Time to contest China’s vision of global leadership


Credit: Wikimedia

At the 19th Communist Party Congress, China’s President Xi Jinping declared that a “new era” had begun. Xi set out a vision of a political system directly opposed to Western values of democracy and free speech, values that Chinese communist party media mockingly declared had only brought chaos, confusion and decline to the West, The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer writes:

Western diplomats in Beijing say their counterparts from Africa, Latin America and even poorer parts of Europe are increasingly fascinated with China’s political and economic system.

“That’s especially true in countries with authoritarian tendencies, who can say it’s helpful, the economy will flourish,” one diplomat said. “The further away they are geographically from China, the more fascinated they are”…..[but] attempts to wield Chinese influence globally still generate more pushback than American attempts,] said Andrew Nathan [right], a political science professor and China expert at Columbia University [and National Endowment for Democracy board member}.

“I’m not entirely sure why that is — I mean, the U.S. has done a lot of bad things, but the U.S. seems more trusted and accepted,” he said. “Chinese money may be accepted, and Chinese influence yielded to when necessary, but I don’t find Chinese ‘leadership’ being much welcomed either by its near neighbors or in Africa and Europe.”

As China becomes the most powerful nation in the world over the next 10 to 15 years, the ruling Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress may well be seen as marking the turning point in the country’s rise, notes Jack Goldstone, Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. This conference is unlike any previous congress in the last 50 years in three respects, he writes:

  • First, until now China considered itself to be an outsider to systems of global governance — just one developing nation among the world’s countries….After three decades of double-digit economic growth, all this has changed. China now sees itself as deserving a return to its historical role as the core of the world economy.…
  • Second, this party congress has elevated the role of the Communist Party in China, and of Xi Jinping as leader of the Party, to new heights….[T]he newly adopted Constitution states that “the Party leads on everything, be it party work, government, military, civilian, or academia, be it East, West, South, North, or middle.”  And while the Party leads on everything, it is equally clear that on everything, Xi leads the party. Xi has become the first Chinese leader since Mao to have his own philosophy written into the Party Constitution while still in power…..
  • Third, the new Constitution enshrines China’s economic strategy to dominate the world. It commits China to pursue the “Belt and Road” strategy launched by Xi [which]…. will make it possible for China to become the economic center of all of Eurasia…..The Belt and Road project is expected to be a vital tool in spreading the view that China’s political and economic system is superior; hence its enshrinement in the new Constitution as a vital task of the Party.  It is backed by new institutions for credit, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, that are designed to put China in a leading role in global finance. 


“If Xi succeeds, and China overtakes the United States as the world’s dominant power, 2017 will be cited as the critical year in which Beijing and Washington made key shifts in direction, with the United States retreating from global engagement and influence, and China seizing its opportunity with both hands,” adds Goldstone, a member of the advisory board of the National Endowment for Democracy’s Penn Kemble Forum. “It will also be seen as the year in which autocratic rule and state domination replaced constitutional democracy as the leading model for societies around the world.” RTWT

Print Friendly, PDF & Email