The centenary of the Chinese Communist Party is providing China a strategic opportunity for the rhetorical offensive, this time playing up its clean record as far as colonising others is concerned. The South China Morning Post quotes Chinese president, Xi Jinping as emphasizing how ‘China has never “oppressed” any other country, and will never do so, vowing that “anyone who wants to oppress us will find themselves on a collision course with the great wall of steel formed by the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people”.
The paper interprets the remarks as a clear rebuke of the United States, a rebuke which would resonate with parts of the world which have suffered colonialism in the hands of the West. In Africa, the remark is sure to be a reminder of that ugly past while also re-assuring them that ‘China in Africa’ is not erected on imperialism and neo-colonialism, a major fear of the continent in relation to China’s penetration of the continent.
According to the paper, Xi’s speech will be closely scrutinised by China watchers around the world out in search of hints and clues as to where China is going and how it plans to get there. In the end, there are many of such hints, particularly on what China would not accept, keeping the country as one and the primacy of the party.
In terms of what it would not accept, Xi is quoted as declaring opposition to hegemony and power politics”. That is, although welcoming of “constructive criticism” from outside, it is averse to “sanctimonious preaching” from other countries, saying the time that the Chinese people could be bullied and abused by others was gone forever and would not return.
In explicit and implied references to her ‘century of humiliation’, the president spoke about China being “oppressed by foreign powers in the past” on the one hand but also the determination of the Chinese to sacrifice their lives to combat foreign oppression. “Any attempt to divide the party from the Chinese people is bound to fail”, he declared, crediting Chinese people with capability to build a “new world”.
Although centralising “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the Chinese president upholds Marxism, saying that “The fact that the Communist Party is capable and strong shows that Marxism works”. Declaring Socialism as the only path for China’s development, he says it is the ideology under which the country “resolutely advanced reform and opening up, overcame risks and challenges from every direction, and founded and upheld and safeguarded”. For him, the next step is to build China into a modern socialist country, he says.
The country, he adds, must “follow our own path of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, insisting “We have created a new model for human advancement”. In fact, Jinping called the founding of the Communist Party of China an epic event which he said profoundly changed the course of Chinese history in modern times. He, therefore, forecloses any alternative to the communist party and, instead, stresses the need for tightening party organisation.
Also categorically foreclosed is anything but the principle of “One country, two systems, a reference to the status of Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. While it means what he calls full sovereignty for those entities, it also means that “no one can question China’s national sovereignty or territorial integrity” and “resolving the Taiwan question” and realising the country’s reunification is an “unshakeable commitment of the Communist Party of China”.
Africa is likely to be where this particular speech is bound to be of the greatest attraction. The continent is in need of a model as well as the political leadership that can organise society in which anybody can talk about wiping out poverty as China recently announced. Plastic democracy is not working for the continent but there isn’t the courage to explore other models. So, there is nothing to hold anything in check and everywhere, there are “silly” wars and massive human sufferings.