In 1962, the same year as the Sino-Indian War, Chalmers A. Johnson, an American scholar, wrote a great book – Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Rise of Revolutionary China 1937-1945. The book set the agenda for Chinese studies for a decade and more, and its central argument was succinctly summed up in its preface: “The object of this study is to establish a basis on which contemporary communism in China can be understood. as a particularly virulent form of nationalism. ”
Johnson’s insight is a useful correction to the current Western view, which argues that Xi Jinping broke with his predecessors to lead China in a belligerent nationalist direction. The Western narrative, which saw the path forged by Deng Xiaoping and his successors as non-ideological pragmatism intended to equate China with a world order defined by the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, was based on a simple misreading of choices. Deng policies. . For the Chinese rulers, communism and capitalism were not ideological choices; they were alternative means to a single ideological end: the restoration of Chinese supremacy.
The “virulence” that Johnson wrote about sixty years ago has come to light in recent times. Chinese “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy has stunned its critics in Western foreign policy establishments. Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye described French critics of Chinese policy in Xinjiang and Taiwan as “mad dogs”, “mad hyenas” and “ideological trolls”. Summoned by the French Foreign Ministry for his comments, Lu Shaye did not show up, saying he had a “scheduling conflict”.
It is helpful to remember that Lu Shaye’s previous assignment was as Ambassador to Canada when Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested in Canada at the behest of the United States of America. Lu Shaye then gained notoriety by accusing Canada of “Western selfishness” and “white supremacy” for its extradition proceedings against Meng.
Lu Shaye is not the only Chinese diplomat on the move. The Chinese Consul General in Rio de Janeiro chose to address the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, this way: “My boy, your greatest achievement is to have ruined the friendly relations between China and Canada, and to have made Canada a dog race of the United States. “Addressing a head of government as a ‘boy’ is not normal, and the Western response to Wolf Warrior’s diplomacy is to see it as a surge of mad pride sanctioned by Xi Jinping.
In fact, China’s stance on Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang has been remarkably consistent. All of these issues are “internal issues” for China to deal with, and foreign comments and criticism are unacceptable interference. This is not a simple question of sovereignty: it is a viscerally felt and historically conditioned reflex: China has been attacked, defeated, exploited, balkanized and plundered by predatory colonial states, from war from opium to the savage Japanese occupation of the 1930s and 1940s. The idea that a country like Britain could drag China to the coals for its treatment of dissent in Hong Kong, a port it held in living memory as a colonial possession, is considered a scandal. This is how India could respond to Portuguese criticism regarding the integration of Goa into the rest of the country.
Outside of the West, no one sees Meng Wanzhou’s arrest as anything other than hostage-taking. The fact that John Bolton can pressure Canada to arrest him for Huawei’s alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran is generally understood as an attempt by the United States to marginalize Huawei (and, by implication, of China) in the 5G wars and to bring China to heel in the United States’ long-standing attempt to isolate Iran.
America’s military might, its economic weight and its control over the global financial system have enabled it to legislate on sanctions that bind the entire world. The intellectual achievement of the Anglosphere has been to portray postwar American hegemony as a rules-based world order. China, rightly or wrongly, thinks it now has the power to call the West bluff. So China has done two things in response, a small one, a big one.
In a tit-for-tat move, he has taken his own hostages: two Canadian businessmen who are superficially accused of espionage. This is China’s way of telling America that it can send proxy messages as well. For China, this is an invaluable opportunity to argue that the rule of law that the West values so much is an elaborate rationalization of ruthless realpolitik. The broadest response to Canada’s setbacks is the recently unveiled deal between China and Iran, in which it agreed to invest heavily in this besieged and shattered country in return for cheap oil. Suddenly, he declared his intention to systematically overturn US sanctions against Iran and announced his presence as a major player in West Asia, even declaring that he would try to host an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in Beijing.
For many years, China’s attitude towards the rest of the world was seen as pragmatically oriented towards markets and commodities. His Belt and Road initiative was seen as an ambitious but charmless attempt to expand his sphere of economic influence. The provocative aggression of her recent foreign policy, however, suggests that she is considering challenging America for the hegemonic world championship and she believes she is a contender.
He chose this moment for two reasons. First, the Trump administration’s attempt to create a concert of anti-Chinese nations over the past four years has forced the Chinese leadership to abandon a more calibrated assertion of China’s growing influence. Second, the Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated for China, in the most dramatic way possible, the decline of the West. There is an undeniable contempt built into Wolf Warrior’s diplomacy and it is, in large part, a contempt born out of the perceived ineptitude and decadence of Western countries, especially the United States, when confronted with to the challenge of the coronavirus. The ongoing mayhem in the United States and Europe contrasts so much with China’s success in taming the pandemic that this year of the plague has clearly been internalized in Chinese strategic thinking as a tipping point in the global balance of power.
To have this monster of a country flexing his muscles in the most provocative way possible is bad news for the world. China is unlikely to be as militarily adventurous as the West, but the danger its hegemony presents to the rest of the world is of a different order. As Johnson saw years ago, China is the uber Nationalist state. China’s subordination of Tibet and its ethnic cleansing of Xinjiang is not National Socialism in the classical German sense; it is, however, a sinister sort of majoritarianism.
Chinese majoritarianism is not led by a dominant religious community. It is, on the contrary, fueled by a suspicion of all religious identities as potential subverters of the only identity a Chinese citizen should have – a national identity. It is the French notion of secularism, brought to its logical and crazy conclusion. Recently, Macron’s government has gone to great lengths to limit the influence of imams and Muslim organizations on French Muslims. Chinese nationalism is also marked by paranoia about extraterritorial loyalties. If Xi’s nation-state is fascist, it is, ironically, a fascism with secular characteristics.
2021 marks the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party. If the state she founded becomes the hegemony of the world, China will, willy-nilly, become a model nation-state to emulate. We should all pray that the Wolf Warriors don’t win.
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