How will China behave in this century?

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GIL H. A. SANTOS

AFTER the whole world followed the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing last week, now is the time to scrutinize the congress’ official report and see how it impacts on our Asean region, and the Philippines in particular.

The fact that China is the world’s second largest economy, and is naturally building its military and nuclear weaponry—as all rising hegemons have done in past centuries—makes this exercise necessary. Add to this Beijing’s admission that it is directly competing to replace the US as the world’s top economy.

Thus it is necessary for developing nations like the Asean10, the entire Asia-Pacific region, and the rest of the world, to closely monitor in the next decades how China will translate into action, the verbiage of President Xi Jingping’sforeign policy statements and domestic directives.

Keep in mind that he leads the three crucial/major positions in the Beijing political hierarchy: president of the country/state, chair of the ruling seven-man Central Committee of the CPC, and chief of the People’s Liberation Army (the entire military machinery).

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This analysis and any scholarly studies of China and geopolitics become more important and urgent because the Americans who beat the Spaniards in their war in the last days of the 19th century colonized the Philippines with an eye on China for geo-economic purposes; and they maintained their political, economic and military presence in the Asia-Pacific region since then. Washington and Beijing are undeniably competing for political and economic leadership in the region.

And it must be presumed both are using all means (we need not mention their tools here) to attain their objectives.

The official report of the congress says Xi’s Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era (for China) has been “enshrined” in China’s constitution. In plain language, this means China is keeping the Xi leadership as the Supreme Leader (dictator to the advocates of popular democratic governance) which will dispense socio-economic welfare to its 1.4 billion people (the Chinese way) while adapting their own merged economic principles of socialism and capitalism to vie for the international market.

Xi is quoted in the report: “It will be an era of securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, and of moving on to all-out efforts to build a great modern socialist country. It will be an era for Chinese people of all ethnic groups to work together and work hard to create a better life for themselves and ultimately achieve common prosperity for everyone….It will be an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.”

Xi’s “Thoughts” says China has two “century goals”: 1) to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all aspects by 2021; and 2) to turn China into a modern socialistic country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by 2049 when it celebrates the CPC centennial. That’s all in the next 30 years.

How will this be done?
China, the report sad, will “further supply-side structural reform, accelerate the building of an innovative country, revitalize the countryside, promote regional economic integration, improve the socialist market economy system and pursue opening up on all fronts.”

Since Xi assumed the presidency and intensified his reform campaign, particularly against corruption, innovative country” could be translated into actual action of buying (or even pirating) any device, and improving on it or its performance, and claiming it as Chinese-originated or invented. Reminds us of what the Japanese did in the 1920s and 1930s to German and American inventions.

“Revitalize the countryside” could mean more subsidies for the Chinese rural population for their own food and water security.

“Promote regional economic integration” may mean Beijing’s current offers of financial and technological “assistance” to all Asean and Central Asian countries by railway networks and trade to move commodities and people faster and cheaper. This is also timed, obviously, with the Asean economic integration efforts for better support of the Chinese goal. Probably faster and cheaper way to control the trade in the region too while the recipients can feel the assistance. (The US has done, and is still doing, this ploy).

“Improve the socialist market economy system and pursue opening up on all fronts” may mean liberalizing foreign investments and operations in China in the second stage of the two-century goals, when the Central Committee sees that Chinese businessmen and state-owned corporations are sophisticated and good enough to beat them in the domestic market.

Addressing, but without naming, the industrialized democracies—particularly the US and the European Union—and referring to the world poverty situation,the report said changes in the global governance system and international order are speeding up and more international forces are becoming more balanced. But the world’s economic growth is still lagging and the rich-poor gap is widening.

It quotes Xi as calling on “all the peoples of all countries to work together…“ for universal security and common prosperity. It added: “China resolutely opposes trade protectionism, actively supports the multilateral trading system and promotes the establishment of free trade areas and of an open and inclusive world economy.”

It ordered party members to fully support its leadership and the Chinese socialist system, and resolutely oppose all statements and actions that undermine, distort or negate them. That effectively is the word of the Supreme Leader, Xi.

How far into/with China’s foreign policy this protection of its own national self-interest will be carried resolutely is what the leadership of Asean must watch out for. Closing monitoring for the next decades, and simultaneously guarding our own interests may be quite a challenge and expensive. And there is no international policeman to call for help when needed. The UN and its agencies? Good luck!

The right of any country or person to protect its or his own self-interest must be respected and allowed by all. But this right has limits. This precisely must apply to all.

Reactions and comments to gilsmanilatimes@gmail.com.

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