Xi takes China on a great leap forward as rattled West falters

Xi takes China on a great leap forward as rattled West falters, by Rowan Callick.

China has taken a great leap forward this week towards global leadership.

It is clear from the roll-call of leaders at the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launch and from his own rhetoric — “great heritage of human civilisation”, “gathering of great minds” — that President Xi Jinping has no intention of restricting his “Chinese dream” to the old silk road routes between Asia and Europe.

He is seizing the opportunity presented by imploding US governance and by European struggles with identity and economic transition to push China’s claim to be the leader of an alternative to the West. …

Winning in Asia:

This time last year, China’s international prestige was dimin­ished by its obsession with control of uninhabited islands in its surrounding seas. It had rowed with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu­tai islands, and had begun to loom as a dangerous bully over its militarisation of the South China Sea.

The verdict of international arb­tration in July last year was ­humiliating for China, but it rejected the result and ploughed on.

A stroke of luck came in the election of Rodrigo Duterte as Philippines President. He flew to Beijing and said China had replaced the US as his country’s core partner. A deal was struck with the fellow communist leadership of Vietnam soon after, and with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, who basked in Beijing’s red-carpet treatment after receiving criticism over corruption claims in the West.

Thus the three chief rival claimants in the South China Sea were won over, and ASEAN has stepped aside from the issue.

South Korea unsurprisingly chose the least US-supportive candidate, Moon Jae-in, who will shift the country closer to China while seeking only negotiated sol­utions for North Korea.

Xi is the global leader whether we like it or not. Westerners will have to face the reality of our continuing decline.

hat-tip Stephen Neil