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Claude Arpi | What lies behind China’s new role as a peacemaker

Claude Arpi |  What lies behind China’s new role as a peacemaker


The Beijing Global Security Initiative (GSI) is another Beijing initiative that signals China wants to play a bigger international role.

The People’s Republic of China would like to project itself as the new peacemaker of the world – as we saw in the Middle East (between Saudi Arabia and Iran) some time ago, and later in Moscow.

Well over a year after the sudden invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on February 24, 2022, Beijing released a 12-point document that offers a framework for a political settlement. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented: The document is a long list of familiar Chinese talking points on the war. It reiterates Beijing’s support for the UN Charter and the territorial integrity of states, but at the same time condemns unilateral sanctions and criticizes the expansion of US-led military alliances. The vague Chinese plan is not intended to end the war, but to impress the developing world and also refute accusations that Beijing has become a silent accomplice of Moscow.

The Beijing Global Security Initiative (GSI) is another Beijing initiative that signals China’s desire to play a greater international role.

Earlier this year, on February 21, at the Lanting Forum, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke about his country’s new role: Today’s world is not a quiet place: changes never seen over the past century are changing rapidly, competition between major countries is intensifying, geopolitical conflicts are intensifying, the global system of security governance is lagging behind China’s choice is clear.

That is why, Qin explained, Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative, which upholds the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, pursues the long-term goal of building a secure community. and advocates a new path to security with dialogue rather than confrontation, partnership rather than alliance, and win-win rather than zero-sum.

A growing dichotomy

A dichotomy is developing between Beijing’s totalitarian policies at home and its supposed role as a peacemaker abroad; it is striking and the real question is: are the two positions reconcilable?

The internal hardening is explained by the fact that China wants to assume the role of the first world power and it believes that only the strictest adherence to the line of the Communist Party can achieve this goal.

It is indeed a fact that the Chinese regime is becoming more and more authoritarian and autocratic. We could take several examples. Reuters cites one: China is increasingly banning people from leaving the country, including foreign executives, a shocking message as authorities say the country is open for business.

The international news agency quotes a report by Safeguard Defenders, a human rights group: Since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, China has widened the legal landscape of exit bans and increasingly used, sometimes without any legal justification.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of Chinese are banned from leaving at any given time. Reuters concludes: This contrasts with China’s message that it is opening up to foreign investment and travel, emerging from the isolation of some of the world’s strictest Covid borders.

But why do more and more people want to leave the Middle Kingdom?

Quite simply because they cannot express themselves freely.

The fact that people like Jack Ma, the founder of the Alibaba Group, has to go into exile in Japan and take up a mission at the University of Tokyo, indeed speaks for itself. The University of Tokyo said: Ma will work with scholars, serve as a college advisor and attend seminars. He will also conduct research with university staff, particularly in the area of ​​sustainable agriculture and food production. What a loss for a China which, today, does not accept divergent opinions.

In this context, a new report from the Hoover Institution by Matthew Johnson, an expert on Chinese communist party policy, on China’s strategy for achieving global advantage through the accumulation and control of data, is a revelation.

According to Johnson, China’s strategy is to accumulate and control data globally. The researcher believes that the origin of this strategy is a speech given in 2013 by Mr. Xi at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The then-new Chinese president said: The vast ocean of data, just like oil resources during industrialization, contains immense productive power and opportunity. Who controls big data technologies will control resources for development and will have the upper hand.

The way to do this is for Chinese commercial firms to siphon data globally, says Johnson, who spoke of a hoarding spy ecosystem, that is, a network of internal data storage and processing facilities; the data is then absorbed by military, technological and surveillance projects in China and is potentially shared with like-minded international partners, such as the Russian Federation or the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The thing is, the same vast ocean of data is used on Chinese populations (especially so-called minorities like Tibetans and Uyghurs) to monitor their lives in great detail.

Johnson’s conclusion: In this sense, China’s grand data strategy is a case study that highlights the current gap between the complexity of the challenge and the current (US) response.

However, it is unclear what the free world can do for the Chinese people living inside the Middle Kingdom. Meanwhile, peaceful China prepares to invade Taiwan, the democratically ruled island. Like the GSI, however, it may lead nowhere; US strategic platform War on the Rock warns: the worst-case Taiwan scenario for Chinese leader Xi Jinping would be a major military operation in which the People’s Liberation Army either spectacularly fails or exhibits shocking incompetence akin to that of the Russians in Ukraine. Could this happen?

The specialist site believes that the bad news is that even if the Chinese armed forces fail spectacularly, this does not necessarily mean a shorter, less bloody or less costly conflict. If the People’s Liberation Army stumbles, Xi is unlikely to cancel his army. As for Taiwan, Xi can be expected to urge his armed forces to persist in the fight, producing a protracted conflict in the central Indo-Pacific and deeply disrupting trade and stability in the region.

So much for peace initiatives!

The other question, of course, is: should the people of Taiwan, who have had a taste of freedom and democracy, go back to the terrible days of Maos when everyone should follow the Party or else.

Certainly not. In Hong Kong, for example, the people themselves have begun to discover the difference between freedom and Party dictatorship.




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