Reset of relations at hand as the West wakes to China reality

Reset of relations at hand as the West wakes to China reality, by Andrew Bourne.

For decades, the relationship between China and the West rested on illusion and pretence.

Western politicians fooled themselves into thinking that the Chinese system, centrally directed and authoritarian, would in time resemble their own, open and democratic.

For its part, China camouflaged its global ambitions. Obeying Deng Xiaoping’s maxim to “hide our capabilities and bide our time”, it built itself into a manufacturing colossus and the world’s largest trader, amassed “hard” military power and projected “soft” influence, sometimes covert and bought with cash.

This game of make-believe is winding down. …

Some predict a new Cold War. That’s possible, if Western disillusion gives rise to such strong anti-China sentiment that it derails ties.

But a dose of honesty could also lead to a more sustainable relationship, one based on a frank acknowledgment of differences rather than hopes for an East-West merger based on common values. …

How do free societies push back against an authoritarian system that advances its geopolitical interests with clandestine influence campaigns? China co-opts the elites in target countries like Australia by offering them corporate sinecures and consultancy contracts. It buys up Chinese-language news outlets and infiltrates the Chinese diaspora through Communist Party agencies — all the while blocking Western media content at home with its Great Firewall and restricting Western influence by placing foreign NGOs under police administration.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has hastened this reckoning. At a party congress a few weeks ago, he made clear that China is supremely confident in its own ways and proclaimed a “new era” in which it will move “closer to the centre of the world”. Western politicians are finally coming to view China for what it is, not the country they wish it to be.

hat-tip Stephen Neil