Pubblicato in: Cina, Stati Uniti

Cina ed Usa come potenze globali. – The Diplomat.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2018-05-03.

Animali. Bocca aperta. Civetta. 001

Riportiamo due acuti interventi del prof. Xue Li, “Director of Department of International Strategy at the Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP), Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Trattano della Cina intesa nella visione prospettica di potenza globale.

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La strategia cinese è stata ottimamente sintetizzata in tre frasi.

«Non importa che sia un gatto bianco o un gatto nero, finché cattura topi è un buon gatto» [Deng Xiaoping]

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«si prenda tempo mantenendo un basso profilo, pur senza mancare di fare qualcosa» [Deng Xiaoping]

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«si perseveri nel prendere tempo mantenendo un basso profilo, pur senza mancare di agire in modo proattivo per fare qualcosa» [Hu Jintao]

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Al momento, la Cina sembrerebbe voler consolidare la propria posizione di potenza locoregionale. Questa esigenza ben si attaglia al dettame del basso profilo. Ha costituito un armamentario nucleare strategico, compresi sommergibili ad armamento atomico, e questo le basta, per il momento. Ha costituito una serie di isole artificiali a difesa avanzata del proprio territorio, e questo le basta, per il momento.

Ha un sistema economico produttivo alla avanguardia. Ha riserva valutarie per 3,143 miliardi di Usd e 1,942.6 tonnellate di oro fino.

Secondo lo International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook (October – 2017) la Cina è proiettata nel 2022 ad un pil ppa di 34,465 miliardi Usd, contro i 23,505 miliardi degli Stati Uniti.

Ma è ancora tempo di basso profilo.

Al momento sta investendo oltre 1,000 miliardi Usd nel progetto Belt and Road. È un progetto di lungo termine mirato sui paesi al momento miseri oppure poveri, per dotarli delle infrastrutture che possano farli crescere: tra venti anni la Cina avrà rapporti politici, militari ed economici con quasi tutti i paesi africani, del sud – est asiatico e, parzialmente, dell’America Latina. Sempre per quella epoca anche buona parte di ciò che ora indichiamo come Unione Europea potrebbe essere passata nella sua orbita.

Ciò che ora denominiamo occidente a tale epoca sarà stato circondato ed aggirato strategicamente: i suoi prodotti non avranno mercato.

Il segreto del successo è sconcertantemente semplice: rapporti economici su base più o meno paritetica. I cinesi non si impicciano degli affari interni altrui.

«We suggest that China may be committed to building a Chinese order governed by the ancient concept of li (礼). The main characteristics of this order are: it regards li as the key means to conducting relationships; it is based on a concentric zone structure; and it is open.

What is “li”? Whilst we will adopt “proprietyas the English translation, li is also often translated as “ritual” or “rites.” The word has a broad meaning in Chinese, and can refer to, among other things, proper words or behavior, codes of conduct, ceremonies, gifts, surnames, etc. Li, in the sense of the first two meanings, is one of the Five Constant Virtues (五常 wu chang: 仁 ren, benevolence; 义 yi, righteousness; 礼 li, propriety; 智 zhi, wisdom; and 信 xin, fidelity).

Since the Han Dynasty, Confucianism has become the primary backbone of Chinese culture and has great influence on both the country’s politics and peoples’ lives. Propriety is the key tenet of Confucianism, as it is intrinsically related to each of the other Five Constant Virtues. One must have propriety to realize benevolence and righteousness, while wisdom and fidelity are requirements to achieving propriety»

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Da quattromila anni i cinesi affrontano e risolvono il presente alla luce del futuro.  Possono permettersi di farlo, oltre che per la sua ragionevolezza, per la loro peculiare struttura politica. È alla fine indifferente chi sia il capo pro tempore, ancorché a vita: la strategia è messa a punto nella Scuola Mandarinica, che oggi è denominata Partito Comunista Cinese. È solo un cambio di etichetta: la sostanza è sempre la stessa.


The Diplomat. 2018-04-13. What Might a Chinese World Order Look Like?

Using the ancient concept of Li to understand a Chinese order.

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What kind of world order will China be committed to building? This is a topic of global concern, and one which Chinese scholars need to ponder and answer. We suggest that China may be committed to building a Chinese order governed by the ancient concept of li (礼). The main characteristics of this order are: it regards li as the key means to conducting relationships; it is based on a concentric zone structure; and it is open.

What is “li”? Whilst we will adopt “proprietyas the English translation, li is also often translated as “ritual” or “rites.” The word has a broad meaning in Chinese, and can refer to, among other things, proper words or behavior, codes of conduct, ceremonies, gifts, surnames, etc. Li, in the sense of the first two meanings, is one of the Five Constant Virtues (五常 wu chang: 仁 ren, benevolence; 义 yi, righteousness; 礼 li, propriety; 智 zhi, wisdom; and 信 xin, fidelity).

Since the Han Dynasty, Confucianism has become the primary backbone of Chinese culture and has great influence on both the country’s politics and peoples’ lives. Propriety is the key tenet of Confucianism, as it is intrinsically related to each of the other Five Constant Virtues. One must have propriety to realize benevolence and righteousness, while wisdom and fidelity are requirements to achieving propriety.

Further, ancient China tradition holds that families and countries are based on the same structure, which is underpinned by li. Hence the saying: “man without propriety shall not stand, matters without propriety shall not succeed, and countries without propriety shall not last.” In other words, whether in personal affairs or interstate relations, propriety should always be the foundation, whereas rudeness (the lack of li) can only lead to disaster.

For more than 1,000 years of history, East Asia had an international state system centred on China, namely the Hua-Yi Order (华夷秩序), which refers to China (Hua) and others or, less charitably, “barbarians” (Yi). Under this system, China adopted a policy of “give more but take less” (bo lai hou wang, 薄来厚往). This policy conformed to the Chinese conception of propriety, and it helped maintain the stability of the East Asian region, and thereby the Hua-Yi Order itself.

When driving forward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China may not copy that ancient policy; however, it is also not placing business interests first. To support the development of China-friendly countries is obviously an important factor, hence the emphases on the correct view of righteousness; the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and so on; and the implementations of bilateral government cooperation and investment in infrastructure projects seen as less desirable from a business perspective. In a future Chinese order governed by propriety, however, China as a leading country is less likely to stress relative gains, for that is neither a general practice of major powers toward small states, nor is it a traditional Chinese approach.

Li and the Concentric Zone Structure

The Hua-Yi Order was built on a concentric zone structure that expanded from the Emperor’s palace outward. The relationships of the members within the system were both hierarchical and distinguished by their closeness to the center. To understand the Hua-Yi Order, envision a series of concentric circles, with the Emperor’s palace at the heart. Every additional 500 Chinese miles (250 kilometers) in the radius delimits a circle (服 fu); the Chinese considered the Hua-Yi Order to consist of Five Circles (五服 wu fu). The first three circles were considered Hua, which meant the civilized land. The latter two circles were called Yi, which refers to the uncivilized land.

Both interpersonal and interstate relationships could be divided into Five Circles. Traditional Chinese culture believes that the inequality between individuals is normal. What really matters is not how to achieve equality, but how to connect individuals with propriety so as to facilitate an orderly society.

Christianity, on the other hand, has the concept of everyone being equal before God. This basic philosophy evolved into modern concepts like equality before the law, equality between men and women, equality between major and small countries, etc. in Christian-majority countries. However, these concepts have changed from local philosophies to the concepts and practices recognized by most people and countries in the world. Therefore, it is impossible for the Chinese order governed by propriety to rebuild its hierarchy in the modern world.

Still, different degrees of relationship depending on closeness (whether in geography or affinity) to the center cannot be overlooked nor eliminated. Even in today’s international system, the United States has its own particularly close partners: Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

It can be expected that in the Chinese order governed by propriety, China will also classify member countries according to closeness. However, the countries with relatively better relations with China may not necessarily come from the Confucian cultural circle.

The Openness of the System

In the historical Hua-Yi Order, no countries were excluded from joining the system. For places that were considered less civilized lands, that would entail paying tribute or conferring titles (recognizing the prominence of China). These actions were ideally voluntary (although dependencies had less autonomy). This characteristic was mainly due to the concept of “inclusiveness” in Chinese traditional culture and a belief in “harmony in diversity.” Chinese tradition stressed that “if people far away are not obedient, then improve civility and morality to smooth their way” – in other words, a diplomatic approach based on propriety and benevolence was the best choice.

This tradition diverges from the nation-state system created and led by Western countries, which emphasizes alliances and antagonists, and is accustomed to using institutional constraints to assimilate allies.

Since the 1980s, China has promoted independent and peaceful diplomacy, and during the 1990s, this gradually became “partner diplomacy.” After implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, China continues to strengthen partnerships. This is a manifestation of traditional culture and will also be reflected in the Chinese order governed by propriety.

Considering that this order can, by its self-definition, only be established in a peaceful manner, it will be extremely difficult to replace the existing international system. On the other hand, openness also makes the Chinese order governed by propriety compatible with the current international system. The number of countries joining the Chinese order governed by propriety will be dynamic – not too many, nor too few. Members might be spread over all continents, but the majority will be China’s neighboring countries.

In short, the Chinese order governed by propriety is not a power-based order, like the one the Western world has engaged in for hundreds of years, nor is it the sort of rule-based order that many countries have repeatedly promoted to China. It is a bilaterally-oriented new international order founded on Chinese tradition and reformed through modernity. And, importantly, it is compatible with the current international system.


The Diplomat. 2018-04-29. Will China Replace the US Global Role?

China has neither the will nor the capacity to replace the United States as world leader.

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Our previous article suggested that China may be committed to building a world order governed by the ancient Chinese concept of li (礼). Such an order regards propriety as the key means to conducting relationships; is based on a concentric zone structure; and is open. While this order is compatible with the current international system, the majority of the members will be China’s neighboring countries, as well as a small number of countries from other continents.

By the time this order is fully established, will China have replaced the global leadership role currently held by the United States? This depends on two factors. First, does China have such a desire? Second, does China have such a capacity?

Chinese leaders including Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping have all clearly stated that “China will never seek hegemony.” Xi also further mentioned that China “is not willing to become the so-called ‘world police’, nor to replace anyone.” This can be taken to mean that China does not have the desire to replace the United States’ global role. Some may argue, however, that a country’s desires are volatile, and that capacity matters more – meaning that China will change its desires when its capacity rises. Is China’s capacity likely to exceed that of the United States, then?

One country’s capacity could be divided into “hard power” and “soft power.” Hard power, particularly economic capacity and military strength, is the foundation of the United States’ global leading role after World War II. But a combination of hard and soft power is the necessary and sufficient condition for a global leader’s rise. The soft power of the United States is mainly embodied in the construction and leadership of the postwar international system, its cultural attributes, the development of science and technology and higher education, and the relatively loose immigration policy.

At the end of WWII, the United States accounted for 60 percent of the global GDP and its industrial production capacity was half of that of the world. Its oil and steel production accounted for 70 percent and 64 percent of the world total, respectively, and the United States held 73.4 percent of the gold reserves of the entire capitalist world at the time. With this hard power as the base, in addition to the United States’ advanced production capacity and technological development, U.S. military strength at the end of the WWII surpassed that of the other victorious Allied powers. Thanks to these advantages, the United States has continuously been the world’s largest economy since WWII, and built a global alliance system and a network of global military bases at the same time.

Unlike Great Britain, France, and other countries that exerted international influence through colonies, the United States preferred to govern the world by establishing a series of international systems: the United Nations and its affiliates for the political and security arena; the alliance system and military base network in the military arena; the Bretton Woods system for finance, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, which later evolved into the WTO) for trade.

The United States already ranked first in the world in terms of industrial output in 1894. However, it was not until after World War II that it surpassed European countries in terms of technology and higher education. Given the rapid development of the United States in the humanities and social sciences, as well as the influx of European intellectuals during WWII, the United States, by this stage, had replaced the European countries as the global center for scientific research and higher education, thereby attracted talents from all over the world.

The United States’ relatively loose immigration policy also promoted this trend. As a result of gathering global talents, the United States gained an unrivalled capacity for innovation and became a universal home for capable peoples from different countries and civilizations. After WWII, the United States consequently contributed more than 50 percent of the Nobel Prize winners. This talent influx also boosted the U.S. global leadership role. The United States will keep its advantage in attracting high quality immigrants in the foreseeable future.

WWII provided the United States an exceptional opportunity to become a world leader. Reconstructing the world order through war is hard to imagine in the era of nuclear weapons. Given that a peaceful rise is the only realistic choice for China at present, China can only surpass the United States in some specific aspects such as GDP, national defense expenditures, the number of international students, and so on. In terms of the number of allies, global military bases, influence on the United Nations and its affiliates, influence on the global finance sector and so forth, it is very difficult for China to rival the United States.

In addition, cross-civilization governance costs dearly. While U.S. soft power was helped by a global familiarity with European cultural elements, as spread during colonialism, Chinese culture is a typical regional civilization – this significantly raises the cost of China’s global governance and limits China’s global appeal. Further, considering that it is difficult for China to attract global talents like the United States and become a new home for immigrants, China is highly unlikely to outperform the United States in higher education, scientific research, and innovation.

In the process of its rise, China is likely to concentrate on building its own order or system. However, this will be largely limited to regional influence, and mainly reflected in nonmilitary aspects. China can be expected to establish international mechanisms confined to certain areas (such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), but again, creating dominant international organizations like the United Nations will be impossible for China.

All in all, China is unlikely to replace the United States’ global role after its rise.

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