- Dec 3, 2018
Chinese leader Xi Jinping (C) attends the celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on July 1, 2021. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
The Real China and the Downside of Arrogance
How an aggressive Beijing is losing friends and influence in the world, and what it means for the world
November 30, 2021
Much of the world is having an enlightening moment with China.
Recall that China began the last decade by positioning itself as a global benefactor. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was supposed to be a beneficial foreign aid and development program. Other economic and cultural outreach efforts supplied nations with financing and cultural exchanges that have served Beijing well.
The Shine Is Off
But foreign aid debt traps and spyware scandals certainly took some of the shine off China’s global reputation. The world started to open its eyes.
Then the launch and spread of the CCP virus pandemic, along with the hoarding of medical supplies and finger-wagging from Beijing about the West’s response failures, shattered any remaining goodwill that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders worked so hard to sell the world in the past.
Killing millions and laughing about it was just too big to ignore.
Today, nations around the world are increasingly viewing the Chinese regime as a major threat. In fact, over the past several weeks, Britain, France, and almost two dozen African countries have officially criticized China over its foot-dragging with regard to the pandemic.
What’s more, Japan has unequivocally shifted its foreign policy to directly challenge China’s re-unification ambitions vis-à-vis Taiwan. (More on this in a forthcoming article.) Today, at the end of 2021, Beijing has revealed itself to be neither a benefactor nor a partner, but rather, a voracious predator.
CCP: A Human Rights Obscenity
Domestically, the CCP’s behavior toward its citizens is a human rights obscenity every way you look at it. There’s no justifiable way to sugar-coat it. Xi Jinping has done everything possible to quell civil unrest and maintain his grip on power within the Party. The CCP virus played a big role in those efforts, but it wasn’t the only factor.
China’s neo-Maoist leader has also been very busy rewriting history for his own self-glorification, if not an outright elevation to god-like status. On a more basic level, all images or references to Winnie the Pooh—the animated bear to which Xi bears a passable resemblance—became a symbol of resistance or disrespect to the all-powerful leader and was outlawed in China a few years ago.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is applauded by delegates wearing protective masks as he arrives at the opening of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on May 22, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
There’s really no need to ban poor Pooh Bear. With millions in labor camps, his police surveillance state, political prisoners, social and economic oppression, and crushing Hong Kong, no one is confusing Xi with lovable make-believe, cartoon animal these days—that’s for certain.
A Transformative Leader’s Big Plans
The fact that unfavorable views of China around the world are at all-time highs poses a big challenge for Beijing.
Or does it?
More to the point, will the CCP leaders think it worthwhile to go through all the time and effort to rebuild their shattered reputation with a new, more cooperative foreign policy?
On the one hand, recent political utterances from Xi make it seem so. Calls for mutual respect and cooperation sound terribly wonderful. It’s certainly easy to say such things, which are exactly the kind of words that the world wants to hear.
On the other hand, Xi’s official, if not pseudo-religious, elevation to the great transformative leader of China makes humble and conciliatory pronouncements seem rather awkward and unworthy of a great, transformative leader, don’t they?
Besides this one obvious fact, there is another that should be carefully weighed. That is, all great, transformative leaders are mortal, no matter what one’s official news service may say.
Admittedly, no new ground broken there. But given Xi’s ambitions and plans for China’s uncontestable dominance in the world, spending the next decade or two rehabilitating the country’s diplomatic bona fides just isn’t in the cards. At 68 years old, and a former inveterate smoker, Xi is a man in a hurry to realize his ambitions.
A Hypersonic Window of Opportunity
What’s more, with its hypersonic nuclear delivery system, the Chinese regime has a definite military advantage over the United States. At the same time, U.S. leadership is perceived to be its weakest in decades. Just as important is the fact that China’s economy is collapsing, and its population is rapidly aging.
From Beijing’s perspective, could there be a better time for “Wolf Warrior” foreign policy? This new turn in diplomacy doesn’t hesitate to defend China’s national interests in confrontational ways. It certainly seems to explain Beijing’s new aggression on the world stage.
The CCP’s continued militarization of the South China Sea, armed conflict with India, nuclear attack threats against Australia, and rising military actions aimed at Taiwan this past year alone all seem to point to a more impatient China.
Furthermore, it appears that Beijing doesn’t really care how or what the world thinks of China. The regular verbal insults of other leaders and threats are not indicative of a global power that intends to build goodwill around the world.
In short, communist China prefers to be feared than loved, rather than both. The downside is likely to affect everyone rather negatively, including China, as the CCP reveals its true face to the world.
James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.