“Hide your talents and bide your time” was Deng Xiaoping’s maxim [1978-1989] in foreign policy. With the coming to power of Xi Jinping at the end of 2012, China turned the page on the “low profile” enacted by the former leader after the Mao Zedong era. As the Sino-American rivalry continues to intensify, the current Chinese No. 1 does not hesitate to threaten those who oppose the “great renewal” of his country. “The Chinese people will never allow any foreign force to intimidate, oppress or enslave us. Anyone who dares to try to do so will have their heads smashed in blood against a Great Wall of steel forged by more than 1, 4 billion Chinese”, he declared in July 2021, for the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party.
Under the impetus of Xi Jinping, Chinese diplomacy has gained self-confidence. In the aftermath of the death of Mao, who had left the country bloodless after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), China, obsessed with its way out of poverty, sought to attract foreign capital. Forty years later, the world’s second largest GDP now considers that its geopolitical influence should reflect its economic weight.
“The president is convinced that the West is seeking to curb the rise of China. In this context, making concessions, in his opinion, would only encourage the West to become more aggressive. He therefore believes that the time is right. for Beijing to fight to defend its interests”, underlines the Chinese researcher Zhao Tong, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Hence, also, a stronger assertion of its positions and its political ideology.
Multiplication of provocations
Following this precept, a whole generation of uninhibited diplomats, the famous “combatant wolves”, multiplied diatribes against the West. “For the United States, there is no diplomacy, only coercion” or “On the Ukrainian crisis, the United States has deceived everyone”, tweeted for example this month Zhao Lijian, Chinese government spokesperson.
This global diplomatic offensive, coupled with colossal investments in foreign infrastructure and a strengthening of its military presence in Asia Pacific, has enabled China to impose a balance of power on the United States and to increase its hold on many of country. On the other side of the coin, the West, long well-disposed, has taken the measure of the threat. On the American side, the Senate, designating China as its “greatest geopolitical and geoeconomic challenge” approved a $250 billion plan last year aimed at countering Beijing; while Joe Biden is busy federating a western front. As for the European Union, it now considers China as a “systemic rival”, from which we must protect ourselves. Despite this flashback, Xi Jinping does not seem close to calming things down.
Find all the episodes of our series here:
EPISODE 1 –China: the dangerous obsession with the “zero Covid” policy
Robin Rivaton’s Chronicle
Sylvain Fort’s chronicle
The chronicle of Christophe Donner
The chronicle of Cécile Maisonneuve