China after 2012 and the ascension of Xi Jinping to his presidency is dramatically different than pre-2012 China. It is guided by a series of principles that are repeated by leadership in their domestic statements and documents, used by the foreign ministry and published by sanctioned media. The first principle, “a century of humiliation,” refers to the period from 1839 to 1949 when Western and foreign powers intervened and dominated the Chinese Empire. It is a nationalist argument for China to resist all foreign interference and maintain control of its territory. Many additional principles flow from it, such as “people of Asia must run affairs of Asia.” China interprets criticism and sanctions as interference in its sovereignty and core interests, which includes control of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
- Century of humiliation
- China’s rise is inevitable
- U.S. is in irreversible decline
- People of Asia must run affairs of Asia
- West is trying to stop China’s rise
- Battle of narratives, not values
Some, such as the first principle, have been around for decades, but others are new. Frequently stated in the Xi era are “China’s rise is inevitable,” accompanied by “the U.S. is in irreversible decline,” which has become a common view referenced among other criticisms of the West’s handling of the 2008 economic collapse and the U.S.’s 2020 pandemic response. Of course, any actions that the U.S. and the West in general are taking in Asia are described as attempts to stop China’s rise.
Finally, with the “battle of narratives, not values,” China promotes the view that it believes in democracy, but it is their version and the American version is grossly flawed. Witness the events and surrounding claims of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020 and the long-running November 2020 “stole the election” drama.
Guided by these principles, the West can expect a very competitive environment during the Xi era.