By Ai Jun Source: Global Times
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
The West has been immersing itself in the narrative that China is filled with domestic challenges and endless enigmas. Despite this, certain sectors of the West are realizing that China is getting stronger beyond their imagination. As a result, Foreign Policy magazine came up with a schizophrenic title, “China is both weak and dangerous.”
The article summarized the book, The China Nightmare: The Grand Ambitions of a Decaying State, written by Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the US-based think tank American Enterprise Institute. It quoted the book by claiming that, “China wants to lead a new world order centered around Chinese power and governed by Chinese-made rules.” Meanwhile, it also argued China is a “much more fragile power than it appears” because of “autocratic-governance systems” and that it is “repressing” its own people.
The views are typical alternative rhetoric of the “China collapse theory” and “China threat theory.” But combining the two theories only makes people confused. What exactly does China look like?
Such confusing clichés have been bubbling up among some Western scholars and media outlets for a long time. Chinese netizens have even made fun of cyclical thinking, comparing it to a weekly routine: China is a threat every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but is bruised and battered due to its system every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
A simple clarification may cut through the noise: When the US needs to badmouth China to hoodwink and divert the attention of its own people, it clamors that China is in crisis. But when it needs allies to jointly gang up against China’s rise, then it’s time to hype the “China threat theory.”
Essentially, the West does not have an objective understanding of China. Take the example Blumenthal made. He reached the conclusion that China intends to rule the world just because the country wants to become a “prosperous, modern, and strong socialist country with a world-class military.” Isn’t that explanation too hotheaded? China is boosting its economic and high-tech strength. But the goal is to improve modern social governance in order to guarantee common prosperity for everyone. China is getting stronger, with an ultimate goal of safeguarding its core interests.
China pursues a defensive national defense policy, it will never seek hegemony or expansionism. Such promises have been reiterated time and again by Chinese leaders. Conquering or ruling the world is not in Chinese philosophy. Nevertheless, the West is so used to casting a cold eye to the truth, living in its own fantasy of “a strong nation is bound to seek hegemony.” Whatever China does, they will always find ways to discredit it.
The West cannot decide what China is. Its choreographed arguments can hardly cover up the fact that China is recovering from the COVID-19 crisis while Western countries are not. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, people might never have had a chance to witness how incompetent Western governments are. When Western elites keep smearing China while their own countries have not yet seen a silver lining ending the pandemic, they merely seem as either ignorant or jealous.
Foreign Policy magazine added that the book “should be required reading for all those who seek to better understand China.” How can a contradictory book full of ideological labels with an outdated mind-set help Westerners understand China better? As long as the West indulges in egocentrism, its conclusions about China will only remain self-deception.
They see China both weak and dangerous. We see those Westerners as both sly and silly.