The World Forum - July 24th, 2024

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How China Views the World

 Security and defense officials from Asia and other parts of the world gathered in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue from May 31 to June 2. This annual forum, where officials exchange views and discuss pressing security matters, also offers some of the most unvarnished opinions of China’s perspective on the world.

So how does China view the state of security worldwide, and what does that mean for the world?

While most diplomatic forums are filled with smoothing niceties designed to polish over disagreements, the Shangri-La Forum is known more for open and honest discussion. China extends even further. While Beijing may officially recoil at the term “wolf warrior,” China’s international representatives continue to issue starkly blunt warnings and rely on fiery rhetoric to express their viewpoints. While we may not enjoy Beijing’s rhetoric, it leaves us little doubt about the Chinese regime’s position.

China’s main representatives issued stern warnings to countries such as Taiwan and the Philippines, issuing threatening and bombastic language about the destruction that would come their way if they didn’t accept Beijing’s position. Beijing propagandists tried to include language that Western listeners would recognize by insisting it was recognized by international law that the South China Sea and Taiwan were China’s sovereign domain, despite losing a lawsuit to Manila on the matter and no international declaration on the status of Taiwan at any point. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) acolytes continued to threaten all countries in the region and far-flung countries such as the United States and Europe about behavior that might not support Beijing’s position. The threats of “destruction” seemed clear to all.

On one hand, this rhetoric isn’t surprising from China. Whether in Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefings or press statements about events and military exercises, Beijing regularly engages in bombastic rhetoric that threatens and warns directly involved states such as Taiwan or the Philippines and related countries such as the United States.

Just because the rhetoric is familiar doesn’t mean we should become immune to the threats Beijing is issuing and the very real risk that one day it will act upon this rhetoric. The Chinese regime is actively engaging Philippine vessels in low-level conflict, such as ramming and hitting them with water cannons within the Philippine exclusive economic zone. China conducts ever larger military exercises surrounding Taiwan. The line between low-level conflict and actual live fire conflict initiated by Beijing isn’t large.

The most important part, however, is how the CCP approaches foreign policy and its projection of power on the world. Beijing has made clear its view of its relationship with other states, whether Taiwan, the Philippines, or the United States, both directly and through understanding its worldview.

Though regularly translated as meaning the Middle Kingdom, which is technically accurate, the Chinese word for “middle” doesn’t mean what it is conceptualized in Western minds—the middle seat in a row, for instance. Instead, it means something closer to the center or the middle around which others rotate, similar to the sun.

Another fundamental viewpoint of modern-day China in how it sees itself relative to other states comes from a 2010 statement from the minister of foreign affairs, who declared, “China is a big country, and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.”

These ideas don’t present a China that views other states as equal and capable of their own policies and viewpoints around which states will understandably differ, but rather entities to control and dominate that subsume themselves under Beijing’s will regardless of agreement or law.

It enrages Beijing that Taiwan even has second thoughts about giving up democracy and freedom to become a vassal of Beijing. Beijing doesn’t care about the international tribunal decision, which it is a signatory of, that the South China Sea isn’t China’s sovereign land or that the Philippines remains sovereign in its coastal areas. Communist China considers itself the sovereign center, and all other countries, small as they might be, must lay prone before Beijing demands or risk incurring its wrath.

A constant concern is that individuals and institutions become blind to the risks they always face until those risks become real. For years, the CCP has told us how it views the world and how others should behave. We must prepare as if the rhetorical threats convey how the Chinese regime will act in the future, all the while hoping it does not.