AMAC Exclusive by Joshua Charles
Two weeks ago, the leaders of various intelligence agencies warned that China posed an “unparalleled threat” to the United States. They cited, among other things, China’s regional aggression, growing cyber capabilities, and economic clout and said it had become a “near-peer competitor” of the United States.
Given this rapidly developing reality, it’s important to ponder the nature of the Chinese agenda for itself and the world.
In short, that agenda, directed by Chairman Xi Jinping, is staunchly nationalist. It’s based on the premise that China is once again poised to re-establish itself as the leader of human civilization, the “Middle Kingdom” (China’s traditional name for itself) between Heaven and Earth, after at least a century of exploitation by the West. The goal is to achieve this milestone by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
Xi came to power in 2013 (though he had assumed several powerful positions in 2012), and it’s no exaggeration to say he has become the most influential leader since Mao Zedong, who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
Xi is considered the “paramount leader” of China, an unofficial term applied to those considered to be the supreme power in China, even if, on paper, they are not the highest political authority. The term became popular under Deng Xiaoping, who—while not holding the highest offices of state—nonetheless became famous for implementing market reforms that led to the subsequent economic transformation of China. However, he did so while continuing to maintain the Chinese Communist Party’s iron grip on China, an arrangement he called “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Like other Chinese leaders before him, Xi has called on his CCP colleagues to “Hoist the great flag of socialism with Chinese characteristics, [and] comprehensively build a moderately prosperous society.” As of 2013, that included a term, he coined to describe that ambition, and in many ways sums up China’s agenda: the “China Dream,” an obvious alternative to the “American Dream.” The essence of the “China Dream” is establishing a post-American global civilization with China at the top. China views the post-war hegemony of the United States as a historic analogy, compared with the centuries, even millennia of Chinese preeminence.
On the international stage, despite the fact that China is the world’s biggest polluter, it now presents itself as the world leader on climate change. On Xi’s watch, China became the second-largest economy in the world in terms of U.S. Dollars and the biggest economy in the world if measured by Purchasing Power Parity (considered by some to be the more accurate measurement).
In 2013, China also initiated the One Belt One Road Initiative—a $1 trillion infrastructure project intended to economically integrate the Eurasian landmass (including some African countries—roughly one-third of the world’s countries) with China at the center.
In 2016, it established its first overseas military base in the East African nation of Djibouti, and under Xi, has been slowly but surely gaining control over the South China Sea. China hopes to use its control over this international waterway to bring Taiwan—which it sees as a renegade province—under Chinese control.
It’s also taken steps to ensure China leads the 21st century in game-changing technologies such as 5G, AI, and quantum computing.
Historically, China has not sought to conquer the world in the way Westerners normally understand the term. Xi is not a Chinese Caesar seeking to control territory. Rather, he is a Communist “Emperor” who believes his task—and the task of his Communist “dynasty”—is to establish a “new world order” based on a historically normative Chinese preeminence.
In Xi’s eyes, modern Western civilization under American leadership is the temporary upstart whose day has come and gone. China, on the other hand, is a civilization five thousand years in the making. As such, he and the Chinese Communist Party intend for the “Middle Kingdom” to once again take its place as the chief nation in the world.
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