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What lies behind China’s new role as ‘peacemaker’
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Claude Arpi | Date:13 Jun , 2023 1 Comment
Claude Arpi
Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

China has become a peacemaker, or at least would like to project itself as the world’s new ‘peacemaker’; we have seen it in the Middle East (between Saudi Arabia and Iran), we witness it now in Moscow.

A year after the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian troops started, Beijing released a twelve-point document proposing a framework for a political settlement. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commented: “The document is a laundry list of familiar Chinese talking points about the war. It repeats Beijing’s support for the UN Charter and the territorial integrity of states, but at the same time condemns unilateral sanctions, and criticizes the expansion of U.S.-led military alliances. …China’s vague plan is aimed not at actually ending the war, but at impressing the developing world and rebutting accusations that Beijing has become a silent accomplice to Moscow.”

Beijing’s Global Security Initiative (GSI) is another move from Beijing which indicates that China wants to play an international role.

On February 21, at the Lanting Forum, Qin Gang, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke of his country’s new role: “The world today is not a tranquil place: changes unseen in a century are fast evolving, major-country competition is intensifying, geopolitical conflicts are escalating, the global security governance system is woefully lagging behind. …The choice made by China is clear-cut.”

That is why, Qin explained, Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative (GSI) which upholds “the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, pursues the long-term objective of building a secure community, and advocates a new path to security featuring dialogue over confrontation, partnership over alliance and win-win over zero-sum.” 

A growing Dichotomy

But a dichotomy is growing between Beijing’s totalitarian policies at home and the peacemaker role outside; it is striking and the question is: are the two stands reconcilable?

The hardening at home can be explained by the fact that China wants to assume the role of Power No 1 in the world and it believes that only the strictest adherence to the Communist Party lines can achieve this goal.

It is indeed a fact that the Chinese regime is becoming more and more authoritarian and autocratic.

One could take several examples, Reuters cites one: “China is increasingly barring people from leaving the country, including foreign executives, a jarring message as the authorities say the country is open for business.”

The US news agency quotes from a report for the Safeguard Defenders, a human rights group: “Since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, China has expanded the legal landscape for exit bans and increasingly used them, sometimes outside legal justification.”

It is estimated that tens of thousands of Chinese are banned from exit at any one time.

Reuters concludes: “This contrasts with China’s message that it is opening up to overseas investment and travel, emerging from the isolation of some of the world’s tightest COVID curbs.”

But why do more and more people want to leave the Middle Kingdom? Simply because they can’t express themselves freely.

The fact that people like Jack Ma, the founder of the Alibaba group has to exile himself in Japan and take an assignment at the University of Tokyo, is indeed speaking for itself. The School in Tokyo said: “Ma will work with researchers, serve as an adviser to the college and participate in seminars. He will also conduct research with university staff, especially in the field of sustainable agriculture and food production.” What a loss for a China, which today does not accept differing views.

In this context a new report from the Hoover Institution written by Matthew Johnson, expert on the Chinese Communist Party’s politics, about China’s strategy to achieve a global edge through the accumulation and control of data, is an eye-opener.

According to Johnson, China’s strategy is “to accumulate and control data at a global scale.” The scholar believes that the origin of this strategy is a 2013 speech given by Xi at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The then new Chinese President said: “The vast ocean of data, just like oil resources during industrialization, contains immense productive power and opportunities. Who controls big data technologies will control the resources for development and have the upper hand.”

The way to do this is for Chinese commercial enterprises to “siphon data at a global scale,” explains Johnson who spoke of an “accumulation espionage ecosystem,” i.e. a network of internal data storage and processing facilities; data is later “absorbed into military, technology, and surveillance projects in China and is potentially shared with like-minded international partners such as the Russian Federation or the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The point is that the same ‘vast ocean of data’ is used on the Chinese populations (particularly the so-called minorities like the Tibetans and the Uyghurs) to monitor their lives in minutest details.

Johnson concluded. “In this sense, China’s grand strategy for data is a case study which highlights the current gap that exists between the complexity of the challenge and the [US] current response.”

However, it is not clear what the free world can do for the Chinese people living in the Middle Kingdom.

At the meantime, ‘peaceful’ China is preparing to invade Taiwan, the democratically-run island. Like the GSI, it may however lead nowhere; the US strategic platform War on the Rock warns: “A worst-case Taiwan scenario for Chinese leader Xi Jinping would be a major military operation in which the People’s Liberation Army fails spectacularly or displays shocking incompetence akin to Russia’s in Ukraine. Could this happen?”

The specialized website believes that the bad news is that “even if China’s armed forces fail spectacularly, this does not necessarily mean a shorter, less bloody, or less costly conflict. If the People’s Liberation Army stumbles badly, Xi is unlikely to call off his military. Where Taiwan is concerned Xi can be expected to press his armed forces to persist in the fight, producing a protracted conflict in the center of the Indo-Pacific and profoundly disrupting commerce and stability across the region.”

So much for the ‘peace initiatives’!

The other question is of course: do the Taiwanese people, who have tasted freedom and democracy, have to go back to Mao’s dreadful days when everyone has to follow the Party …or else.

Certainly not. Hong Kongers themselves have started discovering the difference between freedom and the dictatorship of the Party.


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One thought on “What lies behind China’s new role as ‘peacemaker’

  1. From the beginning China believe in oppressive policy and they are doing the same. The problem is West think through their prism of democracy. In China, this oppressive policy helps the China to build a strong nation, which now can take on with America.

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