China sees a world in chaos as an opportunity in its struggle with the West

MAY 8, 2021 2 MINUTESSave for LaterSave China Sees A World In Chaos As An Opportunity In Its Struggle With The West For Later

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“Lately, the world is best characterised by one word, ‘chaos’, and this trend looks set to continue,” Xi said in a major speech in January, the full text of which – including how he perceived the state of the world – was published only a week ago.

“Time and momentum are on our side,” he said. “That is where we show our conviction and resilience, as well as our determination and confidence.”

Xi’s belief that the world will continue to be in chaos for some time to come and that China will double down in the face of growing pressure from the West is significant, as is the timing of his speech and its publication.

It also explains why several senior Chinese officials have since crowed publicly that “the East is rising and the West is declining”, and why Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, hit back at Washington by saying that US could no longer “speak to China from a position of strength” at a meeting of senior officials in Alaska in March.

The South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday that Kurt Campbell, Washington’s top Asia official, told a forum that the US should prepare for the possibility that the strategy may not succeed in forcing China to alter its behaviour.

“It’s entirely possible that in some circumstances they will simply double down and that they will not backtrack,” he said. “And I think we have to recognise that some elements of our playbook may require revision.” Campbell also noted that China’s foreign policy was “in the midst of a substantial evolution”.

Indeed, so long as Beijing frames the US-led effort as a sinister plot to contain China’s rise and undermine the party’s legitimacy, it will help stoke nationalism and unite people around the Chinese leadership at home.

Furthermore, from Beijing’s perspective, while Biden may have claimed the US is back to reclaim world leadership after four years of the tumultuous and disruptive Donald Trump presidency, it is far from certain that America is truly back to stay as the country remains politically and racially divided.

Biden himself raised this issue in his speech to the US congress, saying that when he called world leaders, about 40 of them, the comment he heard most of all was “We see America is back but for how long?”

There is no doubt that the feeling is shared in the corridors of power in Beijing.

Having said that, Beijing’s defiance of Washington-led pressure does not mean it wants to focus only on the confrontational and competitive nature of the relationship.

Wang Xiangwei is a former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post. He is now based in Beijing as editorial adviser to the paper

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


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