As the new coronavirus (CCP) Epidemic continues to rage around the world and China’s reputation in the world has fallen to unprecedented levels, CCP leader Xi Jinping recently said that the world is “rising in the east and falling in the west. Xi also claimed that the United States is the number one enemy of China under his rule. Xi’s comments and posture have forced China watchers to take a second look at the state of China today.
The same old rhetoric
Xi Jinping’s comments about the world trend being “rising in the east and falling in the west” and the United States being China’s number one enemy today were revealed on Feb. 25 on the official website of the propaganda department of the Qilian County Party Committee in Qinghai Province’s Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Explaining the spirit of Xi Jinping’s important speech at a meeting of cadres in the county, He Bin, a Communist Party official in the county, said, “When talking about the international situation, (Xi Jinping) made… ‘rising in the east and falling in the west’ is the incremental and future political judgment; when talking about the strategic game between China and the United States, he made ‘the biggest source of chaos in the world today is in the United States’ and ‘the United States is the biggest threat to our development and security ‘ and other major judgments.”
Prior to that, many supporters and critics argued that Xi Jinping, the president of the Communist Party of China and general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has had nothing but good things to say about U.S.-China relations since he came to power in 2012. He has said, “We have a thousand reasons to make the U.S.-China relationship better, and not one reason to make it worse.” Now, on the issue of U.S.-China relations, Xi Jinping has surprised many by making such a 180° shift in his rhetoric.
But to Derek Scissors, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a U.S. public policy research think tank, Xi’s claim that the East is rising and the West is falling is comical as a general trend in the world today.
I find the ‘east rising, west falling’ argument very funny because Chairman Mao said ‘the east wind overwhelms the west wind,'” Scissors told Voice of America. Xi Jinping is saying the same thing, just 65 years later. This statement was not true 65 years ago and probably is not true today, 65 years later. But what feels entertaining is that Xi’s language is so similar to Mao’s language in the 1950s.”
It is important to note here that in the mouths of many Western experts on China, “Chairman Mao/Chairman Mao” is almost always a term of endearment and banter rather than respect.
At the same Time, as an American expert on China, was Shi surprised by Xi’s seemingly belligerent remarks about U.S.-China relations?
Shi’s answer to this is: “Xi’s words don’t feel like anything new. He didn’t surprise anyone. He doesn’t make it feel like he’s different from 2019, 2017 or 2015. In terms of touting China’s successes in domestic and international settings, he comes across as more high-profile than Hu Jintao or Jiang Zemin. So it won’t surprise anyone that he speaks in such confrontational, nationalistic terms. What matters, of course, is how other countries will react to his kind of talk. Some people think that although he speaks in a very nationalistic way, he will cooperate with other countries in international settings. I don’t agree with that. I think China is becoming more aggressive in international settings and his speech just reflects that.”
In terms of China’s supposed successes, many observers in China and abroad believe that the achievement Xi Jinping feels most complacent about right now may well be the success of China’s response to the New coronavirus outbreak under his rule; but this self-righteous complacency on Xi’s part runs counter to world opinion. The public and governments of many countries have complained that the Xi-led Chinese Communist authorities concealed the outbreak and engaged in misleading propaganda in the early stages of the epidemic, causing what should have been a local public health event in China to turn into a pandemic that has devastated the world.
A survey of 14 countries published in October 2020 by the Pew Research Center, a U.S. pollster, said, “Perceptions of China have become increasingly negative in many developed countries in recent years, with a significant spike in negative perceptions over the past year (2020). Today, the majority of people in each of the countries surveyed have a negative view of China. In Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Spain and Canada, negative perceptions are at their highest point since the Pew Research Center began conducting surveys on this topic more than a decade ago. Negative perceptions have grown along with widespread criticism of the CCP’s response to the new coronavirus outbreak.”
Xi Jinping ossified in Mao era
To Feng Chongyi, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, Xi’s recent pronouncements about the world trend rising in the east and falling in the west and his anti-American rhetoric can be well explained by Xi’s upbringing, as he grew up with a Mao-era upbringing, which was, “The enemy rots day by day, we get better day by day. “
Feng Chongyi pointed out that such Education was still believed when China was closed and locked up, and with the death of Mao and the opening of China, most Chinese no longer believe in this deceptive nonsense; but Xi Jinping’s thinking has been rigid in the Mao era, so he opens and closes his mouth with Mao’s words.
Feng Chongyi said, “A closed mind cannot see this reality of the world. Even if he sees it, he does not believe in the world he sees with his own eyes. So in his vision, he really believes that the Western world is in decline.”
If this is the case, why did Xi avoid speaking badly of the United States publicly when he came to power, even as former U.S. President Donald Trump launched a trade war against China on the grounds that China’s long-standing unfair trade policies and practices against the United States constituted a rape of the U.S. economy?
The answer to this question is simple, says Song Yongyi, a professor of Chinese history at California State University, Los Angeles, and it is that since the Communist Party’s armed seizure of power to rule mainland China in 1949, the regime has considered the liberal and democratic values of the West to be an existential threat to it, as Mao Zedong made clear: Either the east wind overwhelms the west wind, or the west wind overwhelms the east wind.
Song Yongyi said, “Deng Xiaoping, the leader and strongman of the Communist Party after Mao’s death, also thought this way at heart. Xi Jinping is certainly the same. When he first started, he had to make money from the United States, so he also said that Sino-US relations were the most important. Why is it most important? Because to make money from the United States is the most important. He thought the old U.S. will always be a fool. People can not always be fools. People now recognize him for what he is, he is openly tearing his face off, just enough to say publicly that the United States is the biggest threat to China.”
In Song Yongyi’s view, Xi’s statement about the source of chaos in today’s world is clearly a departure from today’s world opinion and today’s world reality, because the new coronavirus epidemic, a major scourge affecting countries around the world today, was not created by the United States, but spread by the Chinese Communist Party to the world. Song Yongyi said that regardless of the origin of the virus, it is a fact recognized worldwide that the Chinese Communist Party concealed information at the beginning of the epidemic, allowed the epidemic to spread, and even pressured the World Health Organization to cover up and downplay the epidemic, which led to the spread of the epidemic from China to the world.
What is the state of China today?
According to Jiandao Shi, a longtime researcher at the American Enterprise Institute who has studied China’s political economy, Xi’s recent comments about China’s national power, its fortunes and the United States are typical of nationalist rhetoric, and there is a risk involved in using such rhetoric.
One of the problems with nationalist rhetoric is that you ultimately have to deliver on what you say,” Shi said. If you think China has made great economic progress, then you should have some way of delivering on what you said. That’s my area of expertise. I don’t think China’s economy has made great strides. China’s own statistics show that China is not even an upper middle-income country. China is currently in debt, and its population is aging rapidly due to very poor demographic policies.”
The Chinese Communist authorities claim that China is the only major economy in the world that achieved positive economic growth during last year’s epidemic. Scholars who observe and study the Chinese economy dispute this claim by the Communist authorities. But they do not dispute the fact that China’s population is aging rapidly and that population growth is falling off a cliff. While wealthy and developed countries like Italy and Japan are still struggling to cope with an aging population, the prospects of China, a not-so-wealthy country, to cope with the rapid aging of its population, i.e., the lack of support for the elderly, look very bleak to many experts in demography and economics.
At the same time, observers in China and abroad generally agree that the rapid aging of the population, which is causing serious problems for China’s social and economic development today, is entirely the result of the CCP’s authoritarian dictatorship, including the use of forced sterilization and forced abortions over a period of decades, but that the CCP regime, led by Xi Jinping, has failed to acknowledge its mistakes, apologize, or make reparations, and has instead tried to make the problem worse by emphasizing the struggle, including the need to fight against international hostile forces and the United States. Instead, it tries to divert attention by emphasizing struggle, including struggle with international hostile forces, struggle with the United States, incitement to nationalism and even incitement to war.
Shi Jiandao, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, expressed concern about this nationalist discourse of Xi Jinping. He said, “The worrying part of this nationalist rhetoric right now is that if it’s the East (i.e., China) that’s on the rise, what happens next if the East is not as successful as Xi says it is? Will the Communist authorities become more humble, more modest? Or, will they become more aggressive? This is a big concern right now. A lot of people are now talking about the rise of China. But my view is that those claims are overstated. And so the question arises, which is, if people start to see China in trouble, how would Xi Jinping react?”