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“Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

China has come a long way from the period at the end of the 19th century, when it found itself drug-addled, divided, exploited by foreign interests and plagued by corrupt officials.

The ruling Qing Dynasty – once the largest imperial dynasty in the history of China and in 1790 the fourth-largest empire in world history in terms of territorial size – had sunk to the lowest ebbs. It lacked political will, national authority, popular support and military strength required to respond to the challenges.

Many suffering Chinese believed the 350-year-old Qing dynasty had surrendered its power and lost its Mandate of Heaven, and that a change of government was imminent. They would not have long to wait but more tribulations were to be faced till China emerged like a phoenix from the ashes.

When French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte made the remarks quoted above, the more aggressive foreign imperialist powers – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and later the USA – had created a patchwork of foreign enclaves that functioned almost as virtual colonies within China’s borders.

The average Chinese, who had once seen affluence and splendour under a long lineage of monarchs, was oppressed under the tyranny of imperialist powers. It took a herculean miracle from the ilk of Chairman Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and other stalwarts of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to pull the nation out of the morass of oblivion, being treated like a pariah to emerge as the second largest economy in the world.

The once multipolar world order gave way to a unipolar dispensation with the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union, giving the US free reign of influence.

With the development and economic rise of China, challenges began to emerge.

Other powers, especially the US and India, began to view China with suspicion and perceived its progress and efforts to spread its influence, trade and commerce through their ethnocentric prism.

However, since the 18th CPC National Congress, with the advent of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, remarkable changes have occurred and historic milestones have been achieved like the alleviation of absolute poverty from China and numerous other memorable accomplishments.

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Simultaneously, challenges and great power rivalry also emerged, especially because Beijing’s noble intentions were misconstrued as hegemonic designs and impediments were raised in its path of advancement.

As the tumultuous year of 2023 marked with bloodshed, wars and disasters ended, a remarkable event took place in Beijing, which sheds light on China’s real intentions.

The Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs was held in the dying moments of the concluding year, in which Xi Jinping revealed his thoughts on diplomacy, opening up new vistas in the theory and practice of China’s diplomacy and providing the fundamental guideline for advancing major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

The past decade, which has elapsed since the 18th CPC National Congress Beijing, has showcased distinct Chinese characteristics, style and ethos in its diplomacy, and established the image of a confident, self-reliant, open and inclusive major country with a global vision.

The commendable aspect of Chinese diplomacy is that Beijing has advocated the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, pointing the right direction for human society leading to common development, lasting peace and security, and mutual learning between civilizations.

Such an ambitious goal could not have been possible without following the strategic guidance of head-of-state diplomacy, and playing an increasingly important and constructive role in international affairs.

This aspect came about by adopting a holistic approach to China’s relations with all parties, with a view to fostering major-country dynamics featuring peaceful coexistence, overall stability and balanced development. In the bargain, Beijing expanded a comprehensive strategic layout, and formed a wide-ranging, high-quality global network of partnerships.

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A mega development project, namely the Belt and Road cooperation, was established, resulting in the world’s most broad-based and largest platform for international cooperation. If that were not enough, Xi informed that the CPC, under his watch, worked to both pursue development and safeguard security, and effectively uphold China’s sovereignty, security and development interests with a firm will and an indomitable fighting spirit.

Fulfilling his responsibility as an international statesman, the Chinese Paramount Leader has taken an active part in global governance, and shown the way in reforming the international system and order.

These accomplishments would not have been possible without strengthening the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and bringing about greater coordination in China’s external work.

The participants at the landmark conference recounted that in the decade of the new era, the Chinese leadership has faced high winds and choppy waters and overcome various difficulties and challenges in China’s external work.

Despite overtures for peaceful settlement of issues and resolving differences with the USA as well as joining forces to strive to achieve a better world, the US has formulated alliances, which are China centric. These include the revival of QUAD, establishment of AUKUS and founding the Indo-US Military Alliance.

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Prima facie, the US policy of Free and Open Indo Pacific upholds the right of all rim states of sovereignty and free navigation and trade but in reality, it is an attempt to encircle China. Contentious legislation like the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act or hosting Summits for Democracy—excluding China but inviting Taiwan. Provocative actions like the visit by then House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan and the US government’s diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing failed to evoke any knee jerk reaction from Beijing.

The reason for this restraint stems from the ancient philosophy and cultural traditions and wisdom, which China professes and practices.

Instead of being cowed down, Beijing has opened up new prospects in major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, and gained much more strategic autonomy and initiative in its diplomacy. Resultantly, China has become a responsible major country with enhanced international influence, stronger capacity to steer new endeavors, and greater moral appeal with a large international following.

It was pointed out at the conference that building a community with a shared future for mankind is the core tenet of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy.

It is how China proposes to solve the questions of what kind of world to build and how to build it based on China’s deepening understanding of the laws governing the development of human society.

It reflects the CPC’s worldview, perception of order, and values, accords with the common aspiration of people in all countries, and points the direction for the progress of world civilizations. It is also the noble goal pursued by China in conducting major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics for the new era.

In the concluding session of the conference, in light of the series of major issues and challenges facing the world today, China called for an equal and orderly multipolar world and a universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalization.

The Chinese President reiterated that an equal and orderly multipolar world is one in which all countries, regardless of size, are treated as equals, hegemonism and power politics are rejected, and democracy is truly promoted in international relations. He reminded that to keep the progress toward greater multipolarity generally stable and constructive, the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter must be observed by all, the universally recognized, basic norms governing international relations must be upheld by all, and true multilateralism must be practiced.

A universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalization is one that meets the common needs of all countries, especially the developing countries, and properly addresses the development imbalances between and within countries resulting from the global allocation of resources.

Xi Jinping reminded that it is important to resolutely oppose the attempt to roll back globalization and abuse the concept of security, oppose all forms of unilateralism and protectionism, firmly promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, overcome the structural problems hindering the healthy development of the world economy, and make economic globalization more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all.

These are the giveaways to understanding the Chinese philosophy comprehending the modus operandi of Beijing’s diplomatic imperatives.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst


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KU Jan 06, 2024 07:14pm
Very good article, if only it could be read and understood by people in the power corridors of Pakistan and who honestly worry about the nation and its future.
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John Jan 09, 2024 12:09pm
Xi lacks wisdom as well as leadership traits.
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Hasnain Jan 09, 2024 02:18pm
@John, Like 1971...the Chinese are watching deteriorating economic situation in Pakistan from the sidelines.
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