June 23, 2024

Shocking new shift in Chinese foreign policy

In a shift that is shocking the world, China has seemingly pursued a new route of independence with an almost hegemonic influence over global politics. 

This shift is unprecedented. China functioned first as a partner of the Soviet Union prior to the Sino-Soviet split, briefly existed in an alliance of more orthodox socialism with Albania and then became something akin to an collaborator of the United States, through diplomatic work started by Richard Nixon and continued by Jimmy Carter. 

At that time, the United States and China collaborated closely in challenging the Soviet Union and its allies, including support for the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot in an effort to fight the Vietnamese.

As the Cold War ended, the United States became the sole superpower, and relations with China were rocky but generally close. It was not until the Trump trade war and Biden administration that there has been an observed shift. And China has now seemingly embraced a more independent role. 

This independent role has taken three primary forms. The first are explicit critiques and denunciations of the United States in communiques from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The second has been its newly sought role as a peacemaking entity on the world stage. The third has been its efforts to disrupt US dollar hegemony. 

At time of writing, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has published five critical communiques of the United States. Their topics range from denouncing America’s drug problems as a “manifestation of America’s failure in social governance” to decrying America as a false democracy whose values have only further hurt the world.

Internal disapproval of the United States is not a new phenomenon in China, however what is noteworthy is the degree to which the MFA has embraced this position. More such communiques are likely to be published as relations deteriorate further. 

China has also pursued a position on the world stage as a peacemaker, having brokered talks to restore diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The conflict between the countries dates back to 2014, creating the worst active humanitarian crisis for the Yemeni people. The US supported the Saudis until Biden announced an end to support in 2021, though this has not materialized into further action by the US government.

If China successfully negotiates peace here, it may have greater success in its future planned ventures. These include the negotiation of a settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian war, in which General Secretary Xi Jingping has begun discussions with Russian president Vladimir Putin. China also seeks to mediate the Israel-Palestine conflict, advocating for a two state solution. 

This development positions China to pave a new path for conflict resolution, differing from outright support of one side over another. This is emphasized in the MFA statement on the Russian-Ukrainian war, which calls to end unilateral sanctions. 

This ties into the third development, which has been China’s effort to assert its economic power. A sudden rise in “dedollarization,” the abandonment of the US dollar as the default global currency for trade, has largely been pushed by Chinese efforts, which center trade in the Chinese Yuan.

American dollar hegemony is a powerful tool for American foreign policy. Because it controls the use of its own currency, it can largely determine who has access to global trade by freezing use of the dollar. This was the strategy employed against Russia in the early stages of the war. 

At present, the United States sanctions a number of other countries, including Cuba, the DPRK, Venezuela and Afghanistan. Doing so has utterly destroyed the economies of the targeted nations. These actions were originally intended to punish citizens into enacting domestic revolution, as stated in a 1960 memorandum on the strategy to oust Castro by the State Department.

Chinese-led dedollarization poses a threat to this power. By eliminating the American monopoly on trade currency, sanctions may lose their effectiveness as alternative means of economic access come about. This would drastically undermine American global power. 

What does all this mean? It certainly suggests a new development in Chinese political thought evolving from Deng Xiaoping’s initial conception of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” the current official line in China. The initial policy was intended to open up China after geopolitical isolation and to integrate foreign knowledge (and most importantly foreign capital) into China so it could grow with help.

This effort was developed in the late 1970s as Deng became the most influential political figure in China after Mao’s death. Now, 44 years after the declaration of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, it seems that China views itself in a position of great enough development to rock the boat. With the global dependence on the Chinese economy, it may be able to pursue this goal with minimal interference.

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