Chinese diplomat Fu Ying has written a piece in the German Times explaining that China’s outreach to the wider world has nothing to do with the European style imperialism that many have ignorantly claimed a prosperous and powerful China has adopted.
Fu’s open letter attempts to counter frequent claims by the Sinophobic governments in Europe, India and the US, which defame One Belt–One Road and the associated increased international diplomatic and economic interactivity of Beijing, as being a “threat” to the sovereignty of others.
Fu Ying’s writing is to be commended, but it is sad to the point of being insulting, that such things are still necessary in the 21st century. The Chinese model for international interconnectivity is far from a rival brand of western imperialism, it is in fact its antithesis and antidote. One Belt–One Road in particular, allows for easier trade between countries at all levels, while making zero political or economic policy demands on partnering states.
While western trading schemes such as NAFTA or the EU make political and even cultural requirements on participating members, One Belt–One Road puts the brick and mortar of pragmatic realities above any far flung political ideals. While Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics For A New Era remains a guiding force for modern Chinese development, Beijing has no desire to spread these theories outside of China. Yet at the same time, Chinese officials are always happy to respectfully discuss these ideas with the many nations who seek their own version of Xi Jinping Thought and want to learn from the Chinese system in order to adapt it to their own political culture.
Furthermore, while western trade deals often require a full free trade regiment to be in place before any activity can commence, China does not require free trade in order to partner with nations in One Belt–One Road. All bilateral deals associated with One Belt–One Road will be conducted on a mutual basis based on the needs of both parties. In some cases full free trade with China will be mutually beneficial and when one side objects to such proposals, other arrangements will be agreed upon. This method is already in place as China engages in many different kinds of trade agreements with countries on every continent – more so that virtually any other country on earth.
While China has not conquered any foreign territory in its modern history, it is being accused of being “aggressive” by foreign powers with a history of colonialism. While Britain, France, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and later the United States colonised countries throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia, China has not engaged in such behaviour.
Today, the US is at war illegally in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, all while conducting dubious military activities throughout Africa, China is busy cultivating positive trading partnerships under the win-win philosophy which will see peace come through enhanced prosperity. The western powers are therefore in no place to cast aspersions on China.
While the US threatened Myanmar with sanctions over the long-running conflict in Rakhine State, China has helped Bangladesh and Myanmar reach an agreement for peaceful cooperation which is already seeing the return and normalisation of many undocumented refugees.
Furthermore, President Xi Jinping has worked to make the millions of overseas Chinese feel included in the modern Chinese success story. First of all, China has relaxed visa laws, allowing overseas Chinese to live and work in the People’s Republic of China, while for this year’s Spring Festival, celebrating the Year of The Dog, President Xi specifically addressed overseas Chinese with a fraternal greeting to the many Chinese celebrating the Lunar New Year in countries throughout the world.
It is very common for countries with large overseas populations to be addressed by leaders in the motherland. This is true for large countries like Turkey, the United States, The Philippines, Pakistan and India, as well as small countries like Armenia and many Eastern European states with many immigrants living abroad. Yet it is only China that is considered aggressive for engaging in commonplace activities that many other nations engage in.
In the US and EU, there remains a prevailing adherence to the zero-sum mentality which fears that the peaceful success of others, someone infringes upon one’s own ability to achieve success. This outdated way of thinking, which itself smacks of the imperial mindset, is out of touch with the Chinese model of collective success bringing mutual prosperity. Increasingly, this zero-sum model is being rejected by nations ranging from Turkey and Pakistan, to Philippines and Cambodia, South Africa to Russia, just to name a few.
The most unfortunate development in the Sinophobic narrative which has been authored by the imperialist powers of the 18th and 19th century, is that India, a nation which itself was colonised by Britain and other European powers, has now adopted the same Sinophobic rhetoric of its former imperial masters, even though it could stand to benefit economically by embracing the win-win mentality that has helped neighbouring Pakistan to elevate the condition of its people.
While China must continue to explain its goals as a leading economic power in the 21st century, it must never apologise for its success. Perhaps it is time for the imperial powers to come to terms with and even apologise for their misdeeds against the developing nations of the world.