By Zhao Minghao Source: Global Times Published: 2018-2-17
China’s “sharp power” has recently become a hot topic of discussion among some Western media outlets and scholars. They believe that the Chinese government and social organizations with state association have attempted to deepen connections with Western think tanks, universities and enterprises in a bid to strengthen the country’s political influence in the West.
Australian media recently created an uproar by saying that a senator had controversial links with China and contradicted Australian policy on the South China Sea. The intelligence services of Germany and New Zealand have publicly warned about the threat of Chinese espionage and influence operations in their countries. A report by the National Endowment for Democracy in the US claimed that China and Russia have exported the authoritarian model to some developing countries. Joseph Nye, a distinguished professor at Harvard University, called on the West to use its soft power against China’s sharp power
Obviously, the China-West relationship is seeing subtle and new tensions. Over the last 40 years, China has had enormous economic achievements through the reform and opening-up. However, for many Western strategists, China is rising not only economically but also politically.
On the one hand, China is getting more confident of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as proven by the report delivered by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, to the 19th CPC National Congress in October 2017. China has been looking for its own path suitable for its national conditions and cultural traditions. What’s more, Beijing has made a set of consistent policies and plans for economic, political, social, ecological and cultural development. While in the West’s democratic system, politicians often speak more and do less, generations of Chinese leadership emphasize continuity and the CPC knows how to get things done.
On the other, China is increasingly showing a can-do attitude in global affairs. Xi’s report to the 19th CPC National Congress announced that China will make greater contribution to mankind. The country’s experience in seeking an independent modernization path can be an inspiration for other developing nations.
Besides, China’s vision of building a community with shared future for mankind and the Belt and Road initiative are having a larger international influence. No global challenge can be solved without China’s participation and more countries hope it can help mediate regional conflicts.
Behind the new round of “China threat” theory are the West’s internal problems. First, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US and Europe seem to have lost the impetus for internal reforms because of overconfidence in their electoral and political institutions. The overwhelming expansion of the financial industry in the West has damaged the real economy and increased inequality in society.
Second, the West has not fully realized that globalization is a double-edged sword, not a one-way street changing the developing world alone. Issues like illegal immigration escalate divisions in US and European society, especially when extreme right-wing political thoughts are emerging in the West.
Third, for decades, the West has paid dearly for its military intervention and democracy export in the developing world, yet with little gain. On the contrary, China has repeatedly emphasized the importance of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and letting them explore their own development path, which is in line with the UN Charter.
China’s GDP exceeded 80 trillion yuan ($12.08 trillion) in 2017, which is nearly 65 percent of US’ GDP. Over the past 40 years, more than 600 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty. According to the IMF, China contributed 39 percent of global economic growth in 2016. China has provided massive financial and manpower support to UN peacekeeping missions and played a leading role in combating climate change.
Misjudging China may trap the West itself. For instance, the US resisted the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank proposed by China, but the bank has made marked achievement and deepened cooperation with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
Actually, China has noticed Western concerns over China’s growing influence. Last December, during a speech at the opening ceremony of CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting in Beijing, Xi said that China will neither "import" foreign models of development, nor "export" the Chinese model or ask other countries to "copy" the Chinese practice. But many Westerners choose to be deaf to these words.
The author is a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.