Published On: Tue, Nov 14th, 2017

Heralding the new era: China and the world

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By Charles Onunaiju

The impressive opening ceremony of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) presented a spectacle of the united apex of the CPC. This was typical China, producing an immaculate display of CPC discipline where the carefully elected 2,280 delegates representing 89 million Party members with more than 4.5 million grassroots organizations. Only collective page turning and occasional applause pleasantly interrupted General Secretary Xi Jinping’s marathon speech of three and a half hours..
Xi gave a marathon speech sharing wealth of information about China’s past achievements as also outlining his vision for an increasingly prosperous China as socialism with Chinese characteristics has “crossed the threshold into a new era.” It mentioned that China has created 13 million urban jobs per year in the last five years and has brought its poverty rate below five percent. Xi’s assurance of a continued growth of 6.5 percent in the backdrop of continued global slowdown — which has seen China contributing 30 percent of the annual global growth — promises to make China a formidable locomotive in determining future trends. No doubt, Xi is today seen as one of the world’s most influential leaders. Indeed, starting with his Davos speech in January this year, his vigorous defense of free trade and calling protectionism as “locking oneself in a dark room” had seen Xi emerge as a new world leader taking up the mantle of defending globalization. Taking that promise forward in his speech to the 19th CPC National Congress, Xi promised to “protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors,” with local entrepreneurs expected to stay competitive by adopting information technology-driven innovation strategies.
Xi also outlined severe challenges that lie ahead for China. He urged all Party members to get ready to work hard for making China a “moderately prosperous society” by 2021 which he has premised on “uniting Chinese people of all ethnic groups” in order to lay stronger foundations for China emerging as a “a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful” by 2049. Xi also underlined that he remains determined about the Chinese Dream of rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. In spite of punishing many officials violating Party discipline, including not just “flies” but also “tigers”, he also underlined that the issue of corruption still remains CPC’s formidable challenge and his unfinished agenda.
Xi has also vowed to make the Chinese People’s Liberation Army a world-class military by the mid-21st Century. The Chinese military has already undergone massive reforms since Xi came to power. The recent past has also witnessed impressive modernization of China’s armed forces. Xi sees China today as closer than any time in history to realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, implying China would attain its rightful place at the center of the civilized world.
As a rising global player, the last five years of China’s diplomacy have seen it steer clear from the much hyped “Thucydides Trap” where China’s unprecedented rise was expected to push it into competition with existing major powers, especially the United States. Indeed, speaking at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies on the day of Xi’s speech to the 19th CPC National Congress, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson underlined that “it was time for China to take center stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind” as he reiterated U.S. President Trump’s resolve to deepen cooperation with China on addressing the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
Other than building a framework for major country relations featuring overall stability and balanced development in this “new era”, Xi’s speech also sought to reassure neighboring nations, saying China will “deepen relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendship and partnership. He went further to offer China,s development experience to developing countries even as he assure that China will never pursue development at the expense of other,s interests, vowing that no matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion. For developing countries, including Africa, president Xi reiterated that China will, guided by the principle of upholding justice, while pursuing shared interests and the principle of sincerity, real results, affinity, and good faith work to strengthen solidarity and cooperation. ” Xi’s speech underlined the significance of the Five Principles of Coexistence.. Xi went further to assure “settling disputes through dialogue and resolving differences through discussion, coordinate responses to traditional and non-traditional threats and oppose terrorism in all its forms.”
But most of all, Xi’s speech privileging China’s soft power, especially culture, should assuage skeptics about the future vision of Xi whom the world media is painting today as the world’s most influential leader in command of one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world. This should also generate greater support to Xi’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative which has increased China’s focus on engaging its immediate and extended neighborhood that defines its strategic location in world affairs. Earlier this year,Chinese President Xi Jinping elaborated on what had inspired him to come up with the Belt and Road Initiative, stressing that it is aimed at galvanizing global cooperation and is open to all.
Xi made the remarks at the Leaders’ Roundtable Summit at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.
“The Belt and Road development does not shut out, nor is it directed against, any party,” Xi told the summit.
Proposed in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative is a grand plan to connect Asia with Europe and Africa along, and beyond, ancient trade routes by putting in place an unparalleled trade and infrastructure network.
At the summit, Xi spoke of the myriad challenges the world faces: sluggish trade and investment, wobbling economic globalization, increasingly unbalanced development, impact from large-scale migration of refugees and immigrants, as well as wars, conflicts and terrorism.
Countries are exploring their own ways to deal with these challenges and have put forward many good development strategies and initiatives, but it is difficult to rely on a single country to manage or solve the global problems, Xi said, citing the inter-dependence between nations.
Only by aligning their policies and integrating economic factors and resources in a global scale can countries create synergy to promote world peace, stability and shared development, he noted.
Under these circumstances, the world may well draw wisdom and strength from the ancient Silk Road, which features the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, Xi said.
Though originating from China, the Belt and Road Initiative belongs to the whole world, while its development goes beyond regions, stages of development, and civilizations, according to the president.
He described the Belt and Road development as a “brand of cooperation” that is open and inclusive, and a global public good jointly provided by all parties.
Under the Belt and Road framework, Xi explained, all parties can join hands to meet the global challenges in the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits.
The initiative also enables countries to create new development opportunities and impetus, and leverage their comparative advantages for win-win results, to make progress toward building a community of shared future for mankind, he said.
Xi said he is glad to see positive responses to and extensive support for the initiative from the international community, with more than 100 countries and international organizations already engaging in it.
The just concluded CPC National Congress gave ramification to the Belt and Road international cooperation strategy and China’s extensive cooperation with Africa offers a unique opportunity to Africa, a region most deficient of infrastructure to leverage on the Belt and Road strategy to fill the yawning gap in infrastructure, facilitate her long standing desire for integration and achieve economies of scale that is key to any strategic role in the global value chain.
Mr Onunaiju is director, Center for China Studies, (CCS), Abuja, Nigeria

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