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#AndrewSingerChina Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 33

America has been the dominant world power since at least the end of World War II and wants to retain this role. China seeks to reclaim her prior, historic position as a dominant world power. Influence abroad is a key part of such efforts to maintain or regain power.

 

China and the World Order


(AP Photo)


The United States of America has been the most powerful and dominant world power for eight decades. The People’s Republic of China wants to reclaim her historic position from previous centuries as a dominant world power and become today/tomorrow, if not No. 1, then a close second.


China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has spent his first decade in power positioning himself as the chief advocate and architect in choreographing this rise. Notwithstanding controversies, reverses, and bumps along the way, his efforts have yielded significant, early successes.


Xi understands that influence, broad and deep, is key. It is a crucial component of respect and security. Influence takes a long time to build, has to be constantly nurtured, and can so easily be destroyed. Influence is about more than seeking to control domestic narratives, though these are vital. It is about interacting with and persuading other nations to follow one’s lead.


(photo by Edgar Su, Reuters)


Economic Influence. China celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) this month with the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. In its first decade, the BRI has reached around the world to finance and build scores of power plants, ports, railroads, other large-scale infrastructure development, and relationships in other nations. These Chinese investments total more than one trillion USD.


China sees the BRI as a key cog in connecting the world with China and reshaping the global order in China’s image. Attending the two-day Forum were two-thirds of the world’s countries (130+/193) plus thirty international organizations. The absence of most Western countries was evident.


At the opening of the Forum, Xi proclaimed to his audience that “‘Ideological confrontation, geopolitical rivalry and bloc politics are not a choice for us,….What we stand against are unilateral sanctions, economic coercion and decoupling and supply chain disruption,….’”1 He announced new funding of up to 780 billion yuan (US$107 billion) and an eight-point vision for future infrastructure investment around the world over the next five years. He promised new measures to integrate China’s economy with the world.2 China also launched a Global AI Governance Initiative.3



Linguistic Influence. Influence can also be spread through the language we use. The Chinese government is seeking closer relations with non-Western countries.


The China Project Daily Dispatch on October 17, 2023, named its Word of the Day as “The Global South” (全球南方 quánqiú nánfāng), noting that Chinese official state media is beginning to use this term more frequently to describe China’s partners.


The PRC issued a report earlier this week entitled, “Outlook on China’s Foreign Policy on Its Neighborhood In the New Era.” The report stresses China’s neighborliness and the need for regional cooperation and stability in Asia. Though rhetoric and action do not always seem aligned given China’s recent involvement in several border clashes and land and sea claims, the former is key in influence building. And just yesterday, China and Bhutan announced that many years of negotiation to establish diplomatic relations and resolve disputes may be closer to fruition in the near term.



Political Influence. In September 2023, Manoj Kewalramani, a Fellow in China Studies and the Chairperson of the Indo-Pacific Studies Programme at the Takshashila Institution, published a power point presentation entitled, “China’s Vision for a New World Order: GDI, GSI & GCI.” He argues that

Beijing is seeking to bring about fundamental institutional and normative changes to global governance” in order to “…build a community of common destiny for mankind [as] an alternative vision for the world order.

China has in recent years launched the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilisation Initiative in its foreign policy effort to “shape an external environment that not only ensures regime security but is also favourable for China’s development and security interests.”4 The government is actively seeking countries to join and participate in these Initiatives with China.


The presentation calls out the three legs of Great Power Governance as power, legitimacy, and authority. China feels that the global trend is shifting East and is in the midst of executing a comprehensive, long-term plan to promote and capture such an eastward wind.



Information Influence. The U.S Department of State released a report last month entitled, “How the People’s Republic of China Seeks to Reshape the Global Information Environment.” The Report argues that China is leveraging propaganda and censorship, promoting digital authoritarianism, exploiting international organizations and bilateral relationships, pairing cooptation and pressure, and exercising control over Chinese-language media in order to expand its influence abroad to “reshape the global information landscape.


Many countries want to influence the global information landscape in their favor. Whether or not one agrees with the characterization of the Chinese actions in this sphere, the fact that a lengthy report was prepared and issued on this topic by the American government indicates that China’s efforts have gained traction abroad.


***


Influence is like trying to ride a mechanical bull, catch a soap bubble or even have one’s cake and eat it too. All too often, the rider gets thrown, the bubble pops, and hunger remains.


 

4 https://takshashila.org.in/research/takshashila-slidedoc-chinas-vision-for-a-new-world-order-gdi-gsi-amp-gci

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