In the Post-Cold War era, variants of international relations theories have competed to explain and predict state behavior, and scholars have debated whether we are witnessing the end of history. Yet the settings and actors may change, and the global and geopolitical drama keeps going on. It is no surprise that the analytic question that attracts more attention than any other is the rise of China under President Xi, and Sino-US competition. In the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, President Xi maneuvered to secure his unprecedented third term and consolidate his power advance, while trying to build a new Chinese-led international regime.
In the years since the concept of “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” has become the centerpiece of President Xi’s nationalist vision, his goal is to help China become the preeminent Asian and global power by 2049. To pursue this goal, Xi announced a number of quantitative benchmarks the country has to reach by 2035, for so-called “comprehensive national power,” combining military, economic with technological power and foreign policy influence.
Diverging from his predecessors, alongside the rapidly growing of China’s power, Xi is bold enough to demonstrate that China already entered the leading ranks of the world. His doctrinal statements are not only theoretical but also operational. For example, China built several artificial islands in the South China Sea and deployed troops there, carried out large-scale and live-fire missile strikes around the Taiwanese coast, and exercised a blockade of Taiwan. Furthermore, in July 2021, Beijing announced for the first time sanctions against individuals and institutions who criticized China too severely.
Xi’s ideological belief is building a “fairer and more just” regime under his description, one anchored in Chinese power rather than America’s, and to reflect Marxist-Leninist values. For this reason, China contributed to building a new set of China-centric international institutions such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
This belief also provides the global South an alternative to the Washington Consensus of free markets and democratic governance through China’s national development model. Moreover, Beijing has also offered surveillance technologies, police training, and intelligence collaboration around the world. Those offers have attracted some pariah states like Zimbabwe, which have eschewed the classical western liberal-democratic model.
In conclusion, in order to achieve President Xi’s goal, he not only consolidates power, and embarks on every aspect of public and private. Internally, he pursues “common prosperity,” while externally he chases the dominance of Chinese-led institutions.
Written by Eddie C.
Edited by Ari B.