World

What China Really Wants: A New World Order

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 4, 2021. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)
Translated speeches from a leading Beijing scholar-adviser provide a rare guide to the Chinese Communist Party’s plans for domination. Call it a rhapsody in red.

What does the Chinese Communist Party actually want? Sometimes, the regime’s plans can seem inscrutable. Other times, they are more blunt. The latter is certainly the case for one high-profile Chinese scholar serving the Party: Jin Canrong, the Chinese “State Master,” a professor at the Chinese People’s University in Beijing, a U.S. expert, and an adviser to the Chinese Communist Party’s Organization Department and United Front Department. It’s unclear how close he is to Xi Jinping. But he is one of the intellectuals sarcastically referred to in China as “the Emperor’s Literary Men” or “the State Masters.” He has spoken throughout China and is well-known among Netizens. That the U.S. State Department suspended the ten-year visa of this State Master, along with nine other Chinese scholars, in January 2020 suggests that Donald Trump’s administration must have been aware of him as well.

His speeches may reflect the thought of CCP leaders. In 2018, I first read the transcripts of two of his public speeches from two years earlier. I was greatly alarmed. His words contradicted all the beautiful public utterances of CCP leaders, such as, “We will never become a hegemon” and, “We have no intention to challenge the U.S. leadership.” That was the first time I was truly impressed by the degree of China’s power and ambition. I have kept the transcripts. As the U.S. reckons with the growing CCP threat not only to the U.S.-led international order but also to the U.S. itself, now seems a good time to share the content of these speeches.

The two speeches range widely and erratically. I am not attempting a complete translation. Instead, I am excerpting some parts relevant to the U.S., regrouping them into a “rhapsody” of six “movements.” A rhapsody is an epic poem, or part of one; a medley, with extravagance of ideas and expressions. That describes the two speeches excerpted here. They also serve as part of the ode of the CCP’s grand plan in the so-called “Chinese Century” to dominate the world. The State Master’s own words appear below in a different font from my notes or comments; my comments in the speech itself will appear in unitalicized brackets. The English translations are mine; I am responsible for their accuracy.

*****

In 2012, at the CCP’s 18th plenary, it publicly announced two centenary goals. First, that, at the 100th anniversary of the CCP in 2021, all Chinese people will be free of poverty, and China will be a “well-off” society with per capita GDP of $10,000. Second, that, in 2049, at the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic, China will be a well-established socialist power with per capita GDP at $30,000. In Jin’s words, when the second goal is reached, “China will enter the club of developed countries.”

The First Movement: China’s Gains Thanks to U.S. Engagement

State Master Jin says that there are four aspects of gain for China:

First, Chinese Assets in the U.S.: After the financial crisis of 2008, the interest rate of U.S. national bonds rose rapidly, and after a period of time, they became hard to sell. The Americans asked China for help, and China bought more than $800 billion of U.S. Treasury Bonds, which contributed to the stability of the U.S. bonds. Actually, China owns a tremendous amount of overseas assets, bigger than our GDP. Among these assets, those controlled by our central government are worth $6000 billion, of which 2/3 is in the U.S. This is a guess, because the central government has never made the asset structure public. Why are they mostly in the U.S.? To be frank, there is no better choice.

Second, Close Relationship between the Two Peoples: There are about 6 million Chinese in the U.S., roughly the same as Jews. In addition, China’s provinces and cities and schools have partnerships with their American counterparts. [6 million Chinese in the U.S. and close partnerships of the two nations at the local level are supposedly to the advantage of China because the CCP’s intention is to mix into the United States so that the two countries will be inextricable. This will become clearer in the fourth gain: Deng Xiaoping’s Strategic Choice to Develop within the U.S. System.]

Third, Cooperation in International Affairs: Together, the two countries have dealt with and solved a number of international problems. Cooperation in counter-terrorism and the prevention of North Korea from making trouble are two examples. China also played an intermediary role in the 2015 nuclear negotiation with Iran, which had been on the brink of breaking down several times. Also in 2015 there was an important agreement in Paris on global climate change, the text of which was drafted by the U.S. and China and finally passed. But several years ago in Copenhagen, the meeting on the same subject broke down because China and the U.S. were at odds.

Fourth, Deng Xiaoping’s Strategic Choice to Develop within the U.S. System: China has begun to do something in a revolutionary way on one issue, that is, to form a group of friends. We have more than 70 countries supporting China. This is accomplished by following Mao’s thinking [Jin is referring to one of Mao’s revolutionary strategies: building the United Front, meaning to make friends with as many nations as possible to support China in international affairs, such as in the U.N.]. However, our general strategy is following Deng’s idea: to rise within the U.S. system, making full use of the system to develop China. [By “the U.S. system,” Jin means the U.S. democratic political system, free societal system, and its free-market economy.]

China’s gains from U.S. engagement are enormous: wealth built, and international stature established that makes China almost equal to the U.S. These benefit China but also seemingly the U.S., as its businesses have profited and its consumers get cheap goods. This appears to be a win-win situation, or the way to “common prosperity,” as the CCP puts it. But why are more Chinese assets and people in the U.S. considered “gains” for China? And what is meant by “develop within the U.S. system?”

For the CCP, the achieved gains are not enough. Its next step is to “co-rule” the world with the U.S. And why not, if China competes with the U.S. fairly? But is China under the CCP a fair player? Master Jin will tell us.

The Second Movement: Co-Rule

President Xi Jinping went to the U.S. in June, 2013. He proposed a new relationship between global powers, featuring no clash, no confrontation, but instead, mutual respect, and creating a win-win situation by cooperation. The Americans did not completely reject the proposal; nor did they accept it. The U.S. agreed that there should be no war between the two nuclear powers; otherwise, the whole of humanity would be wiped out. But the U.S. denied “mutual respect,” which the Americans interpret to imply that China and the U.S. would be equals. They agreed to cooperate but they wanted to have an upper hand.

Our long-term strategy is firm and unwavering. When China has developed to a certain degree, the U.S. has to accept us [as an equal]. The U.S. is essentially a commercial nation, usually not acting on emotion. Right now, the U.S. slights us, but when we are powerful enough, he will say to us: “Let’s make friends.” At that point, the U.S. and China will co-rule [the world]. This is my expectation and our leaders’ as well.

This is ambitious, but not inherently dangerous, if “co-rule” entails responsible leadership. But this is not all the State Master sees in China’s future.

The Third Movement: Tactics to ‘Squeeze Out’ the U.S.

The U.S. asks China to share responsibilities but is unwilling to share power. We need to press the U.S. to do so. My surmise is that we are not going to have war against the U.S., but we will squeeze it out [of the South Sea and Taiwan Strait]. This is quite probable.

The U.S. is a real democracy with diversity, more democratic than any other democracies in the West. The upside is people having the freedom to express their views; the downside is the difficulty in getting consensus. For the U.S., the best situation is to have only one external enemy. If there are two, it would be at its wits’ end. That was the situation before WWII. One enemy was the black threat from Nazi Germany; the other the red threat from the Soviet Union. Americans fought among themselves on the question “Who is our real enemy?” I guess that Americans would be totally disoriented if there were three or four enemies. China’s strategy is to ensure that the U.S. has four enemies: the terrorists for a sure one; Russia, likely, but maybe there is insufficient animosity yet; Brazil is a potential one. China tried to prop up Brazil, because it has the potential to become a power. Brazil, however, is not motivated and, therefore, not supportable. One more trick is to ensure that the U.S. be trapped in debt crisis.

China used to consider itself a regional power. President Xi is the first leader who designates China a world power, hence, a nation with a global strategy. It has two pillars: The first is looking westward and called “One Belt One Road,” which will create physical connections between East Asia, West Asia, Africa and Europe by railroads, highways, pipelines, gas lines, optical cables, seaports, transportation hubs, and airports to form a huge network. The second pillar is the “Asian-Pacific Free Trade Zone.” Looking eastward, it was written into the declaration of the 2014 APEC meeting.

There are only two countries in the world with global strategies: China and the U.S. . .

In the past 25 years since the end of the Cold War, who has gained the most substantial benefits? China, the U.S., or Russia? It is China! The one who has lost most is the U.S. After becoming the only superpower in the world, the U.S. could beat whomever it wants. The U.S. has compared itself to God. But God is a jealous old man, so He punished the U.S. How? By letting it attack two fools [Iraq, Afghanistan] without any strategic value. . . . The U.S. has been trapped in these wars with $60 trillion spent, 10,000 deaths, and ten years wasted. During this period, China has risen as a power. Militarily, the U.S. won the wars, but strategically, it lost.

The Fourth Movement: YIN vs YANG

Jin’s boastful and exalted style when talking about China’s dealings with the United States becomes clearer when discussing what he believes are China’s military advantages:

The U.S. would be anxious if China doesn’t want to have conversation with it on the military. Why? Because the U.S. military is transparent, we know everything about it, while China’s is not. The two nations have very different thinking in military strategy. The U.S. is YANG, meaning firm and strong; China is YIN, soft and hidden. The U.S. tells you that he is Tyson and shows you his muscles to terrorize you; China does not show its prowess but hides it. We have hidden killers never made known to others. Americans follow strict scientific thinking while we Chinese are romantic. That’s why the U.S. needs to have military conversation with us.

China has recently built a much stronger military and is still advancing rapidly. Jin tells us that China can already attack U.S. aircraft carriers to keep them at least 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese mainland (and soon farther than that). But much remains unknown about China’s military, and what is known is unreliable.

We are managing to squeeze the U.S. in various ways. (1) creating conditions to cause it to make mistakes; (2) exhausting it so that it will finally suffer from “depression” and quit [its position as the leader of the world]; (3) entangling, or enmeshing, with it so that the two countries will be inseparable, to the point that “I have you in me, and you have me in you.” This is a result of globalization, a natural factor of binding.

Even though Jin’s words sound more and more rhapsodic, they do not merely express his personal feelings. They have real substance. The “enmeshing” goal is particularly worth noting if we recall China’s strategic imperative to “develop within the U.S. system.” The authors of a special report published in the June 2020 issue of National Review, entitled “China Unquarantined,” consider this the most difficult issue facing the U.S. They propose that Americans “must begin the task of quarantining ourselves against the CCP,” but it will be “laborious and vexatious and endlessly disagreeable.” Indeed. Just how difficult, Jin’s words make clear:

When China plays games with the U.S., China’s tactic is practicing Taiji [maneuvers appearing benign that accomplish goals while not inviting suspicion]. Japan, Germany, and the U.S. are all boxers, hard hit against hard hit. China keeps silent when the U.S. is angry. When the U.S. is occupied with other matters, China would do something. When the U.S. declared its new policy to return to Asia in 2010, China made no response. Our then-president Hu Jintao told the people that we would concentrate on our development. This is responding to provocation with no response. A good move.

We have been expanding without direct conflict with the U.S. For example, we have moved forward on One Belt One Road, the Brick Bank, Asia Investment, Air Defense Identifying Zone, and building islands in the South Sea. We have done these things rhythmically, unlike Russia’s often acting without considering the U.S. reaction. For instance, building islands in the South Sea certainly irritated the U.S., so we did it when the U.S. was busy in Syria or involved in Ukraine. Then, when the Americans found out that we were building a large island in the South Sea in June and expressed their concern, we told them that the construction was stopped. Whereas in fact, we stopped it only because a typhoon was coming in July, making it unsafe to continue the construction. The other reason for stopping the construction is a technological one: we had to wait to see the result of a new technology of blending sand with a special kind of water. The Americans did not know the true reasons and were happy because we gave them “face.”

Master Jin apparently thinks that the U.S. can’t see through CPP tactics. Thus far, however, it is simply a fact that CCP has succeeded with them. What began as economic cooperation with the U.S. has evolved into a scheme to undermine the U.S. by China playing Yin, with the ultimate goal of exhausting the U.S. into abandoning its global role.

The Fifth Movement: Trying to Change the Free World

In a July 23, 2020, speech at the Nixon Library, then secretary of state Mike Pompeo stated that Communist China is already inside our territory, and that “if the free world doesn’t change China, communist China will surely change us.” The CCP sees Pompeo as an anti-China extremist. Others outside China may think he is exaggerating. But State Master Jin’s words certainly support his view.

One of our tactics is going deep into the U.S. We are now talking with the U.S. about something called BIT, Bilateral Investment Treaty. We are determined to achieve it. It will provide the U.S. with more favorable terms, but at the same time, we will be able to invest in the U.S. with much better terms so that our capital will find a good outlet and we can make money and control the market. The investment conditions in the U.S. are more open and with larger volume than that of Japan and Europe. Laws in the U.S. are transparent, predictable, and protective.

Our government hopes that eventually China will have investments in each and every congressional district in the U.S., making it possible for China to control thousands of votes to influence congressional members’ stance toward China. In fact, the U.S. representatives can be controlled. The U.S. has 312 millions of people, who elect 435 representatives. That means 750,000 people in each district on average. The normal turnout rate is 30 percent, about 200,000 voters who determine who gets elected. Generally, the two contenders have about the same number of supporters, separated by only 10,000 votes or fewer. Therefore, if you control a few thousand votes, you would be his/her dad. China, if playing well, will be able to buy out the U.S., making the U.S. Congress the second Standing Committee of our People’s National Representatives.

This movement is the climax of Jin’s “Rhapsody in Red,” more rhapsodic than the previous ones — effusive or ecstatic, close to fantasy. But again, it’s not just wishful thinking. We know that a Chinese government-run media company’s four-page supplement in the Des Moines Register in 2018 was intended to influence Iowa’s farmers to pressure former president Trump to change the U.S. policy in the trade war and to threaten him with a heavy political cost in the midterm election. That’s how the CCP can use our system for its advantage: They are here, and we have a free press. It was, however, a small trial step. Who would have ever imagined a plot to control the U.S. Congress by investing in each and every congressional district so the CCP can turn representatives in its favor? And make our Congress the second standing committee of People’s National Representatives of China? While Russia and Iran try to interfere with our election from outside, the CCP is working inside. While Russia and Iran use illegal means, such as spreading fake news and hacking cyberspace, which can only cause short-term trouble, the CCP is acting lawfully, posting ads in our newspapers and investing at the local level, with a long-term goal to change our democracy. This is an example of playing Yin to its extreme.

The Sixth Movement: Determination to Become the World Hegemon

The emergence of a modern country must experience three phases. The first phase is to survive; the second to develop; the third to earn dignity. The U.S. has entered an additional fourth phase since 1945, the pursuit of hegemony. Not many countries can accomplish that. From 1949 on, our new country has experienced two phases: to survive and to develop. President Xi now wants dignity. After this is achieved, we will learn from the U.S. to enter the 4th phase. But that will be achieved by the next generation. The task of this generation is to gain equal footing with the U.S. while that of the next generation is to administer all other countries, the United States included.

Here, Jin makes it clear that the CCP’s goal is to dominate the world. This is congruous with the Communists’ ideal to communize the whole globe, which they would do anything to achieve. Thanks to the U.S. engagement policy, the CCP is exerting its new power to begin its long march to “administer” the world, including the U.S. Jin’s speeches show us the true image of a would-be world master behind a friendly mask. China has deceived Americans and the U.S. government, as well as Europeans and Australians, and misled us into a situation in which we are enabling the CCP to change us.

*****

Jin Canrong’s speeches should make it clear that the CCP’s threat to the free world is real.

The hope of U.S. engagement policy was to invite China into an international community based on free trade and mutually beneficial cooperation, ultimately changing China. Yet in the last 40 years, the CCP has become more internally authoritarian, and outwardly China has opened up only to a relatively small degree. At the same time, the U.S. has fully let the CCP enmesh with us and use our free system to its own advantage. Trump accused China of unfair trade, theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, using our freedom of speech and publication to serve the CCP’s propaganda goal, etc. But no American could have ever imagined that the CCP is plotting to ensure four enemies against the U.S. at the same time, a debt crisis to trap us, and even to control our Congress. It is one thing for a nation to strive for greatness and become a power by respecting international rules and treating other nations decently, either as cooperators or competitors; it is another thing to do so by enmeshing with cooperators or competitors not only to take advantage of them but also to undermine them.

Earlier presidential administrations did not ignore the problem; presidential election years were full of rhetoric against China. But everything returned to business as usual with China post-election. Even Trump, despite his strong rhetoric, has considered the interests of big corporations doing business with Huawei. China is now so powerful that whatever penalties the U.S. imposes on the CCP, the CCP could counteract with equal harm. Moreover, to deal with an enemy already enmeshing with us is more difficult than fighting a war on others’ land.

An additional complication: Despite welcome attempts by the Trump administration to separate the CCP from the Chinese people, most of the latter are truly proud of their country’s modernization. This feeling is based on their desire to redress their past humiliations and to regain the past glories by becoming a world power. Whatever the U.S. does against the CCP would be seen by a great number of Chinese as blocking China’s rise. The U.S.-China trade war has united the Chinese people more than ever.

And while the Trump administration was trying to separate the CCP from the Chinese people, the CCP began to try separating the U.S. government from the American people. The CCP thinks the latter are friendly to China. But I believe the CCP thinks not of the people but of American corporations, who have profited from Chinese engagement. They cannot resist a market with 1.4 billion consumers and a relatively cheap but skilled labor force; the U.S. government cannot prohibit them from doing business with, or in, China. In the words of the CCP, Wall Street will prevail over the U.S. government. Now that a great many of America’s largest and most profitable businesses rely on China in some way for their sales, profits, and manufacturing, even apolitical corporate leaders can be wary displeasing the CCP. They either have never known or have forgotten that the CCP once deprived Chinese property owners of all their wealth and properties. In a few decades, American companies may suffer a similar fate if the CCP grows more powerful. Profiting in the present, American businesses fail to see possible long-term damage to the U.S.

The CCP believes in its model. It wishes to export this model to the rest of the world. This model, however, is not as simple as “development can be accomplished effectively with single- party rule.” Right now, Chinese people seem to believe that their system is better than the West’s, as they think China has so far successfully contained COVID-19. Even a few Western scholars are lauding the CCP. But most of the world would disagree. The CCP’s model includes a police state, high-tech surveillance, censorship of media and the Internet, speech restrictions, lifelong privileges for ruling-party officials, wealth concentrated in a small group of CCP officials’ clans, stark inequality, oppression of the religious, the Sinicization of all ethnic minorities with coercive measures, etc. (And let’s not forget that this system originated COVID-19 in the first place!) Would any people in the world like to live in such conditions? The answer is absolutely “No.” This kind of regime cannot even go on forever in China. Nevertheless, it could last for a while. Americans must be ready to face the reality with patience and wisdom.

It will be tough to quarantine ourselves from China. Complete segregation, as with the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, is now impossible; today’s world cannot be divided clearly into two blocks, one led by the U.S. and the other by the CCP, due to the engagement and enmeshment brought by globalization. The United States must communicate with China, even cooperating with its regime in some fields. But in doing so, it must emphasize balance, fairness, and reciprocity. Americans and the U.S. government must take precautions in dealing with the CCP, just as we do during the pandemic, to prevent the Communist virus from continuing to harm us.

America’s decline is the CCP’s best opportunity to pursue its goal: the dominance of the whole world. The more divided and chaotic the U.S. is, the likelier it is that the CCP will succeed. Americans must prove to the world that democracy is still, and will always be, better than authoritarianism. We must do everything to improve and strengthen our democracy. It’s not easy to keep America safe and strong while forcing the CCP to change. First and foremost, it requires a better, stronger, and more united America.

Manyin Li is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in China. She worked for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York while studying literature and philosophy and getting a master's degree from the Graduate Center of the City University of NY. She is now retired and writes freelance, mostly for Chinese language newspapers and magazines published in North America. An English excerpt of her memoir, Bearing Witness: Coming of Age in Mao’s China, appeared in the issues of April, May and June of New English Review in 2020.