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ON CHINA: Excerpt from Oxford Analytica Weeekly

From the 1980s to the late 2000s, Beijing broadly followed a strategy summarised as 'hide our capacities and bide our time'.  In 2017, President Xi Jinping publicly abandoned the 'hide and bide' strategy with a public declaration that "it is time for us to take centre stage in the world". Beijing sought to exploit a window of opportunity during which it could build its strength before Washington felt threatened and moved to undermine it.  That window has now closed. 

This alone would force China's strategy to adapt, but at least two other developments are also driving change.  First, Beijing has decided it has now reached a point at which, in order for China to continue its economic development, it must shape the world in a manner conducive to this. That requires pro-active economic diplomacy.  Second, Beijing believes that China's 'comprehensive national power' has grown to the point where it has the ability to influence events beyond its borders.

Useful generalisations can be made about how Chinese view their country and its place in the world.  They see it as unique in its antiquity, cultural richness and peaceful disposition.  In the Chinese view, China fell from pre-eminence in the 19th and early 20th centuries because of Western and Japanese imperialism. The history of this period is well known in China, and resentment over it is genuine. Beijing exploits this resentment and readily exaggerates the degree to which particular actions 'hurt the feelings of the Chinese people'.

Beijing aspires to be the world’s pre-eminent power, which involves gaining power, resources and prestige at others’ expense -- particularly Washington’s. If China’s ‘rise’ continues, Beijing will become increasingly open about this ambition. Nevertheless, it is keenly aware of its vulnerabilities. As long as the Communist Party believes history is on its side and its survival is not under imminent threat, it will probably opt for patience and compromise on most issues except sensitive questions of sovereignty.


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