact. As Harlan Ullman wrote (Atlantic Council: 2021), ‘China too may be subject to huge domestic pressures and an increasingly controlling party structure that risk alienating substantial segments of the population. Over one hundred thousand large-scale protests a year have been reported in China as people call for more resources at home and an end to rampant corruption that favors the few rather than the many. A combination of so-called social credits that grade citizens on loyalty and credit-worthiness – using facial recognition – enables the CCP to exert control.’    

The second action agenda of Xi is sustaining China’s unparalleled wealth in the world through its consistently high growth rate. With so much liquidity China has become indispensable in the world’s financial and trade markets. With its unique domestic mix of public-private partnership, it operates like the world’s biggest multinational corporation (MNC). Its centralized ways and means of operating have made it a lot more efficient than Japan Inc. or the biggest MNCs of the West. They have also advanced China’s national interests in ways unparalleled by the democracies of the world. Thus far, China has succeeded in what it must do to sustain a high-performing economy for years to come as Allison has pointed out: ‘accelerating the transition to domestic consumption-driven demand; restructuring or closing inefficient state-owned enterprises; strengthening the base of science and technology to advance innovation; promoting Chinese entrepreneurship; and avoiding unsustainable levels of debt’. 

Much of the above was on course until the pandemic hit in late 2019. Much of China’s silence at the time was mostly in view of the negative repercussions the coronavirus from Wuhan would have had on Xi’s ambitious goals began at the start of his reign. China was doing so well. It was not a time to highlight a problem. Even a problem as serious as a global pandemic. China has actually managed to put a handle on the coronavirus flouting a ‘Mask Diplomacy’ donating even not fully tested vaccines and other medical equipment to Global South countries that would have them including the Philippines. But given the need for readjustment brought on by covid, Xi’s ambitious timetable goals appear to be encountering some significant challenges even if such is not being admitted by China. Gunther Hilpert and Stanzel of Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) wrote in early 2021 that ‘due to the pandemic-related dip in growth, China will just fall short of its self-imposed target of doubling its national income between 2011 and 2020. However, all other long-term development plans remain on course. By 2025, China plans to be the world leader in ten value-added industrial sectors. By 2035, the country aims to double its national income yet again, while also setting the standards for global technology. And in 2049, Xi’s 100th anniversary target, China hopes not only to be modern, strong, and prosperous, but also to assume its position as the leading industrial nation.’

But as an adjustment due to the effects of the pandemic, China has had to come up with a Five-Year Plan to ensure it stays on Xi’s timeline targets. However, as Hilpert and Stanzel pointed out, ‘it is not clear how these guidelines differ from aspirations, which China has pursued (in vain) for 15 years, to balance China’s economic growth. Over the course of the pandemic, the already limited progress in China’s desired macroeconomic rebalancing has vanished into thin air. The share of private consumption in aggregate demand remains at a historically, uniquely low-level of less than 40 percent. Mirroring this, China’s gross fixed capital formation is far too high; it is inefficient, a drain on resources and the cause of growing internal debt. China’s economic growth, driven by investments and exports, is therefore unsustainable, to such an extent that declining economic growth rates are inevitable in the medium term. Productivity growth and the number of people employed have been stagnating for several years. Internal debt has risen to 280 percent of GDP, and a growing number of state-owned enterprises are technically insolvent.’

‘To avert a financial and debt crisis, China would need to make a macroeconomic turnaround. Such a change of course would require a redistribution of income in favor of labor and the rural population, noticeable improvements in public pensions and health care, and the rapid reduction of industrial and real estate overcapacity. Whether the party and the state are politically and ideologically capable of changing course is, however, questionable in view of the so far hesitant approach apparent in Chinese economic policy. Reforms are not the priority of the Xi administration, as it prefers to strengthen the CCP’s claim to global leadership. Accordingly, the national economy has made a comeback over the past decade, and market reforms have been added back. Against this backdrop, and in the face of an increasingly confrontational environment within the global economy, China is not well positioned to meet the economic and structural challenges that lie ahead. With declining economic growth and a budget spread thin, China will face difficulty in financing its increased spending on health, retiree pensions, and the environment and climate. It is hard to imagine how China’s ambitious development plans can be realized in this context.’ Xi has made a vow to make China great again. But the pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench to his unprecedented timeline goals toward 2049. Xi is therefore caught in the middle of satisfying an expectant domestic public while trying, at all costs it seems, to go down in Chinese history as the leader who not only made China great again but did it in notable time.

Xi not only wanted China to ascend but to do it his own way. To promote itself as a world leader, China under Xi sought to spread its influence beginning with the Global South countries – the developing world which is in need of development cash. With its wealth, China can certainly do so. In fact, China was even confused where to begin. At first, it thought that the conservative way of first establishing its primacy in the East-Asian region was necessary before it could expand Pax Sinica through the rest of the world. But now, China feels confident that it could actually do both simultaneously: win Asia and the rest of the world at the same time. Until the pandemic hit. But even then, China under Xi did not let anything get in the way of its 2049 timeline goal. That is why even through the pandemic, China has been relentless in its pursuit of its goals across all fronts globally. To pragmatic critics, this does not seem doable. But Xi is hell-bent on proving everyone wrong. The way things stand, China’s resources are spread out too thinly across almost every region and country in the world. Its investments are everywhere in almost every industry. The momentum of its unique public-private machinery has taken on a mind of its own that even Xi feels he can no longer control. But he thinks that he has unleashed a tiger whose momentum and audacity are its greatest assets. Thus, Xi is not changing course much more turning back. He is letting his gains from 2012 carry on to their logical conclusion which he believes is right on track as he had envisioned. Xi has assumed a god-like status in China that some say may even surpass Mao’s if his legacy succeeds. 

But not so fast just yet anyway. The ‘Belt and Road’ Diplomacy launched by Xi in 2013 indeed has had its fruits wise or otherwise. Initially, the development loans dangled by China to Global South countries in Asia, Africa, and South America seemed perfect – a mutually beneficial deal. However, as partnerships developed with these countries, recipient governments have had to deal with loans they cannot repay forcing some to surrender certain natural or man-made resources to China. The move is most favorable to China whose economic front actually serves political ends in Beijing but ends very badly for unsuspecting loan recipients which have had to lease strategic ports for 99 years, among others, as a result. It is a very delicate issue because small borrowing countries never realized that such loans with China can actually infringe on their sovereign rights and the very lives and livelihoods of their citizens. With these kinds of bilateral relationships entered into by China with a growing number of states, it does not seem rational that the belt and road diplomacy would ultimately work towards a world that would benevolently embrace China. It appears to lead to a global order that could isolate China once again. This type of dealing, which may be acceptable in authoritarian settings, does not work well when applied to contexts where mutually beneficial arrangements are the desired order of the day. 

As former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in March 2018, ‘Beijing encourages dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty’. As in Sri Lanka which owed more than a $1 billion debt to China and where Hambanthota Port had to be handed over to companies owned by the Chinese government, Djibouti in Africa had to do the same under like circumstances. Tillerson added that the recipient countries do not even benefit by way of livelihood jobs as China sends its own overseas workers. This was echoed by former US Vice-President Mike Pence in a speech he delivered later that year. While China has characterized its ‘Belt and Road’ initiative as a win-win between China and every recipient nation, countries that know better call it China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’. ‘China has faced ‘accusations of imperialist behavior when its debt plans go wrong’ according to Tim Fernholz writing for Quartz (2018). ‘The non-profit Center for Global Development analyzed debt to China incurred by nations participating in the Belt and Road investment plan and saw that eight nations found themselves in above-average debt to China: Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.’ The Philippines is now feared to be part of this group due to its incurred loans with China. ‘Researchers say their evidences should raise concerns about economic distress stemming from debt that undermine development efforts altogether. In the past, China has responded to the debtors inconsistently and hasn’t followed best practices adopted by international lenders working with poor countries. Sometimes, the debt has been forgiven; other times, disputed territory or control of infrastructure has been demanded as recompense. From their experiences, Pakistan and Nepal turned down Chinese infrastructure loans in 2019 in favor of other sources of funding.’ The aforementioned is actually occurring now in the Philippines where China increasingly appears emboldened in its incursions into the Philippines’ EEZ in the West Philippine Sea / South China Sea where both countries are claimants. The Philippines continues to suffer the incursions by Chinese vessels despite its having won an arbitral ruling from the UN in 2016 upholding the validity of its claims over China.              

China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is a strategy of China under Xi that ‘spans roughly 80 countries, covering more than two-thirds of the world’s population. Its declared aim is a cross-border, win-win economic stimulus package that will spur economic growth in China and also the countries with which it engages. In exchange for global trade opportunities and economic advantage, it intends to strengthen hard infrastructure with new roads and railways, soft infrastructure with trade and transportation agreements, and even cultural ties with university scholarships and other people to people exchange. This is from a January 2021 panel of experts composed of Professor Ramon Guillermo of the University of the Philippines, Senior Fellow Didi Kirsten Tatlow of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Maung Zarni of Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia (FORSEA), and former Malaysian Senior Minister Tan Sri Dato’Seri Syed Hamid Albar. But given the accusation by participating countries of BRI that it is more like a debt-trap diplomacy, ‘is the debt-trap diplomacy real in the form of a calculated move by China to seize strategic assets to further its geopolitical ambitions as an emerging superpower? Or is it just a misuse of language to describe a common phenomenon depicting the need and greed of financially incompetent borrowers? Is it fair to single out and accuse China when even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regularly hands out massive loans with conditionalities (called Structural Adjustment Programs) to cash-strapped countries that they know are unable to repay their debts, justifying it on implausible assumptions of future economic recovery, in order to make such countries more pliable to and supportive of US foreign policy, often at the expense of their own sovereignty, democracy, and human rights? Are ASEAN countries the latest victims of China’s so-called ‘debt-trap diplomacy’?’ Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, and the Philippines are currently participating in the BRI of China.     

In the case of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte decided to pivot away from long-time ally the US in favor of China. Duterte took over power in 2016 and since then, his preference for China over the West has been unmistakable. In October of that year, Manila and Beijing sealed $24 billion worth of deals and thirteen government-to-government agreements. In November 2018, the Philippines officially announced its cooperation with the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative by formalizing the deal under a Memorandum of Understanding. The Duterte administration’s ‘Build Build Build’ Program, which pledged to usher in the Philippines’ ‘golden age of infrastructure’, dovetails with the concept of the BRI as outlined above. According to Janes Defense Journal, China eyes a strategic port in the Philippines where Chinese companies look to win control of a bankrupt but strategic shipyard at Subic Bay, the ex-site of US military bases and a potential key outpost on the South China Sea. Two unnamed Chinese companies, Philippine government sources say, have expressed interest in taking over the 300-hectare shipyard, reportedly the world’s fifth largest. Analysts note that China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) and China Merchants Group have recently aggressively bid to operate ports in recent years. Chinese investments have become robust in the Philippines and there are efforts to allow them to own real estate properties beyond the traditionally allowable limits so as not to infringe on sovereignty issues. Even the popular Boracay Island has been eyed by Chinese business interests. Philippine Off-Shore Gaming Operations (POGOs) are another investment which compete with local workers as thousands of mainland Chinese have been allowed in as overseas workers. An international tribunal invalidated China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea in 2016, but Beijing does not recognize the ruling and has built artificial islands in the disputed waters equipped with radar, missile batteries, airstrip, and hangars for fighter jets. ‘They have done this (occupy disputed areas) before at Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc and at Panganiban Reef, brazenly violating Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights under international law’, said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The defense chief was reacting to the latest incursions by more than 200 Chinese militia vessels into San Felipe Reef waters which is within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone. The trespassing by the foreign boats was also called out by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin in a strongly worded note to the Chinese Ambassador in Manila.      

As Ullman wrote, ‘an internal financial system with huge debt, shadow banking, a possible real estate bubble, and the need for significant real annual economic growth to respond to expectations for better standards of living raise massive challenges for the leadership in Beijing. The ‘one-child’ policy has led to an aging population, in which the ratio of retirees to workers is headed in the wrong direction, and to substantially more men than women which means many men will not find spouses. China also lacks viable allies. Still, China has managed to contain the United States by reaching a trade and investment agreement with the European Union. It has also signed the fifteen-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, strengthening its potential for economic growth. China has reportedly struck another deal with Iran involving trade, oil, and investments that could circumvent the sanctions imposed on Iran.’ With these, China hopes to avert a ‘debt-ridden balance sheet that could lead to a financial crisis.’ However, Ullman argues that the CCP’s increasing autocratic control over the public stifles economic productivity. The more China attempts to control its population, the more it risks a backlash. The fact is that, as in the former Soviet Union, China has an oppressive political-ideological regime that limits human ingenuity, imagination, and innovation. This may prove to be the fatal flaw in Chinese aspirations.’  

Third in Xi’s action agenda is making China proud again. Xi challenged the Communist Party that the people must again become proud of their national identity through its leadership. Almost reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s charismatic call to the German people to avenge their humiliation at the hands of the Western Allies in World War I, Xi wants to exact vengeance upon the West for humiliating China through the centuries. As Allison wrote, ‘Xi has increasingly portrayed the party as the inheritor and successor to a 5,000 year-old Chinese empire brought low only by the marauding West. The phrase ‘wuwang guochi’, or ‘never forget our national humiliation’, has become a mantra that nurtures a patriotism grounded in victimhood and infused with a demand for payback. This payback is nothing but China’s assertion that its time has come and that it is ready to bring on a new world order – one that it will dictate, for a change. That the time of democracies is over. That authoritarianism is back with a vengeance. And that China will lead it where none has ever done before. 

Xi’s fourth action agenda is his pledge to make China strong again. As Allison put it, ‘Xi believes that a military that is able to fight and win wars is essential to realizing every other component of the China Dream. To achieve the great revival of the Chinese nation, Xi argued that China must ensure there is unison between a prosperous country and strong military. While all great powers build strong militaries, this ‘Strong Army Dream’ is especially important to China as it seeks to overcome its humiliation at the hands of foreign powers. Despite all the other challenges on his agenda, Xi is simultaneously reorganizing and rebuilding China’s armed forces in a manner that Russia’s foremost expert on the Chinese military, Andrei Kokoshin, calls ‘unprecedented in scale and depth’. He has cracked down on graft in the military and overhauled its internally focused organization to concentrate on joint warfighting operations against external enemies.’     

Writing for the Atlantic Council, Harlan Ullman said that China has fielded a modern military with a navy on track to have 500 ships, with many patrol boats and small craft (while substantially larger than the US Navy’s approximately three hundred-ship fleet, it is not nearly as capable). China has become more aggressive in its region in pursing its aims.’   

It is not far-fetched to see how China’s BRI may be related to its defense positioning in the world. After all, it is to any nation’s interest to advance itself across all fronts. How much more for a huge powerhouse like China whose public-private national structure is unparalleled in the world. In fact, all of Xi Jinping’s four action agenda are interrelated in more ways than one. Being an autocratic regime, it makes the most sense to reinvigorate the CCP as the center of stimuli that drives the engines of growth towards superpower-hood in 2049. It is the communist ideology that has been the common thread giving rise to a near 100 year-old, new nation. But using a foreign ideology, capitalism, to do it. As communism is a failed economic system. Wealth attains power. And power restores long-lost national pride. Sustained by a powerful military that is a source of national pride along with economic might. All combined in a sheer magnitude that is China of a billion people and that makes for a superpower. Enough to challenge the reigning superpower and world order.   

If China engages in saber-rattling, it may indicate two possibilities. One, the CCP may be at a point wherein foreign policy action needs to distract the population away from nagging domestic issues. The end state of Xi Jinping’s 2049 China Dream is not so much assuming the crown of a superpower as it is not failing the Chinese people. If the people are in need of resources not found at home, the logical scapegoat is to be found elsewhere whether it is fishing for a catch in the South China Sea or generating jobs from the BRI. Rather than be threatened by its own people, China would rather beam the people’s wrath on some external threat somewhere. After all, there are lots to choose from. Another is that China may not be ready yet in terms of a full-scale confrontation where it confidently holds the winning card. Massive oil purchases from Iran, Brazil, or Venezuela indicate huge needs for defense or industry. Per estimates, China only has 25 billion barrels of oil in its reserves. Settling for oil and gas in the South China Sea than purchases all the way from South America or the Middle East passing through waters controlled by India or Russia makes sense for China. Stalling until Chinese submarines go nuclear also makes sense for China. In fact, China’s below level of war engagements make better sense now given Xi’s self-imposed timelines. But who knows? China may need not even fire a single shot since it is already at war with the world.   

Will China really go to war? Witnesses who have observed how Chinese interests operate in the world say NO. The obsessive concern to let Chinese goods and services continue flowing through global trade markets from manufacturing hubs in the mainland point to a basic principle that is firmly grounded in the world. Add the art of faith to this rocket science of pure pragmatism and one can conclude that indeed the center of gravity of all this is an ideology that sees nothing beyond this earthly existence. Man is the end all. Communism is the bible of this approach that sees only the genius of man as the ultimate answer to all of man’s aspirations. There is nothing supernatural in Communism. And the CCP is the author of this march towards 2049 where a new god of the earth can rule over mankind. 

Yet there are also enough in the world who would say that YES China will indeed go to war if the need for it arises. Just to put things into perspective, nuclear war is unwinnable by any protagonist. This realization was good then. It is still good now. Limited wars like conventional skirmishes may not lead to total annihilation but just their conduct by nuclear powers can trigger an escalation. So why do nations develop these engines for conflict? For self-defense and to back-up their diplomacy. For national pride as Xi rightly pointed out. There can be no superpower in the world without a credible army. China has already embarked on its most ambitious goal under Xi and it may lead to war on a global scale. In fact, China is currently operating in the gray zone wherein it has practically done everything short of going to war. To some, this indicates a strategy of intimidation to see who blinks first. But this could also indicate an acceptance of the inevitable that someday the price for leading a new world order may be worth it.    

In summary, what have been the emerging consequences of China’s engagements with the world on its way to China Dream 2049? While the BRI may have advanced China’s interests as Xi envisioned, it may also have incurred unwitting enemies for China in the debtor nations whose interests were compromised in terms of lost revenues and sovereign rights. The list is growing. As of this writing, this list already includes Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, and the Philippines. How many more of the 80 countries covered by the BRI are in the same boat? The 80 countries targeted by the BRI are mostly those in the Global South which need development funds. Richer nations have not been targeted as they are not vulnerable targets of Chinese capital. Add to this growing list of Chinese ‘enemies’ the US-led Western countries who have never been fans of China and one gets a picture of a world where not many members are likely to fall into China’s new world order. Even China’s traditional allies like Russia, Iran, and North Korea are cautious partners drawn into its orbit through necessity because they face only embargo from the West. Is it really so surprising to see such an emerging picture? I do not think so. Firstly, Xi’s ‘better feared than loved’ policy may work in an authoritarian environment but to expect the same effect through non-authoritarian regimes may be asking too much as it is naïve. Secondly, while there are still working monarchies and non-secular states, these are very few in the world where majority are now secular nations based on democratic principles which allow for self-determination, the highest human aspiration. A political system that allows people the pursuit of their happiness and freedoms is hard to replace much more by an ethno-centric totalitarian system. Thirdly, Communism which China promotes is a failed economic system. If China is prosperous today, it is only through the very same system it tried to destroy but now relishes in. The China model is hardly a model because it works only for China but not for any other nation. Fourthly, much of the rest of the world is either of the three monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) built on moral codes that China neither practices nor respects. This fact is a deep divide that is a major hindrance to a new world order characterized by a marginalization of what tugs at men’s hearts. And finally, China cannot be so certain of winning imminent wars between superpowers. Even it knows only too well that no one emerges from nuclear annihilation and is the surest dead end along the China Dream to 2049.                  

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