Chinese expansionism, a policy which owes more to “tradition” than to the Communist Party

The Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary on Thursday against a backdrop of international mistrust of the expansionist tendencies of the Middle Kingdom. If Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday reiterated his desire to “raise” China “to the forefront of the world” by 2049, this strategy belongs, according to Jean-Vincent Brisset, researcher associated with Iris, more to the Chinese “tradition” than the party ideology.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrates, Thursday, July 1, the 100 years of its birth, with a wave of propaganda in the glory of China which has become in 40 years the second largest economy in the world.

Outside its borders, it is the subject of increasingly virulent criticism for its policy in the Xijiang region, in the South China Sea, with regard to Hong Kong and even Taiwan. US President Joe Biden is trying to unite his Western allies against a Chinese threat he considers global.

On Wednesday, at the opening of the 19th CPC Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping painted a picture of a “modern socialist” China, which will “rise to the forefront of the world” by 2049, the Republic’s centenary date. popular.

Radically transformed by four decades of economic reforms, today’s China no longer has much to do with Mao’s, but it nevertheless pursues the same expansionist aims without this being however intrinsically linked to the party whose country celebrates the centenary.

Jean-Vincent Brisset, associate researcher at Iris, already told France 24 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic: “The way of governing and the way of managing society come from the communist regimes, but the way of managing international relations has nothing to do with theoretical communism. “

The same is true of China’s expansionist strategy, he said today. According to him, this is more the result of “tradition” and “conception of Chinese civilization” than of the ideology of the party.

France 24: How has the Chinese Communist Party changed Beijing’s expansionist strategy for 100 years?

Jean-Vincent Brisset : There is nothing new in China’s territorial claims: they go far beyond the South China Sea and include all of the Soviet Far East … These claims were already in school textbooks from the beginning of the Mao era.

The Communist Party is a dynasty like any other in many ways. Xi Jinping behaves like a classic Chinese emperor, except that now China has a power at the international level which allows it to support its territorial claims which, again, are nothing new and are present in the past. from China.

It is not the fact of the Communist Party, it is Chinese, and especially when China is strong. From the moment it became strong again, China took the opportunity to push forward all its territorial claims. This is happening in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, but also with India, which is less talked about.

These expansionist inclinations are also found in the New Silk Roads, which aim to strengthen China’s position globally ?

Here it is a question of whether they are pseudopods [extensions tentaculaires, NDLR] which will remain in this state, or if these New Silk Roads are intended to be bridgeheads around which China will expand.

If we take the way in which the Chinese territory has developed, the Silk Roads had already existed for a long time. All of this is very commercial and does not necessarily lead to political control. There is, for example, no stranglehold on Pakistan. Along the Silk Roads there are, of course, vassal countries like Sri Lanka, but it stops quite quickly.

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How are these expansionist aims perceived by the great Western powers?

A number of countries that were very weak with China – notably Germany – are hardening their position. For his part, US President Joe Biden has echoed the statements of his predecessor, Donald Trump, and he is trying to drag the entire Western world behind him.

There is a development, and we will have to watch it, because the traditional response of the Chinese is to engage in nationalism. The appeal to the nationalist spirit of the country works very well in China. Pride was rediscovered with the 2010 Olympics and Expo, and the Chinese regime has played a big part in it ever since.

Xi Jinping wants to make China a “global leader” by 2049. What does this mean?

The question that arises is to know at what scale it envisages this leadership. Indeed, China has a problem which dates from always and which has nothing to do with current events of the Communist Party: it is the difficulty to know if it wants to be a world power or a regional power. At the highest level of party governance, leaders are unsure whether they want to make China an absolute regional power, or a world power that matters.

At the regional level, there is no discussion: they believe that the country is the absolute power with, around it, vassals. But to become one of the greatest world powers, they will have to accept rules that are not all set by Beijing, and that is unbearable for a certain number of Chinese, as for a part of the regime. However, within the latter, there are more and more “moderns”, whom it would not shock to lead a country which discusses with the rest of the world.

The Communist Party is an episode. Theoretically, the Communist dynasty is not hereditary, but Xi Jinping inaugurates something more hereditary than his predecessors. We are really in something which is very largely marked by the tradition and the conception of Chinese civilization vis-à-vis the rest of the world, more than the Communist Party, which has already abandoned many references to Marxism and to religion. hatred of capitalism. The party is stamped communist, but it is above all the Chinese party.

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