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Weekend Feature:

    China & 'The Great Leap Forward': Now Joe's on the job China's involvement in the Asia-Pacific region regains focus
To Understand China’s Aggressive Foreign Policy, Look at Its Domestic Politics. In the past six months, Chinese foreign policy appears to have taken a dramatic and aggressive turn. One way to understand this assertive foreign policy is to look through the lens of it's internal politics.

In the past six months, Chinese foreign policy appears to have taken a dramatic and aggressive turn.

In PortMac.News feature last weekends we  profiled incoming President Joe Biden. In this weekends feature we investigate the history behind what will be President Joe's #1 problem : The USA & its relationship with the worlds second largest economy, China.

What do we really know about China today ?

Why is China acting in the way it is ? Can a better understanding of China's history help us understand China's current position & direction ?

Recently China has lashed out at Australia for questioning its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, bolstered its claims in the South China Sea, stepped up patrols around the Japanese-controlled Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, clashed with India in the Himalayas, and sent warplanes across the median line in the Taiwan Strait.

China has also doubled down on efforts to defend electronics giant Huawei by charging Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor with espionage after a Canadian court refused to stop extradition proceedings against CFO Meng Wanzhou, and warned the United Kingdom it would 'Bear the consequences' for excluding the telecom giant from its 5G network.

Most striking of all, Beijing has cracked down on the once semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong, enacting a far-reaching National Security Law and arresting multiple pro-democracy activists.

What's driving this situation?

Chinese officials have defended these moves as responses to external 'Provocations'. Others, however, have argued Beijing’s new hard-line foreign policy represents a more fundamental shift under President Xi Jinping, a radical departure from an older approach associated with the late Deng Xiaoping and the proverb 'Hide your strength, bide your time.'

But another way of understanding China’s more assertive foreign policy, not just over the past six months, but since Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012, is through the lens of China’s internal politics.

Although China is far from being an open, democratic society, it is not a black box.

Moreover, while it may be difficult and sometimes impossible to know exactly how Xi and the CCP leadership make decisions, many of the pressures that shape Chinese decision-making process are clear for everyone to see.

Consider these few visible points of reference:

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been, as Xi himself put it, 'A major test of China’s system and capacity for governance' and arguably the greatest challenge the Communist Party has faced since the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests.

The lockdown required to control the virus caused China’s economy to shrink for the first time in over forty years, a painful blow after several years of slower growth and a trade war with the United States.

Although the economy has started to recover, China’s GDP is now expected to grow only 1% for the year, far better than other major economies, but worrisome for a regime whose legitimacy is intertwined with economic growth and social stability.

Preserving that stability continues to be one of the CCP’s top priorities, and the Chinese government reportedly spends more on 'Stability maintenance' including police, internal security, and Uyghur 'Training centers' in Xinjiang—than it officially spends on national defence.

Most significantly, Xi Jinping’s tenure has been marked by a drive to consolidate power by sidelining potential rivals and promoting those loyal to his leadership.

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, for example, has targeted over one million officials to date, including several members of the Communist Party’s Politburo, while Xi’s military reforms have increased his personal control over the People’s Liberation Army.

Although Xi appears to have been successful, these moves have created quiet resentment across the country, which percolate upward as criticism from a few intellectuals and others brave enough to speak out.

A new 'Rectification campaign' of China’s police and security agencies launched this summer suggests Xi is not yet finished accumulating power, and that some key parts of the party-state remain less than enthusiastic about his leadership.

Even if the worst of the pandemic is over, China therefore faces a looming economic and political crisis with a regime that feels weaker at home than it appears from outside.

Moreover, it is not surprising that this sense of crisis, and these insecurities have affected the tenor of China’s foreign policy.

This does not mean that Xi Jinping sees foreign policy as an easy way of diverting attention from China’s domestic problems, like a Chinese version of Wag the Dog.

More likely, Xi and his allies in China’s leadership feel constrained by their worsening political environment.

Because they cannot afford to appear weak or indecisive at home, they may feel compelled to act strongly and forcefully abroad, especially given the popular nationalism the party-state has fostered since 1989.

In fact, this phenomenon is the only reasonable explanation for the emergence of China’s combative 'Wolf Warrior' diplomacy, named for a Ramboesque action movie, which has alienated many outside China, while winning kudos at home.

Nearly sixty years ago, German historian Fritz Fischer upended the traditional explanations for Germany’s entry into the First World War by arguing that the country’s dysfunctional domestic politics, not the polarized European system of alliances, that was responsible for the disaster that followed.

To understand the war, Fischer argued, one had to appreciate the 'Primat der Innenpolitik', the primacy of domestic politics, and the role it played in the making of foreign policy, was the force at play rather than the other way around.

The People’s Republic of China is not the German Empire, and Xi Jinping is not Wilhelm II.

But Fischer’s thesis serves as a powerful reminder that a state’s aggressive international behaviour can be rooted deep within its internal political dynamics.

And in addition to the dynamics of today, China is propelled forward by the momentum generated by its history: The Opium wars of the 19th century and the 'Century of humiliation' that followed, the fall of the Emperors & rise of communism, Mao Zedong's 'The Great Leap Forward' & disastrous 'Cultural Revolution' that followed, then Deng Xiaoping and the opening up of China to capitalism in the 1970's & '80's.

So much fundamental change in such a relatively short period of time.

When one feels a bit like the meat stuck in the middle of an international trade war sandwich, those lessons, and the questions of war and peace they entail, are worth keeping in mind.

When thinking of modern China it is good to remember Deng Xiaoping words:

'We have stood up'.

Can China be a global leader? | Inside Story

55 Days at Peking (1963

55 Days at Peking is a 1963 American epic historical war film dramatizing the siege of the foreign legations' compounds in Peking (now known as Beijing) during the Boxer Rebellion, which took place in China from 1898 to 1900.

The movie stars Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven, with supporting roles by Flora Robson, John Ireland, Leo Genn & Australian actor Robert Helpmann.

The Plot:

Starvation, widespread in China, is affecting more than 100 million peasants by the summer of 1900.

Approximately a thousand foreigners from various western industrialized countries have exploited their positions inside Peking's legations, seeking control of the weakened nation.

The Boxers oppose the westerners and their Christian religion and are planning to drive them out.

The turmoil in China worsens as the Boxer secret societies gain tacit approval from the Dowager Empress Cixi.

With 13 of China's 18 provinces forced into territorial concessions by those colonial powers, frustration over foreign encroachment boils over when the Empress encourages the Boxers to attack all foreigners in Peking and the rest of China.

When the Empress condones the assassination of the German ambassador and "suggests" the foreigners leave, a violent siege of Peking's foreign legations district erupts.

Peking's foreign embassies are gripped by terror, as the Boxers, supported by Imperial troops, set about killing Christians in an anti-western nationalistic fever.

The head of the US military garrison is US Marine Major Matt Lewis, an experienced China hand who knows local conditions well.

A love interest blossoms between him and Baroness Natasha Ivanoff, a Russian aristocrat, who it is revealed had an affair with a Chinese General, causing her Russian husband to commit suicide.

The Russian Imperial Minister, who is Natasha's brother-in-law, has revoked her visa in an attempt to recover a valuable necklace.

Although the Baroness tries leaving Peking as the siege begins, she is forced by events to return to Major Lewis and volunteers in the hospital, which is battered by the siege and is running out of supplies.

To help the defenders, the Baroness exchanges her very valuable jeweled necklace for medical supplies and food, but she is wounded in the process and later succumbs.

Lewis leads the small contingent of 400 multinational soldiers and American Marines defending the compound.

As the siege worsens, Maj. Lewis forms an alliance with the senior officer at the British Embassy, Sir Arthur Robertson, pending the arrival of a British-led relief force.

After hearing that the force has been repulsed by Chinese forces, Maj. Lewis and Sir Arthur succeed in their mission to blow up a sizable Chinese ammunition dump.

As the foreign defenders conserve food and water, while trying to save hungry children, the Empress continues plotting with the Boxers by supplying aid from her Chinese troops.

Eventually, a foreign relief force from the Eight-Nation Alliance arrives and puts down the Boxer's rebellion.

The troops reach Peking on the 55th day and, following the Battle of Peking, lift the siege of the foreign legations.

Foreshadowing the demise of the Qing Dynasty, rulers of China for the previous two and a half centuries, the Dowager Empress Cixi, alone in her throne room, having gambled her empire and lost, declares to herself, "The dynasty is finished", repeating the phrase three times...

When the soldiers of the Eight-Nation Alliance have taken control of the city, after routing the Boxers and the remnants of the Imperial Army, Maj. Lewis gathers up his men, having received new orders from his superiors to leave Peking.

He stops and circles back to retrieve Teresa, the young, half-Chinese daughter of one of his few Marine friends who was killed during the 55 day siege.

Aboard his horse, she and Maj. Lewis leave the city behind, followed by his column of marching Marines.

This is how the west saw Chinese history in the 1960's - No mention of opium here old man, that would be 'un-sportsman like' !

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