"China stands up, again."
And speaks to our century.
6 MARCH—Wow. The Chinese have certainly had a lot to say for themselves lately. In the course of a couple of weeks the Foreign Ministry has made public a set of three documents—position papers, if you like—that effectively announce Beijing’s intention to assume a leading role in geopolitics and multilateral diplomacy. For once we can agree with President Joey Biden’s take on global affairs: China has accumulated very considerable power to reshape the world order. And this, we are now on notice, is precisely what it proposes to do in concert with as many other nations as will join in the effort.
Asserting itself as a major presence in global politics is something new for the People’s Republic. While it runs the world’s largest or second-largest economy, depending on how you count, in its reformist period it has limited its global presence to development undertakings—the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—while confining its diplomatic exertions to the Pacific region.
This is what is now changing. What you think of these latest statements of intent will depend on what you think of China. We will all do well in any case to listen as China raises its voice in, let’s say, a 21st century register.
With what velocity the world turns, I have to marvel. New and enhanced South–South partnerships and alliances, increasingly dense economic relations among non–Western nations, the expansion of multilateral organizations such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the SCO, the measurable rise in anti-imperialist sentiment everywhere other than in the West, and now China’s design for a new world order: Things I used to think would occur decades hence, if in my lifetime, unroll before our eyes.
The first of the Foreign Ministry’s communiqués, made public on February 20, is without question the sharpest and harshest. “U.S. Hegemony and Its Perils” is a piss-and-vinegar attack on America’s conduct abroad over the past seven and some decades. “Since becoming the world’s most powerful country after the two world wars and the Cold War,” it begins, “the United States has acted more boldly to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, pursue, maintain and abuse hegemony, advance subversion and infiltration, and willfully wage wars, bringing harm to the international community.” What follows is 4,000 words of historically informed vitriol.
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