China, the “Xi Era” and the global order – (1)

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What stood out very clearly last week, at the end of the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, was China’s primordial importance in relation to the evolution of the international system of states, of the current global order, in the decades to follow. Of course, the fact that China’s incumbent President Xi Jinping was designated party leader for a new five-year term also has its remarkable importance, his merits in the construction of China’s current international stature in recent years and in foreshadowing the strategy of its future evolution being thus recognised. But, for the global order and its future, important are the decisions taken during this huge conclave of the political leadership, and they outline the Chinese power’s place in the global system.

In fact, this is the main angle from which the results of the summit were analysed and commented internationally. One of the conclusions that stands out in various analyses is the fact that the Chinese development model has become a prominent international presence, consolidated both internally and externally. Moreover, the Chinese model is foreseen as being capable to compete with or even surpass the American development model. The October 24th editorial of France’s ‘Le Monde,’ dealing with the Congress in Beijing, states from its very headline that the Chinese model, defined as “the new Xi era,” represents “a challenge for the Western model.” As noted in the same newspaper, “this congress marks a milestone: China assumes the stature of great power of the day on an equal footing with the West. It projects itself as an economic but also strategic and even ideological giant. It wants its seat within the Concert of Great Powers, in their first line. This is what must be remembered from this week of endless speeches and secret meetings taking place in the halls of the People’s Palace, Tiananmen Square, Beijing.” In fact, the construction of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” as its own model is consecrated today in China’s political discourse, is considered by one of the editorial’s readers as a return to historical normality: “in fact, it’s a return to normal. China had a slight mishap in the 19th Century, it is slowly taking its place, the more easily as the USA seems happy to destroy what was its power. In what concerns Europe, there is no hope from this side, it remains paralysed by the malady of nationalism that wants to take us one hundred years back.” Just the day before the French editorial was published, a ‘Financial Times’ editorial suggestively titled “An assertive China challenges the west” directly pointed out: “The Communist party congress in Beijing is a milestone. As the Xi Jinping era enters its second term, China’s challenge to the west is becoming more overt. There is a growing official confidence in Beijing — verging on arrogance — that China is on the rise, while the west is in decline. The Chinese challenge to the west is taking place on three fronts: ideological, economic and geopolitical.” The comments in Europe focused precisely on this trait of the challenge that the Chinese model represents for Europe, with waves of concern for the future of the Old Continent not being absent.

Another commentator is sceptical in what concerns the outcome of this challenge, even though the West previously experienced another major challenge from a development model, namely the Soviet one: “The Soviet model imploded after 70 years. During that time, it defied the liberal model, which knew how to adapt and triumph across most of the planet. Almost 70 years since its establishment, the PRC has upped the ante of defiance and has projected itself on the second place at global level. China has relaunched a competition that did not end, whose result seems unknown since the world has changed and seems to part ways with ideological illusions. Maybe we won’t repeat the Cold War episode!

Another commenter, this time from the Anglo-Saxon space, considers that Western values are those that must be defended, regardless of what China is doing now or will do in the future because they define us ever since the ancient Greek world (basically a reference to the West’s age being quasi-similar to that of the Chinese civilisation): “Can the West reverse its relative decline? After wasting their hard and soft power in futile guerres-du-jour and loading their economies with unnecessary debt, America and Britain have replaced their statesmen with salesmen of adulterated snake oil. With misguided policies they have managed to drive China, Central Asia and resource rich Russia closer together, undoing the Kissingerian divide-and-rule strategy. The Middle East is shifting in the wrong directions. Meanwhile the Republicans in the US and the Conservatives in the UK are in self-destruction mode.” After all, why is the defiance launched by the Chinese development model – now consecrated, following the 19th Congress of the Chinese communists, as permanent companion of the future global action and evolution of the Chinese systemic superpower – so important?