Viewpoint by Somar Wijayadasa*
NEW YORK (IDN) – On October 1, China’s President, Xi Jinping, celebrated 70 years of Communist party rule, and its rise to superpower status, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing that consisted of a military parade and hundreds of thousands of people participating in the event ending with a grand pageant.
The main attraction was the unprecedented military parade of around 15,000 military personnel, 580 pieces of military equipment and 160 aircraft including new hypersonic drones, and the Dongfeng-41 missile capable of striking the United States in 30 minutes with 10 nuclear warheads at once, each with a different target – irrefutably, a display of China’s military might.
Last year, President Xi eliminated the two-term limit on the presidency – becoming the most authoritative leader since Mao – and will stay in power until 2027.
Launching the celebrations, Xi said: “The founding of the People’s Republic of China completely changed China’s miserable fate of being poor and weak and being bullied and humiliated in over 100 years since the advent of modern times”.
Xi said that “China’s yesterday is already engraved in the history of mankind. China today is created by hundreds of millions of hardworking Chinese, and China’s tomorrow will be even more prosperous”.
Reiterating the government’s position of “One Country, Two Systems” on Hong Kong and Macao, as well as the “One-China” principle on Taiwan, Xi said: “The complete reunification of the motherland is inevitable; it is what the greater national interests entail and what all Chinese people aspire for. No one and no force can ever stop it”.
Saying that China would defend its national interests and resist foreign interference in its affairs, Xi emphatically stated that “There is no force that can shake the status of this great nation. No force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation forging ahead”.
From destitution to a global superpower
File photo taken on Oct. 1, 1949 shows Chinese leader Mao Zedong reading the Proclamation of the Central People’s Government during the founding ceremony of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. Source: Xinhua
Following the ideals of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and ruled China until his death in 1976.
Cognizant of China’s turbulent past, Mao did not offer much hope of any accommodation between the Chinese Communist State and the West – except for close relations with the former Soviet Union.
Saying that his government will be dictatorial, Mao said that “The right of reactionaries to voice their opinions must be deprived and only the people are allowed to have the right of voicing their opinion. To the hostile classes, the State apparatus is the instrument of oppression. It is violent, not benevolent”.
Mao (compared himself to Qin Shih-huang, the Emperor who unified China in 221 B.C.) transformed a semi-feudal, largely illiterate and predominantly agricultural country into a modern, oil producing industrialized socialist state with nuclear weapons.
That was no easy task though it received prodigious assistance from its ally and neighbor – the Soviet Union – at least until late 50’s.
While a graduate student in Moscow in the early 60’s, I knew the political and territorial conflicts between China and the Soviet Union – mainly the ideological differences over Mao’s concern that Soviet revisionism was a dangerous heresy that threatened to subvert the Chinese revolution.
In the past, China faced many obstacles due to social and political upheavals during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-76, and the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Regardless, China’s rise to an industrialized state, and an economic and military juggernaut is unparalleled in history.
“Socialism with Chinese characteristics”
Ahead of the anniversary celebrations, the Chinese Government issued a lengthy (50-page) policy paper that describes the peaceful development of China and highlights the country’s achievements in various sectors over the past 70 years.
The policy paper says that the country will continue to pursue the development path of socialism with Chinese characteristics (aka the China Model) – that places the people’s interests first, promotes reform and innovation, seeks common development through opening-up and adheres to law-based governance.
Referring to the document, China Daily reported that “As the world undergoes profound changes unseen in a century, the white paper called for building a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation while advancing economic globalization, safeguarding the international system with the United Nations at its core and promoting exchanges and mutual learning of different cultures to build a better world”.
The Vice-President of China’s Institute of International Studies, Ruan Zongze, said that “As the world is at a crossroads where economic globalization is challenged and protectionism and unilateralism are on the rise, the document provides the international community with China’s solution about how China will shape the world and how it will interact with the rest of the world in the new era”.
Forty years of unrivaled development of China
In 1978, when China’s leader Deng Xiaoping reformed China’s economy with tenets of capitalism (ownership of private property and business), the country was one of the poorest in the world.
Having been educated in the Soviet Union in early 1960’s, and having worked for the United Nations since 1970, I was deeply fascinated by China’s art, culture and its 5,000-year-old civilization, my family and I travelled to Beijing in 1986 to personally witness it’s reforms.
Though poor by western standards at that time, Beijing was an enchanting, cultured and peaceful place, and we noticed reform efforts to reduce poverty.
Most fascinating was the early morning parade of thousands of bicycles with Chinese workers in clean white shirts on bicycles riding to work. Now there are over 250 million cars on the roads.
Today, China is the second largest economy on a dollar basis having uplifted millions of poor people into the middle class. According to Credit Suisse, China rightfully boasts that it currently has over 3.5 million millionaires.
Over the years, it has made breathtaking changes in infrastructure, public transportation, military equipment, and technological innovation making China one of the most dynamic countries on Earth.
Among most recent accomplishments are: The 2,009-meter-long Red Army Bridge across the Chishui River; the world’s first twin-tower steel bridge that is 1,354 meters long and 54.9 meters wide with eight lanes in both directions; the new US$11 billion mega airport that spans 700,000 square meters (size of 98 football fields); and landing a rocket on the moon – to name a few.
It is distressing that western countries having recklessly squandered their wealth on unnecessary wars do not have the wherewithal to embark on projects of such magnitude.
Though still yearning to visit Beijing, to see new China, and ride in world’s fastest trains between modern cities – I am fascinated by the breathtaking development stories I hear from my friends who have travelled in China.
China builds economic blocks across the globe
While world powers still wield the imperial and colonial “hegemonic” mentality and impose unilateral sanctions that only hurt the poor, organize covert color revolutions and regime changes, wage unnecessary wars, and blatantly violate all norms of international law, China contributes to world peace and development.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, greets the armed forces during the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)
Having made “China Great Again” and achieved “Superpower Status”, President Xi has embarked on establishing a leading role in reshaping the international order.
While the balance of world power changes rapidly, China has been building economic blocs with Russia, Central Asia, Africa and Asia, and has already established its global footprint through many viable projects such as its “One Belt, One Road” initiative; the economic partnerships through BRICS; the Shanghai Co-operation Organization, String of Pearls Project, China Africa Forum, and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB).
As I pointed out in a previous article “China’s Mega-Project Seeks Linking Asia and Europe”, Xi is personally engaged in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative that involves infrastructure development worth over $1 trillion in over 60 countries, from Sri Lanka and Pakistan all the way to Greece and Italy.
Likewise, China and Russia have entered into a binding economic, military and cultural partnership. Recently, the two countries made the largest joint military exercises in Chinese history, entered into a multi-billion-dollar energy infrastructure project, and trade between the two countries have now increased to $110 billion per annum.
In another article, “BRICS: From Economic Partnership to Global Governance”, I pointed out that the now economically powerful BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are ready to translate their economic power into global governance.
During its 2017 Summit, the five BRICS countries that represent over 3.1 billion people (41% of the world population) declared their “commitment to safeguard world peace and security and to uphold the basic norms of international law, and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations including sovereign equality and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs”.
In his Anniversary speech, saying that China does not seek to export its development model nor want to import any foreign models, seeking only peace and not “hegemony”
President Xi said that “The Chinese people do not have it in their genes to invade others or dominate the world”.
It is time for all world leaders to shed their differences and military ambitions and work together to make our world a safe place for all to live in peace.
*Somar Wijayadasa, an International lawyer, was a UNESCO delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1985-1995, and was Representative of UNAIDS at the United Nations from 1995-2000. His previous IDN articles are accessible on https://indepthnews.net/somar_wijayadasa [IDN-InDepthNews – 07 October 2019]
Photo (top): The guards of honor formation takes part in a military parade during the celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 1, 2019. (Xinhua/Cao Can)
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.