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China: Between Grave and Renaissance

China: Between Grave and Renaissance

Monday, 15 November, 2021 - 10:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The Chinese shadow is evidently worrying America with its officials, experts and architects of future. The Chinese Communist Party is the new Soviet Union for many American analysts. The US Administration is trying to deny claims about the end of its role in the world. Its forces’ withdrawals from some areas are portrayed as a redeployment to increase effectiveness.


The US grabs any opportunity to provoke scenarios in Ukraine and the Black Sea, reaching Taiwan and its surroundings, in order to prove its role as the backbone of stability.


What’s happening in China complicates the picture... It’s like the birth of an “emperor” who has the first and last say…It’s the emergence of a leader, who presents himself as the “guardian of the Chinese dream” and promises to guide his country towards progress, affluence, and wealth, as well as prestige and invincibility.


The revolution needs a brilliant man to lead it to victory over its enemies. It also needs an exceptional figure to save the country from the veneration of the individual and the word, from heads that can only bow, and hands that can only clap.


The revolution also needs a third man, who will help it replace the old-fashioned rhetoric of military achievements and victories with dictionaries of stability, institutions and the search for progress and prosperity.


China was lucky to have found the three men. Mao Zedong led the rebirth battle. Deng Xiaoping lowered the “Great Master” to the level of a leader who makes mistakes. Xi Jinping consolidated China’s position in the race for scientific, technological and economic progress, threatening to change the old arrangement in the seniors’ club.


Deng prevented Mao from ruling the country from his tomb and with the thoughts of a fallen era. He preserved the leader’s aura and name, but did not let him leave his tomb to manipulate the party or the state.


The Russian Revolution did not have a second man to save it, as Deng did in China. Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin’s corpse at the 20th Congress of Russian Communist Party came in another context. The stagnation of the Brezhnev era will double the chances of collapse at the expense of opportunities for change and the emergence of Gorbachev.


We write about China because the past days have confirmed that Xi is not only the third man in the first hundred years of the party’s life, but also equal to the first leader. He is a courageous figure, who turned the page of the “collective leadership” that Deng engineered to prevent the fall of the country and the party into the hands of one man.


As the head of the country with the largest population, the second economy, the greatest army, and the “world factory”, Xi’s fate concerns us.


Let’s suppose the Americans elect a president, whose policies don’t please us. We have the right to be upset, but there is no reason for sadness or despair.


First, because the US president cannot stay more than two consecutive terms. Second, because the president’s policies are always scrutinized by Congress, and strictly controlled by the media, especially social media snipers.


In addition, the lobbies of the US decision are known and exposed, and the judge can reveal their secrets. Simply, the US president comes and goes, while the Chinese president comes to stay, and so does the man sitting on Lenin’s throne.


The policies of the American president do not affect the fate of Americans alone, but all the residents of the “global village”. The opinions of the US ambassador are part of the daily lives of near and far countries.


The world suffers when America decides to be the policeman, and suffers more when it abandons this role, allowing regional powers to commit costly adventures. But the world does not live on one timing. Emerging from the Soviet rubble, Russia is a wounded boxer who practices a calculated offensive policy and a camouflaged aggressive strategy.


Russia is lucky because the man, who saved it from the danger of disintegration, has turned into an exceptional and insurmountable player in international affairs. Surprisingly, the weight of Russia’s arsenal and policy is much greater than the actual size of its economy.


The United States so far deserves to be named the biggest player, but not the sole player. The Russian competitor has booked his seat, and China is coming forward to break the rules of the game. If Vladimir Putin emerged on the eve of the century, Xi Jinping’s appearance came in the second decade of this century.


In 2012, Xi was elected general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and took over the presidency the following year. Xi’s sitting on Mao’s chair coincided with Putin’s return to the Kremlin after a 4-year absence. In 2008, Putin refused to amend the constitution to extend his stay in order to reassure the West. He chose his comrade Medvedev for the presidency, and agreed to assume the prime minister’s position for 4 years, after which he returned to the presidential palace.


For America, the Chinese challenge is broader, more comprehensive, and more dangerous, despite the remote dialogue between Biden and Xi, or statements on promising cooperation in the face of climate change.


We may not be heading towards a “Chinese era,” but it is certain that Xi is carrying out a major project for his country, the success of which will lead to an adjustment in the balance of power that transcends the Asian theater.


China has undoubtedly doubled down on its bet on the one who will become the “Leader of the Chinese Renaissance.” Most likely, Mao, lying in his grave, would be envious.


Xi’s ideas are now taught in schools, while Mao’s Red Book looks like an old novel saddled with expired remedies.


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